We arrived in the Sneeuberg about two hours after schedule. A light drizzle during the early morning in town afforded us to depart at leisure. On arrival, nobody was to be found at the main homestead. We drove towards Toorberg where our quaint little mountain cottage awaited us. Only to find it locked. We left all our weather resistant and non essential gear on the stoep and departed for the field.
There was a light drizzle coming down which led us to stay on the low lying areas that was out of the main mist belt. The purpose of the exercise was to look for a new Greywing Partridge area on an existing shooting concession. I had a specific area in mind between two areas that I have surveyed before.
When I got out of the vehicle, I realised that due to the wet condition of the veld, it would be a better idea to change my Rainer Event boots for my more appropriate Johnson gum boots.
The dogs quivered with anticipation when I opened the canopy door to let them out. I decided to take all four dogs along. This would ensure a thorough covering of the unfamiliar area to be surveyed. As it was the first real survey before the shooting season, we started on the edge of an area that I knew to hold some birds.
I ordered the dogs to a halt and to sit around me. Then I sent them off to find the Greywing. We found the first covey about three hundred meters from where we left the vehicle. Lady pointed them, but Zimbi, a novice dog, ran through the covey and flushed the lot. I counted sixteen Greywing in the covey.
Working our way back to the vehicle, I heard a Partridge whistling that so familiar call in the distance. I cast the dogs into the opposite direction. The plan was to circle back to where I heard the Greywing. En route I found a promising area, but decided to head towards the calling Greywing and to survey this spot from a different direction later.
We almost missed the covey. Ally, a liver and white pointer bitch, ran off and came around below the other dogs. Passing a small ledge, she locked onto point. I cast the other dogs towards her, backing her immediately when she came into view. Even Zimbi is more careful this time round. I flush the covey which also tallied sixteen birds. We headed off back to the vehicle as my inner self indicated it was lunch time.
After a quick lunch we set off back to the main gravel road and headed north east towards a farm track I knew would take me a bit further into the next kloof. When we got to the track, we followed for about two kilometers until we reached an internal fence. Here we stopped to assess the landscape in front of us, looking very promising I decided to approach from right there.
I cast the dogs to the west. They systematically work the grassland surrounding the rocky ledges, quartering then to the left and then the right. As the dogs approach the end of the far right ledge, a covey of Greywing flushed unprovoked about fifty meters ahead of them. I could count a total of fifteen birds as they disappeared into the distance.
We headed south towards Toorberg to where I saw the likely spot on the pre lunch survey. When we got there we found a lot of scratchings, but no birds. After a while, the dogs started to act birdy and I decided to let them work the area for a bit.
It was not long before Lady, my best dog, locked onto a point about a hundred meters ahead. The other dogs moved to her direction and immediately backed her point. As I approached Lady, the other dogs followed me, sneaking cautiously forward towards where Lady was holding her point. As I reached her, a covey of fifteen Greywing flushed not ten meters in front of me and the static dog. We all watched the Greywing disappear over a rise.
I decided to head back to the vehicle. Seeing a small plateau, almost hidden by a line of Harpuis brush, my curiosity got the better of me. I cast the dogs into that direction and headed up the mountain.
The dogs reached the plateau, first. When I eventually caught up with the two tailing dogs, I saw Ally locked on point thirty meters to my right. As I headed towards Ally, I notice Lady was on point fifty meters in front of me. I put my money on my top dog and walked to Lady. The other two dogs were now backing their colleagues. As I reached her a group of birds flushed in front of her. Then all hell broke loose. Birds flushed in front of Ally and another covey where Lady was pointing. A third group flushed further ahead. I counted forty birds in total! This was one of the biggest Greywing flushes I have experienced. Admittedly, it must have been three different coveys that rose while feeding on the same cluster of rock slabs.
The sight of seeing forty Greywing disappearing in an arc of 180 degrees in front of you is amazing. Heading back to the vehicle the dogs pointed another two coveys consisting of six and eight birds respectively. This put the Greywing count for the day up at an amazing one hundred and eighteen. Back at the vehicle we slowly made our way back to the main gravel road and then onto the main homestead to get the key to our mountain cottage for the night.
That night after dinner, sipping John Walker from a tin cup while watching bush television in the gigantic fireplace, reflecting, I started counting my blessings.