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Western Cape: Peninsula, Hottentots Holland and West Coast Trip Report
15, 18 & 19 December 2017

Highlights included: Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Spotted Eagle Owl, Great White Pelican, Cape Rockjumper, African Penguin, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Black Harrier, African Hoopoe, Blue Crane.

Number of bird species: 121

Detailed Trip Report

Day 1
The first day with Mel was a fairly leisurely morning spent at Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary, an ex-sewage works with plentiful birdlife. Two species of Flamingo (Greater and Lesser), Pin-tailed Whydahs, Black-shouldered Kites, ample Herons and Egrets, an impressive assemblage of Teals (Hottentot, Cape, Red-billed) and Ducks (Yellow-billed, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard), and many other waterbirds had Mel in raptures. Two sightings really stood out though. The first was our encounter with two Spotted Eagle Owls, which we did not spot until the last second when they burst out of a bush just meters from us and settled in a tree a more comfortable distance away. The other was a Cape Gannet, which was injured and crash-landed at the works. I waded in through the mud (I don't want to think what constitutes the substrate at an ex-sewage works...) and rescued the bird, which gave us some unbelievable close-up views of this exceptionally attractive species, which just recently was sadly up-listed to Endangered status by the IUCN. The bird seemed to have suffered minor wing damage, and was handed over to a City of Cape Town employee who drove the bird to SANCCOB for rehabilitation.

Day 2
Our second day together was a day trip up the east coast to Rooi Els and Betty's Bay. At Rooi Els we had a wonderful walk along the mountainside, with close encounters with both Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrush, Cape Siskin, Orange-breasted Sunbird, and Cape Sugarbird. Our luck held out for the Cape Rockjumpers too, and we saw no fewer than three pairs along the walk. As we returned to the car a pair of Peregrine Falcons circled the rocky buttress, calling as they scythed through the sky. From there we continued to Stoney Point to photograph African Penguins and the four resident Cormorant species (Cape, Crowned, White-breasted and Bank) - however, the Cape Hyraxes attempted to steal the show with their cute interactions! We then took a walk around Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, getting up close to Olive Thrush, Cape Robin-Chat, African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, and a few other species. After a bite to eat and a rest for our legs we hiked Disa Kloof, adding a few species and improving on our photographs of others already seen.

Day 3
We drove up the opposite coastline to the West Coast National Park, picking up four species of raptor before we even entered the reserve, the highlight being not one, but two sightings of the endemic and endangered Black Harrier! We arrived at the bird hides at 08h30, timed to meet the outgoing tide that uncovers the rich mudflats of Langebaan Lagoon. Our timing was immaculate, as a carpet of wading birds soon covered the exposed substrate in front of us. Flocks of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper dominated, but in between we picked out Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Common Ringed Plover, and Sanderling. Much energized after this, we headed to Abrahamskraal for freshwater birds. Much to Mel's delight, no fewer than 8 African Spoonbills were taking refuge from the growing wind, providing fantastic photographic opportunities. We also noted Yellow-billed Duck, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Cape Bunting, and Common Ostrich here. After snapping to our hearts' content, we headed north in the park towards Seeberg.

One of the highlights of the day was a group of 24 Common Ostrich. It isn't common to see so many of these birds together, but what made it even more exceptional was that every individual was a juvenile or sub-adult. There was not a parent to be seen. Seeberg Viewpoint was as beautiful as always, although the wind was somewhat overpowering by this point. We decided to retreat to the coastal town of Langebaan for a late lunch, enjoying some fare on the beach, watching the kite surfers who, unlike us, were no doubt grateful for the strong gusts. From Langebaan we returned south, stopping briefly at the Darling Hills Road to add Cape Sparrow, Pied Starling, African Stonechat, and the South African national bird, the Blue Crane.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Andrew de Blocq.

For a full list of species from this trip, please contact us.

Many of the birding sites on this trip are described in detail in the Southern African Birdfinder which is widely available in South African bookshops and on the internet. (e.g., or However you're always welcome to contact us if you're interested in a guided trip in this area.

Practical tour information: Cape Day Trips and Western Cape Tours

Please click this link for more detailed information about our upcoming Cape Tours.
Focus Our Cape tours and day trips are aimed at keen birders and nature enthusiasts. They have been designed to see as many endemic birds as possible. While on the walks, we spend a lot of time looking for other aspects of wildlife such as mammals, chameleons, geckos, butterflies and interesting plants. We can also customise any itinerary to suit to the keen birder, the wildlife enthusiast or both.
Photography Many participants on our tours and day trips are amateur wildlife photographers. And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter. Thus, while the photographic opportunities are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.
Fitness Only a low level of fitness is required.
Timing Throughout the year.
Climate Moderate; can be warm in summer and chilly in winter.
Comfort A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and small hotels.
Transport We travel by minibus or four wheel drive vehicle.
Group Size This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Top birds Fynbos endemics, Karoo endemics and raptors in a spectacular setting
Top mammals whales, dolphins, Cape Grysbok, Chacma Baboon, Caracal, Grey Mongoose
Booking Please contact us if you wish to book. You will receive the booking form and conditions and a tour information pack.

About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders. We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent. We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

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Black Harrier photograph courtesy of Keith Offord.
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