Saturday 15 August - Hottentots Holland
I met up with Peter and Leith at the Lakeside shopping centre at 7am for our day trip to the Hottentots Holland area. The weather did not look very inviting as we headed along Baden Powell Drive towards the N2 and the wind steadily increased the nearer we got to Rooi Els.
Although perhaps a bit early, we decided to bird the Cape Rockjumper site first with the high probability of rain setting in later in the day. The wind was literally blowing a gale as we headed along the track, and there were very few birds about apart from Orange-breasted Sunbirds which seemed immune to the weather conditions. Cape Sugarbird showed early on, but even Karoo Prinia took a while to be located and the ever-present Cape Bunting was nowhere to be seen. Although we walked a good distance there was no sign of Cape Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker or Cape Rock Thrush, and Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Grassbird and Victorin's Warbler were all heard but did not show themselves. A Peregrine Falcon flying across towards the mountain was one of the few good sightings.
We continued towards Stoney Point where the wind was just as strong, but the African Penguins were plentiful and delightful. All four marine cormorant species - Cape, Bank, White-breasted and Crowned Cprmorant - were spotted, although one could hardly hold binoculars steady and the Crowned and Bank Cormorants had wisely vacated the higher rocky outcrops on which they are normally to be seen.
The Cape Weaver colony on the roadside through Betty's Bay was gearing up for the breeding season as we made our way towards Harold Porter Botanical Gardens in the hope of slightly calmer conditions. A break for coffee near the fire in the restaurant brought several new species with Familiar Chat, Fiscal Flycatcher and Swee Waxbill all observed comfortably from inside.
After coffee we walked in the reserve and added a number of new species. Sombre Greenbul was particularly vocal but refused to show itself, but Speckled Mousebird, Brimstone Canary, Cape Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush, Southern Double-collared and Orange-breasted Sunbirds showed well and we had good views of a pair of Cape Batis before we returned to the restaurant for lunch.
Returning towards Rooi Els, we encountered the expected rain. We therefore headed back along False Bay - picking up a Grey-headed Gull on route - towards Strandfontein Sewage Works, as this venue can at least be covered from within the vehicle. Here, conditions were better than expected and we had a good afternoon's birding. Most of the expected duck species including Maccoa and were seen, although Hottentot Teal could not be found. A pair of Water Thick-knee was nice to see, as was the pair of Spotted Eagle-Owls trying to keep out of the wind and weather.
Early returning White-throated Swallows were feeding with Brown-throated Martins and African Marsh Harrier was about. Common Waxbill, Levaillant's and Zitting Cisticola and African Pipit were in or next to the paths, but Cape Longclaw was not seen. The numbers of Greater Flamingo, as always, were the star attraction.
With time marching on we headed back towards Lakeside, reaching there at dusk with a day's total of 80 species (75 seen and 5 heard only), creditable given the very difficult weather conditions.
Monday 17 August - West Coast The weather on Monday the 17th could not have been more of a contrast to the Saturday. It was sunny, windless and eventually quite warm as we made our way out of Cape Town up the West Coast.
Our first birding stop was on the road down towards Grotto Bay from the R27 and this produced the expected Spotted Thick-knees and the hoped-for Grey-winged Francolin. Karoo Scrub-Robin was present at the car-park and this species was then a regular throughout the day.
We crossed the R27 and headed up the Darling Hills Road where Blue Cranes were unfortunately not about, but species such as Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark, Pied Starling, and a Three-banded Plover at a roadside pond were added to the list. Southern Black Korhaan could be heard, but was not located. The dam produced several species of ducks.
Our next stop was at the Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve where Cloud Cisticola was immediately heard, but it took some time before we had a good view of one descending and perching obligingly on a bush. The reserve was very dry with no water in the wetland. The level of the dam near the buildings was also quite low. A small group of Greater Flamingo was present here together with a pair of Cape Teal, but there were no other waterbirds about. However, Cape Longclaw was prominent, African Pipits were displaying and good views were obtained of Large-billed Lark and Yellow Bishop before we continued to the West Coast National Park.
Our first destination here was the Postberg Flower Reserve up the western side of the park, and this did not disappoint. The flowers were excellent, and it was a treat to observe large numbers of eland as well as springbok, cape mountain zebra, bontebok, blue wildebeest and a gemsbok amongst the carpets of daisies.
Eventually we headed back down the lagoon towards Geelbek. Sudden breaking was necessary to avoid a large boomslang heading across the road, and a number of angulate tortoises were enjoying the fresh vegetation at the roadside.
After lunch at Geelbek we spotted a pair of Karoo Thrushes on the lawn and the African Hoopoe was pottering around the neighbouring ranger's lawn. Thereafter we headed towards Seeberg, where Bar-throated Apalis showed well at the car-park. There were few birds other than Greater and a few lesser Flamingos near the hide, with a lone Whimbrel and a single Greenshank at the water's edge. The expected White-fronted and Kittlitz's plovers were in attendance.
A drive up Seeberg Hill brought its rewards with a male Southern Black Korhaan present on the way up, and a female seen on the way down. At the crest we also had a brief view of our first flying Black Harrier. A second one was seen at a distance on the way back as we headed home after a good day out.
The species total for the day was 84 (one heard only), making a total of 118 species (3 heard only) over two days with very different birding conditions.
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.
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.
Only a low level of fitness is required.
Throughout the year.
Moderate; can be warm in summer and chilly in winter.
A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and small hotels.
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.