Birding Africa
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Western Cape Tour, Hottentots Holland & West Coast, 10 & 11 September 2011

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Itinerary: We birded at Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, Rooiels, Bettys Bay, Harold Porter Botanical Garden, Stoney Point, and the West Coast National park.

Total number of bird species recorded: 117 species

Detailed Trip Report

Hottentots Holland - 10th September 2011

We collected the common birds in and around Bantry Bay on the Atlantic side as we left the hotel, Red-winged Starling, Hartlaub’s Gull and some lovely African Black Oystercatchers foraging for mussels along the rocky shore. The cloudy and rainy weather was looking threatening, but as we crossed the Cape flats and headed for some top birding spots in the Kogelberg Biosphere, the weather showed signs of clearing. Sightings of Glossy Ibis, Southern Red Bishop, Southern Masked Weaver and Levaillant’s Cisticola along the N2 got us off to a good start.

Southern Right Whales (c) Alastair Kilpin on a BIrding Africa day trip

We were absorbing the huge ocean vistas from the coastal road when we spotted a small pod of Southern Right Whales. What was to be a short stop turned into more than an hour of energetic viewing as the large ocean mammals vied with the birds for our attention. The fynbos endemic Orange-breasted Sunbird was active around our vehicle, though it took a while to get a decent photograph! We were absorbing the sight of 4 whales cruising about 200m offshore, when we noticed a colony of South African Fur Seals basking below us. As our eyes became accustomed to the scale of the mammals, boulders and bushes in the area, we started spotting our target species of Rock Hyrax. Excellent views were had of adults and young foraging and basking on the cliffside and on the rocky beach. While this was on the go, we realised that Swift Terns and Cape Cormorants were not the only seabirds out there. A good handful of Shy Albatross and White-chinned Petrel were viewed well in the scope at this and two other sites along the coast – quite a treat when one hasn’t signed up on a pelagic!

Our coastal walk at Rooiels produced excellent views of successfully foraging Rock Kestrels, but sadly no other raptors. The flowering ericas and proteas drew in Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird to feed and pollinate, making for some great viewing. We had a calling Cape Grassbird who had some competition from a very vocal Victorin’s Warbler nearby. The Grey-backed Cisticolas were displaying all around us allowing some good photographic opportunities.

Elephant shrew (c) Alastair Kilpin on a BIrding Africa day trip

Ground Woodpecker called from high up and some Alpine Swifts and White-necked Ravens put on a good show too. The highlight of the walk was an exquisite Cape Rock Elephant-shrew that allowed us onto its rocky territory for some great photography. We ended the walk with a very confiding (and vocal) male Cape Rock Thrush.

We had a short, but productive stop at the Stoney Point penguin colony around midday. It was great to see all the different ages and stages of the African Penguins intermingled with Rock Hyrax and a colony of Cape Girdled Lizards too. Crowned Cormorant was present, but elusive, however we watched the threatened and endemic Bank Cormorant on the nest surrounded by White-breasted and Cape Cormorants too. At least three Subantarctic (Brown) Skua were seen patrolling the ocean not far from land and we picked up more albatrosses and petrels in the scope, rounding off a great stop.
A picnic in the magnificent Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens delivered some great ‘garden’ birds in the form of Swee Waxbill, Black Sawwing, African Dusky Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul, Southern Double-collared and Malachite Sunbirds, Yellow Bishop and a Cape River Frog! The garden was in full bloom with various species of mimetes and the King Protea stealing the show.

Our route back home was via the Elgin valley where we had a few good raptor sightings of Yellow-billed Kite, the lovely Jackal Buzzard and some distant Forest Buzzards too. A last stop at a farm dam produced breeding African Darter, Fiscal Flycatcher, Speckled Mousebird and an African Black Duck with a duckling.

All in all, it was a superb day out in this incredibly scenic and productive part of the Cape.

Day Trip report: West Coast - 11th September 2011

A crisp and fresh morning greeted us as we left the hotel in Bantry Bay. We viewed the resident birds along the beach front as we headed out of Cape Town destined for the intriguing and exciting West Coast National Park.

Our first stop was just outside the town of Melkbosstrand and we racked up great views of a couple of African Purple Swamphen, Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Grebe, Cape Shoveller and Black-winged Stilt. We scanned the endangered Strandveld vegetation as we headed north, looking for the main target in the form of Black Harrier. A few brief stops delivered no harrier yet, but Black-shouldered Kite mobbing a young Jackal Buzzard, Malachite Sunbird and Yellow Canary.

We entered the park in the south and were immediately greeted with a some interesting birds in the form of cheeky-sounding White-backed Mousebird, Cape Bunting, Cape Sparrow, Bar-throated Apalis and a fleeting family of Grey Tits. Cape Grassbirds were vocal from the restio-clad dunes and Common Ostrich strolled around casually! We were on the look-out for the park’s top predator, the Caracal and thought we were in with a chance when we found fresh scat on the track down to the Abrahamskraal waterhole. As we stopped we had beautiful Pearl-breasted and White-throated Swallows in view. The elusive African Rails called from deep in the reedbeds, but another wetland specialist the African Marsh Harrier got our blood running. A pair was there and seen carrying nesting material down into the reeds. A pair of the very smart endemic South African Shelduck came honking past us as we settled into the hide for a short while. A Steenbok with extremely long horns grazed on the far bank as we watched Red-knobbed Coots of various ages feeding and interacting with their parents.

Common Eland (c) Alastair Kilpin on a BIrding Africa day trip

As we drove towards the Postberg section (open only for two months in the flower season), we stayed on the lookout for Black Harrier. After more than two dozen sightings of Pied Crow, we finally got lucky with this special harrier right next to the road! Approaching Postberg we began to get an inkling of the wildflowers that were to be on show as we viewed a herd of Eland lazing in a swathe of orange and yellow – there were a few Springbok, Bontebok and a Red Hartebeest there too. African Pipits were vocal and showed well right near the roadside. Our next few stops provided excellent close viewing of Bokmakierie, African Hoopoe and a pair of very smart Large-billed Larks. Another open area was full of rather busy Cape Mountain Zebra and more Bontebok as we made our way up the hill to the viewpoint over Saldanha bay and the Langebaan Lagoon. Approaching the top we were able to photograph Black-headed Heron and had a very vocal Chestnut-vented Titbabbler and displaying Karoo Lark to add to the viewing list. The granitic outcrops add real flavour to the landscape and we picked out Little Swift and Rock Kestrels around them. Karoo Scrub-robins, more chat-like than other scrub-robins were feeding a fledgling in amongst some stunning blue Heliophila flowers and ‘watched’ by the black form of Karoo Girdled Lizard.

Karoo Girdled Lizard (c) Alastair Kilpin on a BIrding Africa day trip

It was when we turned to head back with the sun behind us that we really got the full impact of the flowering spectacle on offer – all the flowers faced north and we confronted with huge fields of white, some purple, some blue and others orange – definitely a sight for the bucketlist! We added African Stonechat and a pair Grey-winged Francolin as we made our way to lunch at Geelbek Manor.

Helioophila flowers (c) Alastair Kilpin on a BIrding Africa day trip

A short walk in the area after a super lunch produced Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Cape Teal and a pair of Rock Kestrels nesting under the eaves of one of the old farm buildings. The afternoon was a little windy and still chilly, but that didn’t deter the African Marsh Harriers as we had a good few more sightings. The hide at Seeberg was good for a roost of Greater Flamingo, Common and Swift Tern, White-fronted and Kittlitz’s Plover and White-throated Canary. A range of attractive and interesting flowers were tucked into the thickets there making the boardwalk very interesting indeed.

Our final sightings of the day en route home were Great White Pelican, Caspian Tern and Glossy Ibis. What a fantastic mix of fauna and flora on day out birding!

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

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Alastair Kilpin.

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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