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Western Cape Tour, Hottentots Holland & West Coast, 27 & 29 September 2011

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Itinerary: We birded half a day at Hottentots Holland (Rooi Els, Stoney Point) and another half day at the West Coast (Silwerstroomstrand and Darling Hills)

Detailed Trip Report

27 September 2011

Rooi Els and Betty’s Bay (Half Day)

I picked Tony up at Cape Town International Airport at 14h30 and we left immediately for Rooi Els. Tony had never birded the Cape, so our aim was to find a few of the nice Cape endemics.

Things started off well with good views of a female Cape Sugarbird shortly after the turn-off at Rooi Els. As we parked our vehicle we had the first of many Rock Martins, clearly enjoying the strong wind as they careered about overhead. A male Southern Double-collared Sunbird called boldly, displaying his bright yellow epaulettes, and around the corner we had two male Orange-breasted Sunbirds, one of which was missing all its toes on its left leg, but appeared to be doing fairly well despite its injury as it called vociferously from an exposed perch.

Birding remained fairly slow as we made our way along the road, picking up Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Bulbul and an obliging Cape Bunting, which posed nicely on one of the large boulders. We soon heard Cape Rockjumpers calling from high up the slope, and were momentarily distracted by some more Orange-breasted Sunbirds when we suddenly heard the Rockjumper’s loud call from quite close, and spun around to see a beautiful male perched atop a large boulder. He was accompanied by a female and another which appeared to be a juvenile, as it chased the female around constantly. We spent time enjoying the threesome as they nonchalantly hopped from rock to rock, and appeared unperturbed by the sight of a Rock Kestrel flying low overhead.

We decided to start making our way back as we had planned a visit to Stoney Point, and picked up Yellow Bishop and White-necked Raven on the way, as well as calling Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Siskin and Cape Grassbird, all of which unfortunately remained distant and well-hidden.

Moving on to Betty’s Bay we had a pair of Cape Spurfowl at the roadside with at least half a dozen tiny chicks in tow. At Stoney Point African Penguin were abundant and very approachable as usual, and we also had a couple of Crowned Cormorant on the rocky pier. Cape, White-breasted and Bank Cormorants were also present. In the late evening light we had nice views of Little Egret flying low over the water, before we decided to call it a day and head back to Cape Town.

29 September 2011

West Coast – Silwerstroomstrand and Darling Hills Road (Half Day)

After an early start to the day, we left Cape Town and headed off along the R27 in search of some West Coast specials.

At Silwerstroomstrand we were greeted, almost instantly, by the grating calls of at least two Southern Black Korhaans in the distance, which remained stubbornly out of view bar a brief sighting of a bird in flight. Karoo Prinia and Grey-backed Cisticola were highly vocal and rewarded us with great views. The Prinias were especially amusing, engaging in loud, Spring-induced territorial disputes and darting after each other through the vegetation. A Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler was at first reluctant to leave the safety of a thick bush, but soon flew across the road, giving great views of the characteristic ‘chestnut vent’. A Cape Grassbird was heard calling in the undergrowth but despite our best efforts, we could not get the call to materialize into a bird! Other sightings included a small posse of Barn Swallows, Malachite Sunbird, Cape Bulbul, Cape Robin-chat, Common Fiscal, White-backed Mousebird, and a trio of Black-headed Herons passing overhead. Raptors included Black-shouldered Kite, African Marsh-harrier, Yellow-billed Kite and brief views of a Black Harrier on our way out.

A familiar cacophony awaited us at the Darling Hills road and the culprits, a pair of Southern Black Korhaans, were soon spotted on the hillside. We had stunning views of a pair of Bokmakieries and heard a variety of their duetting calls. A Common Fiscal was perched atop a large bush, watching over Helmeted Guineafowl and Cape Spurfowl on the ground below. A group of Sacred Ibis led us to an irrigation dam which yielded Blacksmith Lapwing, Spurwing Goose, Great White Pelican and large numbers of Egyptian Geese with the smaller South African Shelduck dotted amongst them.

The adjacent fields bore Capped Wheatears, Pied Starlings, Red-capped Larks and a magnificent Blue Crane. Once we were satisfied with the birding at the dam, we continued along the road, encountering both Cape and Brimstone Canaries, Rock Kestrel and a pair of very obliging Banded Martins perched on a roadside fence. They were far from camera-shy and offered great photographic opportunities. The reed beds along the road held both Red and Yellow Bishop (many of the males were in stunning breeding plumage), Lesser Swamp Warbler and Cape Weaver.

Our last stop before turning back was at a small stream where we picked up Common Waxbill and White-throated Swallow. Another fantastic sighting was a pair of Greater-striped Swallows sharing a section of fence with a pair of Pearl-breasted Swallows. Driving back to the R27 along the same route, we were able to add a few more species to our list. These included African Hoopoe, a small flock of beautiful European Bee-eaters and an adult male Greater Honeyguide. We re-joined the R27 and headed for the airport unaware that we were in for one final treat. At the very fringe of the Strandveld, a Black Harrier emerged from the roadside, ascending to eye level and offering brief but superb views as we whizzed past. It was an ideal end to a half-day’s birding and a fitting farewell from the West Coast and South Africa.

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

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leaders Seth Musker and Campbell Fleming.

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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