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Western Cape: Hottentot's Holland Trip Report - 12 March 2014

Highlight bird species: Verreaux's Eagle, Cape Rockjumper, Orange-breasted Sunbird, African Penguin, Cape Siskin,
Orange-throated (Cape) Longclaw, African Rail and Hottentot Teal.

African Penguin © Ethan Kistler
African Penguin

Detailed Trip Report

After picking up Americans, Jim, Theresa, Nancy and Wil from their accommodation in Cape Town centre, we headed east towards the Hottentot's Holland mountain range. Being their first time in Africa, they anticipated an exciting day of birding and an excellent introduction to the birds of South Africa.

Our first stop was the coastal village of Rooiels, where surrounding fynbos promised colourful and exciting endemics. Stepping out of the van, we were instantly greeted by a small group of Malachite Sunbirds, which were soon followed by Southern Double-collared and Orange-breasted Sunbirds. Before heading down the gravel track, we noticed many Cape Gannets moving offshore toward the east, and for the duration of our stop these strings of gannet continued offshore in their hundreds.

Heading down the trail, I suggested everyone keep an eye out around the cliffs for the resident pair of Verreaux's Eagles. Not five seconds later someone called out, "Do you mean those?" pointing at two birds swooping over the cliff. Sure enough, for the next couple of minutes we were rewarded with excellent views of the eagles soaring around the cliff and circling overhead.

Cape Rockjumper photographed during a Birding Africa day trip © Tertius Gous
Cape Rockjumper photographed on a previous Hottentot's Holland day trip.

Other birds near the entrance include Familiar Chats, Red-winged Blackbirds, Grey-backed Cisticolas and the several gaudy Cape Sugarbirds. On reaching the start of the area which hosts Cape Rockjumpers, we immediately heard the calls of one just above us followed by great scope views of a pair sitting on the large boulders. Also in the area we ticked several Ground Woodpeckers, Rock Martin, Neddicky, Yellow Bishops, and another sought after species - a pair of Cape Siskins. Returning to the van, we added Jackal Buzzard soaring overhead.

Next, we headed to the Stoney Point penguin colony not only to hang out with the ever so entertaining African Penguins but also to scan through the cormorant flocks ultimately picking out all coastal species - Cape, Bank, Crowned, and White-breasted Cormorants. African Black Oystercatchers were detected as were our first mammals of the day - several Rock Hyrax and a single Cape Fur Seal sitting on the rocks.

We continued on towards Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, where we enjoyed a great lunch looking over the gardens. Heading up through the gardens we encountered Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Common Fiscal, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Bulbul, Fiscal and African Dusky Flycatchers, Cape Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush, and Cape Canary along with an Angulate Tortoise walking across the lawn.

Blue-mantled Crested-flycatcher seen during a Birding Africa day trip © Ethan Kistler
Blue-mantled Crested-flycatcher

The most promising birding was in the forest above the gardens and with little effort we found several Blue-mantled Crested-flycatchers, including one that gave us quite the show at eye-level. Nearby an African Paradise-flycatcher wasn't as cooperative. Returning to the gardens we stumbled upon a flock of Swee Waxbills feeding on grass seed.

Our final stop of the day, which promised to double our day list was the Strandfontein Water Works. Upon reaching the first pan, we were already adding birds left and right - Yellow-billed Ducks, Cape and Red-billed Teal, Cape Shovelers, Southern Pochards, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Great White Pelicans, and a Caspian Tern among the regulars.

Birding the network of pans, we continued adding birds such as Spur-winged Goose, South African Shelduck, Black-headed and Grey Herons, Glossy, African Sacred and Hadeda Ibis, African Marsh-harrier, Swift and Sandwich Terns, Levaillant's Cisticola, African Pipit and three very cooperative Orange-throated (Cape) Longclaws.

Orange-breasted (Cape) Longclaw © Ethan Kistler
Orange-breasted (Cape) Longclaw

Driving down one of the dikes, we caught glimpse of a Three-banded Plover, which shot across in front of us and circled back and down into a little wet area behind us. After reversing, we did not see the plover, but instead a pair of Hottentot Teal, followed by the calls of a Little Rush-warbler and most excitingly, an African Rail made an appearance. Soon a Wood Sandpiper appeared and just as we started to drive away, the Three-banded Plover finally returned. On our way out of the sewage works we added African Fish-eagle and Peregrine Falcon to conclude an excellent day of birding.

Asking the clients their favourite birds of the day, they picked out African Penguin, African Fish-eagle, Orange-throated Longclaw and Orange-breasted Sunbird.

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

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Ethan Kistler

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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