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Western Cape Tour, Hottentots Holland, 28 February 2012

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: We visited key sites in the Hottentots Holland area of the Western Cape including Rooiels, Harold Porter National Botanical Garden, Stony Point and Macassar Waste Water Treatment Works.

Number of bird species: 98

Highlights: Cape Rock-jumper, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Rock-Thrush, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Olive Woodpecker, Swee Waxbill, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Grassbird, African Penguin, Cape Gannet and all five possible cormorant species.

We also saw mammals such as Rock Hyrax and Klipspringer and reptiles such as Cape Dwarf Chameleon (caught by a Cape Rock-jumper!), Southern Rock Agama and Cape Girdled Lizard. See some photographs below.

Detailed Trip Report

The day started bright and early with a leisurely drive along Clarence Drive heading for the tiny coastal village of Rooiels, undoubtedly the most accessible site for Cape Rock-jumper in the world, although they are by no means guaranteed. On the way we were rewarded with several sightings of Cape Rock-Thrush along the Hottentots Holland mountains and foraging groups of Cape Gannets were unusually common over False Bay.

Cape Rockjumper on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

A cool breeze greeted us at Rooiels as a few Red-winged Starlings announced our arrival. A female Cape Rock-Thrush provided prolonged views and a pair of Cape Sugarbirds popped into view from the fynbos along the gravel path. Flowering Erica brachialis and E. pulchella attracted large numbers of Orange-breasted, Southern Double-collared and Malachite Sunbirds, although males of the latter were all in eclipse plumage. A strange cellphone-like bleating call alerted us to a Cape Grassbird nearby, and the bird showed briefly before diving back into cover. Cape Buntings were common as always and we also saw both Cape and Southern Masked-Weaver. Walking along the path we scanned the boulder-strewn slope for any activity and noticed a small foraging flock of Yellow Bishops. Suddenly a larger bird hopped onto a rock – Cape Rock-jumper! Initially only a male was seen but soon the female made an appearance. The birds were very confiding and seemed unperturbed by our presence, allowing us amazing close-up views. At one stage we witnessed the male Cape Rock-jumper catch and devour a juvenile Cape Dwarf Chameleon. We had to drag ourselves away to search for more goodies and found Grey-backed Cisticola, Familiar Chat, Karoo Prinia, Rock Martin, Cape Bulbul, White-necked Raven and a Klipspringer.

Cape Rockjumper on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

Orange-breasted Sunbird on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

Cape Grassbird on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

Next stop was the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden in Betty’s Bay. Here Sombre Greenbuls were calling everywhere but it took us a while to see one high in a Cape Beech. Black Saw-wings flitted over the riverine vegetation and we were rewarded later with one sitting in a Keurboom tree (Virgilia sp.) The forest along Disa Kloof produced Cape Robin-chat, Olive Thrush, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Cape Batis, several very tame African Dusky Flycatchers and Olive Woodpecker. Victorin’s Warbler called loudly from thick fynbos cover. Another highlight was a group of Swee Waxbills feeding on the seeds of Setaria megaphylla grass growing next to the footpath. We had lunch at the Leopards Kloof Restaurant while listening to a disjunct chorus of Cape River Frogs before we left for the African Penguin colony at Stony Point.

African Dusky Flycatcher on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

Swee Waxbill on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

Stony Point is one of two land-based African Penguin breeding colonies in South Africa. The colony has grown considerably over the last few years and is now home to about 150 pairs of penguins. At the end of February most penguins have completed their moult and some are already starting to breed. Stony Point is also home to three endemic marine cormorant species, the Cape, Bank and Crowned Cormorants, as well as White-breasted Cormorant. We saw all of these, including African Black Oystercatcher, Hartlaub’s Gull, Kelp Gull and Cape Wagtail foraging amongst the breeding penguins. Offshore, Cape Gannets entertained us with their spectacular plunge-diving acrobatics. Other wildlife at Stony Point included Rock Hyrax, Southern Rock Agama and Cape Girdled Lizard. On the way back to the car park we chanced upon a covey of Cape Spurfowls and Helmeted Guineafowls. A Southern Grey-headed Sparrow was a nice surprise and a very confiding Cape Grassbird provided extended views just before we left for Macassar.

Rock Hyrax on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

Cape Spurfowl on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

The Macassar Waste Water Treatment Works is situated at the estuary of the Eerste River and a large selection of fresh water and marine birds are on show. At the entrance a group of four very vocal Pearl-breasted Swallows was on view. Roosting Caspian, Swift, Sandwich and Common Terns, were present at the estuary, as well as African Black Duck, Reed Cormorant and African Darter. The open settling ponds had Cape Teal, Egyptian Goose, Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler and Southern Pochard. Raptors included Peregrine Falcon, Steppe Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard and Black-shouldered Kite. Other good birds added to our list were Fiscal Flycatcher, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Malachite Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Egret, Purple Heron, Common Greenshank and Black-winged Stilt.

Bank Cormorant on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

African Penguin braying on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

Klipspringer on a Birding Africa day trip guided by Tertius Gous (c) Tertius Gous

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Tertius Gous.

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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