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Western Cape Tour, Hottentots Holland, 24 October 2013

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Highlights: Cape Rockjumper, Cape Sugarbird, Victorin's Warbler, displaying Denham's Bustard, Black Sparrowhawk, Blue Crane, Malachite Sunbird in full breeding plumage, Black Harrier, Zitting and Cloud Cisticola and more...

Number of bird species: 87 and 1 heard

Denham's Bustard photographed by Alastair Kilpin on a Birding Africa day trip
Denham's Bustard on a Birding Africa day trip

Detailed Trip Report

We knocked off a few local birds like African Darter, Grey Heron and Red-eyed Dove at Peregrine Farmstall before moving on to a nearby farm dam in the Elgin Valley.

It was a busy start to the day as we had a fine selection of birds to enjoy. Common endemics like Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia and Cape Bulbul were first up while we moved about quite a bit before getting our first view of many in the day of the exquisite Malachite Sunbird as it fed on various Erica and Kniphofia around the dam. Yellow-billed Duck, Red-knobbed Coot with tiny chicks, the brilliant White-throated Swallow and Little Grebe were easily on show in the water as we focused more on the reedbed edge for the trickier species. It turned out not so as the Black Crake with young emerged quite well and the Lesser Swamp-warbler foraged right out on the lilypads in the dam. We added Black-crowned Night-heron, Jackal Buzzard, Pied Kingfisher and Common Waxbill. But the highlight here must have been the Black Sparrowhawk which shunted in headlong towards us as it chased a dove out of sight.

We moved to another local farm to access some fynbos. En route the farm fields delivered some vocal Blue Crane - always a treat. Whilst watching them, we had a fine pair of African Goshawk who were in aerial pursuit of each other and Zitting and Cloud Cisticola displayed over the fields. Here we ticked off the displaying African Pipit and African Stonechat as well.

'Mystery' Buzzard on a Birding Africa day trip © Alastair Kilpin Cape Canary on a Birding Africa day trip © Alastair Kilpin
One of the Western Cape's "Mystery" Buzzards spotted on a Birding Africa Day Trip; and a Cape Canary

First stop in the fynbos held classic Cape Sugarbirds feeding in the flowering Leucodendrons and the gaudy Yellow Bishop in display. We found a Long-billed Pipit vocal on a vineyard pole. The fynbos endemic Orange-breasted Sunbird was next in line when we first heard the call of the richly-coloured Victorin's Warbler - 'uber-skulker'. We were in luck, as we viewed a single bird vocal in the tall restios with some nice low vegetation between us - which doesn't happen every day! Another great distraction was a Jackal Buzzard flying past with what appeared to be a rock agama in its talons - the price paid for basking in the sun!. We found a Cape River Frog in the mountain stream and an African Dusky-flycatcher closeby.

Further along on the farm we enjoyed Steppe Buzzard, Fork-tailed Drongo and Plain-backed Pipit before we got lucky with African Black Duck - an adult with no less than five well grown ducklings in tow. At the same dam was a Blue Crane with 3 eggs on a nest! Swee Waxbill and Cape Spurfowl rounded off a very productive morning.

We stopped for a picnic at a shady spot in the mountains and here a male Cape Batis flew in right above us to add material to his nest! With the showy Keurboom in flower and lush fynbos it was a great place to be. Our afternoon walk started with many Cape Siskin flying overhead and eventually one being patient enough for our scope. Neddicky, Cape Grassbird and Cape Bunting were added without a peep from any of the target Cape Rockjumpers. Eventually we tried a new spot and got lucky as a group was feeding on the ground not far from us at all. We glimpsed one young bird which was good news that they have bred successfully.

Renosterveld flowers © Alastair Kilpin

We made our way into the Theewaterskloof area in the late afternoon for what turned out to be an exciting session of birding. Grey-headed Gull, Steppe Buzzard and a tricky juvenile African Harrier-hawk got things started.

Then it was Swee Waxbill, Bokmakierie and Cape Crow before the star birds. Denham's Bustards were on display across a vast area of open fields and whilst we enjoyed this impressive sight a Blue Crane flew in and the endemic Black Harrier flew by! Just as we started to move on we found a Spotted Eagle-owl camouflaged in the leaf-litter of a Eucalyptus patch.

Minutes later we stopped for some displaying Grey-backed Cisticola and got them plus Cloud Cisticola, Banded Martin and another very close Denham's Bustard! Another quick stop further down the road and we could hear Common Quails calling from the fields. Right there were Large-billed Lark, Capped Wheatear and Pied Starling. The one photo we missed was a Common Fiscal perched with what we thought was a snake in its strong bill, but the tiny legs hanging to the side of the reptile gave it away as Common Long-tailed Seps.

RIGHT: Some attractive flowering Renosterveld bulbs brightened up the roadside - not that this exciting birding trip needed it!

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Alastair Kilpin.

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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