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Western Cape: Hottentots Holland Trip Report - 12 September 2015

Highlights included: Victorin's Warbler, Cape Rockjumper, Karoo Prinia, Cape Siskin, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, African Black Duck, all 4 species of marine cormorants, African Penguin, amongst others..

Detailed Trip Report

After meeting Jim and Dee at their accommodation in the city centre, we headed east along the N2 encountering a few small groups of House Crow, an introduced species that has thankfully not spread considerably beyond the vicinity of the airport. Although the skies above were clear, the ominous-looking clouds racing over the Kogelberg mountains to the ocean promised high winds. Jim had signed up for a pelagic trip that day that had unfortunately had to be cancelled. After turning on to the R44 coastal road at Gordon's Bay we could certainly see why, with the gale whipping the ocean into a froth, even in the relative shelter of False Bay. A pelagic trip rounding Cape Point in those conditions would likely not have returned.

We were greeted by the same winds at our first stop, the coastal village of Rooiels. We decided to brave the winds and continue along the road in the hopes of finding a more sheltered spot somewhere along the way. There was, however, no escaping it and we even found ourselves having to dodge an uprooted shrub at one point. We were still able to locate some of the usual denizens of the fynbos at Rooiels, including Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Cape Bunting, Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Prinia and Familiar Chat. After a short while and nearly being blown away several times, we decided that it might be worth returning to the car and continuing on to a more sheltered spot, hoping to return in the afternoon when the winds might have died down to continue searching for Cape Rockjumper. The walk back to the car was much faster with the wind now at our backs. Just before reaching the car, we heard Cape Rockjumper calling some distance up the rocky slopes and had good views of a male bird that braved the wind and left the shelter of the vegetation to perch on a large boulder.

Our next stop was the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens which, although still windy, was calm compared to Rooiels. We decided it would be a good idea to make a beeline for the relative shelter of the forested Leopard's Kloof. Just before the gate, we heard the piercing call of a Victorin's Warbler and had uncharacteristically great views of this normally notoriously skulking bird calling in the open. A second individual soon joined and they chased each other through the thick vegetation, perhaps a territorial dispute. Walking along the stream, we had African Dusky Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul and many Cape White-eyes We also had excellent views of a pair of Cape Batis darting about the lower branches.

Disa Kloof yielded similar birding, adding African Black Duck and Amethyst Sunbird. Meandering through the gardens, we had good views of many of the usual birds including Speckled Mousebird, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Canary and Swee Waxbill, with Rock Martin and Black Saw-wing in the skies above. A high-pitched call alerted us to the presence of Cape Siskin. Unfortunately, we only managed brief views of a single bird in flight before it was whisked away straight out of the gardens and our sight by the ever-present wind.

After a very satisfying lunch, we continued through Betty’s Bay to Stoney Point, an African Penguin colony that also hosts a roost of marine cormorant species. Birds of all stages of life and moult were present and it was quite amazing to see how the individuals brave enough to venture into the angry seas made it back onto the rocks, tumbled by the waves. Rock Hyrax were present amongst the penguins, as well as a single Egyptian Goose. The cormorant roost held good numbers of Cape, Bank and White-breasted, as well as a few Crowned Cormorants.

After briefly considering returning to Rooiels, we decided it was still too windy and made our way back to the western side of False Bay for the Strandfontein sewage works. Although the persistent wind meant that the waterfowl were not out in their usual numbers, we soon picked up the usual species including Cape and Redbilled Teal, Little, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebe, Cape Shoveller, Yellow-billed Duck, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot and Reed Cormorant. We also managed to find the African Jacana that had been hanging around for a few weeks, a strange bird to see at Strandfontein. The pans toward Baden Powell drive and the sea held many Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls as well as Greater Flamingo. We also picked up a few Pied Avocets and an African Marsh Harrier quartering over the reeds but without its usual elegance due to the wind.

On our final loop back to the entrance, we took a wrong turn which yielded Jackal Buzzard and Steenbok, but not without a price as we ended up getting very stuck in some deep sand. After a few fruitless attempts at digging us out and placing rocks under the wheels for some traction, we called for the help of some of the guide's family who have a 4X4 which was able to tow our vehicle out of the sand with surprising ease. That was how our day's birding ended, a little later than planned and with a little added drama. Thanks to Jim and Dee for remaining cheerful and enthusiastic despite the wind and the unplanned excitement!

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Campbell Fleming.

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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