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Western Cape: Kogelberg Biosphere Day Trip - 23 May 2019

Highlights included: Ground Woodpecker, Cape Siskin, Cape Rock-thrush, Sentinel Rock-thrush, Southern Pochard, four species of marine cormorant, Bryde's Whale, Long-beaked Common Dolphin, Cape Mountain Leopard (tracks).

Total number of species : 80

Ground Woodpecker  Vincent Ward
Ground Woodpecker

Our birding day began at sunrise at the famous Strandfontein Sewage Works. The area is a complex of settling ponds, reed-beds and coastal dunes, and makes for some of the best birding in the city.The ponds were very busy with an excellent variety of waterfowl feeding in the perfect windless conditions. During our two hours of birding we recorded Egyptian Goose, Cape and Red-billed Teals, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveller, South African Shelduck, Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, Spur-winged Goose, Red-knobbed Coot and Little Grebe.

The patches of open shoreline and shallower water were good for wading birds and shorebirds, especially Sacred and Glossy Ibises, Greater Flamingos, Great White Pelicans, White Storks, Little and Cattle Egrets, as well as Black-winged Stilts and Pied Avocets.

Kelp, Grey-headed and Hartlaub/s Gulls, and Common and Great Crested Terns were seen in the seabird roosts in the near empty ponds.

The roadside scrub and reed-beds also made for excellent birding. The species seen included Hadeda Ibis, Black-headed Heron, Cape Spurfowl, Levaillant's Cisticola, Common Waxbill, Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers, African Swamphen, Common Moorhen, Cape Canary, Southern Masked Weaver and Southern/Common Fiscal.

We also did very well when it came to raptors, seeing Rock Kestrel, Jackal Buzzard, Black-winged Kite, African Marsh Harrier and juvenile Black Sparrowhawk.

After a very good start to the day, we followed the shoreline of False Bay around to the small seaside town of Rooi Els. Cape Bulbuls, Cape Sugarbirds, Southern Double-collared and Orange-breasted Sunbirds were common in the town's indigenous Fynbos gardens. While birding along the coastal track, we had a quick sighting of a lone Bryde's Whale close inshore.

At the foot of the scree-covered slopes, we heard Cape Rockjumpers calling from very high up the slope. Despite several hours of patient scanning, they did not move any lower, putting them out of visual range.

By contrast, the lower slopes and the track itself offered very good birding, including a very tame family of Ground Woodpeckers. Other species recorded included Cape Bunting, Familiar Chat, Rock Martin, Red-winged Starling, Neddicky and Cape Rock-thrush.

Ground Woodpecker Vincent Ward The strip of burnt coastal scrub was also productive, with offered up species like Yellow Bishop, Cape Grassbird, Grey-backed Cisticola and Karoo Prinia.

A notable highlight on the walk back to the car, was the discovery of "Cape Mountain" Leopard tracks heading up the slope. The species is considered one of the "Impossible Five" and daylight sightings are exceptionally rare. Tracks are therefore an excellent "sighting".

After a delicious lunch in the neighbouring town of Pringle Bay, we continued along the coast to Harold Porter Botanical Garden in Betty Bay. The gardens are still recovering after the devastating fire in early January. The lower sections of the gardens still offer the best birding opportunities. The highlights were the large numbers of seedeaters, like Cape Siskins, Brimstone Canaries and Swee Waxbills. The denser patches of trees were home to species like Sombre Greenbul, Cape Bulbul, Olive Thrush, Cape Robin-chat, Fiscal Flycatcher and Cape Batis. Despite the cool weather, we had two species of butterflies: Sooty Blue and the cosmopolitan Meadow White.

We made a quick visit to the Stony Point African Penguin colony, to find the four marine cormorants: Cape, Crowned, Bank/ and White-breasted Cormorants. In addition to these four seabird species and, of course, African Penguin. We also had good sightings of Kelp and Hartlaub's Gull, Great Crested Tern and African Oystercatcher.

After leaving Stony Point, we drove through the town looking for a few more common endemics like Cape Weavers and Cape Grassbird. Our searches also allowed us to add often neglected common species like Cape Turtle/Ring-necked, Laughing Dove and Red-eyed Dove, Speckled Pigeon and Speckled Mousebird. The town was also especially good for mammals like Rock Hyraxes, Chacma Baboons and Cape/Small Grey Mongooses.

      Ground Woodpecker

En route to Cape Town, we headed back to the slopes at Rooi Els. The Cape Rockjumpers heard earlier were still occasionally calling very high up the slope and therefore beyond visual range.As consolation prizes, we recorded Sentinel Rock-thrush and a small flock of Cape Siskins close to the track. There was also some good sightings out to sea, with a pair of blowing Bryde's Whales, and a distant view of the huge pod of Long-beaked Common Dolphins, currently residing in False Bay.

With the sun setting, and the rockjumpers unlikely to move downslope, we reluctantly gave up the search and headed back to the city.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Vincent Ward.

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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