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Western Cape: Hottentots Holland Trip Report - 30 January 2018

Highlights included: Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rockjumper, Cape Rock Thrush, Victorin's Warbler, Blue-Mantled Crested Flycatcher, all four species of marine cormorant and Long-beaked Common Dolphin

Total number of species: 52

Ground Woodpecker © Mayur Prag
Ground Woodpecker

Detailed Trip Report

We picked up John and Vicky from their hotel and headed straight to the beautiful Clarence Drive and the small town at its end - Rooiels. Not long after we reached the coast, we spotted a large pod of dolphins swimming just offshore and stopped for some good views of what turned out to be Long-beaked Common Dolphins with some Cape Fur Seals mixed in. We also picked up a Cape Rock Thrush in a nearby garden.

As we approached Rooiels we noticed a large group of terns and gulls roosting on the beach and picked out Common, Sandwich and Swift Terns as well as many Hartlaub's and Kelp Gulls. As we were watching the birds, the drizzle became a bit worse and we decided to carry on to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens and return to Rooiels on the way back. The weather seemed to follow us however, and it was still drizzling on and off at the gardens. Despite this we still had some good bird sightings, finding Amethyst, Orange Breasted and Southern Double Collared Sunbirds, Swee Waxbills, Speckled Mousebirds and - a surprise! - a Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher in the main garden area. Raptors seemed to be enjoying the rain as we saw a Peregrine Falcon and both Steppe and Jackal Buzzards overhead.

We then went on the short Disa trail getting a nice view of a perched Black Saw-wing. We spotted some Red Disas flowering in the gorge and were entertained by a pair of Cape Batis as they foraged right next to the walkway. We had been hearing Victorin's Warbler calling across the river the whole way without spotting it and decided to walk a little way to the top of the gardens to see if we could see one at another spot. After some patience we had great views of this skulking bird as it flew across the path in front of us. By this time we were all soaked and the rain did not show any sign of stopping so we opted for an early lunch to wait out the rain. After some nice toasted sandwiches and still no sign of sunshine, we headed on to the penguin colony at Stony Point.

The weather held nicely for us at Stony Point and we had wonderful views of the African Penguins including two with the uncommon double chest band. We soon picked up on all four of the coastal cormorants, namely Cape, Crowned, White-breasted and Bank Cormorant, including good views of a Bank cormorant displaying. We also managed to pick out a few Grey Headed Gulls among the many Hartlaub's Gulls and were lucky to have an African Black Oystercatcher on the beach.

Cape Rockjumper © Mayur Prag
Cape Rockjumper

The next stop was the long awaited Rockjumper spot near Rooiels. We were welcomed to the short walk by a pair of Rock Kestrels that were hovering over the slopes and hung around for most of our stay. After walking a short distance with nothing much to be seen, we spotted some movement up the slope that turned out to be a group of Klipspringers! While we got the scope onto them we noticed some movement on the rocks and got our first views of a pair of Cape Rockjumpers as well.

We carried on alongside the coastal path which seemed very quiet except for a few Cape Buntings. On the way back along the path however we heard some commotion up the slope and spotted a group of 5 Cape Rockjumpers! We watched them for a while as they moved down the slope while foraging and two of the juveniles eventually came fairly close-by, giving excellent views. We had heard some Ground Woodpeckers a little further along the path and after the rockjumpers had moved off, we carried on to find them. As we were walking, looking up and down the slope, we spotted a bird right next to the path with just its head sticking out behind a rock; it was a Ground Woodpecker. We watched a group of four as they flew from rock to rock, calling to each other and then dropping down onto termite mounds to feed. As we were watching one pair up the slope, the other pair of birds flew behind us, across the path and landed on a rock just a few metres from us, perching in full view and excellent light! Unperturbed, they continued to forage right in front of us and we watched as they jabbed their beaks into the termite mounds and then probed them with their long tongues for a tasty meal. After unbeatable views of these gorgeous endemics and good views of our other target birds despite the bad weather, we headed back to the hotel.

Ground Woodpecker © Mayur Prag
Ground Woodpeckers on a termite mound.

Bird List

1. Cape Spurfowl
2. Egyptian Goose
3. Ground Woodpecker
4. Speckled Mousebird
5. Rock Dove
6. Speckled Pigeon
7. Laughing Dove
8. African Black Oystercatcher
9. Blacksmith Lapwing
10. Kelp Gull
11. Grey Headed Gull
12. Hartlaub's Gull
13. Swift Tern
14. Sandwich Tern
15. Common Tern
16. Yellow Billed Kite
17. Steppe Buzzard
18. Jackal Buzzard
19. Rock Kestrel
20. Peregrine Falcon
21. Crowned Cormorant
22. White-breasted Cormorant
23. Bank Cormorant
24. Cape Cormorant
25. Hadeda Ibis
26. African Sacred Ibis
27. African Penguin
28. Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher
29. Cape Batis
30. Pied Crow
31. Cape Rockjumper
32. Black Saw-wing
33. Cape Bulbul
34. Sombre Greenbul
35. Victorin's Warbler
36. Cape White-eye
37. Karoo Prinia
38. Cape Rock Thrush
39. Olive Thrush
40. African Dusky Flycatcher
41. Cape Robin-Chat
42. Familiar Chat
43. Red-winged Starling
44. Common Starling
45. Orange-breasted Sunbird
46. Amethyst Sunbird
47. Southern Double-collared Sunbird
48. Cape Sugarbird
49. Swee Waxbill
50. Common Waxbill
51. Cape Wagtail
52. Cape Bunting

A Birding Africa Trip Report by trainee guide Mayur Prag with Tour Leader Seth Musker.

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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