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Western Cape Tour: Kirstenbosch and Rondevlei Trip Report - 31 January 2015

Lourens Swanepoel, at 6 years old is Birding Africa's youngest client!

Bird Highlights: Orange-breasted & Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Cape Sugarbird, Forest Canary, Spotted Eagle Owl, Great White Pelican, African Purple Swamphen, African Marsh Harrier, Black-crowned Night-heron, pale-form Booted Eagle.

Reptile and Amphibian species: Angulate Tortoise, Marsh Terrapin, Western Leopard Toad, Mole Snake

Detailed Trip Report

At 07:30 on Saturday the 31st of January, I met up with Claire King and Lourens Swanepoel, Birding Africa's youngest client at 6 years old and already an avid and accomplished birder with well over 100 species on his life-list. Our plan for the day's birding was to visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and Rondevlei Nature Reserve.

Lourens was particularly eager to see an Orange-breasted Sunbird, a bird that neither his grandmother nor schoolteacher, both birders themselves, had seen. Entering Kirstenbosch through the Rycroft gate, we soon had our first of many good sightings of Orange-breasted Sunbird as we pursued a skulky Southern Boubou. The noisy, male Sunbird that we'd seen was sharing the bush it perched on with another of our target species, Cape Sugarbird, of which there were several including a male with spectacularly long tail feathers.

Moving on and buoyed by our early success, we soon encountered other good birds including a flock of African Olive Pigeons and our first raptors of the day, a pair of Black Sparrowhawks. Swee and Common Waxbills as well as Forest Canary provided further excitement before we came upon the usual roosting site of a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls. After searching all the nearby trees, we'd still found no owls and decided to move on. We hadn't given up though, and with some luck and many minutes of peering up at branches, we came upon one of the Owls, roosting with its eyes closed quite some distance from its regular hangout.

Next, we made our way along the "Boomslang", a wooden walkway that winds its way through the canopy more than 10m off the ground. Besides spectacular views of Table Mountain, the gardens and the city below, we had good views of African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and multitudes of Cape White-eyes darting about in the canopy at eye level. After a quick lunch, we walked through a small patch of forest along the Braille Trail, the highlight a pair of Cape Batises flitting about from branch to branch.

After tracing our way back to the top of the garden, we travelled to our next destination, Rondevlei Nature Reserve. After picking up Fiscal Flycatcher and Cape Bulbul near the entrance, we ascended the observation tower to look out over the vlei. There was much excitement as we spotted a group of more than 20 Great White Pelicans wheeling about above us on their great, broad wings and another group feeding on the water, surging forward in an arrowhead formation and scooping up fish. Other birds seen from the deck included African Purple Swamphen, Little Egret, African Spoonbill and African Sacred Ibis, amongst others.

We were lucky enough to be visiting the reserve at the same time as a large school group, so Lourens was treated to a display of some live animals including Angulate Tortoise, Marsh Terrapin and Western Leopard Toad and he learned a great deal about all of them. He even got to handle a Mole Snake and the reserve staff were impressed by his enthusiasm and knowledge. After the show, we made our way along the waterside trail and its many bird hides, with highlights including African Marsh Harrier, Caspian Tern, a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron and a surprise, pale-form Booted Eagle. We then made our way back to Kirstenbosch in high spirits after a satisfying and relaxed day of birding.

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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