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Western Cape: Peninsula & West Coast Trip Reports
24 & 29 June 2015

Bird Highlights: African Penguin, Zitting Cisticola, African Black Oystercatcher, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Bokmakierie, Purple Swamphen, African Marsh Harrier, Cape Longclaw, Spotted Thick-knees, Blue Crane. Karoo scrub-Robin, African Rail, South African Shelduck.

Number of bird species: 101 species seen during the 2 days.

Blue Cranes during the West Coast day trip Otto Schmidt
Blue Crane

Detailed Trip Report

Wednesday 24 June - Cape Peninsula
When I collected Stephen at his Waterfront accommodation at 07h15 for his trip, the prospects for a good day weather-wise were slim with a high chance of rain predicted.

Kirstenbosch was still closed when we passed through Newlands heading over Ou Kaapse Weg towards Kommetjie. Surprisingly, it was windy and cold, but relatively clear and we started with Pied Kingfisher, Crowned, Cape and White-breasted Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher, Spotted Thick-knee, Swift Tern, the two gull species and a few others at the Kom before heading across towards Slangkop Lighthouse. A walk here was unfortunately foiled by a sudden downpour so we headed down the coast and eventually entered the Cape Point Reserve.

African Black Oystercatcher Otto Schmidt
African Black Oystercatchers

There were no other vehicles at the main car park at the Point. A short walk below the car-park produced two short views of a Peregrine Falcon flying along the cliff face, but otherwise it was fairly quiet with only Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Bunting and Karoo Prinia showing themselves in the cold windy conditions. Close to the coast, large groups of Cape Cormorant were flying past, but there no other seabirds of note. We then drove down to the coast at the south-western corner of the Cape with good sightings of Bokmakierie along the road and Common Ostriches feeding on the shoreline.

From here we continued down to Olifantsbos, where the beach added birds such as Three-banded and Kittlitz's Plovers; and bushbirds seen included Southern Boubou, Yellow Bishop and Fiscal Flycatcher. On our way out from Olifantsbos, a Jackal Buzzard and a group of eight Spotted Thick-knees at the roadside were good to see.

Our next stop after leaving the reserve was Boulders, where we spent some time with the African Penguins before continuing along the False Bay coastline towards Muizenberg and a stop for lunch. By now the weather was considerably brighter, and the sun was out when we entered Strandfontein Sewage Works after a drive along the False Bay coast-line.

The first pans at Strandfontein contained large numbers of Greater Flamingo as well as many Cape Teal and Cape Shoveler. On the grass verges were large numbers of feeding Red-knobbed Coot. A surprise immediately after passing the boom at the main buildings was the sight of an African Marsh Harrier feeding on a freshly killed coot at the side of the road. The bird was very reluctant to leave its meal and we had excellent views. We continued adding the expected waterbird species as well as bushbirds such as Zitting Cisticola, African Pipit and Cape Longclaw. We had several further sightings of African Marsh Harrier whilst adding the expected three ibis species, White Pelican, Spur-winged Goose, Southern Pochard and others. After seeing our first Purple Swamphen, we were then surprised to find a group of five feeding in close proximity.

African Marsh Harrier © Otto Schmidt
African Marsh Harrier

After a lengthy stay in quite pleasant weather conditions we headed back towards the mountain. Any question of a stop-over at Kirstenbosch was dispelled by heavy cloud and a deluge. The sun reappeared as we neared the Black River and we decided to see if the vagrant Snowy Egret might be about. It was chilly and there was very little bird activity, so we decided to head on towards town, returning to the Waterfront area for a stop at the Green Point coastline in the late afternoon and arriving back at Stephen's lodgings at about 18h00. The weather had been unexpectedly kind to us, and the total number of species for the day was 76.

Monday 29 June - West Coast We left the Waterfront area at 07h00 in the rain, hoping that the weather would clear as we headed north. Fortunately, as the light improved, so did the weather, and the day turned out to be fairly bright and sunny, although quite cool at times.

Our first stop was at Grotto Bay where the expected Spotted Thick-knees were about and Karoo Scrub-Robin was seen for the first of many times. A group of eight Grey-winged Francolins feeding on the edge of the carpark near the coast was a pleasant surprise. Heading along the Darling Hills Road we encountered a flock of about 30 Blue Cranes, and Jackal Buzzard and Rock Kestrel were present on the overhead wires.

Grey-winged Francolin © Otto Schmidt
Grey-winged Francolin

After passing through Darling we stopped at the Tienie Versfeld Flower Reserve where a chilly breeze kept things a bit quiet, but we did get fair views of Cloud Cisticola as well as seeing Cape Longclaw, African Pipit and Yellow Bishop. A flock of Greater Flamingo and four Cape Teal were present at the top dam. The wetland was however still totally dry.

We continued into the West Coast National Park and headed for the coast. Bush birding was slow apart from regular views of Karoo Scrub-Robins at the roadside. There was also little at the coast, but on our way back we had a good view of a Black Harrier circling fairly high above us. We continued towards Seeberg hide, getting there about an hour before high tide. The weather was now gloriously sunny and calm, and the mixed flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingo on the lagoon were a lovely sight. Kittlitz's and White-fronted Plovers were present, but the only two migrant waders in front of the hide were a Whimbrel and a Lesser Sand Plover. The only terns present were a few Swift Terns.

A drive up to the Seeberg lookout spot unfortunately did not produce the hoped-for Southern Black Korhaan, and we continued to Geelbek for lunch. On route we spotted another group of Grey-winged Francolin close to the road.

After lunch we headed to the Abrahamskraal waterhole and hide. A pair of South African Shelduck flew in as we arrived, but disappeared behind the curtain of reeds. However, after a while we were fortunate to see two Black Crake emerging from the opposite bank and heading down to the water's edge. Then a bonus as an African Rail emerged and remained visible feeding at the water’s edge for a considerable time allowing excellent although quite distant views.

African Rail © Otto Schmidt
African Rail

Heading back from the park we again drove up the first part of the Darling Hills Road and had good views of several Blue Cranes near the dam. At the dam were two pairs of South African Shelduck together with several other duck species which presumably roost there. We continued back to Cape Town arriving back at the waterfront at about 18h30 after a good day out in unexpectedly good conditions. Our species total for this day was 75 and the combined total for the two days was 101.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Otto Schmidt.

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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