Birding Africa
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Western Cape: Kirstenbosch & Wetlands Trip Report - 08 December 2013

Please click here for more information about our upcoming Cape Tours.

Highlight bird species: Spotted Eagle Owl, Brown-backed Honeybird, Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Swamphen

Black-crowned Night Heron © Otto Schmidt
Black-crowned Night Heron on a Birding Africa Tour © Otto Schmidt
Detailed Trip Report

I collected John and Carol at their Cape Town hotel at 07h00 on a pleasant morning, and we made straight for the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. We spent some time there, slowly covering the various habitats. Nevertheless, we picked up a number of species as we headed up towards the Spotted Eagle Owls where the two chicks, with vigilant parents nearby, were attracting the usual group of spectators and photographers.

Having been told to be on the lookout in that area, we managed to spot the Brown-backed Honeybird high in the trees above the owls, and we had good views of Cape and Brimstone Canary, Common Waxbill, Cape Robin-Chat and Olive Thrush, but birding in the gardens was relatively quiet and Southern Boubou and Cape Batis were only heard. There were no raptors overhead, but we did spot Alpine and African Black Swift.

After a refreshment break we headed off towards the Cape Flats, first going to the Philippi Wetlands, were waterbirds abounded and Whiskered Tern, Yellow-billed and Little Egret and White-faced Duck were amongst the many species seen. Along Punt Road we picked up several migrant wader species such as Little Stint, Ruff and Common Ringed Plover.

Maccoa Duck photographed by Otto Schmidt on a Birding Africa Day Trip
Maccoa Duck

It was now getting towards lunch-time, and with no obvious places to eat nearby, we detoured past Muizenberg and had a most pleasant lunch at the Casa Labia near St. James before heading back towards the Strandfontein Sewage Works. A short detour to Zandvlei added Common Sandpiper. At the sewage works our list grew rapidly with all three grebes on show - Crested, Black-necked and Little Grebe, as well as Cape and Red-billed Teal, Southern Pochard and Maccoa Duck amongst the duck species, but Hottentot Teal was not found. The flocks of Greater Flamingo and a single White Pelican were enjoyed, as was a Purple Swamphen. African Marsh Harrier, Yellow-billed Kite and a Steppe Buzzard were the only raptors present. A sand-bar contained Caspian, Swift and Sandwich Terns.

Water Thick-knees © Otto Schmidt
Water Thick-knees

We spotted several Purple Herons, as well as both adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron, a single Spotted Eagle Owl, African Pipit and Cape Longclaw along the roads, and a treat was a very obliging pair of Water Thick-knees as we left the works and had a second drive through a section of the Philippi area in the late afternoon. Two pairs of White-faced Duck with chicks were seen on one of the Ottery Road vleis, and many Barn Swallows, with Pearl-breasted Swallows and Brown-throated Martins amongst them, were gathering on the overhead wires. A single Black-shouldered Kite was also present on the wires.

Brown-throated Martin and Barn Swallow © Otto Schmidt
Brown-throated Martin perched on overhead cables alongside Barn Swallow

From Philippi we returned to Cape Town, arriving back at their hotel at about 7pm. It had been a warm and slightly windy day, and we had taken the birding fairly slowly but we nevertheless managed to spot 89 species, with a further four heard only.

For a full list of species from this trip, please contact us.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Otto Schmidt

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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