Visiting British birders John and his 10-year-old son Sam landed in Cape Town in the morning. I collected them at their accommodation around noon to spend the rest of the day birding in the Cape Peninsula area. Our first stop was Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which offered a great introduction to the birds of the Cape. This was John and Sam's first birding trip to Cape Town so the lifers started rolling in - Southern Double-collared and Orange-breasted Sunbirds, Cape Batis, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Robin-Chat and African Dusky Flycatcher to name a few. It was a bit windy and being a weekend the gardens were crowded. Birds were quiet so we didn't linger too long before heading to the Strandfontein Sewage Works. We could say for certain Strandfontein wouldn't be crowded!
Here we spent a good two hours navigating the various roads around the pans to see what we could find. The first pan hosted great numbers of waterfowl - with many Cape and Red-billed Teal, Cape Shoveler, Yellow-billed Duck and a few Maccoa Ducks. Also present were Little and Black-necked (Eared) Grebes three species of ibis and a flyover Swift Tern. We moved on, getting excellent views of Grey, Black-headed and Purple Herons, Great White Pelican, African Spoonbill, African Purple Swamphen and a few waders (shorebirds) including Pied Avocet and African Black Oystercatcher. Over the reeds an African Marsh-Harrier hovered in search of food while nearby the Spotted Eagle-Owl pair sat right out in the open offering great photographic opportunities. Elsewhere we had Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers, Cape Longclaw, Levaillant's Cisticola and African Pipit among others. On our way out we added a Grey-headed Gull mixed in with Hartlaub's Gulls as well as excellent views of two Black Crakes.
28 March: West Coast
Unfortunately the pelagic trip was cancelled due to unsuitable sea conditions, so instead John, Sam and I headed up the west coast for a full day of birding. Just after leaving town we already had our first highlight: a Black Harrier, which was hunting right off the main road. Our first stop of the day was a dirt road where we had a great chance for Blue Cranes. Sure enough we had great views of fourteen birds! Elsewhere along the road we had White-backed Mousebird, Bokmakierie, Red-capped Lark, African Pied Starling, Capped Wheatear and a very confiding male Southern Black Korhaan that paid little attention to us.
The West Coast National Park itself was very active and we had nearly 80 species in the several hours birding there. One of the main attractions in the park for birders are the conveniently located bird hides along the tidal saltwater lagoon. From here we had great looks at over a dozen species of waders (shorebirds) including Kittlitz's and White-fronted Plovers and 60+ Red Knots coming into breeding plumage. Also seen from the hides were five species of terns, three species of cormorants, flamingos and more.
The park roads and pathways meander through prime strandveld habitat and by the end of the day we accumulated a great list of species that utilize this habitat including Karoo Lark, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline-Tit, Bar-throated Apalis, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Long-billed Crombec and Yellow Canary. Overhead we added Black-shouldered Kite and an immature African Fish-Eagle. After lunch we stopped at one last hide, which is located on a freshwater vlei. Besides the regulars, we added Black Crake, two Black-crowned Night-Herons and a Cape Bunting to the list.
Heading back towards town, we made a couple last stops which added African Stonechat, Crowned Lapwing and the locally endemic subspecies of Cloud Cisticola.
In all we ended the last day and a half with 123 species.
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.
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.
Only a low level of fitness is required.
Throughout the year.
Moderate; can be warm in summer and chilly in winter.
A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and small hotels.
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.