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Western Cape Tour, Cape Peninsula and West Coast, 6 & 7 January 2011

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

Itinerary: Cape Peninsula - Kirstenbosch, Strandfontein, Rondvlei, Tokai, Constantia and West Coast National Park.

Highlight bird species: Southern Black Korhaan, Black Harrier, African Fish Eagle, Cardinal Woodpeckers, Karoo Larks, and Acacia Pied Barbet amongst many more...

Total number of species recorded: 146 seen and 4 heard

Detailed Trip Report

6 January 2011: Cape Peninsula

I met Christian at Kirstenbosch at 06h30 and we spent a little over an hour in the gardens. It was already fairly warm and birding was quiet, with Cape Canary one of the new species for Christian's list.

We then headed to Strandfontein, as we had only spent a limited time there. On the way in, an African Fish Eagle was spotted in the eucalyptus trees. A light south-easter kept the temperature quite low as we drove around adding most of the expected species with large numbers of Greater Flamingoes showing well. Eventually both Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers were seen, but there were few migrant waders about, with only Common Greenshank, Ruff and Little Stint present. Caspian, Swift and Sandwich Terns were seen, but there were no Common Terns.

After some time in the works, we drove across to Rondevlei Nature Reserve, where the mix of birds is rather different. We had good views of Malachite Kingfisher, a flying Little Bittern, and as we were about to leave we ascended the tall tower near the entrance to see the Goliath Heron present in the pan at the first hide, where we had just been. We returned to the hide to find the bird perfectly camouflaged behind the curtain of reeds in front of the hide. Whilst trying to get better views, we were amused by a Little Grebe building its floating nest, and then spotted a Common Snipe which was eventually seen feeding on the mud to the right of the hide.

From Rondevlei we headed across the Peninsula to Kommetjie, but here the bush was very dry and The Kom was crowded with bathers and holidaymakers. We returned over ou Kaapse Weg and dropped in at the Tokai Arboretum, where clouds of swifts were seen wheeling up high, then being joined in quick succession by three raptors, two of which presented quite an ID challenge. The 2nd bird was found to be a dark-phase Booted Eagle, the 1st most likely one of the "mystery buzzards" (cross between Steppe and Forest Buzzard) which are a current study subject in the Western Cape. The third bird was a "standard" Steppe Buzzard.

Our last location was a section of the Constantia Greenbelt near Kirstenbosch, but the forest was very quiet and only a pair of African Dusky Flycatchers was seen. We were back at Kirstenbosch at about 19h15 with a day total of 97 species (95 seen and 2 heard).

7 January 2011: West Coast National Park

I met Christian at Blouberg at 06h30 and we headed up the R27. We drove a short distance up the Oude Post road and added birds such as Bokmakierie, Capped Wheatear and Pied Starling before continuing to the park. Quite soon after arriving inside the park we saw our first Black Harrier, one of a number of sightings for the day. We visited the Abrahaamskraal water-hole where unfortunately the light was against us and no Black Crake or African Rail could be seen, but we added a second Black Harrier and an African Marsh-Harrier.

We continued to the Geelbek hide to take advantage of the outgoing tide. The water was still quite high, but it was perfect weather and as the tide receded, the waders arrived and good views were had of most of the expected species, plus lovely Greater Flamingo, a pair of African Shelduck and an Osprey flying by.

From the hide we drove to the main buildings and walked across to the back hides, hoping for Chestnut-banded Plovers. No such luck, as the Osprey was parked in the centre of the pan, surrounded by the feathered remains of its breakfast, which appeared to be a Hartlaub's Gull. We had excellent views of the bird as it took off and circled above us, joined briefly by a juvenile Lanner Falcon.

Returning to the manor-house, we were intrigued by the bare circles around the perimeter of the larger shrubs growing on the grassed flats. We then discovered that most of the shrubs had large stick-nests under them, and some of the rodents in residence were seen. From the literature, these nests, called lodges, are home to Karoo Bush Rats Otomys unisulcatus. Small wonder that the pair of Black-shouldered Kites nearby had fledged young, and that the area is home to Marsh Owls.

Back near the car, we spotted a trio of Cardinal Woodpeckers and spent some time with these relatively confiding birds before heading off to the Seeberg area. Seeberg hill provided a trio of Southern Black Korhaan and the turn-off to the Seeberg hide was alive with birds, most notably a pair of Karoo Larks, a group of White-backed Mousebirds and an Acacia Pied Barbet.

The area in front of the hide contained very large numbers of Common Terns, a family of Common Ostriches, some Greater and Lesser Flamingoes but relatively few waders other than Sanderling, although a single Bar-tailed Godwit was spotted. Then the bank of fog, which had been present over the sea for some time, closed in, creating quite an eerie atmosphere and substantially dropping the temperature. We left, added a few more bush-birds near the car-park and then returned to Abrahaamskraal, noting a pair of Namaqua Doves on route. Here the mist was quite thick and nothing new was noted, so we to head for home.

The mist lifted just before the Oude Post turn-off, we headed back up the road and managed to record a single Blue Crane sillouetted against the sky-line; a fitting finale to end a good birding day. We were back at Blouberg at about 19h45 with a day-list of 93 species (91 seen and 2 heard).

This brought the total for the 3 days to 150 species (146 seen and 4 heard). As a very keen photographer, Christian's camera was working overtime, and he hopefully managed to capture images of a number of these birds.

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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