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Western Cape: Cape Peninsula Trip Report - 5 October 2015

Bird Highlights: Spotted Eagle-Owl, Purple Heron, Maccoa Duck, Hottentots Teal, African Fish Eagle, Pied Kingfisher, Maccoa Duck, SA Shelduck, African Penguin, Bokmakierie, Cape Grassbird, Cape Siskin, Grey-backed Cisticola

Number of bird species: 101 - including 2 heard only.

Bokmakierie © Otto Schmidt

Detailed Trip Report

I collected Irish couple Ciaran and Marie from their Waterfront hotel at 06h30 on Monday, 5 October for a Cape Peninsula birding day trip. With their pelagic trip cancelled the previous weekend, they had already been to Kirstenbosch, so this venue was excluded from the day and we headed out towards the False Bay coastline.

Our first stop was in the Philippi Wetlands, where our bird list quickly included a number of waterbirds including White-faced Duck as well as bush-birds such as Capped Wheatear, only found in few locations on the Peninsula, and Pin-tailed Whydah, with White-throated and Pearl-breasted Swallows and Brown-throated Martins skimming over some of the remaining water in the vleis.

From here we entered the Strandfontein Sewage Works. Our first raptor was an immature Jackal Buzzard in the eucalyptus trees just beyond the first boom. A Purple Heron and several Black-headed Herons were also encountered on the way in. Both Spotted and Water Thick-knees were soon on the list together with Greater Flamingo, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little and Black-necked Grebes and the more commonly encountered duck and other waterbird species. There were several other birders about looking for the White-rumped Sandpiper which had been briefly seen the morning before, but this was not about. Waders were scarce but the occasional Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Common Ringed Plover was spotted and we added Southern Pochard and Maccoa Duck plus Great White Pelican as we circled the pans. Driving through the area where clearing of the water hyacinth had created open areas, several African Purple Swamphens and a pair of Hottentot Teal were seen, and later a pair of SA Shelduck. One of the pair of Spotted Eagle-Owls in the dunes showed well, and Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers were very vocal but not easy to spot. After a productive two hours we headed on towards Baden Powell Drive and through Muizenberg with a short stop at Zandvlei to check for White-backed Duck. Unfortunately they were not present, but we quickly added African Fish Eagle, African Darter, Great Crested Grebe and Pied Kingfisher to our growing tally.

Choosing the route down the main road was a mistake as were held up for some time in the extensive road-works taking place between Kalk Bay and Clovelly. A slight distraction as we sat at the Stop/Go was the sight of a huge flock of Cape Cormorants fishing just beyond the Kalk Bay breakwater.

With a stop at Boulders to view the African Penguins, we continued towards Cape Point and drove through to the main car-park. After an early lunch to avoid the crowds, we left the busy parking area and headed along the board-walk to enjoy the spectacular views on the Atlantic side. It wasn't the best birding time of day, but we did get good views of birds such as Grey-backed Cisticola, Familiar Chat and several pairs of Cape Siskin as well as adding White-necked Raven and Rock Kestrel to the list. Then it was down to the most south-western point of Africa where Common Ostrich at the sea-front is always an unusual sight and Swift Tern was another new species, as were the Cape Gannets flying off-shore.

Our last stop in the Reserve was at Olifantsbos, where a very large tern roost consisted mainly of Common Terns, but with a few Sandwich and Swift Terns also present. On the beach we spotted Three-banded, White-fronted and Kittlitz's Plovers, and bush birding was also quite productive with Bokmakierie, Fiscal Flycatcher and Cape Grassbird being added. The grassbirds were particularly vocal and three birds were chasing each other about, giving extended good views. The pair of Bokmakierie was carrying food to a nest, with one adult showing an unusually "canary yellow" back. Also about were Yellow Bishops, and Cape Robin-chats were again present as they seemed to have been all day.

Southern Fiscal Otto Schmidt
Southern Fiscal (white-back).

We then headed along the Atlantic coast-line, enjoying the scenery. We had hoped for a Bank Cormorant at Kommetjie, but this was not to be. The most interesting bird about was a Southern (Common) Fiscal showing a large amount of white on its back. By now, the weather was quite glorious, but there were no additional birds to be found so we headed back over ou Kaapse Weg, returning to the waterfront at 18h30.

It had been a good day out, with very pleasant weather conditions and a species total of 101 - two of which were heard only.

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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