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Western Cape: Cape Peninsula Trip Report - 13 July 2015

Highlights included: excellent wetland birding at Strandfontein Sewage Works, with sightings of Cape Grassbird, Black-necked Grebe, Maccoa Duck, Hottentot Teal, and African Marsh-harrier. Boulder's Beach produced African Penguin and African Black Oystercatcher, while Kommetjie had all four species of coastal cormorants. We watched a pair of Black Sparrowhawk at their nest in the Constantia Greenbelts, before Kirstenbosch turned up great sightings of Spotted Eagle-owl and the beautiful Lemon Dove.

Total number of species: 85

Cape Batis © Seth Musker
Cape Batis seen in Kirstenbosch Gardens

Detailed Trip Report

Bert and I left Greenpoint at 7 am, headed for the vast expanse of wetlands that is the Strandfontein Sewage Works. Upon arriving at dawn we decided to brave the chilly weather and take a walk among the vegetation. Practically our first bird of the day was a beautiful calling Cape Grassbird. Lesser Swamp Warbler was present in abundance and remarkably showy. Other thicket birds included Southern Masked Weaver, Cape Robin-chat, and Levaillant's Cisticola. We also had good views of Pied Avocet on the edge of Zeekoevlei.

Moving on, the first settling pond produced huge numbers of Greater Flamingo, all three species of Grebe (Little, Great Crested and Black-necked) in their winter finery, and a good selection of waterfowl including Cape Teal, Cape Shoveller and Southern Pochard. A little further on, we found a single female Maccoa Duck pretending to be a pochard. A large expanse of flattened reed-bed held African Purple Swamphen and Black Crake, while a skirting pond held no fewer than eight Hottentot Teal, and an African Snipe gave a fleeting view as it danced across a clearing.

We continued to wind our way between the various ponds and slowly added interesting sightings. A Cape Grysbok having a bath froze at the sight of us as it realised that we were blocking its path to safety; an African Marsh-harrier quartered low over the reed-beds; Zitting Cisticola, Common Waxbill, African Pipit and Cape Longclaw fed busily on the ground; Rock Martin, Brown-throated Martin and good numbers of Pearl-breasted Swallow fed busily in the air; and Purple Heron and Yellow-billed Egret fed languorously in the water. Finally, a pair of statuesque Spotted Thick-knee saw us off as we departed for our next destination: Boulder's Beach.

Our main quarry (African Penguin) presented themselves upon our arrival in underwhelming fashion as they mooched about beneath the vegetation surrounding Boulder’s. Many pairs had well-grown chicks in tow, and perhaps they were showing signs of fatigue after a long breeding season. However, a few did give hints of their potential for liveliness in an aquatic setting at Foxy Beach, bobbing about amongst the miniscule breakers. We also had a group of Speckled Mousebird in the thicket, as well as distant views of Crowned Cormorant and African Black Oystercatcher.

Leucistic Common Fiscal © Seth Musker
Leucistic Common Fiscal

After lunch we headed to The Kom at Kommetjie where we were greeted by an anomaly: a leucistic Common Fiscal that - one of the locals informed us - had been living and thriving in the area for a few months. On the nearby rocks we found a couple of Bank Cormorants, as well as good numbers of their Crowned, Cape and White-breasted Coromorants. Other birds included Three-banded Plover and Little Egret.

Before exploring the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, we visited a nearby Black Sparrowhawk nest, where our patience in fairly heavy rain was rewarded with great views of both members of the partnership. The gardens themselves produced a raptor in the form of a 'Cape/Elgin' Buzzard soaring overhead. We also found the resident pair of Spotted Eagle-owl, who drew a mob of angry passerines including female Common Chaffinch and Malachite Sunbird, Sombre Greenbul, a pair of Cape Batis, and an African Dusky Flycatcher. We visited the 'Boomslang' aerial boardwalk, which wasn't birdy, before exploring the Enchanted Forest below. Patient stalking through the dark understorey was rewarded with excellent views of a pair of Lemon Dove, before we finally cracked good views of Forest Canary, which had been heard calling frequently at various times during our walk. These were to be the last new birds that we added on a productive day of winter birding.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Seth Musker.

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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