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Western Cape Trip Report: Cape Peninsula - 15 November 2014

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Bird highlights: Cape Sugarbird, Malachite and Orange-breasted Sunbird, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Siskin,
Cape Grassbird, Karoo Prinia, African Penguins, Maccoa Duck, Spotted Eagle Owl and Spotted Thick-knee.

Mammals: Bontebok, Chacma Baboons

Getting the close up photo of Ground Woodpecker during a Birding Africa Cape Peninsula day trip © Otto Schmidt

Detailed Trip Report

I met the Dutch birders at Frank's guesthouse in Newlands at 07h00 on Saturday morning, 15 November for a Cape Peninsula day trip including Cape Point, which they especially wanted to visit.

Travelling along the M5 we had a brief view of a Forest Buzzard before we ascended ou Kaapse Weg for our first stop at Kommetjie. Here the tern roost held small numbers of Sandwich and Swift Terns. Crowned, White-breasted and Cape Cormorants were present on the rocks together with Little Egret, African Sacred and Hadeda Ibis and the two resident gull species. A Pied Kingfisher was hovering over the bay. At Slangkop Lighthouse we had Cape Gannet over the sea, which was still quite rough from the previous day's cold front, but no other pelagic species could be seen. The bush was also relatively quiet, but we did add Cape Grassbird, Cape Robin-Chat, Karoo Prinia with fledged chicks, White-necked Raven and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow.

Malachite Sunbird perched on a Pincushion Protea flower © Otto Schmidt
Malachite Sunbird

We continued south towards the Cape of Good Hope and stopped for our first Bontebok and a troop of Chacma Baboons before we reached the reserve entrance. Soon afterwards a large clump of flowering Pincushion Protea bushes contained Cape Sugarbird, Malachite and Orange-breasted Sunbirds. From the main Cape Point car-park we made our way along the boardwalk. It was fairly windy and quite cool and birding was slow. Apart from the ever-present Red-winged Starlings, Rock Kestrel, Cape Bunting, Familiar Chat and Grey-backed Cisticola were added and good numbers of Cape Gannet and Cape Cormorants were seen flying out to sea. Eventually we spotted a bird with a red rump flying into the fynbos near the path, and managed to get good views of a single Ground Woodpecker feeding nearby. Frank had missed this bird at Rooi Els, so this was a great sighting for everyone. Unfortunately the others missed a Peregrine Falcon flying past as they watched the woodpecker, and they also missed a single male Cape Siskin when we headed back towards the car-park.

Great views of Ground Woodpecker © Otto Schmidt
Ground Woodpecker

After some light refreshment, we headed down towards the Cape of Good Hope car-park, but the tide was fairly high and there were no birds on the rocks. However, a pair of Common Ostrich with chicks provided great photographic opportunities against the backdrop of the choppy Atlantic Ocean. Heading back through the reserve, we came across a large troop of baboons on the road, another good photographic stop. Down near Olifantsbos another group of Bontebok and further baboons were present. The small tern roost at the beach also only held Sandwich and Swift Terns, but a single Three-banded Plover was spotted on the beach.

We continued along the False Bay coastline, stopping for the African Penguins at Boulders and then heading towards the Strandfontein Water Works. Here, birding picked up rapidly with large numbers of Greater Flamingo, Cape Teal and smaller numbers of Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Black-necked Grebe and others present at the first pans, with a pair of Water Thick-knees and a Purple Heron seen shortly afterwards. White-throated and Barn Swallows; and Brown-throated Martins were feeding low over the pans and good numbers of swifts were hanging overhead in the fairly strong breeze. Strangely, only Little and White-rumped Swifts were present.

Water Thick-knee

Further birds included Maccoa Duck, African Pipit and Lesser Swamp Warbler, a small group of waders contained Kittlitz's Plover, Common Ringed Plover and Little Stint and a single Spotted Eagle Owl was present at the normal spot amongst the dunes. The tern roost on pan P4 had a few Common and Caspian Terns amongst the many Sandwich and Swift Terns.

Shortly after leaving the Works we noted a single House Crow on the centre island in Strandfontein Road. As the group was keen to add Spotted Thick-knee to their list, we headed past the Red Cross Children's Hospital where good numbers of this species are always present. We returned to Newlands shortly after 19h00 with a creditable overall total of 92 species seen by everyone (plus 4 species seen by the guide only, one seen by one member of the group only and two species heard but not seen). It had been a pleasant sunny day although fairly windy and cool at times, but without any of the predicted rain.

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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