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Western Cape: Cape Peninsula Trip Report - 17 March 2014

Highlight bird species: African Black Oystercatcher, Bokmakierie, Cape Sugarbird, Karoo Prinia, Cape Grassbird, African Penguins, South African Shelduck, Spotted Eagle owl, Purple & Black-headed Herons, Spotted Thick-knee.

Detailed Trip Report

I collected American birding couple John and Linda from their Cape Town hotel at 07h30 for a Cape Peninsula day trip. They were planning to visit Kirstenbosch Gardens the following morning, and as they wanted to include Cape Point in the itinerary, we headed along the Blue Route and over ou Kaapse Weg.

Our first stop was at Kommetjie, where the beach and small peninsula held small numbers of Swift Tern, African Black Oystercatcher, Little Egrets fishing in rock pools, but unfortunately no cormorants. The sea was flat, and the birds were presumably still out at sea. At the lighthouse, Cape Gannets could be seen passing fairly close inshore together with numbers of Cape Cormorants. The bush-birds were quiet, but we did add Common Fiscal, Bokmakierie, Cape Bulbul, Cape and Southern Grey-headed Sparrow. Strangely, there was a complete absence of swifts and swallows, often seen over this area.

We continued down the coast, and at Scarborough a stop for a Rock Kestrel also produced two handsome male Cape Sugarbirds. White-necked Raven was also seen along the coast. Entering the Cape Point reserve, we continued down to the view-point in the south-western corner, where a number of cormorants were present on the rocks, but only White-breasted and Cape Cormorant were seen. From the main car-park we walked along the board-walk to the spectacular view-point, but here the south-easter was fairly brisk and other than many gannets and cormorants off the coast, birding was quiet. We did add Karoo Prinia and had a fleeting glimpse of a calling Cape Grassbird. The views however compensated to some extent for the absence of birds. With our takeaway lunch we headed for Buffels Bay to get away from the Cape Point crowds. It was beautifully quiet, but again the bush-birds were absent.

We then continued along the False Bay coast-line, taking in the African Penguins at Boulders. Whilst the sea along the Atlantic coast-line had been flat and calm, False Bay was quite choppy and the south-easter was picking up as we headed along Baden Powell Drive towards the Strandfontein Water Works. Despite the wind, birding here was good, and we added all three species of teal, Cape Shoveler, Yellow-billed Duck, South African Shelduck, Southern Pochard (one female only). Little and Great Crested Grebe were about, Purple Swamphen was spotted, and the other expected waterbirds were present, but surprisingly, there was a complete absence of migrant waders, with only one resident Three-banded Plover being added.

Overhead and sheltering from the wind in the dunes were many Barn Swallows and Brown-throated Martins, and at least one Common House Martin was noticed amongst the feeding swallows, but there were no swifts about. A single Spotted Eagle Owl was found, and we added African Marsh Harrier (close views), a Peregrine Falcon flying over one of the pans and a perched Black-shouldered Kite to make our raptor count four species for the day. Black-headed Heron were plentiful, and one cryptic Purple Heron was spotted near the pair of Hottentot Teal. The small tern roost on one of the pans contained mainly Swift Terns, but several Caspian and Sandwich terns were also present. There were of course plenty of Greater Flamingo and a few Great White Pelicans about, always an attraction.

The Riehls had mentioned that they had seen Water Thick-knee on their Botswana and Namibia trip prior to coming to Cape Town, but not Spotted. On our way back to the city we made a quick detoured to a spot where the numerous roosting Spotted Thick-knees gave good, close views, a nice way to end a day which had been relatively quiet from a birding perspective, but with the Cape Peninsula's great scenery more than making up for this.

We were back in town by about 17h30. The total species list for the day was 79.

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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