Western Cape: Cape Peninsual Trip Report - 22 July 2015
Highlights included: spectacular Cape Sugarbird and an awesome Caracal sighting at Kirstenbosch; African Penguin at Boulders Beach; fantastic wetland birding at Strandfontein; and no fewer than ten species of raptor seen throughout the day, including Forest Buzzard, Black Sparrowhawk, an unidentified large Aquila species, and African Fish Eagle.
Kevin, Susan and I left their accommodation before dawn, with the aim of exploring the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens during the morning. As the gardens only open at 8 am, we decided to begin with some dawn raptor-watching nearby. This proved very successful, as virtually the first bird of the day was a Forest Buzzard calling overhead. A gorgeous Swee Waxbill perched nicely atop a sprig of bracken, and we had more raptors as a Rock Kestrel and then a Peregrine Falcon zoomed along high overhead. This was an auspicious start, as the day was to produce no fewer than ten species of raptor!
At Kirstenbosch, we began with a number of the gardens' more vocal passerines, including Southern Double-collared Sunbird (many of the males proudly showing off their lumo-yellow epaulettes), Sombre Greenbul, Olive Thrush and both Cape and Brimstone Canaries. Then, perhaps the most exciting moment of the day came in the form of a non-avian sighting. We had paused to admire a neat female Cape Batis, when all of a sudden an enormous Caracal crossed the lawn not thirty metres from where we stood! It seemed to materialise from thin air, and disappeared in a heartbeat, but it was a truly special sighting of this elusive and beautiful cat.
We passed a few quiet minutes in the small wetland area, still on a high after the Caracal, when we came across a pair of Cape Spurfowl. We were admiring their intricate plumage when suddenly the male began singing. From another shrubby patch came a response, which we assumed to be a rival male, who presently approached. We were, in fact, mistaken - now our male had two females to impress, a task he undertook with great gusto. In a spectacular display, he fanned each wing in turn in front of his body, prancing left, then right, Matador-like. Though we were duly impressed, his potential mates appeared largely ignorant of his existence. Eventually his frantic oscillations took their toll, and he was spent.
Moving into the upper reaches of the gardens, we found a beautiful male Orange-breasted Sunbird, calling Southern Boubou, and had more luck with raptors when we spotted a pair of soaring Black Sparrowhawk. We took a detour towards Cecelia Forest in search of more nectarivores, which turned up the goods with cracking views of Cape Sugarbird and Malachite Sunbird. At the Enchanted Forest we walked the 'Boomslang' aerial boardwalk, where another big surprise came when we spotted a Peregrine Falcon mobbing a large Aquila species flying very high above and some distance away. Unfortunately, as these birds are highly unusual for this part of the country, the eagle was too distant to be identified with certainty. Later, at a fruiting tree, we located a party of Forest Canaries, and were watching them when suddenly a juvenile African Goshawk swooped right past us and landed nearby, giving fantastic views.
After an excellent morning's birding and a satisfying lunch we made our way to Boulders Beach, stopping en route to look at a huge flock of Cape Cormorant that had been forced ashore by the powerful south-easter. At Boulders we watched the resident African Penguin going about their daily business, and also picked up Speckled Mousebird, African Black Oystercatcher, and Cape Gannet passing by offshore.
Our next destination was the Strandfontein Sewage Works, where we began with another bird of prey, an adult Jackal Buzzard. Yet another soon came when a Black-shouldered Kite sallied overhead, and at our first waterside stop we found plenty of Black-necked Grebe (some coming into breeding plumage), as well as various ducks such as Southern Pochard, Cape Shoveller, and Cape Teal. Moving from pond to pond we picked up hundreds of Greater Flamingo, Black-Winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, brief views of African Marsh Harrier, African Purple Swamphen, Three-banded Plover, and a gorgeous Cape Longclaw. On our way out we flushed a huge African Fish Eagle which had been resting by the roadside, unnoticed. It flew up and hovered beside us, using the strong gale to hold its position, as if showing off in the soft evening light. It was a fitting way to end a day packed with great sightings.
A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Seth Musker.
For a full list of species from this trip, please contact us.
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.
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.
Only a low level of fitness is required.
Throughout the year.
Moderate; can be warm in summer and chilly in winter.
A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and small hotels.
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.