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Western Cape Trip Report: Paarl, Tanqua Karoo and De Hoop, 23 - 26 August 2012

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Itinerary: We visited key sites in the Western Cape including Paarl Mountain, Tanqua Karoo and De Hoop Nature Reserves.

Highlight species: Black Harrier, Giant Kingfisher, Malachite Sunbird, Secretary Bird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Spotted Eagle Owl, Blue Crane, Cape Vulture, Shy Albatross and many endemic species...

Mammals: Chacma Baboons, Klipspringer Antelope, Southern Right Whales, Eland, Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra

Detailed Trip Report

Day 1: Cape Town - Paarl - Bains Kloof - Ceres

We met in the afternoon at Cape Town airport; Patrick & Patrice having flown in from Upington. Getting through the traffic and out of Cape Town was easy and we made our way to Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve. We soon arrived and saw Protea Canary as we were getting out of the car. Also around were spectacular Malachite Sunbird in breeding colours, Cape Canary and Cape Robin-chat. We also picked up Cape White-eye, White-backed Mousebird, Grey-backed Cisticola and Cape Bunting before moving on towards Ceres. We traveled through the towns of Paarl and Wellington before going up the Bains Kloof Pass. Near the top we stopped and picked up White-necked Raven and after some work, Orange-breasted Sunbird, with Chacma Baboons close by on the road side. On the other side of the pass we had good views of Cape Sugarbird and equally spectacular views of the snow capped mountains on the mountain ranges ahead.

We continued on toward Ceres, stopping a few places en route, picking up Giant Kingfisher, African Olive Pigeon and Cape Weaver. Night was beginning to fall as we arrived at the Village Guest House in Ceres, and after a great dinner we settled down for the night.

Day 2: Ceres - Tanqua - Ceres

We had an early start and left with the sun still below the horizon. On Theronsberg Pass, just outside of Ceres, we stopped to scan and found Black-shouldered Kite, Pied Starling, Red Bishop and Jackal Buzzard. Further on we stopped at Eierkop in the Tanqua, having breakfast with a perfect sunrise reflecting off the snow on the distant mountains. Here we picked up a Secretary Bird, Familiar Chat, Karoo Chat and very tame Cape Buntings. We traveled on, arriving at Peerboomskloof after finding our first Pale Chanting Goshawk for the day. At the kloof we had a surprise Black Harrier soon after arriving, with Fairy Flycatcher in the hillside scrub. Our target species, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, didn't show itself, although we heard one calling over the ridge. We had Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Masked Weaver and Bokmakierie.

Tanqua Karoo landscape on a Birding Africa Tour © Dalton Gibbs
The Tanqua Karoo semi-desert landscape from the top of Ganaga Pass

Traveling away from Peerboomskloof we found Greater Kestrel and Tractrac Chat along the roadside. Large-billed Lark followed, with Black-headed Canaries around a leak at a farm water tank. We traveled through the dry Tanqua landscape, finding Rufous-eared Warbler and Redcapped Lark, before reaching the base of the Ganaga Pass, where we had lunch. The dry river bed turned up Dusky Sunbird and Red-faced Mousebird during lunch before we set off up the pass, finding Layard's Tit-babbler, Pale-winged Starling and Mountain Wheat-ear. Klipspringer antelope were about until we reached the summit, where the views were spectacular, with snow on the distant Cedarberg mountain range.

Back down the pass and on the way home, we stopped in a dry riverbed, turning up Pririt Batis, Rufous-vented Tit-babbler and Namaqua Warbler. We turned up Verreaux's Eagle and distant views of Ludwig's Bustard and Namaqua Sandgrouse before traveling back over the Kouebokkeveld and finding Spotted Eagle-owl. Back at our guest house Karoo Thrush finished our day off in Ceres before having a good supper.

Day 3: Ceres - De Hoop

We left Ceres just after dawn, traveling south through some rain and a cold wind that was blowing. We picked up Wattled Starling and Blue Crane en route to Montagu, where we stopped off to see a breeding colony of Cape Weaver and Cattle Egrets. Through Montagu we found a pair of Denham's Bustard and then on to lunch in Barrydale. In the Tradouw Pass we found more Protea Seedeaters and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. On the plains toward De Hoop the rain started to ease up and we found Large-billed and Red-capped Larks, along with Agulhas Long-billed Lark.

After arriving at our farm accommodation, we took a drive toward Potberg, finding Eland and Bontebok on the nearby fields. Capped Wheatear and Crowned Lapwing were about, with Blue Cranes in the adjacent fields. We had a great supper in the farm house, before turning in for the night.

Day 4: De Hoop - Kleinmond - Cape Town

We were up early, and greeted the dawn at Potberg, catching the morning chorus as the sun rose. We didn't connect with Knysna Woodpecker, but found Olive Woodpecker and had fantastic views of Cape Vulture as they sat on telephone posts next to the road waiting for thermals to develop before soaring for the day. After breakfast we headed to the De Hoop vlei, quickly finding Southern Tchagra, Pin-tailed Whydah and Fiscal Flycatcher. The vlei was full of waterfowl, including Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed and Cape Teal and Great-crested Grebe. There were several of the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra and a number of Ostrich as we traveled toward the coast, picking up Cape Clapper Lark.

At the coast we counted some 19 Southern Right Whales, with Cape Gannet further out to sea. After some time along the spectacular coast, we started our journey back to Cape Town via Kleinmond. Here we stopped for lunch, finding a surprise Shy Albatross through the scope from the restaurant deck. After lunch, a trip to the Stony Point penguin colony turned up African Penguin, Bank, Crowned, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants.

We traveled back to Cape Town via the spectacular sea cliff road of Clarence Drive to end a wonderful whirlwind tour of the Cape's birds.

For a full list of species from this trip, please contact us.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Dalton Gibbs.

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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