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Western Cape: West Coast Trip Report - 06 October 2014

Highlights included: Great views of Black Harrier and Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Penduline Tit constructing their beautiful nest, Klaas's Cuckoo, Cardinal Woodpecker, African Hoopoe and a number of waterbirds, including Lesser Flamingo, African Black Oystercatcher and Kittlitz's Plovers with tiny chicks in tow.

Total number of species: 93

Southern Black Korhaan photographed by Seth Musker during a Birding Africa West Coast day trip
Southern Black Korhaan

Detailed Trip Report

I collected Terry and Sue at their hotel in Sea Point, and we left with clear skies all around, heading north to the wetlands near Rietvlei for our first stop. Common wetland birds included Great Crested Grebe, Cape Shoveller, Yellow-billed Duck, Southern Red Bishop and Levaillant's Cisticola. A pair of bold Common Waxbill came in close and a Pied Kingfisher hovered overhead. An African Marsh-harrier quartered low over the wetlands with Table Mountain in the background, while Purple Heron, White-breasted Cormorant and Great White Pelican gave fly-bys.

The day was looking like becoming a scorcher, so we stopped at the nearest Strandveld patch, to see what we could pick up. At 8 am this turned out to be the hottest weather we experienced all day! Consequently the birding was fairly slow and uneventful, until we spotted a stunning Black Harrier hunting over the veld not far off. Other birds picked up here included Grey-backed Cisticola, a Karoo Scrub-robin hawking insects in rather comical fashion, and a number of overflying European Bee-eaters.

With the mercury rising we rushed over to the West Coast National Park, where a stop near the Geelbek turnoff produced Southern Grey Tit and White-backed Mousebird. Moving north we noticed a cold front sitting offshore and producing a refreshingly cool breeze, which was to make for pleasant birding conditions for the rest of the day. We found a number of Cape Grassbird singing tirelessly from some Restio-dominated veld, and watched a White-throated Canary displaying on the road: puffing out his chest and throwing back his head, it made for an impressive site, but apparently not so for the object of his desire, who flew off seemingly unaffected by the performance.

Pressing on, an open patch of veld held a large 'creche' of Common Ostrich with over twenty young in attendance, as well as lone Steenbok and Grey Rhebok. We visited the Seeberg lookout where we took in the views of the beautiful Langebaan Lagoon, and had Rock Kestrel and Yellow-billed Kite overhead enjoying the fresh breeze. A Black Girdled Lizard basked in the warm sun on a nearby granite boulder. As we were leaving a pair of Bokmakierie duetted near the road, and we had good views of Namaqua Dove.

Nest of the Cape Penduline Tit © Seth Musker
The nest of a Cape Penduline Tit still under construction

At the Seeberg hide a Karoo Lark perched by the roadside and we relocated the Cape Penduline Tit nest (found two weeks previously on another Birding Africa day trip), apparently still under construction, getting good views of a single bird as it called and preened above the nest. Closer to the hide we had White-fronted Plover, duelling African Pipit, and Kittlitz's Plover with two tiny chicks exploring the salt flats. Birds at the hide included Caspian, Swift, Sandwich and Common Terns, Greater and Lesser Flamingos, and a number of waders, including African Black Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Common Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper and Common Ringed Plover. A pair of White-throated Swallow, attending to their nest inside the hide, observed us at close range. Another birder had tipped us off about a Puff Adder in the hide (which we watched warily as it slept contentedly in the corner), and also mentioned that a Southern Black Korhaan had been hanging around near the lookout. Thus returning for a second bite at the cherry, we found a lone male at the roadside and were able to get great views and reasonable photographic opportunities.

Cape Weaver © Seth Musker

Our stomachs were beginning to protest, and so we made our way back towards Geelbek for lunch. On the way we had another great Black Harrier sighting, and also had a fly-by of a leucistic Cape Bulbul. At Geelbek Manor Rock Martin and Pearl-breasted Swallow swirled overhead. After a relatively late lunch we had time to bird the Eucalyptus 'forest' at the roadside. A female Klaas's Cuckoo perched inconspicuously near the road, her drab plumage contrasting spectacularly with that of her prospective mate, who enthusiastically displayed while presenting her with a series of freshly-caught caterpillars, to no avail. A few Malachite Sunbirds flitted about in the tree tops, while an African Hoopoe hooted nearby, and a speculative imitation proved surprisingly successful as the bird came in close in search of the intruder. We located a Southern Grey-headed Sparrow nest hole opposite a noisy Cape Weaver colony and an even noisier heronry, with a number of young Grey Herons making an awful racket. Creeping along the smaller branches were two male Cardinal Woodpeckers, perhaps adult and young, and an African Fish Eagle cruised high overhead towards the lagoon.

Cardinal Woodpecker © Seth Musker

The return journey produced a single pale form Booted Eagle, and Cape Town greeted us with a cold coastal fog on our arrival after a rewarding day's 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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