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Western Cape: West Coast Trip Report - 12 October 2015

Bird Highlights: Female Southern Black Korhaan with chick, Black Harrier, Karoo Lark, Grey-winged Francolin, Sunbirds, African Black Oystercatcher, Bar-throated Apalis, Yellow and Southern Red Bishops in full breeding plumage, a Southern Giant Petrel, Cape Bunting, Karoo Prinia and more

Number of bird species: 87 species seen (3 heard only) only birding inside the park

Karoo Lark © Otto Schmidt
Karoo Lark

Grey-winged Francolin © Otto Schmidt
Grey-winged Francolin

Detailed Trip Report

I met Weine and his son Herman in Langebaan and we entered the West Coast National Park for a birding day trip just before 8am on Monday, 12 October 2015.

Although the tide was very low for a visit to the Seeberg hide at that time of the morning, we took the road down to the hide car-park for some bush birding and were soon rewarded with a flying and displaying Karoo Lark which gave us several excellent views. Whilst watching the lark we also spotted a single Red-faced and soon afterwards several White-backed Mousebirds as well as other species including Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Prinia, Karoo Scrub-Robin and Bar-throated Apalis. A pair of Bokmakieries was heard proving a bit elusive at this time, but they would be seen well later in the day. Both Cape Spurfowl and Grey-winged Francolin were also present along this productive piece of road.

Bar-throated Apalis © Otto Schmidt
Bar-throated Apalis

We then drove up Seeberg hill hoping for Southern Black Korhaan, but this was not seen or heard. At the top of the hill the south-easter was quite strong and the chilly conditions kept the birds away, although a hovering Rock Kestrel was noted.

We headed south past Geelbek and up the western side of the lagoon, stopping at Kraalbaai where we added species such a Pied Starling, Cape Bunting and Banded Martin. There was little activity at the coast, but individual Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants were about, groups of Cape Cormorants were flying offshore as were Cape Gannets and a single Southern Giant Petrel was briefly seen. African Black Oystercatchers were numerous as always.

Returning down the lagoon, we added Eland, Kudu and Steenbok to the mammal list, had our first snake of the day - a large Molesnake - crossing the road and dodged many Angulate Tortoises active at the roadside. Yellow-billed Kites were numerous (as were Pied Crows throughout the day) and Black-shouldered Kite was eventually also seen.

Yellow Canary © Otto Schmidt
Yellow Canary

We then spent some time at the Abrahaamskraal hide, where, both Yellow and White-throated , were coming in to drink together with several other species. A Long-billed Crombec was spotted in the surrounding bushes, an African Marsh-Harrier flew in and disappeared into the reed-bed, presumably to a nest as it was not seen again, and a number of African Spoonbills flew in to roost at the far end of the pan. The White-throated Swallows were incubating eggs in their nest inside the hide. Cape Weavers were busy nest-building in the reeds, both male Yellow and Southern Red Bishops in full breeding colour were seen, and both Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers were quite vocal but difficult to spot. On the water were the normal species such as Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe and Cape Shoveler. Outside the hide, the 'suurvy' (Carpobrotus edulis) patches along the boardwalk were in full flower and proving a very popular food source for a number of Southern Double-collared Sunbirds.

Southern Double-collared Sunbird © Otto Schmidt
Southern Double-collared Sunbird

From Abrahaamskraal we headed for lunch at Geelbek and its resident weavers and then walked down towards the lagoon from the restaurant. The tide was fairly high and a large group of Greater Flamingos was present with a small number of Lesser Flamingos amongst them. Also present were waders such as Pied Avocet, Common Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Kittlitz's, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers. In the avenue of eucalyptus trees the Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds were enjoying the trees' blossoms, and an African Hoopoe was spotted as we drove out. A perched and calling Karoo Lark right beside the road was an unexpected sighting at this time of the early afternoon.

Heading back towards Seeberg we had our first Korhaan, a male flying up and displaying after being flushed by a motorist ahead of us, and on Seeberg hill we encountered a female with a half-grown chick. By now the chilly southeaster had dropped, making for a pleasant sunny afternoon.

Southern Black Korhaan Otto Schmidt
A female Southern Black Korhaan and her chick below

Southern Black Korhaan chick © Otto Schmidt

At Seeberg hide the tide was quite high and the roosting terns were mainly Common Terns, but with a few Sandwich and a single Swift and Caspian also present. Waders added were White-fronted and Common Ringed Plovers, Common Greenshank, Red Knot, Sanderling and Little Stint. The pair of White-throated Swallows was actively entering the hide where their nest seemed to contain small chicks. Behind the hide a pair of hunting Black Harriers gave great views, a bonus after the very brief sighting of a single bird we had had earlier in the day.

We slowly returned to Langebaan, ending the day shortly after 18h00 with a total species count of 87 (3 of these heard only), a good total given that we had only birded inside the park.

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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