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Western Cape: Hottentots Holland Trip Report - 16 July 2015

Highlights included: roadside raptors in the forms of Jackal Buzzard, African Fish Eagle, Booted Eagle and a stunning Black Harrier; plenty of Blue Cranes feeding in the wheat fields; multiple sightings of African Hoopoe; and great looks at a confiding group of Grey-winged Francolin.

Total number of species: 68

Grey-winged Francolin © Seth Musker
Grey-winged Francolin

Detailed Trip Report

Greg and I headed north of Cape Town, stopping at sunrise at a small roadside wetland, where we picked up Cape Shoveller, Black-winged Stilt, a Southern Red Bishop just coming into its spectacular breeding plumage, and an impressive African Fish Eagle. Our next stop was the Strandveld of Silwerstroomstrand, which was uncharacteristically quiet, although the frigid morning conditions may have accounted for this. We did find a couple of the area's more colourful birds though: Malachite Sunbirds abounded and were very bold and vocal, while a pair of Bokmakierie duetted and gave excellent scope views.

At the Darling Hills road we slowly birded the roadside scrub and added Common Fiscal, Grey-backed Cisticola, Pied Starling and White-backed Mousebird. In the wheat fields we found ground-dwellers African Pipit, Red-capped Lark, and Capped Wheatear, the latter displaying excellent vocal mimicry, including a very convincing rendition of the "Kal-kie-wyn" call of Namaqua Sandgrouse. One of the highlights of the day came here when a large flock of gigantic Great White Pelican gave a close, eye-level fly-by before soaring into a thermal overhead. A little further on, we found a large group of Blue Crane, our national bird, along with a pair of South African Shelduck - a bird named after our nation. We attributed the association to pure coincidence.

Around the corner, a pair of African Hoopoe were foraging in the garden of a small guest cottage by the roadside, their business-like manner contrasting with their comical (though handsome) appearance. More male Malachite Sunbirds shared a stand of flowering aloes, showing off their iridescent plumage, which alternates between green, blue and sparkling bronze according to the angle of the light. Before long the road crosses a small stream, where we had great views of a pair of Long-billed Crombec, fleeting glimpses of Little Rush Warbler, and distant looks at a pair of Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler.

Our next stop was the West Coast National Park, where our first order of business was to attend to our growling stomachs. We did, however, pause to admire a herd of gargantuan Eland. At Geelbek Manor we watched the resident Cape Weavers and Yellow Bishops as they boldly accosted those that chose to dine al fresco. On our way back to the car we spotted a pair of preening Grey-winged Francolin, with scope views revealing their fine, intricately patterned plumage. A brief visit to the nearby hide proved fruitful, with Cape Longclaw, African Stonechat and Karoo Scrub-Robin showing along the path, and Pied Avocet and Greater Flamingo present at the hide.

Lastly, we visited the Seeberg Hide. On the road in we had more great sightings of a group of Grey-winged Francolin as they foraged by the roadside, as well as a Booted Eagle perched nearby. At the hide were a number of wetland and coastal species, including Kittlitz's and White-fronted Plovers, African Black Oystercatcher, Little Egret and Swift Tern. By now the day was drawing to a close, and we began our journey back to Cape Town. However, the best bird of the day was still to come in the form of an adult Black Harrier, which lifted off from the roadside ahead of us. We pulled over for great looks at this striking raptor - an excellent way to finish the 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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