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Western Cape: West Coast Trip Report - 20 October 2015

Bird Highlights: Karoo Scrub-Robin, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Blue Crane, Red-capped Lark, Malachite Kingfisher, Namaqua Dove, Cape Bunting, African Black Oystercatcher, Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Malachite Sunbird, Bokmakierie and Bar-throated Apalis..

Number of bird species: 97, plus 2 species heard only.

Mammal and reptile species: Steenbok, Kudu, Cape Grysbok, Angulate Tortoise, Puff-adder and a Western Dwarf Chameleon.

Southern Black Korhaan Otto Schmidt
In the afternoon we were lucky to have good views of
Southern Black Korhaan (male) along the roadside.
Detailed Trip Report

Sandy and I collected Hilary and Connie from their Cape Town accommodation at 06h30 on Tuesday, 20 October for a birding day trip up the West Coast. The weather was clear and sunny with very little wind.

Our first short stop was at the Milnerton lagoon where the sandbar contained a couple of Common Terns amongst the Hartlaub's and Kelp Gulls. A group of Yellow-billed Ducks included a single Mallard hybrid, but otherwise it was fairly quiet.

A turn off the R27 down to Grotto Bay surprisingly produced neither species of francolin/spurfowl, and only a single Spotted Thick-knee was seen at a distance. However, the rocks on the coast contained Cape, Crowned and a single Bank Cormorant, and Karoo Scrub-Robin, Grey-backed Cisticola, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Cape Sparrow were added amongst others.

Crossing the R27 and heading up the Darling Hills Road, workers erecting a new fence on both sides of the road up the hill ruled out our chances of Southern Black Korhaan along this stretch, but a group of three Blue Cranes was soon spotted, and a number of species such as Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark, African Pipit, Southern Red and Yellow Bishop and Pied Starling were soon added. We turned at the point where the recently constructed road crosses the stream, and with water present in this generally dry terrain, a drinking male Namaqua Dove and a Malachite Kingfisher were unexpected additions to the list. A delight along this stretch of road was the large number of European Bee-eaters along the fences near their nest-holes in the roadside verges. African Hoopoe was spotted twice, at the dam additional Blue Cranes were seen and several Spur-winged Geese were present amongst the large number of Egyptian Geese.

We returned to the R27 and headed on into the West Coast National Park, first making our way up the western side towards the coast. Cape Bunting and Yellow Canary were added at Kraalbaai where a few waders were seen at the lagoon edge from some distance away. Common Whimbrel, Grey Plover and Sanderling were identified, as was a single Caspian Tern on a sandbar.

By now it had become quite warm, and there was not much about at the coast other than the expected African Black Oystercatchers and Crowned Cormorants. We therefore returned along the lagoon where we had our first view of a Black Harrier flying low in the distance. A single Kudu and a Steenbok were added to the mammal list, and numerous Angulate Tortoises were present on the roadside verges. We also encountered three snakes on the road, but they moved off so rapidly that they could not be identified.

We were slightly early for the outgoing tide at the Geelbek hide, possibly due to a northerly wind which had sprung up, but the first waders were starting to arrive and species such as Common Greenshank, Marsh and Curlew Sandpiper were seen together with a group of South African Shelduck and both Greater and Lesser Flamingos.

After a short stop at Geelbek we wandered down to the other hide below the restaurant, but there was not much additional activity so we returned for lunch at the restaurant. Thereafter we added Malachite Sunbirds in the eucalyptus avenue where both Grey and Black-headed Herons were breeding in the canopy.

Yellow-billed Kites were the most common raptor encountered, but we did eventually add African Marsh Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite and our second Black Harrier. We also eventually had good views of Bokmakierie, which we had heard calling on several occasions, on Seeberg Hill, but there was no sign of the hoped-for Southern Black Korhaan. We continued down to the Seeberg Hide car-park where a Puff-adder greeted us but soon disappeared into the bush. We birded along the first part of the boardwalk but did not go down to the hide as the tide was well out and the birds present were some distance away.

Puff Adder © Otto Schmidt

Returning down the park, something small on the tarred road caught our attention and we were delighted to find a Western Dwarf Chameleon. It was duly photographed and then moved to the safety of the roadside bushes. Soon thereafter we had another large Puff-adder on the road, followed by our third and closest view of a hunting Black Harrier. We also then had two excellent views of Southern Black Korhaan, with first a male and then a pair alongside the road.

Western Dwarf Chameleon © Sandy Schmidt
Western Dwarf Chameleon

Our last stop was at Abrahamskraal hide, where a Black Crake was eventually spotted, and several additional species such as Levaillant's Cisticola and Lesser Swamp Warbler were added. Little Rush Warbler was calling continuously, but did not show itself. On the way back from the hide towards the tarred road another Southern Black Korhaan male was seen, and a Cape Grysbok crossed the road as we headed for the park exit. Our last bird for the day was at the exit where we finally saw Bar-throated Apalis, another species previously heard on several occasions.

We returned to Cape Town, being back in town shortly after 19h30. The weather had been kind to us, and the species total for the day was 97 (plus two species heard only and 2 seen by guide only).

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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