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.
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
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).
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
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
Only a low level of fitness is required.
Throughout the year.
Moderate; can be warm in summer and chilly in winter.
A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and
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.