Highlight bird species: Southern Black Korhaan, Black Harrier, African Hoopoe, Blue Crane, Karoo Scrub-robin, Bokmakierie and waterbirds such as Great White Pelican, Lesser Flamingos, Great-crested Grebe, African Oystercatcher, Kittlitz's Plover, amongst others..
Total number of species: 102
Detailed Trip Report
We began the day at 7 am under grey skies and intercepted a smattering of light rain as we approached our first stop on our way up the West Coast; Rietvlei and its satellite wetlands. Nevertheless we braved the weather, which fortunately held off for the most part, allowing us to pick up some nice wetland species, including Cape Shoveller, Great Crested Grebe, Swift and Sandwich Terns and many glowing Southern Red Bishop males. The major highlights, however, were scope views of Great White Pelican and a group of 11 Lesser Flamingos, a bird that is very good to have back in Cape Town after a long hiatus, as well as great views of a Peregrine Falcon devouring its freshly-caught prey above us on the street lights.
Continuing along the coastal road to our next stop where we were met with our first typical Strandveld species. A male Southern Black Korhaan erupted from the veld on our arrival and displayed, allowing good but brief views of a bird we were to have much luck with throughout the day. A pair of Bokmakierie duetted conspicuously from a nearby bush, while the staccato popping song of a number of Common Quail emanated from the dense Restio fields. Cape Clapper Lark were displaying all around but proved frustratingly difficult to spot, but eventually we got onto one which allowed us to observe its parachuting display flight, albeit from some distance.
Moving along we picked up a couple of White-backed Mousebird, before heading into the wheat fields, where we were entertained by the antics of displaying Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark and African Pipit. A group of three Pearl-breasted Swallows delighted us by flying around our stationary car, often using the stiff breeze to hover delicately alongside us, allowing very close and satisfying views. We then reached an area of scrubby vegetation which produced Karoo Scrub-robin, Banded Martin, and excitingly, a shy African Hoopoe and a number of European Bee-eaters, which flew overhead calling and perched on the telephone lines, allowing us to appreciate their diverse colours. A pair of Blue Crane foraged austerely in the opposite field, while a small flock of Cape Canary busily fossicked nearby.
Returning to the main road, we began the drive up to the West Coast National Park, which we would spend the rest of the day exploring. Shortly after arriving another Southern Black Korhaan calling next to the road elicited our first stop, giving excellent views and photographic opportunities. Here we also picked up Grey-backed Cisticola, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler and Brimstone Canary. On the road towards Abrahamskraal we had good looks at calling Cape Grassbird, a number of displaying Karoo Lark, one or two Grey-backed Sparrow-lark, and yet another very obliging Southern Black Korhaan. At the hide we watched the resident pair of White-throated Swallow nesting inside the hide, seemingly unflustered by our presence. Also present were dozens of Yellow Canary, a small group of Common Waxbill, Cape and Southern Masked Weavers, calling Little Rush-Warbler, Little Grebe, and a few pairs of Namaqua Dove flying past and coming in to drink nearby. An African Marsh Harrier suddenly shot out of the reeds opposite us, and was greeted by its mate. A while later the first bird returned to the reeds carrying nest-building material, while its partner hunted along the distant ridge.
We grabbed a satisfying lunch at Geelbek, before continuing up towards the Seeberg hide. A stop at the Seeberg lookout produced a hunting Rock Kestrel, and brief but excellent views of an adult Black Harrier, the only individual we were to see on the day. The bird disappeared below the ridge, and wandering into the veld to see if we could relocate it proved fruitless, but did allow us to do some botanising. After taking in the diversity of orchids and irises on the hill, we moved on the the hide, along the way picking up a single Grey-winged Francolin at the roadside, which allowed extended views. The hide produced large numbers of both Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Caspian Tern, and a number of waders, including resident Kittlitz's and White-fronted Plovers and African Black Oystercatcher, as well as migrant Common Greenshank, Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint.
The walk back from the hide saw us continuing to pick up good species, including White-throated Canary and a pair of Southern Grey Tit. A Cape Penduline Tit was busy building it's beautiful nest right next to the boardwalk and we watched at close range while it worked on the finishing touches. With the exception of brief views of a Lesser Honeyguide that quickly disappeared, the day ended with an uneventful drive home, which did at least allow for time to reflect on a successful and enjoyable 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., www.netbooks.co.za or www.wildsounds.co.uk). However you're always welcome to contact us if you're interested in a guided trip in this area.