Western Cape Trip Report: West Coast - 12 November 2014
Number of bird species and highlights: 83 species (including 1 heard) - Southern Black Korhaan, Black Harrier, Black-shouldered Kite, Malachite Sunbird, Rock Kestrel, Kittlitz's Plover & African Black Oystercatchers
Reptiles: Angulate Tortoise, Boomslang, Puffadder and Molesnake
I met Weine and Meta at their guesthouse in Langebaan at 07h15. Our first bird was a male Malachite Sunbird just outside the guest house. From there we headed into the West Coast National Park via the Seeberg entrance and turned down the gravel track towards the Seeberg hide. We almost immediately encountered a pair of Spotted Thick-knees and a pair of Grey-winged Francolins with small chicks crossing the path, a good start to the day.
A strong north-west wind was already blowing, and this was to become progressively stronger during the day, keeping the smaller bush-birds down low. At the hide, where the tide was still fairly high, there was a mixture of Greater and Lesser Flamingos and a small selection of waders including Grey Plover, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint along the shore-line and Common Ringed, Kittlitz's and White-fronted Plovers in the saltmarsh. A pair of Kittlitz's were keeping an eye on their adventurous chicks. The White-throated Swallows which breed in the hide already had fledged young. Roosting along the shore-line near the flamingos we found mainly Common Terns, with a few Sandwich and at least two Little Terns also present.
Kittlitz's Plover - adult (left) and chick (right).
We continued though the park, hoping to find Southern Black Korhaan on Seeberg Hill, but in the strong wind there were not many birds about. However, we soon had to keep our eyes open as there were exceptional numbers of Angulate Tortoises on and alongside the road. This would be the case all day, and, with Pied Crows fairly evident in the park, it was good to see several small tortoises present. We soon also had our first snake of the day, a lovely Puffadder in the road. We were to see a total of six snakes during the day including two Boomslang, two large Molesnakes and one we could not identify before it disappeared into the bushes.
The Abrahamskraal waterhole was fairly quiet with the normal Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe and Common Moorhen present together with a number of Cape Shoveler, a pair of Cape Teal and a pair of SA Shelduck which flew off as we arrived. The breeding pair of White-throated Swallows was very accommodating, but bush birds were limited to drinking Yellow Canary and Cape Bunting and a male Yellow Bishop. Lesser Swamp Warbler was seen, but the calling Little Rush Warblers did not show themselves. Fortunately we were in the hide during the first downpour of the day, after which we headed up the western side of the lagoon.
At the coast the sea was very rough and the wind strong. Cape and Crowned Cormorants and African Black Oystercatchers were present on the rocks and a few Cape Gannets were seen offshore. We returned down the lagoon, sighting our first Black Harriers, an adult and two youngsters begging for food on the wing. Black-shouldered Kites were also in evidence.
Rock Kestrels feeding fledged chick with corn cricket.
A walk at Geelbek produced African Hoopoe and, although the water at the hides was still very high, we walked out to both of them. At the "old" Geelbek hide, screeching in the trees above the car-park alerted us to a pair of Rock Kestrels with three fledged chicks. These were being fed with corn crickets, fairly common on the park roads. The parents were very quick to see off a Yellow-billed Kite when it came too close. Apart from a few waders in the pans on the way to the hide we also spotted an Osprey overhead.
We returned to Abrahamskraal hide, but, apart from two Common Greenshank and Barn Swallows coming though as the rain started to fall, there was nothing new. With the weather deteriorating, we headed back up the lagoon, straight into a torrential downpour. This seemed to spell an end to the day's birding, but suddenly the weather cleared, the sun came out, frogs started calling all around us and the birds seemed to become far more active. A female Southern Black Korhaan with a fairly large chick was seen in the road, and Seeberg Hill gave us excellent views of a male.
Southern Black Korhaan
We returned to the Seeberg hide and added a few bush-birds such as Karoo Scrub-Robin and Karoo Prinia, and a few additional waders such as Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit were present at the hide. Eventually we returned to Langebaan at 18h00, with Spotted Thick-knee on a driveway and a pair of Crowned Lapwing in town, our last birds of the day. Despite the very variable weather it had been a successful outing with a species count of 83 (one heard 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 or both.
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.
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 small hotels.
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.