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Western Cape: West Coast Trip Report - 18 November 2014

Highlight bird species: Black Harrier, Blue Crane, Southern Black Korhaan, African Pipit, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Bokmakierie, Cape Penduline Tit, plus plenty of waders at the lagoon.

Grasslands with Blue Crane

Detailed Trip Report

After collecting Frank from his accommodation in Newlands at 06:00, we set out for a day's birding up the west coast. Our first stop just beyond Koeberg Nature Reserve provided a nice early-morning introduction to strandveld birding. Rock Kestrel and Black-shouldered Kite were both seen on the telegraph poles along the road. The scrubby vegetation held Karoo Prinia, Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Bulbul, Southern Double-collared and Malachite Sunbirds and Bokmakierie. Continuing along the road, we had our first views of White-backed Mousebirds and brief glimpses of a Bar-throated Apalis which darted into a thick bush. We also had our first our first real strandveld special of the day, Black Harrier.

African Pipit © Campbell Fleming
African Pipit (juvenile)

The Darling farmlands were our next stop, and we scanned a likely looking field for Southern Black Korhaan. After an unsuccessful 15 minutes or so and just as we had decided to move on, a male erupted from the vegetation, almost at our feet, calling raucously and affording us with great views as it landed very near the road. The fields also held many Cape Sparrow and Common Fiscal. We witnessed the latter chasing off a group of three Large-billed Larks. Further along, we were treated to a small group of Blue Cranes, sharing the fields with multitudes of Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark and Crowned Lapwing. We also had superb views of an African Pipit perched on the roadside fence and seemingly unfazed by our vehicle. A small roadside dam held Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Egyptian Goose and Spur-winged Goose with Three-banded Plovers and a single Common Sandpiper darting along the water's edge. Further along the road, we had Pied, Common and Wattled Starlings all perched on a single bush. We also had Pearl-breasted and Greater Striped Swallows gliding about overhead and ticked off Streaky-Headed Seedeater before making our way back to the main road.

Karoo Lark © Campbell Fleming
Karoo Lark

We entered the West Coast National Park through the southern entrance and drove up the eastern sector towards Seeberg, picking up the usual roadside species such as Cape Spurfowl, White-backed Mousebird, Cape Bulbul, Karoo Prinia and Grey-backed Cisticola. Soon after turning off the tar road we stopped and left the vehicle to get better views of a White-throated Canary perched near the road. After a few minutes the canary was joined by a pair of Cape Sparrows and a Long-billed Crombec and we were also treated to fantastic views of a displaying Karoo Lark which landed on a bush no more than three metres away after its showy display flight. On our way back, a high-pitched call stopped us dead in our tracks - Cape Penduline Tit! We had great views of a group of four as they explored the low scrub. The salt marshes behind the hide yielded White-fronted Plover and Kittliz's Plover as well as a single Curlew Sandpiper and a group of Common Ringed Plovers roosting as they waited for more favourable tides. From the hide we had both Lesser and Greater Flamingoes, Sanderling, Little Stint, Common Whimbrel and Caspian, Swift, Common and Little Terns.

Cape Penduline Tits © Campbell Fleming
Cape Penduline Tits

After sharing lunch with Cape Weavers, Cape Spurfowl and House Sparrows, we made our way to the freshwater wetland at Abrahamskraal. Cape Shoveller, Cape Teal, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot and Common Moorhen were present on the water and after some time, a Black Crake revealed itself on the far bank, skulking along under the overhanging vegetation. We had good views of Yellow Canaries coming down to drink right under the hide and heard (and eventually saw) Lesser Swamp Warbler. Despite our best efforts, we could not get the Little Rush Warblers to do anything more than call from the dense reeds.

We then headed back to Geelbek to catch the receding tide, picking up African Hoopoe as we parked the car and African Marsh Harrier quartering over the reeds as we made our way to the hide along the boardwalk. The mudflats were teeming with waders including Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Ruff, a single Red Knot, Marsh Sandpiper, Greenshank, Grey Plover and Whimbrel. We also saw a single Cape Fur Seal on a sandbank which unfortunately looked to be rather unhealthy and emaciated.

After spending a good while at the hide, we left the park and headed to Yzerfontein where we were treated to more than 30 Chestnut-banded Plovers amongst the more numerous White-fronted Plovers. We were able to approach the birds quite closely and the late afternoon sunlight made for excellent photographs. Heading back Towards Cape Town, we decided to return to the Darling Farmlands road in the hope that any Cape Clapper Larks in the area might be more active in the evening. Alas, we did not see or hear any larks, but were treated to incredible views of a male Southern Black Korhaan (almost certainly the same individual we saw earlier in the day) with the sun slowly sinking into the Atlantic at our backs. A flyover Black Harrier made a fitting end to a great day's birding.

For a full list of species from this trip, please contact us.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Campbell Fleming

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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