Number of bird species and highlights: 89 species (including 3 heard only) - Black-shouldered Kite, juvenile Black Harrier, Karoo Prinia, Cardinal Woodpecker, Lesser Swamp Warbler, African Black Oystercatchers, Malachite Sunbird, Grey-winged Francolin, Spotted Eagle-owl.
Mammals, rodents and reptiles: Cape Grysbok, Cape Fur Seal, Eland, Grey Mongoose, Striped Field Mouse, Angulate Tortoises, Molesnake
I met Ruth, Hal, Jill and Pat, members of The Portland (Oregon) Audubon Society, at their Gardens guest house shortly before 06h00 on Sunday, 23 November for a day trip to the West Coast National Park. As we were to meet two additional members of the society at Langebaan at 07h30, there was no time to stop off at any birding spots on route, but we did pick up species such as numerous Steppe Buzzards, several Yellow-billed Kites, Black-shouldered Kite, Rock Kestrel, too many Pied Crows and had flight views of two Black Harriers on our way north.
We meet up with Toby Graff at his guesthouse in Langebaan, but unfortunately Katherine O'Neill was indisposed and stayed behind at Paternoster. We headed through Langebaan, stopping off briefly to look at Crowned Lapwing on the side of the road and spotting a Bokmakierie feeding two chicks in one of the gardens. Just before the Langebaan gate into the park two Cape Grysbok crossed the road, and we saw another one just into the park.
The tide was low, so we by-passed the Seeberg hide, but went up Seeberg hill to enjoy the view. Numerous Barn Swallows were feeding around the hill accompanied by a few Little Swifts, and Karoo Prinia and Grey-backed Cisticola were busy in the shrubs. Unfortunately the resident Southern Black Korhaans did not show themselves, although one was heard calling briefly some distance away. White-backed Mousebirds were spotted along the road towards Geelbek. A juvenile raptor perched next to the road gave good views and I misidentified this as a young African Marsh Harrier. Later, looking at the images, this was a young Black Harrier, and the two visible metal rings indicate that this was one of Rob Simmons' ringed birds from this year's breeding season.
Black Harrier (juvenile)
We continued south and headed to the Geelbek Manor House for a comfort break and some birding in the grounds, adding species such as African Hoopoe, Rock Martin and Cape Spurfowl. Along the eucalyptus avenue we spotted a feeding female Cardinal Woodpecker. Both Grey and Black-headed Heron were still breeding in the trees.
Abrahamskraal waterhole was fairly quiet, but Yellow Bishop was seen well, a Lesser Swamp Warbler nest was located in the reeds directly below an old Cape Weaver nest - a good "roof" in bad weather - and the expected species such as Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler, Little Grebe and Red-knobbed Coot were about on the water. Yellow Canary and Cape Bunting came in to drink and a male Namaqua Dove was seen flying past. The White-throated Swallow nest in the hide contained three eggs and an adult came in to incubate whilst we were there.
Birding at Tsaarsbank
We headed up the western side of the lagoon with several Black Harrier sightings on route and adding species such as Karoo Scrub-Robin. Yellow-billed Kites were numerous, as, unfortunately, were Pied Crows. At Tsaarsbank we had good views of Crowned Cormorant and African Black Oystercatcher; Cape Cormorant and Cape Gannet (fairly far out) were seen flying out to sea, where several Cape Fur Seals were lolling in the breakers. A few Ruddy Turnstones were present on the rocks. There were surprisingly few picknickers about on a lovely day at this beautiful spot. At the Tsaarsbank / Postberg intersection we were most surprised to see an adult Spotted Eagle-owl perched on a roadside signboard (at 1pm) giving excellent views before an oncoming vehicle flushed it and it went to sit on the adjacent dune.
Returning to Geelbek, birders along the eucalyptus avenue pointed out the Lesser Honeyguide they were observing, and we then watched the male Cardinal Woodpecker excavating a new nest-hole close to the road. The trees also contained numerous Malachite Sunbirds feeding on the eucalyptus flowers.
Cardinal Woodpecker (male) carving out a new nest-hole
A late lunch at Geelbek then beckoned and we enjoyed the limited menu available due to load-shedding. After lunch, time was moving on so we headed north towards Seeberg hide. We had a brief sighting of Grey-winged Francolin along the tarred road, and on the gravel road towards the hide we spent some time watching a very confiding White-throated Canary feeding in a roadside shrub. Shortly thereafter a small group of Cape Penduline-Tits was seen.
At the hide the tide was very high and there were few birds on the lagoon apart from both Greater and Lesser Flamingo, a few Common Terns and a Caspian Tern flying by. The saltmarsh behind the hide however contained a number of species such as Kittlitz's, White-fronted and Common Ringed plovers, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Common Greenshank and a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits at some distance.
Time was now against us, and we headed back to Langebaan, dropping Toby off at 17h15. Near the Langebaan / N2 intersection we had a Jackal Buzzard overhead, and a short stop at the service station added a male Southern Masked-Weaver. Our last species of the day was Great White Pelican at Rietvlei before we returned to the Gardens guest house just before 19h00. The weather had been rather variable with overcast and cool conditions early on, clearing later but becoming rather breezy, but nevertheless, birding almost exclusively in the park, we had a total bird species list seen by everyone of 86 (plus 3 species heard only and two species seen only by myself). In addition to the Cape grysbok and Cape Fur Seals, mammals included a herd of Eland, small Grey Mongoose and Striped Field Mouse, and numerous Angulate Tortoises and a single large Molesnake were seen on the roads.
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.