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Western Cape Trip Report: West Coast, 25 October 2013

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Itinerary: West Coast and West Coast National Park

Number of species and highlights: 96 species - including Southern Black Korhaan, Black-shouldered Kite, Lesser Honeyguide, Cardinal Woodpecker, Namaqua Dove, Cape Penduline Tit & African Black Oystercatchers

Yellow-billed Kite seen on a Birding Africa day trip
A Yellow-billed Kite with the remains of its breakfast

Detailed Trip Report

I met Paula at her Claremont guesthouse at 07h00, collected Ron at his hotel near the Waterfront at about 07h30 and then we headed for the West Coast. Short stops at Milnerton lagoon, Dolphin Beach and Melkbosstrand brought a number of species but nothing notable.

A detour off the R27 coastal freeway down the Grotto Bay road added a number of birds with good views of Pearl-breasted Swallow, Southern Red Bishop, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Bunting and Cape Grassbird. Unfortunately there was no activity out at sea.

We crossed the R27 and headed up the Darling Hills Road, where we soon had a number of new birds. Kittlitz's and Three-banded Plovers were present at the dam, and African Hoopoe, European Bee-eater and Pied Starling were new additions. Near a stand of oak trees we heard and then saw the Lesser Honeyguide and near the Groote Post turnoff a Yellow-billed Kite was finishing off an 'interesting' breakfast. A small stream had a number of species coming in to drink, and Long-billed Crombec, White-backed Mousebird and White-throated Swallow were good to see.

White-throated Swallow © Otto Schmidt
A beautiful photograph of a White-throated Swallow seen on a Birding Africa day trip

Continuing through Darling, we had a Steppe Buzzard - my first for the season - on a roadside post, before a stop at Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve, where the veld had dried considerably after very muddy conditions in September. We managed to spot displaying Cloud Cisticola, African Pipit and Large-billed Lark. Cape Longclaw was conspicuous and Greater Flamingo and Cape Shoveler were present on the upper dam.

We again crossed the R27 and continued down to Yzerfontein, where the tern roost area was totally deserted, but over a pleasant lunch at the Beaches Restaurant overlooking the coast we picked up one fishing tern, the Sandwich Tern that Paula had been hoping to add to her list. Some Ruddy Turnstone were present on the rocks below, and a head-count produced a remarkable 42 African Black Oystercatchers. The drive back to the R27 brought our first Black-shouldered Kite, and we then headed north to the West Coast National Park.

Female Southern Black Korhaan on a Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt
Female Southern Black Korhaan

Our first sighting in the park was a large puff adder crossing the road, one of Ron's highlights of the day. As it was between tides, we concentrated on general birding and had good views of Bokmakierie, Cape Spurfowl (unfortunately no Grey-winged Francolin) and on the track down to the Seeberg hide we spotted two female Southern Black Korhaan at the roadside. Although the tide was still fairly low, we went down to the hide and had a reasonable wader count including Eurasian Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling and White-fronted Plover. A single Caspian Tern was seen flying by, with a number of Common Tern on the sandbar. Returning up the boardwalk, we encountered a small party of Cape Penduline Tit, a good bird to add to the day's tally. Driving back towards the tarred road, we had a good view of a Common Duiker near the path.

Common Duiker © Otto Schmidt
Common Duiker

It was now clouding over, and on the road back towards Geelbek we were surprised to see 6 to 8 Namaqua Dove on the road. A drive up the road to the Geelgek manor house we heard and saw a pair of Cardinal Woodpeckers in the eucalyptus trees and a Southern Grey-headed Sparrow on a bush nearby. At the manor house the Barn Owl which has taken to roosting inside one of the rounded covered chimneys was present, and on the way out of the park we had a Spotted Eagle Owl perched close to the road.

After taking Ron back to his hotel, where we completed the tick list for the day (96 species), we were back at Paula's Claremont lodgings at 07h45 after a pretty successful day, although we missed a number of expected species including both Black and African Marsh Harriers.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Otto Schmidt.

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., 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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