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Western Cape Tour, West Coast, 11 and 13 March 2011

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Itinerary: We birded West Coast National Park, Vredenburg/Paternoster, Berg River estuary near Velddrif and Rocher Pan on 11 and 13 March. On 12 March, we did a Cape Town Pelagics trip - see for the trip report.

Highlight bird species: Pectoral Sandpiper at Rocher Pan

Highlight mammal species: Caracal at Geelbek Hide and African Wild Cat at Rocher Pan

Detailed Trip Report

Friday 11 March

We left Cape Town just after 06h30 and headed north along the R27 towards the West Coast National Park. After entering the gate at 07h00 we made our way to Abramskraal Hide stopping along the way for the first of five Black Harrier sightings. A number of Steenbok and some local bird residents were seen along the way. The hide produced good sightings of South African Shelduck, African Marsh Harrier, all the usual resident waterbirds as well as a flock of 12 Spoonbills and a brief glimpse of African Rail. Having spent a relaxed half-hour with these birds we moved on with the Geelbek hide tidal situation in mind.

The drive through to Geelbek produced a confiding flock of Cape Penduline Tit and good views of a family of Caracal that crossed the road directly in front of us. We arrived at the hide on the dropping tide and some twenty minutes before the mudbanks were sufficiently exposed to accommodate the large flocks of waders presently occupying the lagoon. Along the boardwalk we stopped for an out of habitat Long-billed Crombec and to examine a mixed feeding flock of Kittlitz’s Plovers, Little Stints, Curlew and Marsh Sandpipers. As the tide dropped, huge numbers of Greenshank, Curlew Sandpipers, Ruff, Sanderling and Whimbrel moved onto the banks. These were joined by Little Stint, Turnstone, Red Knot, Marsh Sandpiper and Grey Plover. Common, Sandwich and Swift Terns fed in the distance while an Osprey flew by flushing the flock. Back at the car a Cardinal Woodpecker tapped away in the gums, we headed north stopping for further views of Black Harrier and scanning for Southern Black Korhaan which we found surprisingly easily near the Seeberg lookout. Confiding White-throated and Yellow Canaries added to the ever growing list.

At the Seeberg Hide we applied our attention to a tern roost and amongst the Common, Sandwich and Swift Terns found at least six Little Terns some of which were going into breeding plumage. A Terek Sandpiper provided some excitement and we added Bar-tailed Godwit to the list. At this stage we pushed on, leaving the park and heading north towards Vredenburg. On the Paternoster road we quickly located Sickle-winged Chat and then soldiered on to add Large-billed and Red-capped Larks. A large adult African Wild Cat was a welcome addition and we had extended although fairly distant views.

Last outward bound stop for the day was the commercial saltworks on the Berg River Estuary at Veldrif where a 40 minute walkabout ended with great views of Chestnut-banded Plover. We broke the monotony of the drive back to Cape Town by diverting through the West Coast National Park for late afternoon views of species secured earlier in the day.

Saturday 12 March

We did a Cape Town Pelagics trip - see for the trip report.

Sunday 13 March

Bill and Reg decided on a return visit to the West Coast. The target was a single species! Pectoral Sandpiper is a rare vagrant to Southern Africa and a specimen of this much desired species had turned up at Rocher Pan and was seen yesterday. In order to make the most of this fairly long drive we started the day at the West Coast National Park taking a slow drive through in the early morning mist hoping to find Grey-winged Francolin a species missed on the first visit. We were soon rewarded with a confiding covey of six Grey-winged Francolin, which allowed us to examine them from only 10 metres away.

The drive to Rocher Pan was interspersed with brief stops for a variety of raptors; Lanner Falcon, Steppe Buzzard, Jackal Buzzard and Pale Chanting Goshawk. We arrived at Rocher Pan at 09h30 and were treated to great views of the Pectoral Sandpiper as we entered the hide. We spent more than 90 minutes enjoying this rare sighting, sharing it and socializing with a number of other happy birders.

After working our way through all the waders around the pan and discussing the distinguishing features, especially the similarities with Ruff which were present in some numbers, we left to pursue a further target before heading back to Cape Town airport. Cape Long-billed Lark is fairly unresponsive at this time of year and we spent an absorbing hour and a bit searching along a quiet farm road. We were rewarded with great views of an adult Cape Long-billed Lark which went about its business of feeding on the ground.

The long drive back to Cape Town gave us time to reflect on some great birding over the past 3 days.

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

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Barrie Rose.

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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