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 www.capetownpelagics.com
for the trip report.
Highlight bird species: Pectoral Sandpiper at Rocher
Highlight mammal species: Caracal at Geelbek Hide
and African Wild Cat at Rocher Pan
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.
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
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
A Birding Africa Trip
Report by Tour Leader Barrie Rose.
Our Cape tours and day trips are aimed at keen birders and
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