This tour took in the best of the Western Cape's birding sites,
with highlights such as Cape Eagle Owl and Protea
Please scroll down for the detailed
trip report and images.
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for more information about our upcoming
Itinerary: We visited
key birding sites in the Western Cape: the Cape Peninsula, Strandfontein
Waste Water Treatment Works, Kirstenbosch, Silvermine, Kommetjie
& Southern Peninsula, Hottentots Holland, Cape Peninsula and
Cape Point, Darling, West Coast National Park, Paarl Bird Sanctuary,
De Overberg: Kogelberg, Harold Porter, Stoney Point, Karwyderskraal,
Aurora and Mountain Mist, Tanqua Karoo National Park, Grootvadersbos
Nature Reserve and De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Total number of species seen: Despite the time
of the year (late autumn) and the inclement Cape winter weather
during much of the tour, we picked up a total of 239 species, including
197 which were lifers for Alan!
2 May Cape Peninsula & Strandfontein
Waste Water Treatment Works (Guide: Dalton Gibbs)
Alan and I left the Grand Westin in Cape Town
at 7:00 on a still, clear morning, driving up Signal Hill to take
in the sunrise. Here amidst a red and yellow sunrise we found Bokmakierie,
Helmet Guineafowl, Karoo Prinia and Cape Robin-chat.
A Jackal Buzzard and Orange-breasted Sunbird provided
some endemic species as we descended the hill towards the Atlantic
Orange-breasted Sunbird on the Cape Peninsula. © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com
Stopping near Llandudno, we saw Cape and Bank Cormorant
on coastal rocks and Malachite Sunbird in nearby eucalyptus
trees. A drive through Hout Bay brought us to De Hel; a forest patch
where we found Sombre Greenbul, Cape Batis and Cape White-eye.
Sadly, Knysna Warbler a target species, was nowhere to
be found at this time of the year.
Sombre Greenbul on the Cape Peninsula. © Deirdre Vrancken www.birdingafrica.com
A short drive took us to Rondevlei Nature Reserve on the Cape Flats
where we saw the usual variety of water birds, livened up by a Peregrine
Falcon perched on a nearby stadium light and good views of Goliath
Heron. Water Thick-knee generally a
more cryptic species, gave us good views. A few dozen Great White
Pelican made an impressive display on the island in front of
the Scotto Hide. On leaving the reserve we saw some members of Cape
Town’s only Hippopotamus population lounging around in the shallow
water on the far side of the wetland.
Our last stop of the day was the Strandfontein
Waste Water Treatment Works; an area with 350ha of sewage treatment
ponds and surrounding bush. Several waterfowl species greeted us,
including Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveller, Red-billed
and Cape Teal. A surprise was four Fulvous Duck, which
provided excellent views. A late lunch stop at ‘Tim & Toms Track’
placed us above dozens of feeding Greater Flamingo, Pied Avocet
and Black-winged Stilt. Good views of Cape Longclaw
and African Marsh Harrier finished off the day as the sun
started setting and we returned to Cape Town with a total of about
90 species for the day. An excellent tally for the Cape Peninsula.
Strandfontein Waste Water Treatment Works with Greater Flamingo;
Cape Spurfowl, © Deirdre Vrancken www.birdingafrica.com.
3 May Kirstenbosch, Silvermine, Kommetjie
& Southern Peninsula (Guide: Dalton Gibbs)
An early start ensured we missed the early morning
traffic as we headed towards Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens to catch
the dawn chorus. Sombre Bulbul, Forest Canary and
Olive Thrush were making their voices heard. A walk through
the top indigenous forest turned up no Lemon Doves as we had hoped,
only Southern Boubou and Cape Batis. In the lower
cycad forest area we found the resident Spotted Eagle Owl
and had good close up views as it slept on a branch. A family of
confiding Cape Spurfowl gave us close up views, as these
birds have obviously been fed and would climb into your rucksack
given half a chance. We failed to find Cape Sugarbird in the top
gardens and drove out to the mountaintop on Oukaapse Weg near Silvermine.
Here we had good views of Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape
Sugarbird and Cape Siskin, as well as a surprise sighting
of Verreaux’s Eagle.
Verreaux's Eagle - only one pair breed on the Cape Peninsula. ©
Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com
Spotted Eagle Owl at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, © Deirdre
A drive out to Kommetjie on the Atlantic seaboard revealed the area
covered in mist and we failed to find the three endemic cormorants
of the region and had to settle for some more common shoreline birds.
We continued our drive along the coastline, stopping at various
places to view White-necked Raven and a troop of Chacma
Baboons near Cape Point. On the False Bay coast we stopped and
had distant views of Cape, Bank and Crowned Cormorants,
getting closer and better views of these species as we approached
Simonstown. Further on at Glencairn we found two pairs of obliging
African Black Duck in the wetland area, whilst further on
at the Silvermine River mouth, we saw Cape Weaver as well
as Pied Kingfisher which had been evading us.
Black Duck © Deirdre Vrancken www.birdingafrica.com
4 May Hottentots Holland and Winelands: Harold
Porter, Stoney Point and Paarl Bird Sanctuary (Guide: Michael Mills).
Normally a day trip to the Hottentots Holland
Mountains is welcomed by the discerning visiting birder who is keen
on seeing some hard to find Cape fynbos endemics. However, this
day dawned cold and wet and with the weather against us from the
start, we headed along the spectacular coastal road from Gordon’s
Bay to Rooiels. Here the heavens opened and we bravely sought Cape
Rockjumper on the boulder-strewn mountain slopes, but to no avail.
We did however see a pair of Verreaux's Eagles soaring
above the cliff face, where they are likely to be nesting at this
time of year. Further on, at the Harold Porter Botanical Reserve
in Betty's Bay, we took shelter in the new Leopard Rock Restaurant
and during a break in the weather we managed to lure a skulking
Victorin’s Warbler from a gully in the fynbos.
At around midday we paid a quick visit to Stony Point which allowed
us to study all four species of marine cormorants in more detail,
including the endemic Bank Cormorant and Crowned
Cormorant. And, of course, there were lots of African
Penguins, which were quite at home in the cold and blustery
In the afternoon we headed for Paarl Bird Sanctuary,
situated on the banks of the Berg River, where we saw amongst others
Palm Swift and numbers of water-associated birds
including Hottentot Teal, Southern Africa's smallest
duck species, and and Malachite Kingfisher, which
are known to breed here.
5 May Cape Peninsula to Cape Point (Guide:
I collected Alan Knue at his Cape Town hotel at
07h00 on a wet, cold and windy day typical of the Cape winter. The
suggested route was down the western side of the Peninsula to the
Cape Point Nature Reserve. Our second bird of the day, as we headed
down Ou Kaapse Weg, was a Peregrine Falcon flying across
the road in front of the vehicle. At Kommetjie, we checked the rocks
and shoreline, but apart from many Kelp Gulls, Common Starlings
and Cape Wagtails feeding amongst the washed-up kelp from
the previous night’s storm, there were only a few Swift Terns,
Crowned Cormorants, Little Egrets, African Black Oystercatchers
and Hartlaub’s Gulls present on the rocks.
At the Slangkop lighthouse we headed along the
boardwalk towards the rocks to scan the very rough and wind-swept
ocean. Visibility varied from poor, when the swirling mist and clouds
closed in, to reasonable when patches of clear sky blew over. During
these spells, we managed to spot several Shy Albatross, White-chinned
Petrel, Northern Giant Petrel, Sooty Shearwater and several
When the weather closed in again, we continued
south towards Cape Point. Just short of Misty Cliffs, we were very
surprised to find a Black Harrier flying towards us over
the road. Turning around, we headed back and followed it as it slowly
flew alongside the road into the stiff northwester, giving us excellent
close-up views. The bird, which from its markings appeared to be
a juvenile, was one species we had not expected in that area. In
Misty Cliffs we turned down to the beach looking for White-fronted
Plover, but were unsuccessful. We did however see our first
Chacma Baboon in the village. After entering the Cape Point
Nature Reserve, we first headed down to Olifantsbos, where we added
White-fronted, Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers
to the list, and noted another Shy Albatross out at sea.
There were numerous African Black Oystercatchers on the beach,
and a group of Rock Martins were feeding along the shore-line.
As we left the parking area, two large Eland were spotted
close to the road, and later on the drive back to the main reserve
road we saw further baboons as well as a group of three adult and
a young Bontebok. Good views were also had of Rock Kestrel,
Black-shouldered Kite, Cape Grassbird and Yellow Bishop.
By this time the weather had cleared quite noticeably
at Cape Point, and we headed down to a view-site to scan the ocean
towards Bellow Rock for any pelagic species, but only Cape Gannet,
Swift Tern and Cape cormorant were present, the ocean
below us being unexpectedly calm. The bush birds were keeping low
in the wind, but we did add Striped Field Mouse to our list
of mammals. We stopped at Buffels Bay for coffee, where we had our
refreshments in the company of a group of Common Ostriches.
We then headed back towards Kommetjie, spotting
a perched Jackal Buzzard just after exiting the reserve.
At Kommetjie, the weather was closing in again, with very restricted
visibility, so we continued on over Ou Kaapse Weg and then across
to Sandvlei and the False Bay coast-line. At Sandvlei we stopped
near the yacht-club and were fortunate, in the drizzle, to add African
Fish Eagle, White-backed Duck (at least 20 birds),
Great Crested Grebe and Pied Kingfisher to our list.
We then continued along Baden Powell Drive towards Strandfontein
Waste Water Treatment Works, which we entered during a heavy rain
shower. However, this cleared and we spotted most of the expected
species, with a few Barn Swallows still present amongst the
many Brown-throated Martins, Little Swifts and occasional
African Black Swifts seen overhead. Amongst the duck species
there were many Spurwinged Geese, as well as two Fulvous
Ducks, but no White-faced Duck or Hottentot Teal could
be located. Good views were obtained of several African Marsh
Harriers, which brought the number of raptor species for the
day to seven.
Only small numbers of Swift Terns were
present in the Works, including some juveniles, but adults carrying
fish were again seen heading from False Bay towards Table Bay. Other
than the Greater Flamingos and many very pink-looking Great
White Pelicans, Grey, Black-headed and Purple Heron,
Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Red-knobbed Coot, etc.,
good views were also had of a number of bush birds such as Cape
Longclaw, African Pipit, Cape Bulbul and Zitting Cisticola.
As the weather and light conditions deteriorated,
a fuel-stop along Strandfontein Road added Cape Canary, and
a detour through Claremont brought Spotted Thick-knee as
the last new species of the day. As we passed the Newlands cricket
ground, a group of Swift Terns carrying fish passed overhead
heading back into the strong northwester to feed their chicks on
Robben Island, a round-trip that has been estimated at 80 kilometres.
We were back in town at about 17h45. Given the poor, and particularly
the windy weather conditions, a list of 88 species for the day was
6 May Darling and West Coast National Park
(Guide: Dalton Gibbs)
The weather continued as for the past few days
with rain coming down in measures as we left Cape Town. Once through
the traffic a brief stop along the coast at the Blaauwberg Conservation
Area turned up only a few bush birds and some marine species such
as Cape Gannet and Crowned Cormorant. Not being able
to see the signature view of Table Mountain across the sea, we decided
to head north to get beyond the worst of the rain. Turning off the
West Coast road we picked up our first Blue Cranes, with
good views of a family with young birds. Red-capped Lark, Capped
Wheatear and African Pipit were also knocking about the
fields. Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler and Cape Robin-chat
were common in the bush, but several of the regular species in this
habitat didn’t make an appearance in the cold weather.
Closer to Darling the rain came down and we sought
shelter in a coffee shop for the worst of it to pass. Taking advantage
in a gap in the rain, we stopped at the Tienie Versveld Nature Reserve,
finding very wet Cloud Cisticola, Cape Longclaw and Black-headed
Heron. A Grey Rhebok was out in the open on an adjacent hillside
and a Cape Grysbok made an uncharacteristic appearance
in daylight., probably because conditions were overcast.
Dodging the worst of the rain we travelled on
to the West Coast National Park where we had lunch in the new bird
hide at Abraamskraal. Various small passerines came in to drink.
There were also good views of Black Crake along the water
edge. Common Ostrich lined the road on the way toward Geelbek,
where we picked up Black Harrier and close views of a male
Southern Black Korhaan in a slightly bedraggled condition
after a passing shower of rain.
Karoo Lark and a surprise West Coast
Clapper Lark displaying near the road after the rain were a
welcome sight. With this bit of sun we also had White-backed
Mousebirds, Karoo Scrub-robin and Rufous-vented Tit-babbler
on the road verge. At the Geelbek hide we picked up a variety of
Palearctic waders that seemed to have taken up the over wintering
option. These included Grey Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel,
Greenshank and a surprise Eurasian Curlew. At the Seeberg
Hide things were quieter, with a variety of terns and gulls on the
sand banks. An Acacia Pied Barbet increased our species of
bush birds, whilst a covey of Grey-winged Francolin provided
good close up views on the side of the road. Up on Lookout Hill
a Dusky Sunbird made an appearance (these usually occur in
more arid areas).
With the sunset painting the sky a spectrum of
colours we headed out of the park, finding Red Hartebeest
(Alcelaphus caama) and Cape Grysbok to add to our
mammals for the day. We completed the drive back to Cape Town with
the darkness setting in; having seen quite a bit for what had started
as a cold, wet, rainy day!
7 May The Overberg: Kogelberg, Harold Porter,
Karwyderskraal (Dalton Gibbs)
We left Cape Town at 07:00 and travelling against
the traffic on the N2 Highway, we turned onto the False Bay coastline
on the eastern side of the City. We stopped several times and found
Cape Rock Thrush, one of our target species for the day.
With this in hand we tried at a spot before Rooiels for Cape
Rockjumper which Alan had dipped on a few days before. A wait
of 10 minutes was rewarded by the characteristic piping of the male
bird, which Alan soon located not far from us. We walked up the
mountain slope and watched this male for a while, and despite having
excellent views of the bird, were unable to locate a female. Relieved
after having good views of this species, Alan confessed that this
was his top species for tour, but didn’t want to jinx it by saying
so before hand!!
Cape Sugarbird, seen on a Birding Africa Western Cape Tour, Callan
Moving on to Rooiels, we watched the resident
pair of Verreaux’s Eagle at their nest site, Orange-breasted
Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird. We searched for Ground
Woodpecker, and although failing to find these, were rewarded
with sightings of a further four Cape Rockjumpers including
a female. A short drive later and we were at the Harold Porter Botanical
Gardens in Bettys Bay to try for some missing species which had
escaped us due to poor weather the week before. At Disa Gorge we
located the resident pair of African Black Duck and a feeding
group of Swee Waxbill. Cape Batis, Fork-tailed Drongo and
Dusky Flycatcher gave charming close up views, whilst Sombre
Greenbuls called profusely from the forest canopy.
Feeling lucky, we stopped off at the Kleinmond Nature Reserve to
search for Hottentot Buttonquail. In this we failed, but
did manage to turn up Cape Clapper Lark in the short restio
beds. We moved on to the town of Kleinmond for lunch, finding a
flock of Swift Terns and Cape Gannets off the coast
whilst we enjoyed our lunch. A brief showing by a cetacean amongst
the fish shoal offshore was probably that of Bryde’s Whale,
an inshore fish feeding species. Another attempt for the Buttonquail
at Arabella was also unsuccessful, so feeling not so lucky any more
we decided to round off the day along the Karwyderskraal Road. Here
we picked up Pearl-breasted Swallow, Cape Crow and a fine
pair of Denham’s Bustard before setting off back to Cape
Town on the national road.
Alan stayed in Cape Town on 8 and 9 May and went off on another
Birding Africa trip on May 10.
10 May: West Coast National Park to
Mountain Mist (Guide: Michael Mills)
We headed north from Cape Town up the R27, hoping
for drier weather ahead of us, but when we arrived at the West Coast
National Park there we still regular squalls coming through. We
made best use of the short dry spells, quickly finding Cape Penduline
Tit right beside the road. Down at the water's edge we spent
a short while in the hide, and managed to lure a very cooperative
pair of African Rail from the reeds, which gave excellent
views. Further on we paused to find a pair of Grey Tit at
a rocky outcrop, before moving on to the Vredenburg area. Here an
icy wind blew, but we still managed to pick out several Sickle-winged
Chat along the roadside, a confiding Cloud Cisticola,
Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Southern Ant-eating Chat
and, after a lot of effort, a pair of Cape Long-billed Lark.
After a warm lunch we continued to Velddrif, where we paused to
find Chestnut-banded Plover and a couple of bright Lesser
Flamingos, and finally on to Mountain Mist, which we decided
had been named appropriately. We huddled around a blazing fire to
warm up, making short forays into the surrounding fynbos to watch
Protea Seedeater, Cape Bunting and Cape Sugarbird.
After dark we found a single Freckled Nightjar along the
11 May: Mountain Mist to Cape Town (Guide:
With heavy mist and driving rain at the top of
the mountain, we decided to head for lower altitudes, which proved
a good strategy. Before dawn we found a Spotted Eagle Owl
perched on a roadside pole, and Fiery-necked Nightjar hunting
along a Eucalypt plantation. After dawn we slowly made our way back
up the mountain for breakfast, pausing to watch two groups of Ground
Woodpecker, a circling Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk and,
amazingly, a Cape Leopard being mobbed by a pair of Pied
Crows. The views were brief before the secretive animal slunk behind
a sandstone outcrop, but Allen and Rob were fortunate to join the
elite club of people having set eyes on a leopard in the Cape mountains!
After breakfast the weather showed no sign of improvement, so we
headed for the coastal lowlands where it was a little brighter,
finding several Lanners and a trio of White Storks
feeding in some recently ploughed fields. We spent the afternoon
back in the West Coast National Park, where we were entertained
by several smart Southern Black Korhaan, Karoo Lark and Black
Harrier, and we watched a Secretarybird striding across
the plains. Our final stop produced improved views of Little
Rush Warbler, before it was time to head back to a rainy Cape
12 May Cape Town, Citrusdal, Peerboomskloof,
Tanqua Karoo (Guide: Dalton Gibbs)
Alan, Rob and I set off from Cape Town on our
extended trip at 7:00, stopping at Blaauwberg to see the sun rise
over the iconic view of Table Mountain. Unfortunately the thick
mist meant we could only see some cormorants and gulls on the rocks,
so we consoled ourselves with some local bush birds. The usual Cape
Robin-chat, Karoo Prinia and Karoo Scrub-robin responded
to our ‘pishing’ calls, but the majority of the species refused
to be called up and sulked in the cold wet bush. We set out north
to find the sun and soon did so up the Piekenierskloof Pass, where
we stopped to take in the magnificent views.
On top of the Piekenierskloof Pass. © Dalton Gibbs
A few male Malachite Sunbirds were vying
for position over the first few aloes that had started to flower
on the rock faces. After picking up lunch at a local farm stall
we left the national road at Citrusdal and headed into the mountains,
stopping at a river with the hope of finding Giant Kingfisher. We
never did, but managed to pick up Hamerkop; a bird with a
distinctively-shaped head that’s in a Family (Scopidae) all on its
own and is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. After lunch along the
mountain pass we found a flock of Greater Flamingo on a high
altitude wetland, along with a variety of waterfowl, including Cape
Shoveler and South African Shelduck. Family groups of
Grey Rhebok (a species of antelope endemic to South Africa)
were seen in a number of places in farm fields.
Entering the Kouebokkeveld Mountains, an area
of open rock sheets with amazing formations, we passed our overnight
accommodation and headed for Peerboomskloof to make the most of
the daylight, on the way picking up Pale Chanting Goshawk, Fairy
Flycatcher, Rufous-eared Warbler and Layard’s Tit-babbler.
We played the call of Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and had just
given up after a 10-minute wait, when it’s head popped out from
a crack in the rock. A brief good view of the bird was had before
it was gone; disappearing behind the rocks again.
Arriving at our guesthouse just after 17:00 we
settled in and had a look around before supper. Just after dark
we had Cape Eagle Owl on the roof of the house and later
Fiery-necked Nightjar calling. After an excellent supper
we did some star gazing before deciding on a night drive with a
spot lamp. Just outside the property we had Smith’s Rock Rabbit
cross our tracks, but no further animals as the temperature got
colder in the night. These rock rabbits are a favourite prey of
Cape Eagle Owl.
13 May Tanqua National Park (Guide: Dalton
We arose with the sun to meet the early birds,
having Fiery-necked Nightjar and smaller Cape Sparrows
around the chalets. Scrub Hare was near the dam, with
Three-banded Plover along the water’s edge. After a hearty
breakfast we set off for the Tanqua Karoo descending the other side
of the Kouebokkeveld escarpment.
Upon reaching the scrubby plains below we joined
the long dusty road that links the towns of Ceres and Calvinia;
the longest uninhabited road in South Africa. Pale Chanting Goshawk
were scattered along telephone poles and we soon found the charming
Spike-heeled lark. Red-capped Larks had formed winter
flocks and these we came across a number of times.
Botterboom Tree, our vehicle and the Tanqua Karoo © Dalton
Along the dry Tanqua riverbed we worked hard to
locate Namaqua Warbler, that refused to show itself after
giving its characteristic call. The diminutive Pirit Batis, cocky
Karoo Thrush and a flock of White-backed Mousebirds
made an appearance, as well as Fairy Flycatcher. Karoo
Chat was about, as well as a pair of Tractrac Chat. We
stopped at the Tanqua National Park headquarters to have our lunch,
finding an Acacia Pied Barbet to keep us amused. From here
we travelled up on a spectacular steep pass that brought us to the
top of the Roggeveld escarpment with amazing all round views of
the Tanqua. Pale-winged Starling and Dusky Sunbird
made appearances, with its rocky habitat different to the dry plains
of the Tanqua below.
With the sun going down we set off back to the
warmth of our guesthouse, entering thick mist as yet another cold
front approached the Cape and settled across the Koue Bokkeveld
mountains. On the way up the escarpment we found Scrub Hare
in the lights of our car, making a great end to a memorable day.
14 May Tanqua Karoo, Tradouw Pass, Grootvadersbos
(Guide: Dalton Gibbs)
Up with the sun we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast
before we travelled through the Tanqua once more. At Peerboomskloof
we found White-throated Canary, Layard’s Tit-babbler
and Karoo Scrub-robin.
Once on the Tanqua plains we turned south, stopping
at Eierkop to find Karoo Eremomela. We unfortunately failed
on this front, but had great views of a pair of Verreaux’s Eagle
that flew over the small hill. We traveled on through the parallel
valleys of the Little Karoo, stopping to have lunch in the small
town of Montagu, famed for its fine Cape wines.
Southern Double-collared Sunbird © Deirdre Vrancken, www.birdingafrica.com
From here we travelled down the Tradouw Pass,
stopping to have a look at some of the fynbos vegetation along the
roadside. A stop at a small forest patch yielded Cape Batis
and three sunbird species; Malachite, Southern Double-collared
and Amethyst. Arriving at Honeywood Farm, our home for two
nights, we went through to bird the indigenous Afromontane forest.
Greater Double-collared Sunbird and Sombre Greenbuls
were around at the forest edge, with Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher
appearing once we entered the forest. The weather however soon closed
in and the rain started in earnest. By this stage it was late in
the day and we retreated to the shelter of Honeywood Farm, where
an excellent supper awaited us.
15 May Grootvadersbos Nature Reserve (Guide:
We left at first light to meet the dawn chorus
in the forest and were rewarded with a number of the forest species;
new birds for the trip that we turned up were Yellow-throated
Woodland Warbler, Olive Bush Shrike and Olive Woodpecker
as well as several commoner bush birds. We returned to Honeywood
for a late breakfast and then returned to the forest, walking the
trail to the bottom of the valley and then returning via the Redwood
trees. We tried for Narina Trogon and the skulking Knysna Warbler,
but neither species replied to their calls. We did find a young
solitary male Bushbuck.
We had lunch on the picnic tables at the offices,
picking up a flock of Red-faced Mousebirds near by. Swee
and Common Waxbills fed nearby and we had further views of
Olive Bush Shrike. By this stage of the afternoon we set off
for the forest edge to search for Red-necked Spurfowl; although
not present, we found a number of the fynbos species such as Cape
Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. As it was starting
to get dark we started a search for Wood Owl and were rewarded
sometime later with brief views of a pair coming to us in a dark
forest patch. Even with a spot light it was difficult to get good
views of these birds and we had to be satisfied knowing that these
silent birds were out there watching us! We returned to Honeywood
Farm for an excellent supper and time to warm up in front of the
16 May Grootvadersbos, De Hoop Nature Reserve
(Guide: Dalton Gibbs)
After a leisurely breakfast we found a Greater
Honeyguide that showed up outside the house; it had come to
feed off the wax from the beehives in the adjacent work shed. After
saying goodbye to Honeywood Farm and the Moodies, we descended to
the Agulhas Plain below, crossing the national road and travelling
on the dirt roads of the lowlands. On the way to De Hoop Reserve
we soon found Agulhas Long-billed Lark amongst African
Grassveld Pipits and Red-capped Lark. This was soon followed
by Karoo Korhaan and the larger Denham’s Bustard.
Our route took us to the town of Malagas, where
we crossed the Breede River on the hand pulled pont. We scanned
the river for kingfishers, but only turned up Reed Cormorant
and African Darters. At the turn off to our farm accommodation,
we found an obliging Agulhas Long-billed Lark that gave us
close up views. A large flock of domestic Ostriches took interest
in our birding activities and soon Robert had a dozen or so pecking
at his clothes and camera. At the same time a curious flock of sheep
approached us from the other side of the road and we were monetarily
surrounded by lots of curious farmyard animals; no doubt doing their
version of human watching.
We dropped our bags off and went across to the
nearby Potberg, where the only regional breeding colony of Cape
Vulture is still to be found against the mountain. We passed several
Bontebok and Eland on the way in and ate our lunch
in the large Eucalyptus forest at the foot of the mountain, hoping
to find Knysna Woodpecker. We had several views of Cape
Vulture flying over and walked up the mountain to a vantage
point for better views, but found by this stage that they had gone.
Still at this point we visited the Black Eagle cave and viewed some
old rock art painted on the cave walls by San people. There were
a couple of interesting fynbos plant species flowering that we stopped
to inspect on the way down and by total random chance found a Fynbos
Grass Lizard perfectly camouflaged in a dead bush. Had we not
been intently looking at its plant at the time we would never have
seen it. Robert got some good close up pictures before it quickly
slipped away into the vegetation.
Once down the mountain we worked the Eucalyptus
forest and came up with Olive Woodpecker and then three species
of Honeyguide in succession; Greater, Sharp-billed and
Lesser Honeyguide. The Knysna Woodpecker that we also were searching
for unfortunately eluded us, and with the sun setting we had to
head for our near by accommodation and an excellent supper.
17 May De Hoop Nature Reserve (Guide: Dalton
After an early breakfast we headed straight for
the western section of De Hoop Nature Reserve, finding several Blue
Cranes on the way to the gate. On the lower plains of the reserve
Bontebok, Grey Rhebok and Common Ostrich greeted
us on the way in as we started our search for Southern Tchagra.
This took some searching, with birds constantly staying out of sight
and skulking in the thick bush below the short cliffs next to the
wetland. There were hosts of Red-knobbed Coot setting up
nests on the wetland, as Great Crested Grebe vied for territory.
Flocks of Little Grebe clustered in groups, mixing with Yellow-billed
Duck and Cape Shovelers. We picked up Red-faced Mousebird
and Southern Boubou before we eventually located a Southern
Tchagra that reluctantly showed itself in thick bush at the
Going across to the nearby restaurant we found
African Hoopoe and Cape Mountain Zebra, a rare species
of which only 1000 or so individuals remain. A flock of Grey-winged
Francolin showed themselves near by as we retired to the restaurant
for lunch. After lunch we took a drive down to the extensive white
dunes that line this section of coast, pausing at various interesting
spots. One of these was a recently burnt area where we studied the
pipits; hoping to find Plain-backed Pipit. This unfortunately was
not about and we had to settle for African Grassveld Pipit
and Large-billed Lark. Alan had a brief sighting of what
was possibly Agulhas Clapper Lark, but the bird disappeared
into a restio bed, the preferred habitat for this species.
We took a walk along the white coastal dunes,
having distant views of Cape Gannet feeding on an offshore
shoal of fish. On the road back we had views of Striped Field
Mouse, the only diurnal rodent for the area. We stopped to search
the restio patch along the side of the road where we had seen the
possible Clapper Lark, but only turned up Grey-backed Cisticola.
Back at the De Hoop lake area we searched the bush edge again, hoping
to find Knysna Woodpecker. Instead we had good views of the Southern
Tchagra who now decided to show themselves. By this late stage
it was time to drive back over the hard dunes and return to our
18 May De Hoop to Cape Town via Greyton (Guide:
Before day break Alan and I set out for Potberg
for a final shot at Knysna Woodpecker, which sadly did not show
itself despite us seeing plenty of the other local species. After
a good breakfast we packed up and set off for Cape Town, stopping
at patches of indigenous bush along the route to see what we could
find. The roadside was quiet, with the occasional Denham’s Bustard
and Blue Cranes in fields and the odd Black-shouldered
Kite on telephone poles. We took the back roads to Greyton,
a small town in the Overberg region of the Western Cape, where I
had contacted the local bird club for a stake out of Amethyst Sunbird
and Barn Owl. On the way we had a surprise European Hobby
that gave us excellent views as we put a scope on to it. Closer
to Greyton we came across four Open-bill Storks that were
thermalling overhead. These birds were no doubt part of a larger
group that had recently made a sudden influx into the Western Cape.
Once in Greyton we headed to a house of a member of the bird club
who had a nectar feeder in their garden. Within 10 minutes we had
picked up excellent views of four sunbird species: Malachite,
Greater Double Collared, Southern Double Collared and Amethyst,
our target species. We then headed for the Dassiesklip farm stall
along the national road to find lunch and track down a Barn Owl.
We arrived at Dassieshoek and searched the building, only to discover
that owl boxes had been installed on the outside of the building
and the birds were unfortunately no longer visible; unfortunate
for us but no doubt better for the birds themselves! We made had
a quick trip into Cape Town and to the airport.
Despite the time of the year (late autumn) and
the inclement Cape winter weather during much of the tour, we picked
up a total of 239 species, including 197 which were lifers for Alan!
A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Dalton Gibbs, Michael
Mills and Otto Schmidt. Pictures taken by Dalton Gibbs.
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., www.netbooks.co.za
or www.wildsounds.co.uk). However
you're always welcome to contact
us if you're interested in a guided trip in this area.