Highlights included: Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Spotted Eagle Owl, Great White Pelican, Cape Rockjumper, African Penguin, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Black Harrier, African Hoopoe, Blue Crane.
Number of bird species: 121
Detailed Trip Report
The first day with Mel was a fairly leisurely morning spent at Strandfontein Bird Sanctuary, an ex-sewage works with plentiful birdlife. Two species of Flamingo (Greater and Lesser), Pin-tailed Whydahs, Black-shouldered Kites, ample Herons and Egrets, an impressive assemblage of Teals (Hottentot, Cape, Red-billed) and Ducks (Yellow-billed, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard), and many other waterbirds had Mel in raptures. Two sightings really stood out though. The first was our encounter with two Spotted Eagle Owls, which we did not spot until the last second when they burst out of a bush just meters from us and settled in a tree a more comfortable distance away. The other was a Cape Gannet, which was injured and crash-landed at the works. I waded in through the mud (I don't want to think what constitutes the substrate at an ex-sewage works...) and rescued the bird, which gave us some unbelievable close-up views of this exceptionally attractive species, which just recently was sadly up-listed to Endangered status by the IUCN. The bird seemed to have suffered minor wing damage, and was handed over to a City of Cape Town employee who drove the bird to SANCCOB for rehabilitation.
Our second day together was a day trip up the east coast to Rooi Els and Betty's Bay. At Rooi Els we had a wonderful walk along the mountainside, with close encounters with both Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrush, Cape Siskin, Orange-breasted Sunbird, and Cape Sugarbird. Our luck held out for the Cape Rockjumpers too, and we saw no fewer than three pairs along the walk. As we returned to the car a pair of Peregrine Falcons circled the rocky buttress, calling as they scythed through the sky. From there we continued to Stoney Point to photograph African Penguins and the four resident Cormorant species (Cape, Crowned, White-breasted and Bank) - however, the Cape Hyraxes attempted to steal the show with their cute interactions! We then took a walk around Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, getting up close to Olive Thrush, Cape Robin-Chat, African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, and a few other species. After a bite to eat and a rest for our legs we hiked Disa Kloof, adding a few species and improving on our photographs of others already seen.
We drove up the opposite coastline to the West Coast National Park, picking up four species of raptor before we even entered the reserve, the highlight being not one, but two sightings of the endemic and endangered Black Harrier! We arrived at the bird hides at 08h30, timed to meet the outgoing tide that uncovers the rich mudflats of Langebaan Lagoon. Our timing was immaculate, as a carpet of wading birds soon covered the exposed substrate in front of us. Flocks of Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper dominated, but in between we picked out Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Ruff, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Common Ringed Plover, and Sanderling. Much energized after this, we headed to Abrahamskraal for freshwater birds. Much to Mel's delight, no fewer than 8 African Spoonbills were taking refuge from the growing wind, providing fantastic photographic opportunities. We also noted Yellow-billed Duck, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Cape Bunting, and Common Ostrich here. After snapping to our hearts' content, we headed north in the park towards Seeberg.
One of the highlights of the day was a group of 24 Common Ostrich. It isn't common to see so many of these birds together, but what made it even more exceptional was that every individual was a juvenile or sub-adult. There was not a parent to be seen. Seeberg Viewpoint was as beautiful as always, although the wind was somewhat overpowering by this point. We decided to retreat to the coastal town of Langebaan for a late lunch, enjoying some fare on the beach, watching the kite surfers who, unlike us, were no doubt grateful for the strong gusts. From Langebaan we returned south, stopping briefly at the Darling Hills Road to add Cape Sparrow, Pied Starling, African Stonechat, and the South African national bird, the Blue Crane.
A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Andrew de Blocq.
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., 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.