Highlights: No fewer than nine Cape Rockjumpers at Rooi Els with a supporting cast of Cape Siskin, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, five species of Cormorant and a stunning Peregrine Falcon on the Hottentot's Holland leg. On the Peninsula, Maccoa Duck, Black-necked Grebe, African Marsh-harrier, African Goshawk and a Spotted Eagle-owl on the nest were the main attractions. The trip concluded on the West Coast with fantastic sightings of Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Penduline Tit and Grey-winged Francolin.
Number of species seen over the three days: 149
Detailed Trip Report
Hottentot's Holland - 22 October 2014
I picked up Premkumar and Jonas from their respective accommodations near Greenpoint and we headed out east. The first highlight of the day came shortly after turning towards Gordon's Bay when a Hamerkop flew over the road ahead of us. We jumped out of the car but the bird had already disappeared behind a large stand of pines and could not be relocated. While searching we picked up Greater Striped Swallow, Reed Cormorant and Cape Canary.
At Rooi Els we stopped by the roadside in town to watch and photograph a group of Rock Hyrax and also found Cape Grassbird, Cape Sugarbird and Brimstone Canary. Moving on we soon found a group of Cape Rockjumper and were able to observe the pair with young in tow at close quarters, thanks to the relatively recent fire that meant the vegetation was very open. Soon another pair began calling further upslope, and as the morning drew on it became clear that this was a day for Rockjumpers, with no fewer than nine individuals seen in total, often from extremely close range! Other good birds here included Cape Siskin, Cape Rock-thrush, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Grey-backed Cisticola.
We headed over to Stoney Point's African Penguin colony which included individuals in all stages of life and moult, as well as Cape, White-breasted, Crowned and Bank Cormorants all breeding in close proximity to one another. After lunch we spent the rest of the day exploring the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens. A Giant Kingfisher caused some excitement on two occasions with rapid fly-bys but attempts to track it down for better views proved fruitless. The lawns were good for seed eaters, including an obliging pair of Cape Siskin as well as Common and Swee Waxbills. We managed good views of vocal African Paradise-flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Robin-chat and Cape Batis. There was more excitement in the form of a female Amethyst Sunbird before a Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk suddenly appeared soaring low above us. A group of Black Saw-wing also formed part of the aerial contingent. The day ended with a beautiful Peregrine Falcon that flew past twice as we were getting ready to leave.
Cape Peninsula - 23 October 2014
An early start to the day saw Melissa, Candice, Premkumar and myself headed for Strandfontein, the Peninsula's premier wetland birding site. Our first stop provided a number of waterfowl, including Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard and Little, Great Crested and Black-necked Grebes. The reeds lining the pans provided African Purple Swamphen, Black Crake, Black-crowned Night-heron, Levaillant's Cisticola and Little Rush Warbler. A big surprise was an Acacia Pied Barbet flying over the pans, a very unusual bird for the Peninsula these days. A large sand bank held Swift, Caspian and Sandwich Terns, as well as a single Grey-headed Gull. The same pan had a vast gathering of Greater Flamingo, among which we picked out a single Lesser Flamingo. Also present here were Pied Avocet and a pair of White-throated Swallow feeding young. An African Marsh-harrier harried past, while an obliging Cape Longclaw foraged at the roadside. Further on we stopped to watch a number of Great White Pelican pass overhead and were lucky to find a male Maccoa Duck feeding nearby. On the way out a Cape Cobra crossing the road ahead of us provided some excitement.
We headed off to the Boulder's Beach African Penguin colony, and had great views of these comical birds, including hearing their strange braying calls. Also here were African Black Oystercatcher and Speckled Mousebird. We then made our way to Kirstenbosch, where the gardens were unusually quiet. We did, however, manage a few good sightings, including Swee and Common Waxbills, Brimstone Canary, and some of the gardens' more conspicuous denizens such as Cape Robin-chat, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and African Dusky Flycatcher. We had some luck with raptors, with soaring Jackal and Steppe Buzzards as well as an overflying African Goshawk. The highlight here was seeing the long-time resident pair of Spotted Eagle Owls nesting right next to the path. A walk down the 'Boomslang', the new aerial boardwalk, brought an end to an enjoyable day's birding.
Southern Double-collared Sunbird
West Coast - 24 October 2014
Jonas, Premkumar and I headed north under clear skies for the final day, a trip up the West Coast in search of Strandveld specials. We had a great start with a Jackal Buzzard followed by a Booted Eagle seen well from the road on the drive up. We headed straight for the West Coast National Park, where almost the first bird we had was a Black Harrier that flushed from the roadside and provided good views. We had a number of good sightings of this striking raptor throughout the day. Regular roadside stops provided Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Red-faced and White-backed Mousebirds, Karoo Scrub-robin, Yellow Canary and Namaqua Dove. At the Seeberg viewpoint we watched the Rock Martins, White-rumped Swifts and Yellow-billed Kites enjoying the stiff breeze and passing by at close range. A movement caught our attention and turned out to be a male Southern Black Korhaan slinking about on the grassy hilltop.
Moving on, we found a small covey of Grey-winged Francolin scratching around in the shadow of a small bush. While watching them we picked up a pair of Cape Penduline Tit foraging nearby. At the Seeberg hide we found a number of waders, including Kittlitz's and White-fronted Plovers (the former with tiny chocks in tow), Greenshank, Common Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Curlew Sandpiper and a single Red Knot. After lunch at Geelbek we scoured the line of Eucalyptus trees at the roadside, but the windy conditions seemed to have silenced most birds. Fortunately a number of brilliant male Malachite Sunbirds were undeterred, and put on a great show as they chased each other about, showing off their yellow epaulettes.
Leaving the park we made our way to the Darling Hills road where immediately another Southern Black Korhaan greeted us at the roadside. The wheat fields held a pair of Blue Crane, displaying Capped Wheatear, and Red-capped Larks in abundance. A number of European Bee-eaters twittered overhead. Among a large group of foraging Cape Weavers was a beautiful male Diderick Cuckoo, and a group of Pearl-breasted Swallows frolicked nearby. A Spotted Dikkop put in a brief appearance, before a stop at a roadside stand of reeds provided a number of good birds, including Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers and all three species of Mousebird in close proximity. A handsome pair of Bokmakierie basked in the evening light. On the run in to Cape Town a Peregrine Falcon flew alongside us in the twilight, and three days of rewarding birding drew to a close.
A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Seth Musker.
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.