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Western Cape: Hottentots Holland Trip Report - 25 January 2015

Highlights included: a large pod of Bottlenose Dolphins socialising near Gordon's Bay; extended views of Cape Rockjumper at Rooi Els; good views of Cape Sugarbird, Cape Grassbird, African Paradise-flycatcher and Orange-breasted Sunbird; and an excellent diversity of wetland birds at Strandfontein Sewage Works, including Maccoa Duck, Black-necked Grebe, African Marsh-harrier and African Reed Warbler.

Total number of species: 82


Detailed Trip Report

I met up with Doug and Judy at Lakeside and we headed east along the coast towards the Hottentots Holland mountain range. Shortly after passing Gordon's Bay we noticed some movement out at sea, which turned out to be a large pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, and we watched as a small contingent broke off to investigate a nearby paddle-boarder. At Rooi Els, we had good early sightings of Orange-breasted, Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, before picking up on a female Cape Rockjumper moving about quietly among the rocks. The fynbos above this first section of the road has had a recent burn, making many of the smaller rocks visible through the short vegetation. This makes the task of finding Rockjumpers much easier as they are normally out of sight while foraging close to the ground. We watched this female creep about before a male came roaring downslope, perching atop a large nearby boulder and allowing good scope views. Later on we picked up another pair, this time closer in. Victorin's Warbler was heard calling high upslope, tantalisingly out of reach. Other birds found here and on the way out included Grey-backed Cisticola, Rock Martin, Familiar Chat and the beautiful Cape Grassbird.

As Doug and Judy had already seen all of the coastal cormorants and African Penguin, we decided to head straight to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens before finishing the day with some wetland birding at Strandfontein. It was a hot day and birding at the botanical gardens was relatively slow, even for late summer. Nevertheless, we managed to find a few nice birds, including African Paradise Flycatcher, Cape Batis (including a pair feeding a youngster and providing great close-up views), Swee Waxbill and Black Saw-wing. A trip up towards Luiperdskloof in search of Victorin's Warblers proved fruitless, but did turn up a Southern Stiletto Snake.

Cape Sugarbirds had been remarkably thin on the ground, so to speak, and we had only managed brief and unsatisfactory views while driving, so on the way back we paid another visit to Rooi Els. Here we caught up with a male resting up in the shade of a Keurboom (Virgilia sp.), showing off his long tail and calling quietly. We also had good views of a female Fiscal Flycatcher here. On the spectacular return journey we again saw a group of Bottlenose Dolphins, likely to have been the same group from earlier, this time frolicking in the surf.

Strandfontein was packed with birds and our first stop produced Cape and Red-billed Teals, Cape Shoveller, Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard and a pair of Black-necked Grebes in their striking breeding plumage, along with a host of more common waterfowl. At pan P1 we found a few Hottentot Teals, while a Cape Longclaw mewed from the road verge, its striking orange throat standing out among the dry, hay-yellow grass. Greater Flamingos were in super-abundance along with a good number of Pied Avocet and noisy Black-winged Stilt, and a few Great White Pelicans sailed serenely overhead. Aerial masters abounded, including Brown-throated Martin (both white- and dark-bellied forms) and Black and White-rumped Swifts, picked out among the masses of Barn Swallows. A single African Marsh-harrier was seen uncharacteristically soaring very high, while later on another pair passed by us in more typical harrier fashion. Levaillant's and Zitting Cisticolas called and displayed actively as the day began finally to cool down.

On the way out we found a pair of Brimstone Canaries, and spent time searching for three species of warbler, all calling actively but none particularly willing to come out of cover. In the end we only managed good views of African Reed-warbler, the most active of the three, and also the least likely to sit still for more than a second. Overall it was a typically slow day for this time of year, but patience and persistence paid off as we managed to find a good number of species, including a few of the Hottentots Holland's specials.

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.



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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