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Western Cape: Hottentots Holland Trip Report - 25 June 2015

Highlights included: dramatic coastal scenery; great sightings of Cape Rockjumper, Cape Grassbird and Cape Siskin; and African Penguin and all four species of coastal Cormorants actively breeding at Stoney Point.

Total number of species: 47


Detailed Trip Report

I picked Stephen up near the V&A Waterfront and we headed east out of Cape Town, to where dark rainclouds hung ominously over the mountains of the Hottentots Holland. Our first stop was the small holiday town of Rooi Els, where we were greeted by heavy rain. However, some patient minutes later it abated, and we ventured tentatively from the car to see what was about. A pair of Familiar Chat greeted us in their confident manner, while a pair of Cape Rock-thrush called stridently from the roofs of the nearby houses. Other birds present were Cape Bunting, Karoo Prinia and both Southern Double-collared and Orange-breasted Sunbirds.

To the south we could see another squall approaching, so we hurried towards where we might find Cape Rockjumper, whereupon we stopped to admire the dramatic scenery conjured by the elements: An enormous rainbow seemed to plunge directly into the grey-blue ocean, while a single shard of light pierced the sky, brilliantly illuminating a small piece of coastline to transform an otherwise gloomy landscape. Then, as we turned back towards the mountain, a dark shape suddenly materialised on a nearby rock - a stunning male Cape Rockjumper. We watched him (as well as a pair of Klipspringer ascending the slope some distance away) for as long as we dared, which turned out to be too long, as we were fairly drenched by the next wave of rain on our retreat to the car.

The weather was to continue this pattern throughout the morning, and so we headed to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens where we could break for coffee during bouts of bad weather. Good birds here included a flock of Swee Waxbills bouncing along the lawns; confiding Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Robin-chat, Streaky-headed Seed-eater and Cape Batis; not-so-confiding Sombre Greenbul; Cape Sugarbird in breeding mode; a group of Speckled Mousebirds sunning themselves in their characteristic lounging posture (feet up, tummy out, chin tucked); Victorin's Warbler, heard but not seen as is so often the case; a beautiful pair of Cape Grassbirds calling to each other; Jackal Buzzard cruising along the cliffs of Luiperdskloof; and best of all, an unbelievably bold group of Cape Siskins, whose understated beauty was accentuated by the even, cloud-filtered light.

After lunch we moved on to Stoney Point, site of one of only two mainland African Penguin breeding colonies. On the way in through Betty's Bay we picked up Cape Spurfowl and Black-shouldered Kite at the roadside. At the colony, many pairs of Penguins had young in the nest, and we had the charming sight of a chick peeking timidly out from underneath its parent. We noted the earnest and somewhat melancholy way in which these odd birds seem to go about their business, lying in stark contrast to that of the Cormorants - White-breasted, Cape, Crowned and Bank - which also breed here. The breeding season was also in full swing for these birds, with most individuals in fresh, glossy breeding plumage. They alternately busied themselves with displaying noisily, tending to their young, and pretending to ignore the presence of a Grey Heron, which stalked about the colony with murder on its mind. All the while a loose group of Rock Hyrax lounged about in a state of near-torpor, seemingly oblivious to the goings-on of their avian neighbours. All in all, we had an enjoyable day out which included a number of memorable sightings.

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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