Western Cape: Overberg & De Hoop Trip Report - 29 & 30 October 2015
Highlights included: Victorin's Warbler, Acacia Pied Barbet, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Cape Vulture, Southern Black Korhaan and Denham's Bustard on day 1, and Southern Tchagra, Knysna and Olive Woodpeckers, a pair of nesting Spotted Eagle-Owls, and best of all, cracking views of the super-elusive Hottentot Buttonquail.
Day 1 - Thursday 29 October
Carla, Lenny and I began the day at Sir Lowry's Pass, where we ascended into thick cloud and a stiff breeze. Our main target was Victorin's Warbler, and before long one we found one calling from next to the road, and managed good looks, though photographing the bird proved more of a challenge! The birding was otherwise slow, and so we moved on to the Overberg, where a couple of stops along Acacia-lined riverbeds turned up Pin-tailed Whydah, Diederick Cuckoo, Levaillant's and Grey-backed Cisticolas in close proximity, the beautiful Bokmakierie, decent looks at a Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, and great views of a calling Acacia Pied Barbet.
After lunch we stopped in at a small wetland which had a calling African Reed Warbler that eventually showed itself. The drive south continued to produce good birds, with Large-billed, Red-capped and Agulhas Long-billed Larks; a bold Karoo Scrub-Robin; a few raptors including Jackal Buzzard, Pale Chanting Goshawk, and an immature Cape Vulture perched by the roadside. Just before reaching de Hoop we heard a pair of Karoo Korhaan calling but somehow couldn't spot them, but this was made up for when just around the corner a calling male Southern Black Korhaan gave excellent scope views.
We ended the day with an overflying Denham's Bustard as we approached our accommodation in the De Hoop Nature Reserve.
Day 2 - Friday 30 October
We started the morning early, braving unfavourable wet weather. However, the birding was excellent. Knysna Woodpeckers were calling actively around the chalets, and after much patient waiting we managed superb close-up views of a calling male. The other real specialty of this coastal scrub, Southern Tchagra, proved much easier to track down as it called from nearby. Other good birds here were White-throated Canary, Water Thick-knee, Great Crested Grebe and Black-crowned Night-Heron.
Despite our early success, the supreme highlight of the trip was still to come. On our way out of the reserve, a sudden slam on the breaks was warranted when a pair of small quail-type birds were seen on the road ahead disappearing into the Restioid Fynbos. There could be no doubt as to their identity - the super-elusive Hottentot Buttonquail! We jumped out of the car in hot pursuit. A shout of "there it is!" had the three of us circling a somewhat isolated clump of shrubs. A few tense moments passed, before, to our amazement, we heard a Buttonquail calling not ten metres away from us. We attempted to flush the birds by wandering about in the area, but eventually decided to concede defeat. In the excitement I had overlooked some displaying Cape Clapper Larks further from the road, so we decided to walk a bit further to get a better look. To our complete astonishment, it turned out the Buttonquails had been hunkering down just a few metres away from us! One bird flushed as we began moving, but the other stayed put, crouching low, allowing brilliant, prolonged looks before eventually flushing too - but not before Carla had managed to take a few photographs with her point-and-shoot!
The euphoria of this moment meant that, in spite of the damp weather, we continued birding with decidedly un-dampened spirits. Truly, though, the birding was slow. Another flying Denham's Bustard had us braving the elements, but there was little else worth noting besides a nice African Stonechat (a species that appears to be declining in the Cape) and a flock of cute Common Waxbills.
After an excellent lunch in Bredasdorp, we decided to stop in at the little town of Stanford, where the hide had a pair of Pied Kingfishers. A walk along the Wandelpad turned up a few Swee Waxbills, a single female Klaas's Cuckoo - less striking though far less frequently seen than the male - and the resident pair of Spotted Eagle-Owls, one of which appeared to be sitting on a nest. The day ended when a male Olive Woodpecker flew past and showed nicely on some bare branches, adding a nice symmetry to a brilliant day's birding.
A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Seth Musker.
For a full list of species from this trip, please
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