Cape: West Coast Trip Report - 01 October 2015
Bird Highlights: Blue Crane, African Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Bokmakierie, Large-billed Lark, Southern Giant Petrel, African Black Oystercatcher, Cape Bunting, Sunbirds and close up views of a Caracal.
I met Stephen Patmore at 7am outside Kirstenbosch from where we headed out of town for a West Coast birding day trip. It was a glorious sunny and calm morning after the wet weather of the previous day.
A brief stop at the wetland at the Atlantic Beach intersection on the R27 yielded Southern Red Bishop and Cape Weaver, with Little and White-rumped Swifts overhead. Jackal Buzzard, Black-shouldered and Yellow-billed Kites, Rock Kestrel and the ever-present Pied Crows were added before we turned down the road to the coast at Grotto Bay. Here we had Cape Spurfowl and Grey-winged Francolin, Bokmakierie showed nicely and the car-park produced Grey-backed Cisticola and several confiding Karoo Scrub-Robins. Overhead were Rock Martin and Greater Striped Swallows, and the rocks below had Cape, Crowned and two Bank cormorants.
Crossing the R27 and heading up the Darling Hills Road, we almost immediately had excellent views of a calling male Southern Black Korhaan, three Blue Cranes were present in the field below the dam and the roadside poles were alive with European Bee-eaters. Capped Wheatear, Pied Starling, Red-capped Lark, Banded Martin and African Marsh Harrier were added amongst others, and the dam contained Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Red-billed Teal, Spur-winged and Egyptian Goose, but unfortunately no SA Shelduck.
Our next stop was the Tienie Versveld Wildflower Reserve where the midges were a bit of a nuisance and the reserve was very dry, but we soon added Cloud Cisticola, Yellow Bishop and Cape Longclaw with excellent Views of a Large-billed Lark on a roadside pole as we left.
Once in the West Coast National Park we drove down to the Ahrahamskraal waterhole where we were very surprised to find a group of visitors from 3 VW Kombis at the far end of the waterhole, some actually in the water with hand-held nets. There was little birding activity at the water-hole, but both Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers were calling, Cape Weavers were building nests in the reed-beds and the White-throated Swallows were again breeding in the hide. Pearl-breasted Swallows were passing over to drink from the water’s surface.
Continuing up the western side of the reserve, we picked up White-throated Canary (feeding a chick) near Kraalbaai picnic site, and a stop just before the picnic-site for Cape Bunting also added Bar-throated Apalis, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler and Grey Tit.
At Tsaarsbank groups of Cape Gannet were seen flying offshore, and two Southern Giant Petrels were skimming low over the large swells closer inshore. African Black Oystercatchers were numerous on the rocks.
We returned towards Geelbek and had a good extended view of our first Black Harrier hunting over the coastal fynbos. After lunch at Geelbek in the company of the nest-building Cape Weavers, we walked down to the hide below the restaurant and added Lesser Flamingo and a few waders such as Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. The eucalyptus trees on the Geelbek approach road contained numerous Lesser Double-collared and Malachite Sunbirds and a pair of Southern Grey-headed Sparrows was nesting in an old woodpecker hole.
Two further Black Harriers were observed on the drive up to Seeberg where the tide was fairly high in front of the hide and there were no migrant waders present, but we added White-fronted and Kittlitz's Plovers as well as Swift, Sandwich, Common and Caspian Terns.
By now it had become overcast, slightly windy and quite cool, so we turned back south and re-visited the Abrahamskraal hide. Unfortunately there was no sign of either Black Crake or African Rail, but two African Spoonbills had reclaimed their roosting-site from the picnickers and a male Southern Black Korhaan was showing well near the parking area.
At about 17h30 we decided to head for the exit, but the day's main highlight still awaited us. As we crested a rise on the exit road, we found a Caracal ambling down the tarred road ahead of us. We watched it for some time until another car passed us, stopped briefly where the Caracal had left the road and continued. To our surprise, the Caracal reappeared and continued down the tarred road for some time before it eventually turned off onto a sand track. Admittedly this was a birding trip, but our extended sighting of such a rarely encountered mammal certainly equalled or surpassed all the good bird sightings for the day.
We returned to the Newlands area at about 19h15 with a total species list of 113 for the day - one of which (Cape Grassbird) was heard only.
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
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
Only a low level of fitness is required.
Throughout the year.
Moderate; can be warm in summer and chilly in winter.
A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and
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
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have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the
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We've even written two acclaimed guide
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