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Western 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.

Number of bird species: 113 species


Detailed Trip Report

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.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Otto Schmidt.

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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