Cape: West Coast Trip Report - 12 October 2015
Bird Highlights: Female Southern Black Korhaan with chick, Black Harrier, Karoo Lark, Grey-winged Francolin, Sunbirds, African Black Oystercatcher, Bar-throated Apalis, Yellow and Southern Red Bishops in full breeding plumage, a Southern Giant Petrel, Cape Bunting, Karoo Prinia and more
Number of bird species: 87 species seen (3 heard only) only birding inside the park
I met Weine and his son Herman in Langebaan and we entered the West Coast National Park for a birding day trip just before 8am on Monday, 12 October 2015.
Although the tide was very low for a visit to the Seeberg hide at that time of the morning, we took the road down to the hide car-park for some bush birding and were soon rewarded with a flying and displaying Karoo Lark which gave us several excellent views. Whilst watching the lark we also spotted a single Red-faced and soon afterwards several White-backed Mousebirds as well as other species including Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Prinia, Karoo Scrub-Robin and Bar-throated Apalis. A pair of Bokmakieries was heard proving a bit elusive at this time, but they would be seen well later in the day. Both Cape Spurfowl and Grey-winged Francolin were also present along this productive piece of road.
We then drove up Seeberg hill hoping for Southern Black Korhaan, but this was not seen or heard. At the top of the hill the south-easter was quite strong and the chilly conditions kept the birds away, although a hovering Rock Kestrel was noted.
We headed south past Geelbek and up the western side of the lagoon, stopping at Kraalbaai where we added species such a Pied Starling, Cape Bunting and Banded Martin. There was little activity at the coast, but individual Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants were about, groups of Cape Cormorants were flying offshore as were Cape Gannets and a single Southern Giant Petrel was briefly seen. African Black Oystercatchers were numerous as always.
Returning down the lagoon, we added Eland, Kudu and Steenbok to the mammal list, had our first snake of the day - a large Molesnake - crossing the road and dodged many Angulate Tortoises active at the roadside. Yellow-billed Kites were numerous (as were Pied Crows throughout the day) and Black-shouldered Kite was eventually also seen.
We then spent some time at the Abrahaamskraal hide, where, both Yellow and White-throated , were coming in to drink together with several other species. A Long-billed Crombec was spotted in the surrounding bushes, an African Marsh-Harrier flew in and disappeared into the reed-bed, presumably to a nest as it was not seen again, and a number of African Spoonbills flew in to roost at the far end of the pan. The White-throated Swallows were incubating eggs in their nest inside the hide. Cape Weavers were busy nest-building in the reeds, both male Yellow and Southern Red Bishops in full breeding colour were seen, and both Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers were quite vocal but difficult to spot. On the water were the normal species such as Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe and Cape Shoveler. Outside the hide, the 'suurvy' (Carpobrotus edulis) patches along the boardwalk were in full flower and proving a very popular food source for a number of Southern Double-collared Sunbirds.
Southern Double-collared Sunbird
From Abrahaamskraal we headed for lunch at Geelbek and its resident weavers and then walked down towards the lagoon from the restaurant. The tide was fairly high and a large group of Greater Flamingos was present with a small number of Lesser Flamingos amongst them. Also present were waders such as Pied Avocet, Common Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Kittlitz's, Marsh and Curlew Sandpipers. In the avenue of eucalyptus trees the Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds were enjoying the trees' blossoms, and an African Hoopoe was spotted as we drove out. A perched and calling Karoo Lark right beside the road was an unexpected sighting at this time of the early afternoon.
Heading back towards Seeberg we had our first Korhaan, a male flying up and displaying after being flushed by a motorist ahead of us, and on Seeberg hill we encountered a female with a half-grown chick. By now the chilly southeaster had dropped, making for a pleasant sunny afternoon.
A female Southern Black Korhaan and her chick below
At Seeberg hide the tide was quite high and the roosting terns were mainly Common Terns, but with a few Sandwich and a single Swift and Caspian also present. Waders added were White-fronted and Common Ringed Plovers, Common Greenshank, Red Knot, Sanderling and Little Stint. The pair of White-throated Swallows was actively entering the hide where their nest seemed to contain small chicks. Behind the hide a pair of hunting Black Harriers gave great views, a bonus after the very brief sighting of a single bird we had had earlier in the day.
We slowly returned to Langebaan, ending the day shortly after 18h00 with a total species count of 87 (3 of these heard only), a good total given that we had only birded inside the park.
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