Western Cape: West Coast Trip Report - 17 October 2014
Highlight bird species:Black Harrier, Blue Crane, Booted Eagle, Southern Black Korhaan, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Cape Spurfowl, Karoo Lark plus a variety of waders at the lagoon.
After collecting Mike from his hotel in the city centre at 06:30, we made our way north along the coastal road with the aim of photographing as many of the region's endemics and strandveld specials as possible. We made our first stop at one of the small wetlands in the Rietvlei area near Milnerton and were greeted by the calls of typical wetland denizens including Lesser Swamp Warbler and Levaillant's Cisticola, with the latter offering excellent photographic opportunities in the soft, early-morning light. Other highlights included our first Cape Spurfowl of the day, Great Crested Grebe, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis and a Peregrine Falcon with prey, likely the same bird that has been seen in the vicinity on other recent trips.
Moving on, we left the city with dense stands of invasive Port Jackson (Acacia salignum) giving way to the low, scrubby strandveld vegetation typical of the west coast. Our next stop, just beyond Koeberg Nature Reserve, provided our first opportunity for some strandveld birding. Our approach was watched from above by a Rock Kestrel perched on top of a roadside telegraph pole and we quickly picked up Cape Bulbul, Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Scrub Robin and Southern Double-collared Sunbird, all the while accompanied by the staccato calls of Karoo Prinia, loudly proclaiming their territories amongst the scrub. At a more open patch, we were lucky enough to witness some sort of dispute between three male Malachite Sunbirds which took little notice of us as each of them tried to oust the others from their perches.
En route to our next stop, we were surprised by an adult Black Harrier quartering low over the grassy road-verge vegetation mere metres from our vehicle. The lack of significant traffic allowed us to slow down, keeping the harrier level with the vehicle, and we were even able to do a U-turn and follow it as it switched to the opposite road-verge and continued in the opposite direction. Although photographing birds in flight from a moving vehicle is no easy task, Mike still managed to get some quality shots before the harrier abandoned the road-verge for the taller vegetation beyond the fence.
The Darling farmlands held many flocks of Cape Sparrow and Pied Starling as well as our first views of White-backed Mousebird. Southern Black Korhaan and Cape Clapper Lark were both heard calling although they remained frustratingly distant. Further along, we had many Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark and African Pipit and the fields also held many Blue Cranes, with one particular pair allowing us to approach quite closely and even prancing for the camera. Continuing along the road, we picked up large numbers of European Bee-eater, numerous Cape Weavers, Cape Canary, Pearl-breasted Swallow, Black Saw-wing Swallow, Greater Striped Swallow and Little Swift.
Entering the West Coast National Park, we were treated to a pale form Booted Eagle soaring above us. We made our way northwards along the western sector of the park, heading for our first stop in the park, the Seeberg bird hide. Along the way, we had good views of White-backed Mousebird and encountered many Cape Bulbul and Karoo Scrub Robin. Approaching the hide along the boardwalk, we had White-fronted Plover sharing the small salt pan with Kittlitz's Plover. From the hide we had Lesser and Greater Flamingoes, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Little stint and Common, Little, Arctic and Caspian Terns.
On our way back towards Geelbek, we had close views of a male Southern Black Korhaan skulking around in the roadside vegetation. After lunch, we made our way to the Geelbek hide to intercept the receding tide and were greeted by the usual host of waders, quickly adding Eurasian Curlew and Ruddy Turnstone to our list. Although we'd timed our visit perfectly with respect to the tide, the lighting was another story and we soon moved on to the western sector of the park in search more of our target species. The vegetation covering the sandy slopes on the Atlantic side of the park yielded good views of Cape Grassbird as well as a very obliging Karoo Lark perched atop a low scrubby bush and calling in the afternoon sunlight. A quick stop at the small wetland at Abrahamskraal allowed us to add Cape Shoveller, Cape Teal and a pair of South African Shelduck.
We decided to leave the park through the northern exit, and were alerted to the presence of a group of Cape Penduline-tits by their high-pitched calls. Leaving the vehicle, we were treated to fantastic views of these tiny birds as they flew back and forth across the road. We left the park at around 7pm, just before closing time and made our way back to Cape Town after a very satisfying day's birding.
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.
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.
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 small hotels.
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.