I met Paul and Kathy at their Camps Bay accommodation at 07h00 on Wednesday, 7th January 2015 for a birding day trip up the West Coast. Whilst waiting for them outside, a number of species were spotted in the surrounding gardens, and we soon ticked off Cape Sugarbird, Cape White-eye, Cape Bulbul, Red-winged Starling, Speckled Pigeon and Red-eyed Dove whilst a Klaas's Cuckoo could be heard calling nearby.
Our first stop was near the Mouille Point Lighthouse. Swift, Sandwich and Common terns were present in the small tern roost together with the two resident gull species, with a single Common Ringed Plover present amongst the rock pools. At the Milnerton lagoon we had three Pied Kingfishers before we reached the R27 and spotted our first of many migrant Steppe Buzzards. Later we added Yellow-billed Kite and on the short detour down to Grotto Bay a sub-adult Jackal Buzzard and a Rock Kestrel further boosted the number of raptors. Spotted Thick-knees were present alongside the road and Barn and White-throated Swallows were hunting, but otherwise the area was very dry and there were no birds offshore.
We crossed the R27 and headed up the Darling Hills Road where we had good views of a pair of Blue Cranes with a half-grown chick before a flock of 20+ majestic Blue Cranes flew low overhead calling before settling at the dam next to the road. We continued for a short distance along the road and added Capped Wheatear, African Pipit, Southern Red Bishops (in non-breeding plumage) and Pearl-breasted Swallows. Amongst the many Barn Swallows on the overhead wires and along the fence-line we noted a pair of Banded Martins and a Greater Striped Swallow. The farmlands were very dry and it was rapidly warming up so we turned back towards the R27. Strangely, there were no Pied Starlings about.
Entering the West Coast National Park we headed up the western side towards the coast at Tsaarsbank. The first Karoo Scrub-Robin appeared, and this was to be the most common bush-bird for the rest of the day. The picnic area at Kraalbaai was packed with holiday-makers, but it was less busy at the coast. Cape Cormorants were flying off the coast, with enormous numbers visible some distance out at what was presumably a shoal of fish near the surface. Strangely, there was no sign of any Cape Gannets. A few Crowned Cormorants were sitting on the rocks as were several pairs of African Black Oystercatchers. Otherwise it was quiet, so we headed south to the Abrahamskraal waterhole. Here the expected species were in attendance with numbers of Yellow-billed Duck and Cape Shoveler on the water and the usual Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen and Little Grebe about, but there was no sign of Black Crake or African Rail. A non-avian highlight however was the arrival of a herd of over 20 Eland which drank at the far end of the pans, disturbing the African Sacred Ibis and African Spoonbill which were roosting there. Over time several additional eland arrived, so that between 30 and 40 of these impressive animals were present around the waterhole, possibly a testimony to the hot and dry conditions.
A herd of 20+ Eland came down to the water's edge during the heat of the day.
After Abrahamskraal we stopped for lunch at Geelbek, most enjoyable out of the sun. We then continued north, heading up the Seeberg Hill hoping for Southern Black Korhaan, but there was no sign of these birds. Continuing down towards the Seeberg hide, a few bush-birds including Acacia Pied Barbet, Bokmakierie, White-backed Mousebird, Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds made their appearance. The tide was coming in, and numbers of waders, terns and Greater and Lesser Flamingoes were present, but most of the birds were some distance north or south of the hide. The terns were mostly Common, but two Caspian Terns were spotted amongst them. Migrant wader species included Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover and Sanderling, with both resident White-fronted and Kittlitz's Plovers also about, both in front of and behind the hide where the pans were completely dry.
At about 16h30 we left Seeberg and started our return journey, having unfortunately not sighted Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan or Grey-winged Francolin, three of the "iconic" species for the park. This was likely due to the very hot and dry conditions. It had been a quiet day, but an enjoyable one despite the heat with a total bird species list of 85 (including three species 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 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.