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Western Cape Trip Report: West Coast and Hottentot's Holland, 1 & 2 July 2010


Please click here for more information about our upcoming Cape Tours.

Itinerary: Blaauwberg, Darling, Ceres, Kouebokkeveld, Tanqua Karoo.

Number of species and higlights: 100 (98 seen) including Black Harrier, Blue Cranes, Southern Black Khorhaan, Olive Woodpeckers, Cape Rock Thrush, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Malachite Kingfishers

Mammals: Chacma Baboons, Bontebok, Steenbok, Angulate Tortoises, Rock Hyrax and whales seen in the bay

Detailed Trip Report

Day 1: West Coast

I met Terry and Robert, Canadian visitors, at their Blouberg B&B at 07h30 on the Thursday morning. We headed up the R27 West Coast road, with Pied Crows being the most common roadside bird.

Cape Sugarbird on a Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt;Hoping for Blue Crane, we turned onto the Darling Hills road, but the cranes were absent on this occasion. We continued; picking up species such as Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark, Cape Weaver (already nest-building in the reed-beds), Southern Red Bishop (all still in non-breeding plumage), a group of Wattled Starling, Speckled and White-backed Mousebirds in the same bush, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Common Fiscal, Fiscal Flycatcher and others on our way through to the Mamre-Darling road.

In Darling we stopped for an enjoyable breakfast, adding a group of Red-faced Mousebirds opposite the restaurant on our way out. Tienie Versveld was quiet, so we headed on into the WCNP. One of our first birds here was an African Hoopoe and we soon added Common Ostrich. A stop at the Abrahaamskraal hide yielded numerous new species, including bushbirds such as Karoo Scrub-Robin, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, Le Vaillant's Cisticola, Yellow and White-throated Canary and African Stonechat as well as the common waterbirds including African Shellduck. Unfortunately, African Rail and Black Crake did not put in an appearance.

We then headed up the western side of the lagoon, with good views of Black Harrier, Grey-winged Francolin and Bar-throated Apalis on the way. At the coast, a single Crowned Cormorant was seen perched on the rocks together with numbers of African Black Oystercatchers. Cape Gannet and Cape Cormorant were seen offshore as well as several small groups of terns - dark below, possibly Antarctic, but this could not be verified.

Returning down the lagoon, we dropped in at the Seeberg hide, where Three-banded and White-fronted Plovers as well as Greater Flamingo were added. The only migrant wader present was a single Common Whimbrel. A pair of Jackal Buzzards was hanging above the Seeberg view-point, and on the way down the hill we had excellent views of a pair of Southern Black Korhaan, as well as our third look at Grey-winged Francolin.
Cape Sugarbird at Rooi Els, Hottentots Holland - Day 2
We opted for tea at Geelbek instead of visiting the hide,adding
Yellow Bishop and House Sparrow which were foraging amongst the many Cape Weavers eyeing the tables for leftovers.

We returned to Blouberg with a total of 83 species for the day, the last addition being a pair of Blue Cranes flying over the R27 on the way back. (Other wildlife seen included Bontebok, Steenbok and many Angulate Tortoises along the park roads).

Day 2: Hottentots Holland

We met at the Blouberg B&B at the same time the following morning, and headed towards the N2. The weather was excellent, and we arrived at Rooi Els at about 09h00. At the turn-off from the coastal road we found Cape Sugarbirds busy at the proteas in the residents' gardens, together with a group of Chacma Baboons.

As we parked, a whale cruised by fairly close inshore. The main birding area was still in shade, and it was fairly cool and quiet, so we headed to Pringle Bay for breakfast, then returning to walk along the path. The birds had now become rather more active, and Orange-breasted Sunbird, Familiar Chat, Cape Bunting, Grey-backed Cisticola, Cape Rock Thrush and an unexpected pair of Giant Kingfishers flying by were soon added to the list. A male Cape Sugarbird perched perfectly for photographs, but strangely, Malachite Sunbirds were absent, and there was no sight (nor sound) of Cape Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker or the resident pair of Verreaux's Eagles.

Eventually, we headed on to Stoney Point, where the African Penguins, with many large chicks, were a delight in perfect weather conditions, and all four marine cormorant species were present. Amongst the cormorant and penguins were a Grey Heron and a Little Egret, as well as numerous Rock Hyrax.

At the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens there was evidence of the recent fire which has swept down right into the reserve, but we managed to add a few additional species. These included Sombre Greenbul, Olive Thrush, Cape Batis and Cape Grassbird and a pair of Olive Woodpeckers in Disa Kloof. As we returned from the kloof, a group
of baboons passed us on the bridge heading for the forest.

We returned to Cape Town with a list of 51 species for the day (the last bird being a Hamerkop along the N2 near Somerset West), and an overall tally of 100 species (98 seen + 2 heard) for the two days.

For a full list of species from this trip, please contact us.

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Otto Schmidt.

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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