After collecting Andy from his hotel at 06h30, we made a beeline for the Kirstenbosch national botanical garden. Despite arriving well before the gates were officially opened, we were kindly allowed to enter the garden early and had the whole place to ourselves to explore.
We were greeted by the staccato calls of Karoo Prinia and the piercing song of Sombre Greenbul and had good views of the latter calling from an exposed perch. We made our way up the gently sloping lawns, heading for the Fynbos section at the top of the garden. On the way, we encountered Cape Robin-chat, Helmeted Guineafowl, Fiscal Flycatcher, the abundant Red-winged Starling and Southern Double-collared Sunbird, many of which were eclipse plumage males. The resident Spotted Eagle Owls were a highlight of our visit to the Garden and we were alerted to their presence by the loud hissing of the two chicks, one of which had sought refuge from the sun under a wooden bench. With the chicks on the ground, the adults had to be nearby and sure enough, a brief search of the surrounding vegetation yielded fantastic views of one of the parents calling softly from within a thick bush. Moving on, we had good views of a family of Cape Spurfowl, with the cryptically plumaged youngsters emulating the foraging behaviour of the adults. We located the endemic Cape Sugarbird at the very top of the garden and had great views of a male with a spectacularly long tail. Southern Boubou was seen skulking about in the undergrowth and we also encountered Swee and Common Waxbill as well as Cape and Forest Canary.
After a brief pit stop for coffee and a bite to eat, we headed to the nearby greenbelts to search for the elusive Knysna Warbler. Although we neither heard a peep nor saw a feather of any warblers, we were able to add Jackal Buzzard and Black Sparrowhawk to our list. We were also treated to an African Paradise-flycatcher sitting upon its tiny cup-shaped nest in the canopy.
Once we were satisfied with our forest birding, we pushed onwards to the Cape Point Nature Reserve stopping at Boulder's Beach along the way to pick up African Penguin. The birding at Cape Point was slow, but the views were spectacular with steep rugged cliffs plunging into the sea and the C-shaped curve of False Bay fading towards Cape Hangklip in the distance. On our way to the point, we picked out a single Common Ostrich in the fynbos. The steep, guano-crusted cliffs held hundreds of Cape Cormorants which displayed surprising aerobatic prowess for such ungainly birds as they whizzed about the sheer rock face, riding the buffeting winds at dizzying speeds. White-breasted Cormorant were dotted amongst the Cape Cormorants and Cape Gannet and Swift Tern were picked out against the waves, flying westwards to the trawling grounds with Kelp and Hartlaub's Gulls sticking closer to the cliffs. The pathways near the lighthouse yielded Cape Bunting, Cape Bulbul and on the reptile front, Cape Girdled Lizard. We also had stunning views of Cape Siskin. After chasing a small group for a short while, one individual sought refuge from the winds in a bush and remained stationary for a long time, affording us the opportunity to observe it through the scope in such detail that even the individual barbs of each feather were visible.
We took the coastal road to our final destination of the day, the Strandfontein Sewage Works. After turning off too early, we encountered a stream bordering the sewage works. This 'wrong turn' proved to be fruitful as we quickly encountered Cape Longclaw, Greater Flamingo, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Glossy Ibis and a pair of African Marsh-harrier. Entering the sewage works, we found Great Crested and Black-necked Grebe and rafts of ducks including Southern Pochard and Cape Shoveler. We also encountered smaller groups of Cape and Red-billed Teal and also a pair of petite Hottentot Teal, an uncommon bird in the southwest of its range. As the sun sank towards the horizon, we made our way to the exit and despite our haste to reach it before closing time we were able to pick up African Purple Swamphen, Reed Cormorant and Grey Heron. After a satisfying day's birding, we made our way back to Andy's hotel.
23 November 2013 - Hottentots Holland
We made an early start the following day and made our way to the other side of False Bay to track down some of the area's birds, including Cape Rockjumper. We made our way through Gordon's bay and along the coastal road. A stop at one of the viewpoints yielded excellent photographic opportunities of False Bay and Table Mountain as well sightings of Grey-backed Cisticola and Cape Sugarbird with African Penguin and Cape Fur-seal in the open water.
Orange-breasted Sunbird - male (left) and female (right)
Our next stop was the small village of Rooiels. We continued along the coastal path on foot and had good views of Cape Bunting, Yellow Bishop, Familiar Chat and the vibrantly coloured Orange-breasted Sunbird. Cape Grassbird was heard calling amongst the surrounding vegetation. The similar-sounding Victorin's Warbler was also heard, however, the calls were emanating from far upslope, almost at the base of the cliffs. We continued along the path, keeping our eyes alert to any darting, dark, rockjumper-like silhouettes amongst the boulder strewn slopes. Soon enough, we heard a loud fluty call behind us and well up on the slope and picked out a pair of Cape Rockjumpers chasing each other downslope before plunging into the thick vegetation on the coastal side of the road. As we neared the location where the Rockjumpers had disappeared, one of them, a male, darted out of the vegetation and perched on a rock not far from the road and remained there as we inched closer for increasingly good views of this absolutely beautiful fynbos endemic. Our spirit high, we strolled back toward the car, with Andy picking out a juvenile Verraux's Eagle in flight against the cliffs before it landed on a rugged perch and allowed us good scope views.
After breaking our fast in Rooiels, we continued to the Rooisand Nature Reserve on the Bot River estuary. We saw an Osprey, carrying off a fish towards the mountains, perhaps to its nest and encountered Fiscal Flycatcher and Pin-tailed Wydah along the road to the boardwalk. After parking, we continued along the boardwalk to the hide, encountering Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Kittlitz's and Three-banded Plovers and a single Ruff as well as a host of usual waterbirds including African Spoonbill.
Our next stop was Stony Point in Betty's Bay, one of two mainland-based colonies of African Penguin in South Africa (the second being Boulder's Beach which we visited the previous day). The site is also home to Cape, Bank and Crowned Cormorants, but despite scouring every single rock and cormorant multiple times, we were unable to locate any other cormorant species beside Cape and White-breasted. Despite this disappointment, we enjoyed good views of the penguins with Cape Wagtail and Rock Hyrax darting about between them. Also present were Cape Girdled Lizard and Southern Rock Agama and we had views of African Black Oystercatcher on our way back to the car park.
Our last stop for the day was the Harold Porter Botanical Garden. Recent floods had damaged the car park as well as parts of the garden and unfortunately resulted in the closure of the thickly forested Leopard Kloof. After a delicious lunch at the garden's restaurant, we set off to explore the garden, with highlights including Brimstone Canary, Black Saw-wing, Cape RockThrush, African Dusky Flycatcher and African Paradise-flycatcher. At Around 4pm, we concluded our day's birding and headed back to Cape Town International Airport.
Total species seen: 106
For a full list of species from this trip, please contact us.
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.