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Western Cape: West Coast & Cape Peninsula Trip Report - 11 & 13 February 2014

Highlight bird species: Juvenile Martial Eagle, Southern Black Korhaan, Blue Crane, African Black Oystercatcher, Crowned Cormorant, Bokmakierie, Maccoa Duck, Pectoral Sandpiper, Spotted Eagle Owl, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Longclaw, African Penguin, Grey-headed Gull and many more...

Total number of Species: 134

Cape Longclaw © Otto Schmidt
Cape Longclaw

Detailed Trip Report

Day 1 - 11 February - West Coast

I collected British birding couple, Ian and Sue, from their Cape Town accommodation at 06h30. Our first stop was at the Milnerton lagoon, where a pair of active Pied Kingfishers, Swift and Common terns, Little Egret and several other waterbird species got the day off to a good start in fine, sunny weather conditions.

Swift Terns © Otto Schmidt
Swift Terns

We headed up the coast road, then onto the R27 where we were soon getting regular sightings of Steppe Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite. A short detour down the Grotto Bay road added a number of Spotted Thick-knees, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Cape Sparrow and Grey-backed Cisticola, but there was nothing visible out at sea. Another detour along the Darling Hills Road gave good views of a pair of Blue Crane with two large chicks, a quartet of Rock Kestrels - the first of many for the day, and species such as Capped Wheatear and Pied Starling.

After a brunch stop, we entered the West Coast National Park and drove up the western side to Tsaarsbank. A single Cape Gannet was spotted at sea, but the coastline produced African Black Oystercatcher, Crowned Cormorant and Ruddy Turnstone amongst others, with brief sightings of Black Harrier on the way there and back.

As the tide was wrong for the Geelbek hides, we continued to Seeberg where the tide was high. Unfortunately, the tern roost was out of sight down the beach, and initially there were very few birds in front of the hide other than a group of Greater, plus two Lesser Flamingos. However, after a while a large group of several hundred Bar-tailed Godwit flew in, with a few Red Knot and some smaller waders such as Sanderling mixed in.

Bar-tailed Godwits © Otto Schmidt
Bar-tailed Godwits

Behind the hide numerous White-fronted and Kittlitz's Plovers were roosting together with Curlew Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover and Little Stint. White-throated Swallows, which breed in the hide, perched at close quarters outside. Occasionally single birds or small groups of terns would fly past, and a Little Tern gave good views as it dived for prey in front of the hide. Eventually, when the water level was at its highest, the waders headed off and we returned up the boardwalk.

At the car park we had good views of a pair of Bokmakierie, and driving up to the Seeberg view-point, we encountered a female Southern Black Korhaan with an almost full-grown youngster. Heading back to Geelbek, we picked up White-throated Canary and added African Hoopoe on the lawns. After a refreshment break we spotted an African Marsh Harrier, and an Osprey was seen landing on one of the nearby telephone poles before we travelled down to Abrahaamskraal. Here we spotted the day's highlight, a juvenile Martial Eagle which was initially at the water's edge, then flew a short distance to land on the ground before soaring upwards with a couple of Black-shouldered Kites in attendance. From inside the hide, the usual birds were about, with young Black Crake of two ages feeding along the far edge, but there was no sign of African Rail.

We eventually had to leave the hide and head back to Cape Town, arriving back at the hotel around 19h30 with a day list of 87 species.

Day 2 - 13 February - Cape Peninsula

We headed out at 06h30 on a breezy and cloudy morning. Our first stop was at the Philippi Wetlands, now almost dry. The number of waterbirds was greatly reduced, apart from numerous Blacksmith Lapwing, and there was no sign of the recently reported Greater Painted Snipe. We did add species such as Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow and Brimstone Canaries and others before heading on to Strandfontein Sewage Works.

Purple Swamphen © Otto Schmidt
Purple Swamphen

Here the wind made for dusty birding, but we soon added numerous ducks such as Southern Pochard, Maccoa, Cape and Red-billed Teal and Spur-winged Goose. South African Shelduck and Hottentot Teal were also added later, as were the expected Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Purple Swamphen and others. Groups of waders such as Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Common Ringed Plover and Little Stint were about, and we were very fortunate to spot the Pectoral Sandpiper amongst clods of mud where clearing of alien vegetation from one of the pans was being carried out.

Pectoral Sandpiper © Otto Schmidt
Pectoral Sandpiper

Bush birds included Cape Longclaw and African Pipit and we had good views of the resident pair of Spotted Eagle Owls in the dunes. Nearby, numerous Barn Swallows and Brown-throated Martins were sheltering from the strong wind. A non-breeding Grey-headed Gull was spotted amongst the Hartlaub's on one of the pans. Raptors were totally absent.

From here we headed for lunch in Muizenberg after a detour via Zandvlei, and we then continued for good views of the African Penguins at Boulders Beach. Here, small numbers of Cape Gannet were flying south. We continued down the Peninsula, adding Cape Sugarbird and Familiar Chat at Miller's Point. Then on to Kommetjie, where good numbers of Swift Tern appeared to be getting ready for the breeding season, with occasional mating taking place and individual birds bringing fish for their partners. Some Sandwich Terns were also about. The weather was now rather more sunny but still quite windy.


Swee Waxbill © Otto Schmidt
Swee Waxbill (female)

Our last stop was at the famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, where it was again cloudy and cooler due to the 'black southeaster' gathering clouds up against the back of Table Mountain. We strolled through the gardens and Sombre Greenbul was soon added. Additional species included Olive Thrush, Orange-breasted Sunbird, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black Sawwing and excellent views of a group of Swee Waxbills. The pair of Spotted Eagle Owl was present in the Dell.

At about 18h15 we returned to Cape Town taking the Hout Bay route to avoid the traffic build-up and road closures into Cape Town for the opening of Parliament. We arrived back at Ian and Sue's accomodation at about 19h00 with a day list of 97 species seen (and two heard only).

This gave us a combined total of 184 species seen over 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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