Itinerary: We visited key birding sites in the
Western Cape: West Coast National Park and Hottentots Holland.
Total number of species seen: 161!
To see particiapant John Malloy's
taken on this day trip, please scroll down and click here,
(Hottentots Holland) and here
For more information about our upcoming
Cape Tours, please click here.
Cape Sugarbird on a day trip with Birding Africa © Alastair
Birding from the hide in West Coast National Park © John Malloy
Yellow Bishop © John Malloy
Common Fiscal © John Malloy
African Penguin © Alastair Kilpin
Cape Girdled Lizard © Alastair Kilpin
Orange-breasted Sunbirdon a day trip with Birding Africa ©
West Coast National Park © John Malloy
Hottentots Holland © John Malloy
19 January 2012 - West Coast
After a massive heatwave during the week we were
looking forward to some slightly cooler temperatures aided by some
coastal fog along the Cape West Coast…and this we thankfully
The wind also played along and we had a cracking start outside the
town of Melkbosstrand – the neat little wetland held some
good birds in two African Purple Swamphen, two Black-crowned Night
Heron, Little Grebe, Purple Heron and one Hottentot Teal amongst
others. The bush around the pan was noisy with non-breeding Southern
Red Bishops, young Bokmakierie, White-throated Swallow and two Black-shouldered
Kite perched in perfect view with the subadult bird gulping down
a rodent. Cape Shoveler, Black-winged Stilt and Common Greenshank
added to the mix before we moved north to the Darling area. We had
some Pied Starling, White-backed Mousebird, sneaky Spotted Thick-knee
and three Blue Crane – our exquisite national bird. Cape Sparrow,
African Pipit and Red-capped Lark were in the fields, but the highlight
was the Southern Black Korhaan. Even though we did not seen them
too closely, three birds were very vocal and flying in the strandveld
a few hundred metres away.
The tides in the West Coast NP were good for
the wader hides later in the day, so we headed straight to Velddrif
on the Berg River. The raptors stole the show. Besides the numerous
Steppe Buzzards, Yellow-billed Kites and Pied Crows (reclassified
an for the day), we had three other superb raptor sightings: A roadside
Secretarybird was a nice surprise as we watched it hunting the fields
– this unique African bird is in serious decline and becoming
tougher and tougher to find. Coming back from the river en route
to Saldanha we stopped for a Booted Eagle and managed to add a Lanner
Falcon to the list! Back to Velddrif: the salt pans had dried out
significantly over the past few weeks, making viewing tricky. We
managed to get Ruff, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Little
Stint and Marsh Sandpiper. The fresh water hide produced a nice
pair of endemic South African Shelduck, loads of Yellow-billed Duck,
Caspian Tern and Little Egret. Both Lesser and Greater Flamingo
were sighted at the back of the pans. We also had Large-billed Lark
as it called from the saltmarsh.
The roads back south held a few more Namaqua Dove fly-bys and a
field with Crowned Lapwings and a nesting Spotted Thick-knee. Unfortunately
we also saw Bat-eared Fox as a roadkill. Our first stop in West
Coast NP was at the famed Seeberg Hide. There was a nice collection
of waders with Bar-tailed Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Grey
Plover and Little Stint all showing well. A very nice huddle of
over a hundred Sanderling made for some active viewing as well.
The bulk of the terns roosting were Common with a Caspian and some
Swift and Sandwich also present. The highlight was 5 non-breeding
Damara Tern – this species can be tricky to separate from
Little Tern, but the slightly longer, drooping bill and call helped
us make the ID.
In the warmest part of the day we made our way
south to the Geelbek centre – a tiny Kittlitz’s Plover
chick being the attraction on the boardwalk to the hide. The Eucalyptus
grove delivered the goods with a few hole-nesting species; African
Hoopoe, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and three Cardinal Woodpeckers.
The restaurant was alive with birdsong and activity around the fountain,
mostly Cape Bulbul, Yellow Bishop and Cape Weaver. A smart male
Pin-tailed Whydah also joined the show. A short walk after late
lunch added a Steenbok antelope, more waders, vocal Sandwich Tern
and Chestnut-vented Titbabbler before we made our way to the freshwater
hide at Abrahamskraal. The larger birds like African Spoonbill and
waterfowl were roosting, but the pan was quite active - Common Moorhen
and Red-knobbed Coot with chicks and a few Black Crake out in the
open. Little Rush-warbler and African Rail were vocal from the reedbeds.
We had briefs views of European Bee-eater as we left the site and
later collected some roadside Wattled Starlings near Yzerfontein.
The day was wrapped up in more windy conditions
at Rietvlei north of Cape Town. A large roost of Great White Pelican
and about 15 Great Crested Grebe were the notable sightings. Seeing
this number of grebe in this region is not common at all and a great
way to finish our birding for the day.
20 January 2012 - Hottentots Holland
With mist pouring over Sir Lowry’s Pass
we tried to obtain views of a skulking yet vocal Bradypterus, Victorin’s
Warbler in some dense restios. This was our first and most important
target of the day. We only obtained glimpses, but were entertained
by numbers of the stunning Orange-breasted Sunbird that were around
us. Cape Grassbird, Yellow Bishop and Karoo Prinia all put in a
show as well as a Steppe Buzzard perched high up on the rocks. Some
lovely pink Erica longifolia brightened up the scene but when the
mist became too dense, we left the site and headed deeper into the
We had to hike a hill to obtain views of the
target Cape Rockjumper - excellent views indeed and there found
ourselves surrounded by Cape Siskin, Neddicky and Orange-breasted
Sunbird. Two of the mountain-loving Klipspringer antelope bounded
up ahead of us (translated as Rock-jumper), so we had done the Rockjumper
double! The Fire Heath Erica cerinthoides and the bright-orange
Watsonia schlecteri added a splash of colour to the summer scene.
Lower down the mountain some flowering gums were attracting a range
of nectivores; Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird,
Cape Sugarbird and surprisingly no less than 4-5 Amethyst Sunbirds.
This is another bird that appears to be extending its range westwards
and it was a real treat to catch glimpses of the iridescent green
head and amethyst throat. We also had Cape Canary, Fiscal Flycatcher
and heard Cape Batis.
We moved into the Vyeboom valley onto some farmland
which proved to be really good. Some White-backed Duck that have
been resident for a few months were still present as well as some
more tropical birds in the shape of White-faced Duck. Little Rush-warbler
was not as confiding as usual, but both it and Levaillant’s
Cisticola did pose briefly in some Juncus reeds. An African Stonechat
pair hawked insects and we had African Purple-Swamphen with an immature
feeding on the fringes of the dam. The last bit through the farms
added Blue Crane, endemic Grey Rhebok antelope, Cape Crow, 2 confiding
Large-billed Lark and Capped Wheatear.
As the day warmed up again we moved a little into
the Overberg which proved quite fruitful. The highlight was undoubtedly
finding a beautiful Black Sparrowhawk perched out in the open at
eye level as the road rose above the one riverbed. It never moved
and to add to the scene, some Blue Crane flew and called in the
background view. The next small river crossing held Swee Waxbill,
Alpine and White-rumped Swift and Spotted Flycatcher – this
Palearctic migrant is not so common this far south. In this dry
environment, a stop at an exotic oak and poplar grove was always
going to have potential – so we did and immediately got four
‘forest’ birds in Sombre Greenbul, Cape Batis, African
Dusky-flycatcher and 2 African Black Duck. We added a few more raptors
before stopping near a known Greater Honeyguide call site –
a subadult male appeared just as we were gawking at the amethyst
throat of yet another Amethyst Sunbird!
We then headed south to the coast and got our
first African Fish-eagle of the trip. An unexpected roadside stop
for Cape Rock-thrush near the Palmiet River turned into 4 rock-thrush,
a relaxed Cape Sugarbird and a very excitable Victorin’s Warbler
that was calling as we got out the vehicle! We had a frantic session
photographing the action around us as Cape Robin-chat and Grey-backed
Cisticola entered the fray as well. Driving through the town of
Betty’s Bay we had a great roadside sighting of a Hadeda Ibis
grappling with a slippery Cape Legless Skink and managed a few half-decent
photos. Buoyed by this, we arrived at the Stony Point penguin colony
ready for some good photographic opportunities…which we got!
All the marine cormorants were present, with the rapidly declining
Bank Cormorants really starting to get some new nests underway.
Our last stop of the day was the famous Rooi
Els site, below the mountains and overlooking the ocean. We had
just alighted from the vehicle when we were treated to a Humpback
Whale blowing its spout just off the Rooi Els point. The late afternoon
is not ideal for this site, but we were entertained by a number
of White-necked Raven, Grey-backed Cisticola, Orange-breasted Sunbird,
Cape Bunting, 2 Chacma Baboon and a last Cape Sugarbird feeding
in the beautiful yellow & crimson Overberg Pincushion.
We ended the trip with the superb drive along
the False Bay coast adding Bottle-nosed Dolphin and African Marsh-harrier
to end with a 2-day trip tally of 161 species!
A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Alistair Kilpin. Pictures taken by Al Kilpin.
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.