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Western Cape Tour, West Coast and Hottentots Holland, 19-20 February 2011

For more information about our upcoming Cape Tours, please click here.

Itinerary: We visited key birding sites in the Western Cape: West Coast National Park, Hottentots Holland coastal region and Strandfonteyn

Total number of species seen: 119 (118 seen and 1 heard)

Detailed Trip Report

Day 1: 19 February 2012 - West Coast National Park

I met up with Birding Africa clients, Ritva and Lennart at their Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel in Cape Town shortly before 07h00 (a slight delay from the planned departure time as the hotel only serves breakfast from 06h30 onwards). We were soon on our way to the West Coast National Park and shortly after leaving the built-up areas, we encountered our first Steppe Buzzard and a Yellow-billed Kites followed soon after, as did the ever-present Pied Crows.

The optimum time for the Geelbek hide was calculated to be from 08h30 (4,5 hours after high tide in Table Bay), so we headed straight to Geelbek, with good views of Black-shouldered Kite and Cape Bulbul and a brief fly-by of an African Marsh-Harrier after entering the park gates.

At the hide's parking area we spotted the resident Cardinal Woodpeckers, and Cape Longclaw, White-throated Swallow, Yellow Canary, Blacksmith Lapwing, Cape Wagtail, Levaillant's Cisticola, Kittlitz's Plovers and Little Stint were added along the boardwalk. Our timing was good and we joined a group of folks from the Hon. Rangers West Coast Wader Bash in the hide as the first birds arrived on the mud-flats. The most obvious species were Whimbrel, Grey Plover and Curlew Sandpiper, but it was good to see several Chestnut-banded Plovers amongst the other species. The exceptionally high spring tide in the early morning had apparently completely filled the back pans and salt-marsh, so these birds had move away from their normal locations. Small numbers of Red Knot, Common Ringed Plover, Greenshank and others were also present as were two juvenile Lesser Flamingoes, with the Greater Flamingoes feeding farther up the lagoon. Unfortunately no 'rare' waders made their appearance, despite the many watching pairs of eyes. An Osprey was seen flying past carrying its breakfast.

As the water receded farther we headed for a coffee break at the restaurant, spotting an African Hoopoe as we arrived. After a quick stop at the restaurant we headed up the western side of the lagoon towards the coast. An unexpected sighting south of Geelbek was a Pale Chanting Goshawk perched on a roadside telegraph pole. Two eland were seen en route.

At the coast there were large numbers of Cape Cormorant flying out to sea, and a few Crowned Cormorants perched on the rocks together with many African Black Oystercatchers taking advantage of the very low spring tide. A small group of Ruddy Turnstones was also feeding amongst the rocks and kelp. Large numbers of terns, mainly Swift Tern, were roosting on the beach.

Heading south again, we encountered our first Black Harrier, and a stop at Abrahaamskraal water-hole produced the usual species on the water, but there was no sign of crakes or rails. The south-easter was now starting to make its presence felt, and the very dry surrounds also reduced the numbers of expected bush birds normally found in the area.

After an enjoyable lunch at the Geelbek restaurant, with the ever-present Cape Weavers and House Sparrows, we continued towards Seeberg. A Black Harrier flying along the road verge towards us had us turning around and we had marvellous views of this striking raptor as it slowly flew low over the scrub, occasionally crossing the road, with us following close behind for a good 5 minutes or so. We eventually left it to continue hunting and headed towards the Seeberg hide, adding Grey-winged Francolin and Bokmakierie at the turn-off from the main road. The tide was coming in rapidly, but we did add Sanderling to our wader list before the rising water forced most of the birds off the disappearing sand-banks.

A short drive up the very windy Seeberg hill produced a good view of a male Southern Black Korhaan, and as we drove on towards Geelbek we again picked up a Black Harrier (possibly the same bird) still diligently flying along the road-side giving further great views. Strangely, we only saw one angulate tortoise, but had a good view of a steenbok next to the road.

Time was now catching up with us and we headed back towards Cape Town, straight into a very strong south-easter. The last new species for the day was a group of Spotted Thick-knees on an open grassed area in Milnerton. We were back at the hotel just after 18h00 with a day-list of 81 species.

Day 2: 20 February 2013 - Hottentots Holland Coast and Strandfonteyn

A 07h00 departure and little traffic had us at Rooi Els by about 08h15. It was fairly windy on route, but apart from the occasional gusts the conditions there were better than expected. Cape Sugarbirds showed well at the turn-off from the tarred road, but otherwise birding was a little slow as some of the track was still in the shadow of the mountain. Slowly we spotted the expected species such as Orange-breasted and Malachite Sunbird, Cape Grassbird, Cape Bunting, Yellow Bishop and Grey-backed Cisticola. A bonus was a pair of Ground Woodpeckers, but there was no sign of the Cape Rockjumpers. Heading back towards the parking area we added Familiar Chat and had good views of two male Cape Rock-Thrush.

Stoney Point was windy and cool, but the African Penguins were a delight with the birds getting ready for the new breeding season. Many burrows had been marked with numbered stones and brush had been placed over them for extra protection. Good views were obtained of the white rumps of breeding Bank Cormorants as they carried in nesting material. Large numbers of Cape Wagtails fed amongst the exposed kelp with the tide well out. Cape Girdled Lizards and Rock Hyrax added to the interest.

We continued to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, where African Dusky Flycatcher, and later in the forest, Cape Batis gave excellent views. Many dragonflies flitted around the ponds, but there was no sign of any raptors, swallows or swifts overhead, although a single Black Saw-wing was seen perched. As the garden's restaurant was closed, we headed into Betty's Bay for lunch, with a flock of Speckled Mousebirds seen from the dining-room.

After lunch we returned along the N2 to our last stop at the Strandfontein Sewage Works. Although quite windy, this spot never fails and our day-list grew rapidly with most of the expected water-birds being added. Several African Marsh-Harriers were seen, as were White-necked Raven and there were many Spur-winged Geese present. A bonus apart from the delightful masses of Greater Flamingoes, many Pied Avocet and others were a group of 6 Hottentot Teal on pan P5 on the way in (9 were seen on the way out), and a single Fulvous Duck together with the Maccoa Ducks and Great Crested Grebe on pan P7 on our way out.

We were back at the Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel just after 18h00 after a fairly successful day out and a day-list of 80 species. This gave an overall total species list for the two days of 119 species (118 seen + 1 heard).

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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