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Western Cape Tour, West Coast, 17 March 2011


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

Itinerary: West Coast National Park

Detailed Trip Report

Our day-trip up the West Coast National Park started at 06h30. Lex, Joan and I met at their Blouberg Strand guest-house and discussed the emphasis of the day. We would focus on photography rather than maximising the number of species. Lex is a keen photographer and wanted to capture as many images of Southern African bird species as possible.

We first headed to Yzerfontein to explore the area around the harbour and the tern roost. The misty conditions opened up and light improved, allowing us good views of Crowned Cormorant, Swift Tern and a few other species at the harbour. Later, under far better light conditions, we watched Sandwich and Common Terns joining the roost, several species of gulls, a number of Sanderlings showing on the rocks near the terns and African Black Oystercatchers.

Sanderling on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt
Sanderling on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt

A drive down to the Strandkombuis produced a few strandveld birds, with good views of White-throated and Yellow Canaries and White-backed Mousebird. The pans in the area were almost dry with very few roosting birds.

White-backed Mousebird on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt Karoo Scrub-Robin on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt
White-backed Mousebird and Karoo Scrub-Robin on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt

After entering the West Coast National Park, we headed for Abrahaamskraal. The usual water-bird species were present and a Black Harrier eventually made several close fly-pasts. Yellow Canaries conspicuously flew in to drink and Karoo Scrub-Robin and Levaillants Cisticola posed beautifully as they fed in the very dry scrub near the hide. A single female African Shelduck showed, and good views were had of Lesser Swamp Warbler. Little Rush Warbler was heard in the reeds.

From Abrahaamskraal we had a short stop at Geelbek and then headed for the Seeberg area, where the gravel track down to the hide produced a small group of Cape Penduline Tits and several Bokmakieries. From the ease of the car-park, we could see numerous waders on the sand-banks in front of the hide. The tide was advancing, and allowed us to watch several water-birds including Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Red Knot. Amongst the latter three species were a few individuals already showing their very distinctive breeding plumage. Behind the hide, Curlew Sandpiper, White-fronted, Kittlitz’s and Common Ringed Plovers were spotted on the small pans and in the salt-marsh vegetation. A group of Greater Flamingoes was also present, as were a number of terns on an adjacent sand-bank. Eventually as the water level rose, the birds mostly departed and we headed back to the vehicle.

Cape Teal photographed on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt
Cape Teal photographed on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt

A trip up to the Seeberg lookout always provides a great panoramic view of the lagoon. Here we added a pair of White-necked Raven at the top as well as two male and two female Southern Black Korhaan along the path. Unfortunately Grey-winged Francolin did not make an appearance.

Southern Black Korhaan on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt
Southern Black Korhaan on this Birding Africa day trip © Otto Schmidt

During our late lunch at Geelbek, we enjoyed the Cape Weavers, House Sparrows, Yellow Bishop and Common Fiscal waiting for a hand-out. A second stop at Abrahaamskraal offered additional photo graphic opportunities. We watched several more Black Harriers as we headed out of the park, and arrived in Blouberg by 18h00 with a creditable list of 83 species. Interestingly, we saw only two Steppe Buzzards (one along the R27 and one in the West Coast National Park) and no Yellow-billed Kites, so these migrants have already mostly departed on their way north.

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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