Report: South Western Cape and Karoo Tour - March 2009
This Birding Africa trip aimed
to see most endemic and near-endemic species in the south
western parts of Southern Africa in 11 days.
The trip started in Cape Town and looped through De Hoop,
Grootvadersbosch, Wilderness, Red stone Hills and Karoo National
Park before returning back to Cape Town.
Trip total: 234 bird species.
Detailed trip report
DAY 1: ROOI-ELS & BETTY'S BAY AREA
We drove to Rooi-Els to try our first endemic bird species, the
Cape Rockjumper. Along the way we stop and saw Cape & Hartlaub's
Gull, Cape Batis, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Karoo Prinia. At Rooi-Els
we walked down the track and found Cape Siskin. Cape Rockjumper
was found with ease and a pair was searching for food in a track
that goes towards the sea.
We had brilliant sightings and while standing in the track, the
one bird came right up to our legs (less than 1 meter of us) and
just "jumped" around us to continue with feeding in the
track. At the same spot we had excellent views of Ground Woodpecker
and in Rooi-Els of Cape Rock Thrush.
A huge flock of about 70 White Storks came drifting over the sea
towards Hangklip and we were wondering where they were going as
they flew in the wrong direction.
In Betty's Bay we saw some Greywinged Francolins and the client
had lovely views of African Penguins breeding at the Penguin Colony
at Stony Point. We proceeded to the Harold Porter Botanical Garden
to look for Victorin's Warbler but with no success, not even one
calling. Other good birds at Harold Porter was African Black Duck,
Black Sawwing, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Sugarbird and African
DAY 2: CAPE POINT & STRANDFONTEIN
That was one of that real Cape Town days. Cloudy with a drizzle
that come and go. We visit Cape Point where we saw Cape Grassbird,
Cape Siskin, Greybacked Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola and Yellow Bishop.
Next stop was Strandfontein Sewage Works where we found lots of
ducks including Hottentot Teal, Maccoa Cuck & Cape Teal, Caspian
Tern, African Marsh Harrier, Blacknecked Grebe, Little Rush-Warbler
and Brimstone Canary.
DAY 3: CAPE TOWN TO DE HOOP
We left Cape Town and drove via Caledon & Bredasdorp to De Hoop
where we stayed at The Cottage. Along the road we got our first
of many Blue Cranes, Jackal Buzzard, African Stonechat and Yellow
A visit to Cape Agulhas was turned down due to rain and strong wind
which follows us to The Cottage. Between Bredasdorp and The Cottage
we got some Pearlbreasted Swallow, Denham's Bustard, Wattled Starling,
Large-billed Lark and Capped Wheatear. The endemic Agulhas Longbilled
Lark was waiting for us under the turn off sign to The Cottage.
A walk on the farm at The Cottage produced not many birds due to
the wind and rain, but we could add Lanner Falcon, Cape Longclaw
and Cloud Cisticola.
DAY 4: DE HOOP
En route to De Hoop Nature Reserve we had good sightings of some
more Agulhas Longbilled Lark, Denham's Bustard, Karoo Korhaan and
De Hoop has a good variety of birds which include Alpine & African
Black Swift, Southern Boubou, Cape Grassbird, Neddicky, Longbilled
Crombec and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. The vlei hosted African
Fish Eagle, Hamerkop, Water Thick-knee, Kittlitz's Plover, Caspian
Tern and some ducks.
A search for Agulhas Clapper Lark outside the reserve saw us scanning
hundreds of Redcapped Larks, but with no success. We found more
Largebilled & Agulhas Longbilled Larks.
DAY 5: DE HOOP TO WILDERNESS
We drove to Wilderness via Grootvadersbosch to try to pick up Knysna
Woodpecker & Knysna Warbler. The walk in the forest did not
deliver the target species, but we had excellent views of Bluemantled
Crested Flycatcher, Lesser Honeyguide, Forest Canary, Amethyst Sunbird,
Cape Batis, Terrestrial Bulbul and Grey Cuckooshrike.
In an attempt to find Knysna Warbler, we made a detour to Still
Bay where it normally occurs in a patch of indigenous forest in
the middle of town. There was no response of the warbler, but we
saw Burchell's Coucal and Barthroated Apalis inter alia. The estuary
provided African Fish Eagle, Grey Plover and Common Whimbrel.
DAY 6: WILDERNESS
The day was spent around the lakes and in the indigenous forests
to search for Knysna Woodpecker & Warbler. We went to the Rondevlei
hide before sunrise to try our luck with Redchested Flufftail as
it was a perfect misty morning. The Flufftail didn't turn up although
we heard it calling nearby the hide. We had excellent views of several
African Rail, Black Crake, African Snipe, Hottentot Teal and African
On our way to the Halfcollared Kingfisher trial we spotted Knysna
Turaco, Rednecked Spurfowl, Streakyheaded Canary and Forest Buzzard.
The trial gave good views of several pairs of Olive Woodpecker,
Narina Trogon, Swee Waxbill, Blackheaded Oriole, Yellow-throated
Woodland-Warbler and Blackbacked Puffback. There were no signs of
either Knysna Woodpecker or Knysna Warbler. The Brownhooded Kingfisher
trail produced Olive Bush-shrike and Chorister Robin-chat.
DAY 7: WILDERNESS TO RED STONE HILLS, CALITZDORP
We did a quick visit to the Big Tree at Woodville, finding more
Forest Canary, Chorister Robin-chat, Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive Woodpecker
and Cape Batis.
En route to Red Stone Hills we drove via Montagu Pass to look for
Victorin's Warbler. The area is badly burnt and vegetation is sparse.
We saw some Orangebreasted Sunbirds, Cape Siskin and African Olive-Pigeon,
but no Victorin's. The flat plains near Oudtshoorn produced our
first Sth Pale Chanting Goshawk.
Red Stone Hills is a very good birding spot with excellent accommodation.
We ticked 80 species on the farm in about 7 hours birding. Interested
species include Blackheaded Canary, Greater & Lesser Honeyguide,
Plainbacked Pipit, pririt Batis, Black Saw-wing and Streaky-headed
Seed-eater. The area was very dry and very few waterbirds are present.
DAY 8: RED STONE HILLS TO KAROO NATIONAL PARK
The road took us along the foot of the Swartberg Mountains and across
the Swartberg Pass. We found lots of Alpine Swifts and Protea Seed-eaters
at the first bend in the pass. Looking for the Victorin's in the
known places in the pass, was unsuccessful. Seems that they are
not calling between January and May.
Down on the plains around Prince Albert we hit the real Karoo specials
and along the road from Prince Albert to the N12 we had excellent
views of Karoo Eremomela (a few times), Cape Penduline Tit, Karoo
Chat, Karoo Longbilled Lark, Karoo Lark, Karoo Korhaan and Rufous-eared
DAY 9: KAROO NATIONAL PARK
A drive through the Lammertjiesleegte area of the park had a good
spell of birds including Karoo Longbilled, Spikeheeled, Karoo &
Sabota Lark (Bradfield's). There were numerous other species, such
as Fairy Flycatcher, Chat Flycatcher, Sicklewinged Chat, Karoo Korhaan,
Outside the park we had Sclater's Lark breeding, Doublebanded Courser,
Larklike Bunting, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Tractrac Chat and Redbilled
In the afternoon we found Namaqua Warbler, Dusky Sunbird, Layard's
Titbabbler and a singing African Rock Pipit.
DAY 10: KAROO NATIONAL PARK
An early morning drive in the park gave us singing African Rock
Pipit and Greywinged Francolin, beautiful views of Verreaux's Eagle
and lots of game like Kudu, Eland, Klipspringer andGrey Rhebuck.
We went on a search for Cinnamonbreasted Warbler in the Molteno
Pass area, but had to give up after 5 hours. No responding at all
and it seems they are still waiting for the tricker to launch their
A drive east of Beaufort West gave us all of the Karoo larks including
performing Eastern Clapper Lark, Greybacked Sparrowlarks, Redheaded
Finch, Namaqua Dove, Scalyfeathered Finch, Desert Cisticola, Ludwig's
Bustard and Blue Crane.
DAY 11: KAROO NATIONAL PARK TO CAPE TOWN
Along the way back to Cape Town we made a detour to Karoopoort at
the entrance of the Tanqua Karoo. We saw Southern Black Korhaan
and at Karoopoort we saw Layard's Titbabbler, Fairy Flycatcher,
Dusky Sunbird and a very active Cinnamonbreasted Warbler which gave
us splendid views.
Western South Africa rivals any other place in Africa for
the number of endemic bird species and accessibility: over 80%
of South Africa's endemics occurs here. This varied scenery
with dramatic mountain ranges, the unqiue Cape floral Kingdom
and the semi-desert plains of the Karoo also offers mammals,
chameleons, geckos, butterflies and interesting plants, to suit
both keen birders and nature enthusiasts. We also offer pelagic
trips out of Cape Town, to see albatross, shearwaters, petrels,
whales and dolphins.
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
Only a low level of fitness is required.
Throughout the year.
Mediterranean climate, which can be warm in summer (October
to March) and chilly in winter (June to September), the rainy
A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and
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.