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Trip 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


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 Paradise-Flycatcher.


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.


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 Canary.

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.


En route to De Hoop Nature Reserve we had good sightings of some more Agulhas Longbilled Lark, Denham's Bustard, Karoo Korhaan and Martial Eagle.

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.


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.


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 Purple Swamphen.

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.


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.


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 Warbler.


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, etc.

Outside the park we had Sclater's Lark breeding, Doublebanded Courser, Larklike Bunting, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Tractrac Chat and Redbilled Firefinch.

In the afternoon we found Namaqua Warbler, Dusky Sunbird, Layard's Titbabbler and a singing African Rock Pipit.


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 breeding season.

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.


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.

We ended the trip with 234 species.

Trip report by Birding Africa tour leader Japie Claassen

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., or However you're always welcome to contact us if you're interested in a guided trip in this area.

Practical tour information:
South Africa: Western Endemics

Please click this link for more detailed information about our upcoming Cape Tours.
Please also visit our tour calendar and description of other South African tours.
Focus 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.
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 Mediterranean climate, which can be warm in summer (October to March) and chilly in winter (June to September), the rainy season.
Comfort A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and farm stays.
Transport We travel by minibus or four wheel drive vehicle.
Group Size This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Top birds • Darling area: Cape Clapper Lark, Blue Crane
• West Coast National Park: Southern Black Korhaan, Black Harrier, Chestnut-banded Plover
• Tanqua Karoo, a semi-desert: Karoo Eremomela, Namaqua Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Ludwig’s Bustard, Burchell’s Courser, Black-headed Canary, Layard’s Tit-Babbler, Rufous-eared Warbler, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Karoo Korhaan, Black-eared Sparrowlark
• De Hoop and Agulhas Plains: Cape Vulture, Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard, Damara Tern, Knysna Woodpecker, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Agulhas Clapper Lark, Southern Tchagra
• Cape coastal Fynbos and mountains: Cape Rock-jumper, Victorin's Scrub-Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Siskin, Ground Woodpecker, Neddicky and Cape Rock-Thrush
Click here for more practical tour information and a trip report.
Optional extension: Afromontane forest at Grootvaderschbos or Wilderness in the Garden Route.
• Grootvaderschbos: Narina Trogon, Forest Canary, African Crowned Eagle, Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush-Shrike
• Wilderness National Park, Garden Route: Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, African Wood Owl, Green-backed Camaroptera, Green Woodhoopoe, Chorister Robin-Chat
Top mammals Whales, Dolphins, Cape Grysbok, Chacma Baboon, Caracal, Striped Polecat, Grey Mongoose, Cape Fox, Bat-eared Fox, Porcupine, Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok, Eland
Booking Please contact us if you wish to book a guided or a self-drive tour. 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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