17/07/05 – Cape Town to Langebaan
We met at Klein Boscheuwel at 7 am. The weather was just changing and
what had been a calm night turned into a blustery Sunday morning. By the
time we got out of the car at the Tokai parking lot, it was just light
enough to get onto the birds, but a north wind had picked up dramatically,
turning the raptor watching conditions from perfect, into fairly trying.
We got some views of a pair of Forest Buzzard circling up out of the forest,
one of which was being bombed by an unidentified accipiter. Soon we got
onto some Chaffinch calling and with some patience and determination,
managed to find one in the top of a pine tree. The same pine forest harboured
a small troop of roosting baboons who seemed to be clinging on for dear
life with the onset of the winds.
By 9:30 we were in the Constantia greenbelts looking
for Knysna Warbler. They were eventually coaxed to call, but after some
frustrating glimpses in a vegetation tangle, they disappeared behind a
razor wire fence, and we were unable to relocate. Another pair began calling
at about 11 am after the wind had died down, but was unwilling to venture
out of the thick undergrowth.
Our visit to the Main ocean pier at the Cape Town harbour
in search of the Sheathbill was frustrated by a film crew who had set
up on the pier for the day to film a movie and had evidently chased the
bird off – frustrating, since in the day before’s recce we’d
had views of it from only metres away. So instead, we headed up the west
coast ticking White-backed Duck, African Purple Swamphen and Glossy Ibis
at the Dolphin Beach Pans on the way out.
Up at the West Coast National Park, we headed for the
tern roost at Tsaarsbank (Wattled Starling on the way) and managed to
find at least 5-10 Antarctic Terns (some still just coming out of breeding
plumage) in amongst a mix of Common, Arctic and Swift Terns. The lagoon
harboured large numbers of Greater Flamingos, and we were rewarded with
great views of 2 different Black Harriers in the strandveld and a group
of 3 Marsh Harriers quartering over the Phragmites reeds.
Our last target species was Cape Penduline Tit which
we eventually got close to Seeberg in the Strandveld. Quite possibly the
tits had begun breeding already and the area around Seeberg hill has a
high concentration of the “Kapokbossie” (eriocephalus sp?)
which was already producing good quantities of cotton – a substance
highly sought after by the tits for nest building.
18/07/05 – Langebaan to Tanqua Karoo via
Kransvlei Poort and Skitterykloof
We made an early start in the mist with our sights set on Kransvlei Poort
north of Citrusdal. On the way we stopped west of Picketberg wheat fields
and picked up the Cloud Cisticola. Also around were a few Blue Cranes,
a small flock of White Storks, Sickle-winged Chat and Large-billed Lark.
At the Kransvlei Poort, we were quickly rewarded with
a pair of Fairy Flycatchers and a Layard’s Titbabbler, followed
soon after by a very confiding Protea Canary.
The weather had cleared and it was a beautiful post-frontal
day in the Koue Bokkeveld - perfect conditions for scoping the Verreaux’s
Eagle that we found perched on the cliff side in the Katbakkies Pass.
Unfortunately, though, a second front began moving in and by the time
we had reached Skitterykloof, the north wind had got up again. The Cinnamon-breasted
Warblers were not too disturbed by the wind though, and we eventually
got views of a pair in the sunlight on the rocky ledges on the way down
into the kloof. Two other pairs were also heard calling from different
parts of the kloof – one on the northern side and one at the eastern
Tractrac Chat was the next target species and was easily
found on the roadside after the P2250 turnoff. The Tanqua Karoo north
of Skitterykloof was exceptionally dry and there were very few birds around.
Our first sight of the Tanqua Guest house included a plume of dust from
a borehole drill rig – they had tried drilling twice in the past
two days – 150m down – no water! Esther (of the Tanqua Guest
House) reckons it’s the driest year they’ve seen it in at
least 25. The Lucerne fields were a dust bowl (usually green by this time
of year) and the dam reduced to a mud puddle – though still harbouring
Greater Flamingos, South African Shelduck and Avocet.
19/07/05 – Tanqua Karoo to De Hoop
We woke early to a cold stiff NW wind and greying skies - Perhaps rain
was on the way… Trying to find the Karoo Long-billed Lark in these
conditions was trying, but after working the low ridge to the NE of the
road through to the double gate, we were eventually rewarded with great
views of an inquisitive, calling and displaying bird – perhaps he
too was dancing to bring on the rain…?
It was raining lightly in the SW corner of the Tanqua,
South of Eierkop, and the veld looked a little less parched and much greener
in these parts. The birds at the fig tree avenue in Karoopoort were quite
active and we heard Namaqua Warblers and found a pair of Pririt Batis.
Our route through to Swellendam took us through more
rain, rainbows and clouds, but we emerged into a relatively clear Overberg,
and were soon rewarded with great views of an Aghulas Long-billed Lark
calling from the convenient perch of a roadside fencepost. The wheat fields
were just greening up after what has been, according to the farmer we
stayed with at The Cottage, the wettest winter in his memory. The Longbilled
Larks were taking full advantage and the birds could be heard displaying
at every stop we made.
Also taking advantage of the unusual conditions were
3 Black Storks, a Black Sparrowhawk (in a small patch of Bluegums), a
pair of Black Duck (in a small stream +- 3km from the Malgas turnoff)
and 2 Cape Vultures were seen flying overhead near The Cottage turnoff.
Korhaans and bustards were conspicuous in their absence.
We headed for De Hoop Nature Reserve to look for the
Aghulas Clapper Lark. After nearly 2 hours of attempts to flush them from
their preferred habitat we headed home, only to discover that there was
one displaying in the darkness above our heads as we got our luggage out
of the car. It was a still evening and both Fiery-necked Nightjar and
Spotted Eagle Owls were heard calling.
20/07/05 – De
Hoop to Cape Town via Kleinmond, Betty’s Bay and Rooi Els
The wind picked up in the night and the rain started in the early hours
of the morning. We woke to heavy rain squalls and gusting winds. We held
out little hope for finding the clappers from the night before, but after
some patience and persistence managed to find one displaying in between
squalls above a remnant patch of Renosterveld 200m from the Infanta/De
Hoop road junction. Also there, was a Martial Eagle and Cape Vulture.
Our next stop was at the Ysterklip reserve alongside
the Arabella Golf Estate in Kleinmond. We were targeting the Hottentot
Buttonquail, but were unable to find them despite some energetic and persistent
effort, and were rewarded only by more Clapper Larks, Great Crested Grebe
and a nesting Black Duck (10 eggs).
At Betty’s Bay we headed up into the Harold Porter
Botanical Gardens and were quickly able to find a Victorin’s Warbler.
We scoped the African Penguins from the main road and then headed through
to Rooi Els. By this time the weather had taken a turn for the worse again
and we headed off in gusty winds and light rain to look for rockjumpers
and siskins. About 300m down the road south of Rooi Els, I suggested we
take shelter behind a large rock and scan the hillside from there, which
we duly did, only to discover that a female Cape Rockjumper had had the
same idea. She seemed a little surprised to see us and proceeded to call
her Male counterpart over to have a look at us. Whilst this was going
on, an inquisitive Cape Siskin suddenly arrived on the scene and we had
great looks at her too. What a great end to our trip - we were back at
Klein Boscheuwel by 6pm.
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, and combining interests in mammals, butterflies,
dragonflies, plants and other natural history. Our guides
know the continents birds like few others; we've written two acclaimed
guide books on where
to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds and will
guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations.
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
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