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Trip Report: Fynbos & Coastal Birds (Hottentots Holland) Day Trip, 17 October 2009


This relaxed day trip from Cape Town was aimed at finding fynbos and coastal specials of the scenically-spectacular Hottentot’s Holland region for participants of the October 2009 Diversitas conference.

Cape Rock-jumper photographed on a Birding Africa Day Trip © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com Cape Rock-jumper photographed on a Birding Africa Day Trip © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com

Driving above the towering cliffs south of Gordon’s Bay, we looked for Southern Right whales but were unable to spot them in the aquamarine waters below. However, we did see a young Chacma Baboon feeding on the flowers of Bruinsalie (Salvia africana-lutea). The fynbos on these mountain slopes has recovered well from the fires of 2008 and many species were in bloom.

Our first stop was in a superb area of mountain fynbos, near some rocky cliffs, where we enjoyed an extended walk through the fynbos in full bloom. Not 50 m from the car we spotted at striking male Cape Rock Thrush perched near the track. This was shortly followed by the popular and endemic Orange-breasted Sunbird, Neddicky, Cape Grassbird, Cape Bunting and Grey-backed Cisticola. Cape Siskin, another fynbos endemic, gave some excellent rock-top views. Cape Rock-jumper took a little longer to find, but we eventually all enjoyed scope views of a striking male preening and sunning itself, and later even better views of a pair. Perching daintily on the hillside above us, two Klipspringer slowly made their way up the rocky slope and we all had great views. When we scanned the tall cliffs for the resident Verreaux’s Eagles, a pair of White-necked Raven came into view hanging on the wind. On the way back to the vehicle, we saw a pair of Green Grooved Dung Beetles (Scarabaeus rugosus) energetically rolling a ball of dung down the path.

Cape Sugarbird photographed on a Birding Africa Day Trip © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com
Cape Sugarbird photographed on a Birding Africa Day Trip © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com

We then made our way to a nearby African Penguin colony, where the usual suspects showed well: all four species of marine cormorant: Bank Cormorant , Crowned Cormorant, Cape Cormorant and White-breasted Cormorant, and many African Penguin, some adults beginning to moult. African Black Oystercatcher was also spotted feeding along the rocky shoreline. Here we stopped to photograph a family of Rock Hyrax with young. After a relaxed lunch at Harold Porter Botanical Gardens we enjoyed a stroll through the gardens and along the forested kloof to the waterfall. Here a trio of African Black Duck showed well. The water in the stream showed the typical brown ‘sherry’ colour associated with fynbos habitat, a result of the breakdown of tannins and phenols. Sombre Greenbul was typically noisy, Cape Sugarbird active in the Protea beds, Cape Francolin made a noisy entrance, and a pair of Cape Batis was particularly confiding, but the undoubted highlights were a distant pair of much-wanted Ground Woodpecker and a very cooperative Victorin’s Warbler which stayed in the scope for several minutes! A botanical highlight in the gardens was the Green Wood Orchid or Octoberlelie (Bonatea speciosa) in full bloom. A fine end to a day of great weather, scenery and birds.

Victorin's Warbler photographed on a Birding Africa Day Trip © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.comGround Woodpecker photographed on a Birding Africa Day Trip © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com
Victorin's Warbler and Ground Woodpecker photographed on a Birding Africa Day Trip © Callan Cohen www.birdingafrica.com

A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Michael Mills and trip organiser Marje Hemp. With thanks to Diversitas SCO2 Coordinator Manuelle Rovillé.

Pictures shown were taken by Callan Cohen.

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

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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