Report: Cape Fynbos Endemics and Hottentot Buttonquail Day Trip,
21 June 2009
Summary: On Sunday 21 June 2009, a small group
of 6 enthusiasts met in Cape Town with common purpose: to track
down a handful of elusive Cape endemics, and perhaps most importantly,
to search for the little-known Hottentot Buttonquail. By the end
of the day, we had seen no less than 5 Hottentot Buttonquails,
surely a record achievement, and we even managed to capture a photo
of one! We also enjoyed excellent views of the fynbos endemics:
Victorin's Warbler, Cape Rock-jumper,
Cape Sugarbird, Cape Siskin and
Orange-breasted Sunbird. Raptors were superb, and
in addition to three species of accipiter (African Goshawk,
twice, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Black
Sparrowhawk, twice), and a pair of Forest Buzzards
interacting, we also watched a pair of Peregrine Falcons co-operatively
bring down a dove against the dramatic mountain backdrop of Rooiels.
Close views of a pair of Sentinel Rock-Thrush and
Ground Woodpecker were an added bonus.
The day’s birding started at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
where we met up with Daniel Mirecki, Paul Mostyn and Per Holmen
for a day trip to see some selected fynbos endemics and the elusive
Hottentot Buttonquail. After a quick briefing, we headed towards
the Constantia Greenbelt to search for Knysna Warbler. Reconnaisance
trips to various sites the previous week had turned up no Knysna
Warblers, and because we were off-season, none were calling again
today. In fact, despite 3 hours of checking 6 known areas for the
warbler (where we have seen them in previous years), not a peep
or a glimpse from a single Knysna Warbler could be detected. Despite
being a little chilly at first on this wintery morning, with even
a few raindrops, the birding was good. We were able to pick up Cape
Siskin for Per (an unusual sighting in the Greenbelts), Cape Batis
and African Dusky Flycatcher in the forest edges and a pair of Olive
Thrushes scratching about in the undergrowth. We could hear an African
Goshawk calling in the treetops and were eventually able to pin
down its location and get good views through our binoculars. Our
first Forest Buzzard of the day, well spotted by Gordon Botha, was
seen perched on a branch before flying off and displaying its underwings.
More good raptors included Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk overhead and
a pair of Forest Buzzards interacting. Usually a notorious skulker,
Sombre Greenbul was seen making its piercing call from an open perch
not far from the path, giving fantastic views and photographic opportunities.
We stopped in a thickly treed suburban area to investigate a raptor
call and Daniel’s sharp eyes picked out the culprit: a melanistic
Black Sparrowhawk. Another spot held the beautiful Swee Waxbill.
Once we were satisfied with our forest birding, we made our way
to the opposite side of False Bay to chalk up some Fynbos Endemics.
We stopped at Rooiels and continued along the coastal path on foot.
Here we encountered a pair of Sentinel Rock Thrush (uncommon in
the southwest of their range) taking refuge from the wind behind
a rock. Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds roamed
the vegetation in search of nectar and at one point, we bore witness
to a heated aerial battle between a pair of Cape Buntings. Cape
Grassbird was very obliging, perching right in the open and non-breeding
Yellow Bishops were also present.
Callan’s sharp ears detected the call of the Victorin’s
Warbler (similar to that of Cape Grassbird) and we approached the
bush it had called from. After a few minutes of sharp, almost ear
splitting calling from deep within the bush, the Victorin’s
darted into the open and offered brief but quality views of its
plumage (which is rather flashy by South African warbler standards!).
A pair of Peregrine Falcons that nest in the cliffs nearby dramatically
chased and knocked a dove clean out of the sky! We picked up Cape
Rock-jumper among the mountainside rocks and had superb views of
a ‘lookout’ male in the scope – another highlight,
even for those who had seen the bird before!
We had lunch at the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens and en-route,
we saw Ground Woodpecker on lookout duty, perched on a rock. After
a delicious lunch, our energy levels were restored and we headed
straight to a Hottentot Buttonquail site where Callan had seen the
birds reliably before, although we all knew a sighting of this elusive,
little-known bird was far from guaranteed.
Imagine our surprise, then, when a bird flushed out of the low fynbos
vegetation shortly after arriving at the site! However, while now
looking for Cape Clapper Larks in an adjacent area, we could not
believe our luck when we flushed a further 4 Hottentot Buttonquails!
Despite many years of monitoring the buttonquails in this area,
Callan had never seen such a concentration of this species. We eventually
had good looks at the lark, and also a stunning Cape Grysbok.
The excitement of seeing Hottentot Buttonquail had left us tired
but extremely satisfied after a successful day's birding and we
headed back to Cape Town in the light of dusk, arriving back at
Kirstenbosch at 19:30.
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
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.
Moderate; can be warm in summer and chilly in winter.
A good standard of accommodation in guest houses, lodges and
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.