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Namaqualand, Kalahari, Northern Cape, and Eastern Cape plus Garden Route Extension
Birds and Mammals, November –- December 2013, By John Tinkler
Only some and not all of the birds and mammals we saw on a particular day will appear in the text. There is a full list of all the species at the end of the report.
Day 1, 16th November. Cape Town – Springbok
With Janet and John settled in what would become their favoured seats for the rest of the tour we left a very stormy Cape Town after breakfast and headed for the west coast to collect Monika. It soon became evident that with Janet as co-pilot in the front seat not many birds were going to be missed on the road, and we were soon adding species such as Greater Flamingo, Great white Pelican, Cape, Reed, and White-breasted Cormorants, African Darter, Intermediate Egret, and Black-headed and Grey Herons to the list, which Janet had started just outside the airport and in my garden at Fish Hoek. Monika was ready to leave when we arrived, and in no time we were really on our way.
The trip to Springbok is always a lengthy one, and road works did not help our cause. However, we made the best of the slow progress and added a good few species along the way, including our first raptors with sightings of Booted Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rock and Greater Kestrels, Black-winged and Yellow-billed Kites in the air at the numerous waits at a stop-go or perched on telegraph poles. We arrived in Springbok in time to book into the hotel, fill the tank, and freshen up for supper. Supper time was also list time, and fortunately for us Monika insisted; so we did our lists every night, irrespective of how tired we were.
Black-winged Kite Pale Chanting Goshawk (photo © John Tinkler)
Day 2, 17th November. Goegap Nature Reserve – Port Nolloth – Springbok
After breakfast we headed for the Goegap Nature Reserve, where we did some birding in the area outside the park while waiting for the gates to open. Pririt Batis, Acacia Pied Barbet, Karoo Lark, and Karoo Prinia were soon added to our list, while a flock of the very beautiful European Bee-eater kept us entertained as they hawked for their breakfast over the veld. Once in the park, Ant-eating Chat, Capped Wheatear, a magnificent chocolate-brown Jackal Buzzard (juv.), two sightings of the much sought-after Ludwig’s Bustard, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Little Swift, and Namaqua Dove, plus our first mammals in the form of Cape mountain zebra, springbok, and gemsbok had all greeted us by the time we had made the short trip to the main buildings. Birding around the nursery is always good, White-backed Mousebird, Southern Grey Tit, Bokmakierie, Malachite Sunbird, and Chestnut-vented Warbler (Tit-Babbler) found their way onto the list. A superb flyby sighting of a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles was wonderful to watch, before we headed out to explore the rest of the park. The trail through the park produced more superb sightings of Verreaux’s Eagle and our first Lanner Falcon of the trip. However, the highlight was excellent sightings of Cinnamon-breasted Warbler. Additions to the mammal lists were Brants’ whistling rat and Karoo bush rat.
Capped Wheatear (photo © John Tinkler) White-backed Mousebird (photo © John Tinkler)
It was getting late by now, and we had to leave this lovely park to make the longish trip to Port Nolloth. The day had gotten hot and very windy. Besides locating our target, Barlow’s Lark, and good sighting of Karoo Long-billed Lark, the highlight of this excursion was the many (25+) Greater Kestrel nests with chicks seen on the poles on the roadside. We returned to Springbok for a very late supper, lists, and bed.
Day 3, 18th November. Springbok – Koa Dunes – Pofadder – Onseepkans
The usual raptors made their appearance on the poles as we covered the 60-odd kilometers to our first stop, the brilliantly red Koa Dunes. The effects of the three-year drought became more and more evident, and the temperatures were already in the 30s as we scanned the stony plains, red dunes and sparse grasslands for our target larks. After three hours in the heat our perseverance finally paid off, with a super sighting of a single Red Lark to add to the earlier Red Capped, Fawn Collared, and Spike-heeled. There was, however, no water to be found anywhere, and we decided to head for Pofadder and resume our search in the area north of the town towards Onseepkans on the Gariep River, where we at least would have water.
Fawn-colored Lark Spike-heeled Lark
Our afternoon trip was much more rewarding. Klipspringer with young, scampering effortlessly up the steep hillside, and Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Mountain Wheatear, Familiar and Tractrac Chats were soon seen. We also found a water trough about 70m from the road, which we scoped and watched for a good while. Cape and Lark-like Buntings and White-throated and Yellow Canaries were added, but unfortunately no Sclater’s Lark. Reaching the river we quickly added, among others, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Orange River White-eye, Malachite Kingfisher, Common Waxbill, African Palm Swift, and Karoo Thrush to our growing list. We left the river late, giving us every possible chance to see some nocturnal mammals on the road. However, this was not to be.
Rosy-faced Lovebird Mountain Wheatear
Day 4, 19th November. Pofadder – Augrabies Falls National Park
We left before breakfast and were happy to have Pofadder behind us. The owner of the guest house had packed a picnic breakfast/lunch, which we enjoyed along the way. Huge Sociable Weaver nests had become increasingly common as we made our way towards Augrabies. A few stops along the road produced a variety of species, including our first Namaqua Sandgrouse of the trip. There was, however, very little else to add to our list until we got closer to Augrabies, where Common, Alpine, and Little Swifts, Rock and Brown-throated Martins, White-throated Swallow, Karoo Chat, Red-eyed Bulbul, and Sabota Lark were seen.
We booked into our guest house, and after a short break we made for Augrabies Falls National Park, where we spent a good few hours enjoying the area around the falls itself. This is always a special part of the trip, thoroughly enjoyed by all. An exhausting but interesting trip through the very arid areas away from the falls produced very little in the way of birds, although we did have great sighting of a pair of the beautiful Double-banded Sandgrouse, while greater kudu, common eland, chacma baboon, and vervet were added to the mammal list. An interesting time was had photographing a huge specimen of the highly venomous black hairy thick-tailed scorpion. As expected, the best birding was closer to the water, and Southern Masked Weaver, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Robin-Chat, Scaly-feathered Weaver (Finch), Dusky Sunbird, Chat Flycatcher, Red-backed Shrike, and Karoo Scrub Robin were some of the species seen here. Then we had a great meal and a much needed good night’s sleep.
Double-banded Sandgrouse (photo © John Tinkler)
Day 5, 20th November. Augrabies Falls –- Upington – Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
We decided to visit Augrabies Falls National Park once more before breakfast. As expected, the early morning produced quite a number of species, including Goliath Heron, Hamerkop, Cape Spurfowl, Red-faced Mousebird, African Hoopoe, and African Reed and Lesser Swamp Warblers.
Red-faced Mousebird African Hoopoe
After breakfast we headed for Upington and on to the magnificent Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Here we met up with Brian, who would be with us until Kimberley to assist with the guiding and daily chores. We booked into our chalets and left right away for a late afternoon game drive. Our stay in the park was, as always, full of surprises and unexpected sightings. Many of the mammal and bird species are seen often; but there is seldom a dull moment. The days all roll into one. For this reason this report covers the entire stay at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as one entity.
Days 5 – 9, 20th – 24th November. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
I had decided that, after leaving Twee Rivieren, we would head north to Mata Mata, where we would stay for two nights, before moving on to Nossob for one night. This decision to slightly change the itinerary regarding the camps proved to be the correct one this year, and the accommodations are far superior at Mata Mata.
On the first afternoon drive in the park we saw mammals like yellow mongoose, South African ground squirrel, springbok, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, giraffe, greater kudu, and red hartebeest make their way onto our lists, as did Secretarybird and Martial and Tawny Eagles. However, the sighting of the day had to be the sought-after Red-necked Falcon, which, once we had stopped, took off to give us beautiful views through our pop-up roof.
Our trip north started with a superb sighting of a pair of Pygmy Falcons posing for us in the early morning sun: what a way to start our day, and this before we even got out of the restcamp gate! Our list of birds of prey would include, in addition, Bateleur, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagles, Gabar and Pale Chanting Goshawks, Black-winged and Yellow-billed Kites, Red-necked, Pygmy, and Lanner Falcons, Greater and Rock Kestrels, Lappet-faced and White-backed Vultures, Martial and Tawny Eagles, Secretarybird, Spotted Eagle-Owl, and Pearl-spotted Owlet by the end of our Kgalagadi adventure.
Black-chested Snake Eagle juvenile Pygmy Falcon
It was soon apparent that we had arrived as the springbok were having their young, and we were unlucky not to have observed the birth of at least one. We did, however, see many that had just been born. These tiny antelope with their huge ears spend the first couple of days hidden in a bush or long grass before they join a nursery herd with their mothers. The fact that the area was experiencing a severe drought with little grass and thick bush made them even more vulnerable to predators. We did observe a juvenile Martial Eagle feeding on parts of a young springbok that had been killed by the parent bird and brought to the nest.
Springbok Springbok newborn
Many Kori Bustards, the heaviest bird capable of flight, were seen, and we were well entertained by one individual having a dust bath. The sight of Kori Bustard and Secretarybird strutting the river beds and plains of the Kgalagadi is something very special.
Kori Bustard (photo © John Tinkler)
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Common Scimitarbill, Cardinal Woodpecker, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Groundscraper Thrush, Marico and Spotted Flycatchers, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Black-chested Prinia, and the ever-popular Crimson-breasted Shrike were common.
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Black-chested Prinia (photo © John Tinkler)
We took time to sit at a few of the waterholes in the mornings and watch some of the thousands of Sandgrouse that come to drink; we had both Namaqua and Burchell’s at times. The large numbers of birds that descend to drink attract both bird and mammal predators, such as Lanner Falcon, which regularly swoops over the drinking flocks, the ever present black-backed jackal, and, if you’re very lucky, African wild cat or even leopard. We unfortunatly had to be happy with a Lanner Falcon, having its grouse for breakfast, and numerous black-backed jackals.
Namaqua Sandgrouse male Burchell’s Sandgrouse male
On your first trip to Kgalagadi you simply do not have time to sit for very long periods at the waterholes, with so much else to see. The waterhole at Craig Lockhart near Mata Mata was very productive for us, with a great sighting of African Cuckoo. Here we also enjoyed quality time with a Pearl-spotted Owlet with an agama firmly grasped in its talon. We watched the bird quietly for a long while, until it eventually flew into its nest cavity that, unbeknownst to us, was on the underside of a limb not two meters from us.
Pearl-spotted Owlet (photo © John Tinkler)
It was also here that we had a superb sighting of three magnificent Kalahari lions, an adult male and female, who were ready to mate, and a younger male, keeping a wary distance from the adults. We also had a great sighting of two male lions at Kamqua, their huge black manes blowing in the wind. In all we enjoyed three very good sightings of lion, and this on a trip where we had decided not to chase the cats and to concentrate more on the others, feathered and furry. So we were delighted when a bat-eared fox and a trusting Cape serotine bat in one of our chalets also made its way onto the mammal list.
Lion Cape serotine
The highlight of our stay at Nossop was undoubtedly the night drive, where Barn Owl and Spotted Eagle-Owl were seen, as well as a very much sought-after sighting of a honey badger.
Spotted Eagle-Owl (photo © John Tinkler)
We decided not to explore too far north of Nossop, as most reports were mainly of lion, and although we did take an early drive it was very dry, the temperature had climbed, and by 9:30 it was already scorching hot. So we turned around and headed for Twee Rivieren. The road back was productive, and we came across many of the birds and mammals we had already seen. We did, however, have better views of Lappet Faced Vulture. After a short stop for lunch at Twee Rivieren we booked out of the park and made good time to our guest house on the banks of the Gariep River in Upington.
Day10, 25th November. Upington – Witsand Nature Reserve
‘Sleep-in day’, while the ‘slave driver’ gets provisions and the vehicle cleaned. Janet and Monika did, however, scan the river and added a few birds to the list before we headed off to Witsand Nature Reserve, where we arrived pretty fresh and booked into our very nice accomodation. Here we saw Jacobin and Diederik Cuckoo, Ashy Tit, Acacia Pied Barbet, a number of weavers, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cardinal Woodpecker, Chestnut-vented Warbler, and a Familiar Chat, who was desperately trying to feed her young while we were crowding her space. Many more hit the day’s list, most without our leaving the veranda of the chalets.
Jacobin Cuckoo Ashy Tit
Mammals also were in good supply. A curious yellow mongoose scuttled to and fro, and a short night drive added common duiker and Cape hare, while I was the only one lucky enough to see the only African wildcat of the trip. Brian, preparing supper, in the meantime added Lesser Honeyguide to the chalet list. One wonders if this little reserve deserves more than just an overnight stop.
Common duiker (photo © John Tinkler) Cape hare (photo © John Tinkler)
Day 11, 26th November. Witsand Nature Reserve – Kimberley
Monika had decided to join us for the extension, so she and Brian headed out early to Kimberley so that she could sort out a few personal arrangements for the extra time away from home. They did, despite being in a hurry, tick Short-toed Rock Thrush on the way, however, so there was a grumpy second vehicle.
The trip to Kimberley was pretty uneventful, as we headed for Marrick Safaris, our home for the next two nights. Birding around the game farm here was interesting, and before we headed off on our nocturnal safari we had added Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Three-banded Plover, White-fronted Bee-eater, African Grey Hornbill, Layard’s Warbler (Tit-Babbler), Shaft-tailed Whydah, and White-bellied Sunbird to the list.
The nocturnal safari was a cracker. We had good views of Double-banded Courser, Rufous-naped Lark, and Spotted Thick-knee with two chicks hidden under its wings.
Double-banded Courser juvenile Spotted thick-knee
We soon saw South African hedgehog, which was a mammal lifer for all, and eventually we found eight of these little critters before we returned to camp. The next super sighting was a gerbil mouse, a tiny rodent easily overlooked, with unbelievably huge ears – for once the sparse veld (due to the drought) worked in our favour! And finally aardvark, one of the main target species of the trip, caused much excitement, as this too was a mammal lifer for Janet, John, and Monika. We all appreciated these incredibly fine sightings of three seldom-seen animals.
South African hedgehog (photo © John Tinkler) Gerbil mouse (photo © John Tinkler)
Aardvark (photo © Brian Culver)
Day 12, 27th November. Kimberley: Mokala National Park and Rooifontein
We headed off early for Mokala National Park – due to the early hour Janet was now openly referring to me as tyrant or slave driver. This is a fairly new park, and it was a first visit for me. We were all very impressed; it simply absolutely has to be included as a place to stay on future trips.
Our mammal list grew rapidly as African buffalo, black wildebeest, tsessebe, blesbok, mountain reedbuck, and sable and roan antelopes were added.
On the birding front Red-breasted Swallow, Lesser Kestrel, Eastern Clapper Lark (plentiful), Blue Crane, Northern Black and Red-crested Korhaans, Fairy Flycatcher, Green Wood Hoopoe, Long-billed Crombec, Short-toed Rock Thrush (finally for all to see), and Lesser Grey Shrike made for a superb mammal and birding morning. A trip to the hide at midday added a few water birds; South African Shelduck and White-faced and Fulvous Ducks were new. There also were great views of a pair of marsh terrapin scrambling onto a log for their afternoon nap. All too soon we had to leave Mokala and head back to Kimberley.
Northern Black Korhaan Red-crested Korhaan
South African Shelduck female
We paid a short visit to the Felidae Centre, which deals with rescued wild life, and were able to get up very close and personal with lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal, black-backed jackal, and bat-eared fox. The aim of the centre is to rehabilitate the animals back into the wild; the tour was very interesting, and our donations are needed.
Bat-eared fox (photo © John Tinkler)
After supper we did a night drive at Rooifontein Game Reserve, but it was pretty quiet, and we had had a full day. Besides the usual antelope, however, we could add spring hare (in unimaginable numbers, recognizable easily due to their distinctive eye-shine) to the mammal list and had great sightings of Rufous-cheeked Nightjar in the air and on the ground, with two young under its wings.
After a tremendous day of wildlife watching we headed back to our accommodation and a good night’s sleep.
This also marked the end of the Namaqualand, Kalahari, and Northern Cape tour. We would leave on the extension to the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route, which Janet and John had booked as a custom tour, in the morning of the next day, and it would prove to be quite an adventure.
Eastern Cape and Garden Route to Cape Town Extension
Days 1 – 2, 28th – 29th November. Mountain Zebra National Park
Early on day one we had to make the long trip to Craddock in the Eastern Cape and the Mountain Zebra National Park. We wasted no time and took a drive through a small section of the lower park before booking in. Naturally, the animal the park is named for, the Cape mountain zebra, appeared in abundance, and we enjoyed the new smells and vegetation types (mainly eastern upper Karoo and Karoo escarpment grasslands), which were so different from the arid dry areas we had traveled through over the past two weeks!
Cape mountain zebra
The area had received very good recent rains, and we were upbeat about what we might find. However, many of the birds and mammals we had already seen have ranges that overlap, so to find new additions was a good challenge. Chinspot Batis, Karoo Scrub Robin, Eastern Long-billed Lark, Rufous-eared Warbler, Cape Longclaw, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Red-throated Wryneck, and African Rock Pipit did oblige, fortunately.
Eastern Long-billed Lark African Rock Pipit
A night drive in the park found us the eagerly-awaited sightings of aardwolf and suricate (meerkat), both of which we had expected to find earlier during the trip; I was very relieved. This is really a superb park, and the decision to use it as a break in the journey between Kimberley and Addo was a good one.
Aardwolf (photo © John Tinkler)
Day 3 – 4, 30th November – 1st December. Addo Elephant National Park
The green vegetation of Addo was in sharp contrast to what we had experienced so far on our tour. Our accommodation was very good; each chalet had an outside veranda area overlooking a section of the park. African elephant, African buffalo, red hartebeest, greater kudu, Common Ostrich, and many more could be seen while having a quiet drink. Many came close to the game fence that surrounds the restcamp area, and we all had animals no more than 10 meters away from us. Really special!
Needless to say, the birdlife was superb at the same time; Southern Tchagra, Lesser Striped Swallow, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Weaver, Southern Boubou, Southern Red Bishop, and Bar-throated Apalis were basically roommates.
Lesser Striped Swallow Southern Red Bishop
New birds on the list included African Spoonbill, African Fish Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Little Sparrowhawk, Red-necked Spurfowl, Black Cuckoo, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Lesser Honeyguide, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Cloud Cisticola, the beautiful Cape Batis, and the cracking Olive Bush Shrike.
Cape Batis Brown-hooded Kingfisher
The mammal sighting that will stay with me was a stunning, large spotted hyena, which snuck up behind us at Hapoor Dam. He came out from behind some bush and was about five metres from my car door when I spotted him. We were all out of the vehicle at the time (which was legal at this viewpoint), but on the side of the car opposite to the animal. I calmly asked all to get back into the vehicle, but then I had to walk towards the animal to get to my door. The hyena took a tentative step back as I turned towards him and then just stood still and glared at me. Once in the vehicle I made light of the incident, but I don’t believe I fooled anyone.
Addo is a superb park to visit; besides being malaria-free it provides great mammal viewing and exceptional birding. The park is also excellent for photography and is highly recommended. All the guests that have visited the park with me have loved it.
Day 5, 2nd December. Addo to Storms River Mouth via Cape St Francis
The long drive from the restcamp to the southern gate of this wonderful park presented us as a farewell, among others, with Olive Thrush and Rufous-naped Lark for more good birds.
Rufous-naped Lark Olive Thrush
Unfortunately the wind had decided to blow, and St Francis as a result was pretty much a no-go area as far as birding was concerned. It was the first time that I have ever not found Black-winged Lapwing here. However, we did see Brown-backed Honeybird and a single Denham’s Bustard in magnificent plumage, what a bird!
We did a short trip around the airpark and then headed for Storms River Mouth in Tsitsikamma, part of the now huge Garden Route National Park. Forest Buzzard was a much sought-after addition, and Janet finally got her White-necked Raven at Storms River Bridge. But today’s most exciting sighting must have been the caracal walking along the road as we approached the chalets; it is not often that one gets to see these striking cats. Kelp Gull, African Oystercatcher, and Swift and Sandwich Terns were added before we had supper and got to bed.
African Oystercatcher Kelp Gull
Day 6 – 7, 3rd – 4th December. Storms River Mouth – Nature’s Valley – Wilderness
The night at Storms River Mouth was, as always, superb. After having been greeted to a misty, overcast morning by a large group of rock hyrax, with many very little ones among them, we left early, though, and birding on the way out proved to be spectacular. Olive Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, White-starred Robin, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Narina Trogon, Black-bellied Starling, Knysna Turaco, and Black-headed Oriole were all seen before we left the main gate.
Nature’s Valley, although beautiful, was disappointing; we arrived at midday, which is not good for birding. A pretty Cape White-eye, however, eyed us curiously and showed well. We spent time with the skulking Victorin’s Warbler, though, and after some tactical coaxing we managed to get good views of this sought-after bird.
Then we headed for Wilderness and two nights at the Kingfisher Country House, where we all soon felt at home on the comfortable veranda. Swee Waxbill, Forest Canary, Knysna Turaco, Chorister Robin-Chat, Red-necked Spurfowl, Terrestrial Brownbul, Sombre Greenbul, Lemon Dove, African Dusky Flycatcher (feeding nestlings), and many more were seen around the property before we left.
Red-necked Spurfowl Knysna Turaco
After some excellent food and a good night’s sleep we were up and birding very early. The day started well with a short but good view of the secretive Red-chested Flufftail, a great bird on any trip. Burchell’s Coucal also was new to the list, African Fish Eagle was fairly common, and we added it, along with a host of waterbirds, including Maccoa Duck and Southern Pochard, to the day’s sightings before we headed back for breakfast.
Some interesting forest birding around Hoekville provided more good birds: Grey Cuckooshrike, Emerald Cuckoo, Black-headed Oriole, Olive Woodpecker, and Collared Sunbird. The stunning little bushbuck was added to the mammal list. All in all a very enjoyable stay with superb food and great lodgings.
Day 8, 5th December. Wilderness – Breede River
This was a leisurely drive through the rolling grasslands of the Overberg, with White Stork and Blue Crane the standout birds. We made good time and stopped at the Bontebok National Park. Here we enjoyed some excellent sightings of the iconic Black Harrier. Karoo Scrub Robin, African Stonechat, and the endemic Grey-winged Francolin, among others, made the day’s list. This is the home of the stunning bontebok, and many were seen, most of them with newborn offspring.
White Stork Grey-winged Francolin
The drive to our accommodation at Mudlark Riverside Lodge on the southern bank of the Breede River included a passage across the river via the man-powered pont at Malgas, the last man-powered river crossing in South Africa and always a point of discussion and a very interesting experience.
The area had had good rains, and all the pans along the way were full. Whiskered Tern was a new addition to the list, as well as many of the usual waterfowl. Blue Cranes were abundant, and we also were happy to see Denham’s Bustard and Spotted Eagle-Owl well.
Mudlark Riverfront Lodge was brimming with birds! Cape Sugarbird, Southern Double-collared and Malachite Sunbirds, Pin-tailed Whydah, Speckled Mousebird, Southern Boubou, Southern Fiscal, Fiscal Flycatcher, and Bar-throated Apalis were very common and made for spectacular viewing and photography. Simply a great stop.
Cape Sugarbird Speckled Mousebird
Day 8, 6th December. Breede River – De Hoop Nature Reserve – Cape Agulhas
This is the lark run! Agulhas Long-billed, Large-billed, and Red-capped Larks were soon on the day’s list.
Large-billed Lark Agulhas Long-billed Lark
At De Hoop Nature Reserve we encountered new mammals in the form of grey rhebok and Cape grysbok, and the large vlei added (a vast number of) Great Crested Grebe to the trip list. Many other species already on the list were also seen in this very beautiful little reserve.
The surprise of the day was when we were approaching Struisbaai via a back road, where we came across a few large bodies of standing water, which held hundreds of waders and waterfowl. Among others Pied Avocet, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Common Ringed Plover, and Eurasian Curlew were seen before we retired to our overnight accommodation..
Pied Avocet Black-winged Stilt
Day 9, 7th December. Cape Agulhas – Cape Town
We once again left before breakfast and headed for the standing water we found yesterday. The wind had subsided and the sun was at our backs, so we were able to use the scope and pan across the hundreds of birds. Unfortunately we were unable to find anything new for our list.
After breakfast we headed for Harold Porter Botanical Gardens and Stony Point at Betty’s Bay. Cape Siskin, Black Saw-wing, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, and Yellow Canary were some birds seen at the Gardens, while at Stony Point we strolled among a few thousand threatened African Penguins as well as Cape, White-breasted, and Bank Cormorants.
African Penguin White-breasted Cormorant
The birding continued with a stop at Rooi Els, where we added the elusive Cape Rockjumper. Our final birding was done high above Gordon’s Bay, where we enjoyed the magnificent view and added Cape Grassbird and Cape Rock-Thrush to our impressive trip list.
Then we made our way back to Cape Town after three weeks of travel. However, Janet and John would only fly out late the next day, so we decided to do some more birding on the peninsula the following day. We had supper and a good few laughs at my house before turning in at the birder-friendly Afton Grove in Noordhoek.
Cape Rock Thrush
Day 10, 8th December. Birding around the Cape Peninsula
We first of all visited Kommetjie, where Crowned Cormorant was added to give us a full house of cormorants. Silvermine Wetlands, Little Stream, and Rathfelder Forest were all given a quick look.
We ended the morning at the incomparable Strandfontein Ponds. Black Sparrowhawk, Common Chaffinch, Cape Canary, Zitting Cisticola, and Black-necked Grebe were new birds for the trip today, and we enjoyed many beautiful Glossy and Hadada Ibis and Greater Flamingos, as well as a noisy African Pipit screaming at us.
Greater Flamingo with juvenile African Pipit
A short ride through the magnificent Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in the early afternoon was a relaxing and pleasurable finish to today’s Cape Town adventures, which added two cute and fluffy Spotted Eagle-Owl fledglings to our pleasure as the last birds of a fabulous 22-day birds and mammals trip.
Spotted Eagle-Owl fledgling
Finally the adventure was over as we made our way to the airport to drop John and Janet off for their flight.. Finally I then took Monika back home.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of this 7200 km tour, the longest I have undertaken to date, and would like to thank Monika, Janet, and John for making it so easy. We did not do the trip at the most productive time of the year, and the bird numbers were down due to the drought. However, we did get 327 bird species under the belt (along with 52 mammal species), and the fact that a good few escaped our attention was not through lack of motivation. We all worked well together, and I would love to do another trip with you all.