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SOUTH AFRICA - Oct - 2004

207 Bird Species recorded

Leaders  Viv Stratton & Johan von Tonder  

Photo: Blue Crane

Blue Crane

Day 1   22nd October

The group arrived at Cape Town Airport at 9-00 am where we were met by our South African guide Johan. The airport produced a few birds such as Peregrine Falcon and several House Crows, and then after checking in our cases we drove to a security establishment called Varkensvlei, which stands for Marshy area for Pigs in Africaan's. This area consists of several large lakes and pools divided by grassy dykes, with small stands of trees interspersed between the pools which contained many species of duck, grebes, ibises and herons. The ducks included Cape Teal , Yellow-billed Ducks, Red-billed Teal, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard and Macoa Duck. A surprise to us were two White-faced Ducks with their young, these being uncommon in this particular area, while interspersed with the ducks were large numbers of Great Crested, Black-necked and Little Grebes. The grassy dykes held five Grey Herons and eight Black-headed Herons, 10+ Little Egrets, several Yellow-billed (intermediate) Egrets, and a large number of Cattle Egrets. As we watched the ducks and herons on the lakes, an African Marsh Harrier decided to entertain us. The ever-present Egyptian Geese spent a lot of time squabbling with each other and pools and larger lakes held good numbers of Hartlaub's Gulls, and several Sacred Ibis, while the shrubby dykes produced noisy Karoo Prinias and Cape Bulbuls. We then travelled a short distance to a sewage treatment plant, where we encountered good numbers of Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard, and several more Macoa Ducks. Walking around the dykes we saw  Brown-throated Martins flying low over the water hawking for insects, as well as Greater Striped Swallows, and high above our heads were a few Little Swifts. Out on the muddy banks were African Sacred Ibis, 3 Glossy Ibis, and 8 African Spoonbills. In the trees Cape Turtle Doves, and Red-eyed Doves were calling continuously, while 2 Laughing Doves put in an appearance, and overhead several small flocks of Spotted Doves were watched flying to their nearby feeding area. This walk also proved fruitful when we stumbled across a particularly large Angulate Tortoise; allowing the tortoise to go its way two Hadada Ibises then flew over us. A male and female Pied Kingfisher were rather noisily displaying to each other, which in turn woke up a Black-crowned Night Heron, and on a closer inspection we found that there were up to 10 Black-crowned Night Herons in these bushes. We next travelled a short distance to a rich marsh land where a Barn Swallow and several White Throated Swallows put in an appearance as well as another African Marsh Harrier. As we watched groups of  Pied Crows forever on the lookout for food, we came across a Leopard Tortoise, justly named as it had spots on the carapace. The song of the shy Lesser Swamp Warbler and Little Rush Warbler came from the reed beds, and Cape Wagtails could be seen walking along the track in front of us. Both Zitting and Levaillant's Cisticolla's were relatively common and could be seen displaying and calling from the tops of the reed throughout our walk. We also had 3 Southern Red Bishops in the reeds, while in the trees Cape Canaries sang. The Southern Double-collared Sunbirds were a delight in their spangled plumage feeding on the trumpet flowers, while nearby in the tea garden and along the track Cape Buntings and Cape Sparrows were busy with their nest building. Having now entered the fifth hide we saw 4 Swift (Greater Crested) Terns and 7 Sandwich Terns fly over our heads while a huge Caspian Tern sat on the mud accompanied by  Hartlaub's Gulls, and large numbers of White-breasted and Reed Cormorants, as well as African Darters, 20 plus Great White Pelicans, and several Greater Flamingo's. The reed edges were also home to African Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, and Red-knobbed Coots, while the nearby muddy islands produced, Three-banded Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwings, Pied Avocets and Black-winged Stilts. Throughout the walk Cape Gulls were always in attendance and as we walked back towards the minibus we had Cape Bulbuls, Cape Whiteye, Cape Weaver's, and 3 Southern Masked Weavers, while in the distance we observed an African Goshawk chasing over the marsh, as 3 Helmeted Guinea Fowl were found next to the minibus. Common Starlings and a few Red-winged Starlings were seen around the lakes and then as we travelled on to Noordhoek a short stop in the mountains produced,  2 White-necked Ravens, an African Goshawk, 2 Black-shouldered Kite, 2 Steppe Buzzards and a Pin-tailed Whydah. When we arrived at our accommodation in Noordoek, we settled into our rooms and then took a short walk around the garden before dinner. We managed to find several species including 2 Common Waxbills, several Cape Canaries, and 4 Brimstone Canaries.

Day 2   23rd October

We left Noordhoek at 7-30 am and travelled a few kilometres along the road to a small inlet with a sandy beach bordered either side with weed covered rocks. Sitting on the rocks were a good number of White-breasted, Cape and Bank Cormorants, as well as the much scarcer Crowned Cormorant, and at one stage we had all four species standing together. Out at sea long skeins of Cape Gannets were flying westwards and on the beach Little Egrets were chasing fish fry in the shallows, while large numbers of gulls roosted among the rocks. Close by were Swift (Greater Crested) Terns, Sandwich Terns and a few Common Terns also sitting on the rocks. The silence would only be broken by the noisy African Black Oystercatchers with the males displaying to the females, a Ringed Plover was then found, a real rarity in this area, while 5 White-fronted Plovers merged into the granite rocks. A pair of Pied Kingfishers were seen feeding in the shallow pools, while the noisy Blacksmith Lapwings displayed to each other. Overhead large numbers of African Black Swifts, hawked for insects with White-rumped, Alpine and Little Swifts and a few Greater Striped Swallows, and Rock Martins, while Cape Wagtails were seen feeding young in a nearby crevice. A visit to a nearby shop produced Cape Canaries singing from the tree tops, and a couple of Cape White-eyes. We then drove to the Cape of Good Hope where on occasions we stopped to look out over the Fynbos for some of its special birds which included the 'brilliant green'- long tailed Malachite Sunbird, some Orange-breasted Sunbird (a Cape speciality) and the more common Southern Double-collared Sunbird, as well as Helmeted Guinea-fowl, and Cape Francolin. The Fynbos is an area of the Cape covering several thousand square kilometres and is one of the most productive areas for plants in the world, it is famous for the Protea which are tall bushy shrubs or small trees with large nectar producing flowers which totally colour the landscape. As we continued our journey Johan spotted a beautiful Black Harrier hunting the Fields, while on the other side of the road sitting on the Proteas we had a Yellow Bishop which performed beautifully fluffing up it's golden feathers. The tiny Karoo Prinia is very common in this area and several were seen flitting over the tops of the bushes, while hovering above the skyline were Rock Kestrels. Before we arrived at the Cape we visited a small beach, where there were large numbers of Hartlaub's Gulls and a few Cape Gulls in the surf, and nearby feeding on the beach were 18 Avocet, a small mixed flock of  Sacred and Glossy Ibis. We then found a beautiful but endangered Bontebok which is a brown and white antelope endemic to the Fynbos. Several stops were made to pick up small Angulate Tortoises which were attempting to cross the road, and then further along we found a large Puff Adder also crossing the road. Although we got out of our vehicles we ensured that we kept our distance from this highly venomous snake, before it slithered into the shrubbery. A sharp eyed Diane then spotted 3 Eland feeding on the Proteas, this is the largest antelope in the area, but even for it's size it could be difficult to observe amongst the trees. At Cape Point a very large passage of Cape Gannets and long Skeins of Cape Cormorants were moving Westwards, a Sooty Shearwater also put in appearance while around the viewpoint Red-winged Starlings were feeding on the tit-bits left behind by the visitors, even a male Cape Bunting made use of a few crumbs. Some of the group walked down to the point where they had Rock Hyrax and a party of Chacma Baboons. Flying around the cliffs were Rock Martins, while high up amongst the boulders was a Familiar Chat, this being a rather dull brown non-descript bird. At the Cape of Good Hope we had a Photo shoot where the whole group stood around the sign which showed the latitude and longitude. Travelling back to Noordoek we found a small herd of Bonteboks and a small group of Ostritch composed of males and females, while overhead a Steppe Buzzard searched for prey. Levaillant's Cisticolas were very common in the Fynbos and were regularly seen singing from the tops of the Proteas, while Helmeted Guinea-fowl would often be noted feeding beside, or running across the road. While watching the Ostriches we had a displaying male and two female Bokmakierie a strikingly beautiful yellow and black bush shrike, also at this point we had a Cape Siskin, which is another Cape Speciality. We next travelled from Cape Point to Boulder Beach near Simonstown where we were entertained by the African Penguins who was sitting under the boulders and trees with their young. This was quite a large rookery of penguins which allowed very close approach. Arriving back at Noordoek a garden produced Red-eyed, Cape  Turtle, and Laughing Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Cape White Eye's, Cape Canaries and Common Waxbills. This ended a superb day.

Day 3   24th October

An early morning walk in the garden produced a good selection of species including 2 Cape Robin Chats, Cape White-eyes and a male Southern Double-collared Sunbird. We set off at 7-30 am and travelled to Gordons Bay and here amongst the shrubbery we found Karoo Prinias, Cape White-eyes, Cape Bulbuls and Pied Crows. While driving along Gordons Bay on the R44 Road we observed a magnificent Southern Right Whale female with a calf, this whale and her baby were so close to the shore that every detail could be seen, in fact it was so close that at first we thought it was a rock with the waves washing over it. Our attention was only taken away from the whale when three Orange-breasted Sunbirds appeared, while up on the hillside a magnificent Malachite Sunbird with it's metallic green plumage pleased the group. Further along we came to a pull-in and after a few minutes we were able to hear a Victorin's Warbler singing, this is a Cape endemic and we ended up having magnificent views of this rare skulker. In the same vicinity we had excellent views of several Cape Sugar Birds with their long tails and lemon flank patch. The next stop was at a site which proved to be very good for another Cape speciality called the Rock Jumper. A male and a female were found but tended to be a little distant and very elusive before eventually showing themselves very well to the whole group as they moved in and out of the large boulders and crevices. In the same area we had a pair of Familiar Chats, Fork-tailed Drongo's, a pair of Fiscal Flycatchers, and excellent views of Cape Sugar Birds. On the slope of the hillside were 4 Cape Siskins, a pair of Cape Rock Thrushes sat on the wires and in a garden below us a Cape Francolin was feeding on some scraps put out for the birds. A troupe of Chacma Baboons with their babies delighted us with their antics when playing on the timber balustrades on the veranda of a bungalow while the occupants of the building were out. The road to Hermanus provided us with our first Blue Cranes, magnificent birds with long drooping tails, we also had Rock Kestrel, several Spur-winged Geese, Jackal Buzzards, and Steppe Buzzards. We stopped at Hermanus for lunch, this resort is famous for it's Southern Right Whales, and true to form up to eight whales displayed superbly at very close quarters where the Barnacles on the bonnets were observed as well as the huge tail flukes extending out of the water. Hartlaub's, Grey-headed, and Cape Gulls, were also observed off-shore. Travelling inland we left the coastal mountains behind and passed through a very different countryside consisting largely of huge wheat fields, in one field we had a flock of 17 Blue Cranes, and in another field 5 Grey-winged Francolins fed with good numbers of Helmeted Guinea-fowl on the corn stubble. Birds typical of this habitat included Pied Starlings, Cape Sparrows , Yellow Canaries, Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Prinia, and African Stonechat, all of these species were usually perched on the fence posts or fence wires. In the corn stubble were large numbers of Red-capped Larks, African Pipits, and Large-billed Larks while Fiscal Shrikes and Fiscal Flycatchers were often perched on the telephone wires and were now becoming very common. A brief stop encountered a rather ragged Cape Vulture , as well as Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crows, Capped Wheatears and the incessant call of Common Quails. Yet another brief stop found us 2 African Fish Eagles, Fork-tailed Drongo's and a calling Red-chested Cuckoo which kept itself well hidden. A small stream running alongside the road with reed edges produced a huge breeding colony of Red Bishops where the males were seen displaying in their brilliant red-and-black plumage. Also in the reeds were African Reed Warbler, Lesser Swamp Warbler and Little Rush Warbler, Cape Weavers and a beautiful Malachite Sunbird. A few kilometres further along we had a colony of Golden Bishops which look far more spectacular in flight than when perched. We then came across an aptly named Black Harrier which gave us excellent views as it worked its way along the road often crossing right in front of us. Beside a stand of trees we saw an African Harrier Hawk (Gymnogene), this was a male with the pink bare skin around the face, while further along the road Kevin spotted 2 Southern Black Korhaan in a field with Crowned Plovers, Capped Wheatears, African Pipits and Red-capped Larks. We arrived at our destination at Swellendam at dusk where 2 Olive Thrushes were seen feeding, ending a long but very fruitful day.

Day 4   25th October

We started off the day at 6-00 am where the first birds we observed at the park were Olive Thrushes and 5 Swee Waxbills. On the way to Grootvadresbosch we stopped off at a little lake were we had Little Bitterns, Giant Kingfishers, Moorhens and Red Bishops and then further along a track we had a Brown-headed Kingfisher, a Eurasian Hobby and an African Hoopoe which flew across in front of us. During our breakfast we observed a beautiful Greater Double-collared Sunbird, a Pin-tailed Whydah flew over, a Neddicky popped up from deep in a bush, while Brimstone Canaries, Cape Canaries and Yellow Canaries were singing in the tree tops. An Olive Pigeon (Ramaron Dove) sat in the tree tops for all to see while another was feeding on the grass lawn and in the nearby bushes were 4 Speckled Mousebirds with their punk hair styles. We made our way into the forest where Sombre Bulbuls were calling, and immediately found a Cape Batis, while further along we had a pair of African Paradise-Flycatchers building their mossy nest. Johan had a Black Saw-wing fly over the forest while nearby an African Dusky Flycatcher provided very close views. Listening for the calls of the forest birds we picked up the song of the Knysna Warbler a drawn out trill, but although the bird was less than a metre away from us no matter how hard we tried we were unable to observe it although spending quite some time at this site. The consolation for not seeing the Knysna Warbler was an Olive-backed Woodpecker, a lot more African Paradise-Flycatchers, Bar-throated Apalis and a beautiful Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. Throughout our walk through the forest we could hear Red-chested Cuckoo and saw several Olive Thrushes, a few Greater Double-collared Sunbirds, 5 Swee Waxbills, and Cape Batis . On the forest floor were several Forest Canaries these being much duller and greyer than other members of their family. A Forest Buzzard continually harassed a huge Martial Eagle while it sat up in the trees. We then left and took a route through extensive cultivation where wheat fields were predominant. Stopping at some of these fields we found Zitting Cisticola's, and had very good views of Large-billed Larks and a very large lark the Agulhas Long-billed Lark. At another site we observed the unusual display flight of an Agulhas Clapper Lark so named because of the noise it makes with its wings as it descends. Jackal Buzzards and Steppe Buzzards were very common mostly perched on telegraph poles or beside the roadside. A site was then visited for the rare Cloud Cisticola's with about three pairs present. A small pool further along the road produced 3 Pearl-breasted Swallows this being a migrant from the North, with other roadside stops producing 2 White-throated Canaries and beautiful views of three Bokmakierie, a Diderick Cuckoo and two Secretary Birds which were flying directly above us on the thermals, showing that this bird of prey which normally walks on the grasslands can also show it's prowess in flight. A solitary Karoo Chat (Robin), was spotted and several Black-headed Herons flew from pool-to-pool. Arriving at a Nature Reserve three Southern Boubou were located by their distinctive calls, and provided us all with very good views. A new bird for the trip came in the form of 2 Cape Longclaws a large pipit type bird with an orange throat. Once we reached the Swellendam Bungalow Park we decided to take a walk before dinner, this produced  5 Olive Thrushes, Cape White-eyes , Red-chested and Klaas's Cuckoos, and Sombre Bulbul while walking back to the rooms we heard some tapping and found a Cardinal Woodpecker tearing off some bark from a nearby tree.

Day 5   26th October

An early morning walk found us 5 African Paradise Flycatchers, 2 African Dusky Flycatchers, 10 plus Olive Thrushes, a Black-headed Oriole and 5 Spur Winged Geese that flew over. Johan then picked up a Klaas's Cuckoo in the tree tops calling continuously, and this bird providing excellent views for all of us. Later in another part of a park we had excellent views of a male and female Amethyst Sunbird.  On route to Bontebok National Park we managed to see several Red-capped Larks, very close views of 3 Cape Longclaws also very close views of 3 Cape Grassbirds . Keeping a beady eye on the proceedings was a Black-shouldered Kite while farmland gave us good numbers of Capped Wheatears and African Pipits, 5 Crowned Plovers and a beautiful male Denham's Bustard with a female seen further along the road. At the same time a flock of 7 Spur-winged Geese flew over. Continuing on the farm road we found a Karoo Korhaan, which is apparently a rare bird for this area. The electric poles and pylons held several Steppe Buzzards, 8 Jackal Buzzards plus 20 Yellow-billed Kites, but the surprise bird here was a pale morph Booted Eagle which was another very good record for this area. At Sir Lowry's pass where the road had been driven through a hill producing a deep valley or pass we had 7 Cape Siskin, 2, Cape Robin Chats, a beautiful Orange-breasted Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, and a superb male Cape Rock Thrush. Our next park was small and sheltered and soon produced several Cape Sugar Birds these gave very close views of a sometimes shy bird. The wet marshy areas produced Lesser Swamp Warbler, Egyptian Geese, and Blacksmith Lapwing, the ever present Karoo Prinia's a few Cape Robin Chats and Fiscal Flycatchers. Moving on to our next hotel, a quick look around found us 200 plus Sacred Ibises, 2 Cattle Egrets, and several Hadada Ibis all of these were in a wet marshy area next to the gardens.

Day 6   27th October

An early morning walk around the gardens of our hotel produced a flight of Sacred Ibises, 1 Spur-winged Goose, 8 Cattle Egrets, 2, Yellow-b illed Kites and several Hadada Ibis. In the bottom corner of the garden we had a Fiscal Shrike feeding its  young, with 10 plus Cape White-eyes, and other species including Cape Bulbuls, Cape Wagtails, Karoo Prinias, Cape and Brimstone Canaries. After breakfast we drove to the Paarl Mountain Reserve where we immediately saw a Jackal Buzzard and several Pied Crows. This reserve consisted of several large pools separated by reedy dykes and grassy banks and an area of small woodland. It didn't long for us to see a Great White Pelican flying over, while on the pools were several Great Crested Grebes, Black-necked Grebes and Little Grebes. There were several small islands with a variety of breeding birds on them including large numbers of White-breasted and Reed Cormorants with chicks and African Darters on their nests. We ten came across a Black-headed Heron, 2 Grey Herons and 2 Little Egrets. The trees on one particular island contained over 100 Cattle Egrets noisily feeding their young, while hiding away in a corner of the reserve was a Black-crowned Night Heron. In and around the pools were Sacred, Glossy and Hadada Ibis, plus 2 superb African Spoonbills showing their red patch at the base of the pink bill. There were also 100 plus Greater Flamingo's with some swimming while others stood on one leg. The ducks on this reserve included Yellow-billed and an African Black Duck with very young Ducklings, Cape Teal , Red-billed Teal, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Maccoa Duck and 2 White-faced Ducks. A quiet marshy corner of the reserve produced a Black Crake, African Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen and Red-knobbed Coot. A Three-banded Plover flew over into a ditch while Crowned Lapwing and the noisy Blacksmith Lapwing were displaying. A Common Sandpiper was found before we moved on to another area of the reserve where we had 4 Water Thick-knees sat motionless. A flock of 8 winter plumage Whiskered Terns fished the larger pools for small fish, while 2 full breeding plumage Whiskered Terns sat on a tree stump, were a very unusual sighting at this time of the year. African Black Swifts were seen and White-rumped Swifts hawked over the pools chasing insects while the White-throated Swallows fed their young, and Brown-throated Martins drifted back and forth. Fishing from the reed edges were 2 P ied Kingfishers and a diminutive gem the Malachite Kingfisher. We then entered a hide where very close views of African Reed Warblers, Little Rush Warblers, and Lesser Swamp Warblers enabled us to explain the details of these very similar looking birds. The reeds were also home to Southern Red Bishops, Yellow Bishops and Common Waxbills, with 2 Pin-tailed Whydah's including males with fantastically long tails. Leaving this park we continued our journey stopping along the road whenever an interesting looking bird was spotted. Amongst these were 2, Black-shouldered Kites, 2, Steppe Buzzards, and 4 Helmeted Guinea Fowl. A small marshy area with a couple of pools in the middle of a village turned up 4 Purple Heron, 2 African Spoonbills, and some Little Grebes as well as a Malachite Kingfisher, several Cape Wagtails and a Cape Bunting hopping along the track. In the evening the call of a Fiery-necked Nightjar continued throughout the night.

Day 7   28th October

An early morning short stroll around the garden produced a rarity in these parts as a  European Chaffinch put in an appearance to the few of us that were up at that time of the day! Well the weather favoured us, so today was to be our eagerly awaited Cape Pelagic. The group were given a safety talk on the boats by one of the seabird guides, and the procedure that must be followed for donning life jackets, and what to do in the case of an emergency. The group were divided into two, with the larger group on the larger but slower boat, and the smaller group on the smaller but faster boat. The boats were Tuna Fishing boats with elevated decks for good observation where birds and cetaceans could be easily observed. The trip out from Simonstown Harbour produced 180 Swift (Greater Crested) Terns which sat on a boom in the harbour while White-rumped Swifts and Greater Striped Swallows hawked for insects and African Black Oystercatchers were common. From Simonstown to the Cape Point which is 15 miles we had more Swift Terns and 30 plus African Penguins seeing some in the water while the others were on the shore. The journey from Cape Point to 34 miles South West of the Cape Point produced a phenomenal number of sea birds with hundreds of White-chinned Petrels, Cape Gannets, and Cape Cormorants. The further we went out and the deeper the water became the more seabirds we encountered, with Pintado Petrels, Sabine's Gulls, Shy Albatross, Sub-Antarctic Skuas, flocks of terns including Arctic Terns feeding on White Bait, where we also saw a  dark phase Arctic Skua harassing them for their food. Africa Penguins and Cape Fur Seals were dotted around the ocean, quickly disappearing as the boats approached at speeds of approximately 25 knots. We then came into a group of about 50 Sooty Shearwaters while all around the sea were groups of Gre at Shearwaters just sitting around. Also very exciting were the Southern Right Whales and a Humpback Whale seen on the way out. Having travelled 34 miles from the Cape of Good Hope we came across a large stern trawler with a phenomenal number of sea birds behind it, none of us had ever seen so many sea-birds. This thick cloud of seabirds consisted of very large numbers of Shy Albatross, the most common of the albatross's, followed by Black-browed Albatross, and then 10 plus Yellow-nosed Albatross. 8 Long Finned Pilot Whales were seen and we enjoyed very large numbers of Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, including an extremely rare white morph Southern Giant Petrel which even sat on the water providing us with very close views. Large flocks of Pintado Petrels were also sitting on the sea with several hundred Wilson's Petrels and White-chinned Petrels. 2 Great-winged Petrels a (gad fly) petrel came close to the boat while several hundred Great Shearwaters and Cape Gannets fed on the fish Offal. A good number of Sabine's Gulls were also feeding behind the boat with Juvenile Arctic Terns, a few Common Terns, Sandwich Terns, and large numbers of Cape Gulls. The Sub-Antarctic Skuas were having a heyday chasing all the species of terns and gulls. Having spent some time here with this stern trawler we spotted another one 4 miles away, being aware that a number of the group were suffering from sea-sickness, we took a decision and headed for this trawler only to find even more sea birds than before, in fact twice the number of sea birds, with again large numbers of Shy, Black-browed, and Yellow-nosed Albatross's, at times there were over 20 Albatross on view together. There were also good numbers of Sabine's Gulls, huge numbers of Wilson's Petrels and for the first time 5 Black-bellied Storm-Petrels, these were much rarer and larger than Wilson's Petrels and were seen zig-zagging in a feeding frenzy. Other species present included many White-chinned Petrels, while Great Shearwaters littered the sea, along with flocks of Pintado Petrels and large numbers of Giant Petrels of both species, the Southern Giant Petrel with a greenish tip to the bill and the Northern Giant Petrels having a darker orange/red tip to the bill. Both boats had exceptionally close views of all the sea birds as they passed between the boats and we were lucky enough to have another 2 Great-winged Petrels which came in to have a look at the feeding frenzy that was taking place before moving off out at sea. Cape Fur Seals continuously surfaced taking scraps of fish thrown from the trawler and having saturated ourselves with sea birds we decided to return to Simonstown. On our the way back we had a single Manx Shearwater and a very close view of a Soft-plumaged Petrel. The South African Navy had a firing practice from Simonstown to a target off-shore, which halted our arrival at the port, although we would have been safe enough to continue, as every round fired missed the target.

We left Simonstown Harbour with many of the group now having recovered from sea-sickness, and proceeded to a National Park up on a hill, here we had a Rock Kestrel sat on a rock, while a few Cape Bulbuls were singing when our attention was drawn to a magnificent male Cape Rock Thrush. Cape White-eyes twittered away in the scrub while Cape Canaries and 2 Cape Siskin fed on the Proteas. This area also produced Cape Bunting and a Pin-tailed Whydah with it's long flowing tail. This has been a fabulous day with some very exciting and memorable sea birds.

Day 8   29th October

A quick look around the garden before breakfast produced the regular assortment of species before Kevin  ran into the garden saying that he had seen a Spotted Thick-knee in some gardens down the road, I called the group together to see this elusive bird, we hurried down the road to find that we were in the wrong gardens, whereas Kevin and John had the bird just across the road from the Hotel. We had breakfast and loaded our luggage and headed off for a suitable habitat for the elusive Knysna Warbler, but when we arrived it poured with rain, thus providing conditions not conducive to observe this bird. As a consolation we had a nice Red-chested Cuckoo above where the vehicles were parked. A short excursion brought us to the famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, which consists of 36 hectares of the Fynbos with Proteas being the predominant plant. It was still raining very hard so this gave us a chance for some coffee and a walk through the bookshop. The rain quickly cleared and the garden produced a myriad of birds. A small pool contained a Little Grebe and a Moorhen, while overhead we had good numbers of Sacred Ibis, while Hadada Ibis fed on the lawns. A pair of Egyptian Geese attending their goslings which were bathing in the warm sunshine, became concerned when a Yellow-billed Kite flew over. The other birds of prey that put in an appearance during the day were 2 African Goshawks and a Rock Kestrel. Some very tame Helmeted Guinea-fowl were feeding on the flower heads in the garden, and Blacksmith Lapwings noisily displayed overhead. Drying themselves from the rain were 2 Burchell's Coucals who were looking very sorry for themselves. African Black Swifts, White-rumped and Little Swifts fed above the higher trees in the now hot sunshine and a party of 'punk rocker' look-alike Speckled Mousebirds sat digesting their food, while an African Hoopoe also put in a brief appearance. Nearby an Olive Woodpecker tapped the trees for insects and 4 Black Saw-wings flew up and down the garden paths. Cape Bulbuls were very common, and on this occasion the elusive Sombre Bulbul produced some excellent views while at the same time calling its monotonous song. We were very surprised to see in this type of habitat and at very close quarters a Cape Grassbird, while skulking in the dense undergrowth were Levaillant's Cisticola, a solitary Neddicky and good numbers of Karoo Prinias. A walk through the woodlands produced a male African Dusky Flycatcher feeding the female on the nest, while Fiscal Flycatchers adopted a more prominent perch on top of some bushes. A secretive Cape Batis was spotted zipping through the trees, while nearby a Southern Boubou gave away its location with a prominent call. Red-winged Starlings were very common and would often be accompanied with Common Starlings. Within the gardens we found good numbers of Cape Sugarbirds a few Malachite Sunbirds, Orange-breasted Sunbird, and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds. Cape Weavers made the most of the flowers by nibbling the heads, while Brimstone Canaries and Cape Canaries sang in the tree tops. And then to finish off a Cape Bunting was seen sunning itself in the late afternoon. It was now time to return to the Airport where Pied Crows, Cape Crows and House Crows bided us farewell. Thus we concluded a superb tour to South Africa where many of the Cape specialities put in a special appearance and provided us with excellent views and long lasting memories.

I would like to thank Johan for his expertise and guidance and knowledge of birds and mammals which made this trip so special, also for the excellent group who made this a most enjoyable trip.

Viv Stratton



birdseekers photos