A SHORT GUIDED BIRDING TOUR IN THE WESTERN CAPE’S SPRING

Clients : Ken Morgan & Greg Balogh, USA & Canada
Dates : 26 Aug – 1 September 2008
Duration : 6 days

Cape Cormorants By Warwick Tarboton

Route: Given time restraints the route selected represented a cross section of the best in the way of biodiversity the Western Cape had on offer at the start of spring. Weather conditions had been highly variable during the run up to the start of the tour with further rain and cold conditions forecast for the trip period. Little did we know we would end up being snow bound as part of what proved to be an abnormally exciting trip with an excellent list of sightings backing it up! Start out point was the coast at Simon’s Town for ‘up close and personal’ views of African Penguin before heading off for Cape Point itself.

This reserve is maintained in pristine conditions and is home to over 1000 flowering plant species that make up the fynbos biome as part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. As such the reserve supports some of the most sought after endemics in the Western Cape including Cape Sugarbird and all three species of sunbird – Malachite, Lesser Double-collared and Orange-breasted Sunbird. From the spectacular heights of Cape Point itself Southern Right Whales were spotted in False Bay along with undulating flight lines of Cape Gannet and Cape Cormorant with the odd White-chinned Petrel careening across the wave crests in the vicinity of Bellows Rock.

Routing took us north up the West Coast following the Atlantic seaboard to Langebaan Lagoon before turning inland towards the impressive Cedarberg Mountain range. All the typical Sandveld species were recorded and breeding activity was in full swing. Highlights included the highly sought after Black Harrier and raucous Southern Black Korhaan at the upper end and Cape Long-billed and Southern Gray Tit at the lower end of the size scale. Heavier than normal rainfall patterns during winter had ‘greened up’ the Tankwa Karoo and the majority of resident species frequenting this normally arid area were accounted for in spite of the flooded state of the area.

On leaving the game lodge in heavy rain we decided to deviate from the original plan and headed east in search of drier conditions and a different suite of birds along the edge of the Agulhas Plain. Well nature had a surprise for us in the form of an unexpected snow storm which had us back tracking to the national highway following an interesting interlude with an obliging farmer who towed us out of a snow drift on the Matroosberg Pass.

On reaching our target destination after the unexpected delay we were rewarded by the presence of a number of sought after species that more than compensated for the loss in time and switch in destination. From here we headed back to Franschoek – a delightful wine producing enclave dating back to Huguenot days in the 19 th Century – before wrapping up the trip with a brace of kingfishers as the highlight on the final day.

Listings: A tad under 200 species were recorded for what was essentially a ‘winter’ list with intra-Africa migrant species just starting to return. Highlights along the way included Gray-winged Francolin, Maccoa and African Black Duck, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Denham’s Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan, Blue Crane- S.A.’s national bird, Black Crake, Chestnut-banded Sandplover, Antarctic Tern, Black Harrier, Verreaux’s and Martial Eagle, Secretarybird, Greater Kestrel, Southern Boubou, Bokmakierie, Cape and Pririt Batis, Southern Gray Tit, Black Saw-wing, Fairy Flycatcher, Cape Grassbird, Long-billed Crombec, Yellow-bellied and Karoo Green Eremomela, Layard’s and Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Namaqua and Rufous-eared Warbler, Karoo and Cape Long-billed Lark, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Black-headed Canary, Cape Siskin, African Quail and Hottentot Teal . Mammal highlight of the 19 species recorded for the trip was an adult Caracal in superb condition . This normally nocturnal and highly secretive cat provided an outstanding and totally unexpected sighting opportunity while birding the West Coast.

In the client’s own words: “I was continually amazed at Patrick’s grasp of all aspects of natural history. He was always pleasant company and was very sensitive to his client’s needs and preferences.
Greg Balogh

“Patrick’s approach – professional, yet casual and friendly. Can’t see how you could make it any better. Excellent! If I could have stayed longer I would have”
Ken Morgan

For more information contact Marie-Louise on enquiries@avianleisure.com

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