Sunday, January 29, 2017

South Africa 2016 - Trip Report Part 4

The final trip report description, Part 4, is all about our optional tour extra to spend time down at the Cape. All the tour party opted to take part in this add-on to our normal tour and it was really time well spent. So here I present part 4 of 5 for this blog/trip report. I hope you can forgive the drawn out nature of these information packed day by day accounts of my tour. Next up will be the final part 5, a species listing for both birds and mammals.

Tour Leaders: Peter Jones (Worldwide Birding Tours § Co-Author, Editor) and  Wian van Zyl (Birding Guide, Main Author)

This comprehensive tour of South Africa by Worldwide Birding Tours undertook a 3-week journey across eastern South Africa, and down into the Western Cape of South Africa. Starting in Durban on the scenic Kwazulu-Natal coast, we slowly worked our way northwards taking in the rolling hills and forests of Eshowe down to the coastal forest and bushveld of the greater Isimangaliso Wetland Park, before heading up to the high-altitudinal grasslands surrounding the endemic hotspot of Wakkerstroom. Kruger was next on the agenda, where a few days were spent enjoying this true natural side of Africa, before heading onto Cape Town and the Western Cape via Dullstroom. Some time was spent on the Cape Peninsula itself, before heading up the west coast to the sleepy village of Langebaan, thereby bring the tour to an end some three weeks later. Due to the length of the tour, and variety of habitats taken in, a mammoth total of nearly 420 species of bird were found on the tour!

Cape Extension:
Day 01, 06/12/2016 Dullstroom flight transfer to Simonstown (Cape Town)
As we boarded our flight we saw our last Johannesburg birds, House Sparrow and Long-tailed Widowbird. Although not exciting it is worth mentioning that we saw these from the plane as we were taking off. Upon arrival in Cape Town we managed to record Hartlaub’s Gull, Kelp Gull, Cape Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, Greater Flamingo, Red-knobbed Coot and Speckled Pigeon.

Day 02, 07/12/2016: Simonstown Pelagic Seabird Trip
Guided by Vincent Ward:
As we set out of Simonstown harbour, we quickly added Cape and White-Breasted Cormorant, Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gull, Common Swift and Sandwich Tern to the day’s list.
Just past the breakwater, a Pomarine Jaeger was sighted harassing a flock of Swift Terns. No sooner had we finished with the jaeger, when three Common Bryde’s Whales, including a calf, were sighted. Sun-bathing African Penguins could be seen on the shore at Boulder’s Beach penguin colony.
We stopped at Cape Point for the obligatory photo opportunity before heading out into the open ocean. Cape Gannets were present in good numbers just off the point.
As we encountered the oceanic swells, the first of the day’s White-Chinned Petrels, Sooty and Cory Shearwaters were seen.
We received reports on the location of several working trawlers and headed off to find them.
At the first vessel, we quickly spotted Shy, Black-Browed, Atlantic and Indian Yellow-Nosed Albatross, Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, Great Shearwater, Sabine’s Gull, Sub-Antarctic Skua, and European Storm-Petrel. Cape Fur Seals were ever present.
At the next trawler, we located the very sought-after Spectacled Petrel, as well as several Great-Winged Petrels.
We spent some time enjoying the spectacle of thousands of pelagic seabirds, before heading back to land.
The trip back to shore offered up more of the same species we had seen throughout the day. Large numbers of terns were feeding at Cape Point and into False Bay.
We briefly stopped at Partridge Point to view the resident breeding Bank Cormorants.
Just past Froggy Pond, the call of “Dolphins went out”. A pod of around three dozen Long-Beaked Common Dolphins joined the boat and stayed with us until just past Boulder’s Beach - great way to cap off an excellent trip.
While going over the species list for the day, we spotted a Crowned Cormorant, rounding out the fourth marine cormorant species for the day.
Thanks to Dave and Josh for their excellent skippering.

Common Bryde’s Whale Balaenoptera brydei
Cape Fur Seal Arctocephalus p. pusillus
Long-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus capensis

What a great day and what better way to finish it, although we were all tired, than to visit Boulder's Beach to see the large colony of African Penguin. Breathtaking views and an amusing, wonderful experience.

Day 03, 08/12/2016: Birding Cape Peninsula and False Bay Game Reserve
With some Mega rarities being reported the last week in South Africa we managed to be in Cape Town the same time these birds were present. We made our way straight to False Bay Nature Reserve (AKA Strandfontein Sewage Works). We arrived good and early and were greeted with a magnitude of waterfowl such as Red-knobbed Coots and Common Moorhen and made our way through the pans to head straight to the pan where the Temminck’s Stint was last seen. After looking around for about 20 minutes we managed to relocate the individual and was rewarded with great views only a couple of meters away. This is only the 3rd ever recorded individual for South Africa and caused a great uproar in the local birding community. We managed to relocate the reported American Golden Plover and Pectoral Sandpiper as well, which were the other target rarities for the area. Other species for the morning included Great White Pelican, Cape Teal, Pied Avocet, Lesser Flamingo, Cape Spurfowl, and Ruddy Turnstone. After a brunch back at the guest house the group rested up, feeling quite exhausted due to the previous day’s pelagic trip. After having a look at the weather forecast for the Cape Town area for the next day we decided to make our way to Rooiels to specifically go track down Cape Rockjumper. Early morning is usually best to look for these birds so it was a bit of a gamble but they didn’t take very long to show themselves and offered great photographic views right in the open. We also managed Rock Kestrel, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Ground Woodpecker and White-necked Raven. The only mammals for the day were the Elephant’s closest relative, a rugby ball sized mammal called a Rock Hyrax (Dassie)

Day 04, 09/12/2016: Simonstown transfer to Langebaan
With yet another early start to the day we woke to really windy and rainy weather in Simonstown. Our initial plan was to go down to Cape Point for a few hours but considering the weather conditions it wasn’t worth it. We came to the conclusion of staying behind and planned to leave for Langebaan (via Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens) after breakfast. The weather was still pretty murky and rainy by the time we had arrived at the gardens. But no matter, we decided it would be a good idea to walk around. We were soon rewarded with the likes of Cape Spurfowl, Brimstone- and Forest Canary. We also managed to get great views of a female Southern Double-banded Sunbird responding to our call. We got great views of Cape Bulbul, Sombre Greenbul, Cape Batis as well as very photogenic Cape Sugarbirds. After a quick coffee we continued along to Langebaan and en route took a 3km detour on the beachfront in Table View, mainly to look for Black Oystercatcher. We were rewarded with 3 pairs running around right in front of us feeding, piping and preening- What a magnificent bird! We recorded Lesser Kestrel, Common Ostrich and Steppe Buzzard en route to Langebaan. After checking in we decided to go look for the resident breeding pair of Verreaux’s Eagles. Before we got to the quarry we were surprised with the likes of Karoo Scrub-Robin, Cape Canary, White-backed Mousebird, Brimstone Canary and Cape Sparrow. As we walked a little closer to the quarry (as driving would scare them plus isn’t allowed) we managed to get magnificent views of the male and female Verreaux’s Eagles. As we continued along back we further recorded Rock Kestrel, Crowned Lapwing as well as a White-throated Canary.

Day 05, 10/12/2016: Birding West Coast National Park
With yet another day waking to great weather in the Western Cape we made our way to West Coast National Park for a last full day of excitement. Whilst waiting for the Park’s gate to open we were greeted with the likes of Acacia Pied Barbet, White-backed Mousebird, Cape Robin-Chat, Karoo Scrub-Robin, and a perched Black-winged Kite in the distance. Upon entering the park we got Cape Spurfowl, Yellow Canary, Cape Bulbul and Yellow-billed Kite. We made our way to a hide not too far from the entrance and enjoyed some shorebird birding. We got Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Sandwich and Common Tern, Little Stint and a good tally of Greater Flamingo. As we continued in the park we recorded some good birds here and there, which included Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Jackal Buzzard, Malachite Sunbird and Southern Double-collared Sunbird. The wind picked up quite a bit and the birding went fairly quiet. We did manage to get good views of Black Harrier, African Marsh Harrier and Common Ostrich. Before leaving the park we decided to go past the first hide we visited. This time round we got most of the same stuff but added Kittlitz’s Plover, Cape Clapper Lark, Cape Bunting, Swift Tern, Lesser Flamingo and Red Knot.

Day 06, 11/12/2016: Langebaan transfer to Cape Town International Airport for end of trip
With this being our last day of the tour we had a quick birding session before breakfast to try and pick up some new stuff. We headed to the same area where we found the Verreaux’s Eagle and walked around into another quarry where we had good distant views of the pair again, we also recorded Rock Kestrel, Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Karoo Prinia and White backed Mousebird. Just as we were leaving the spot we had a smallish UFO fly ahead of us and after tracking it down we were pleased to find it to be a Namaqua Dove. We went out of Langebaan town to bird an open grassland area and recorded Capped Wheatear, Blue Crane, Spotted Thick-knee and Long-billed Crombec.
As we were driving back to the airport in Cape Town we saw countless Common Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite and had a good visual of a Black Harrier. We dropped off the first couple of clients and decided to go to False Bay Nature Reserve to kill some time before the next couple’s flight. Here we managed to relocate on a Red-necked Phalarope and an American Golden Plover (both rarities for South Africa) We also go good views of Marsh Sandpiper, Black Oystercatcher, Swift-,Sandwich- and Common Tern, Great White Pelican, Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler, Lesser- and Greater Flamingo and many more water bird species, a spectacular way to end the tour.

Well the 4th installment is finished, so I am hoping you might follow the blog and read about our remaining adventures on this spectacular tour. If the idea appeals to you, why not consider joining me and Wian later this year on another of our South African adventure tours? 

Details of the tour and itinerary can be found on this link

To see other destinations we visit please visit our main site. Thank you.

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