Rooi-els & Betty's Bay and Crake!!

Hi All,

Took an American client to Betty’s Bay area yesterday with “will the Rockjumpers be around” thought stuck in my mind.  The burnt area is greening up slowly especially in the wetter gullies and riverbeds  but still not a good sight from a distance.  Some areas were desperately in need of a burn on the eastern side of the mountain as vegetation was more than 2m high.  It would be very interesting to see which plants, especially bulbs and orchids will now flower this coming season. 

Cape Rock-thrush welcomed us in the village. The walk along the dirt road was interesting as it now has sand or is that ash covering the pebbles.  Pretty soon a group of Ground Woodpeckers were being watched when behind them a pair of Cape Rockjumpers were quietly doing their foraging.  I was pleased to see them as the area they were using was where in the past group 3 (my idea) lived, nice to see them back.  Cape Siskin were also in the area as were Familiar Chats.  Further along another pair of Rockjumpers were seen ….group 4.  One wonders where they all escaped to when the fire raged over their domain.

On to Harold Porter Bot Gardens where Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds were furiously pollinating the many Erica species that were in flower.  A Cape Sugarbird male was displaying from one of the flowering proteas.  The surprise was a male Amethyst Sunbird also around the ericas.  Bar-throated Apalis were gleaning the leaves and Brimstone Canary grunted from the top of the tree but we heard a Victorin’s Warbler calling high up the slope off one of the contour paths.  Once there we noticed the bird, for a change!!,  sitting on an open branch calling it’s heart out!  Watched it for a short while before it disappeared into the low shrubbery calling….so what new that’s more normal!  A Verreaux’s Eagle was roosting high up on the cliff-face and eventually gave us a flypast.

In the forest a chain-saw was being used to remove a large tree that had fallen over on the slope below the weir.   Why do they have to manicure an area?? Leave the tree and let it decay and be used for nesting by Olive Woodpeckers!!!!!! Keep it natural…… However at the top of the kloof a pair of Blue-mantled Crested Flycatchers were flitting around, as only they can do, high up in the cliff face trees.  I would have thought they would have moved on by now but maybe with the climate being so mild they decided to stay or are they always there in winter quietly doing their thing?  Interestingly no Swee Waxbills or Dusky Flycatchers were seen.

At Stoney Point it was the turn of Crowned Cormorants to join the breeding White-breasted and Bank Cormorants on nests on the rocks.  No sea birds or for that matter, Hartlaub’s Gulls were seen.

On our way home we stopped at the parking area just past the Rooi-els River to check the tern roost which had mostly Swift Terns but a big surprise for me was a Sentinel Rock-thrush sitting on a boulder on the mountain side where it had burnt.  Would not have expected this altitudinal migrant this early in the winter but maybe the burnt area had some grubs for it to eat.

Strandfontein Sewerage Works P7 also produced a strange large duck sitting on the grass…..turned out to be a Comb Duck!!!!!! This bird had a number of people rushing back from the Crake twitch to see this Western Cape rarity.  At the crake site a number of people were waiting for the little fellow to appear.  I cannot believe how untypically skulking the various rare crakes have been down here…..maybe because we are called “Slaapstad” and the birds get very chilled and casual?  The African Crake came out of the long grass and patrolled along the embankment and long grass.  Some comments were that “ wish it would walk on the road”????? Why??   Don’ t you want a pic of the bird in its natural habitat, I certainly do?

The joy of the day was seeing Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker, both Rock-thrushes, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Siskin, Victorin’s Warbler, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and 4 Sunbirds AND a lifer at this time of the year!!!!


Brian Vanderwalt 

Birding Tour January 2017

Hi Brian, 

I just wanted to say thanks very much for a great tour. After all those years of wondering if a Birding tour would suit us you made it work. Our concern was that we enjoy birds but are not super knowledgeable and intense but you adjusted to our style or level and made it very interesting and enjoyable. So many birds to think back on and we will go through Roberts and look them up. Strangely the larks and canaries seem to feature highly in the memory. Once again thank you!

Rick & Nancy Adams

Western Cape Birding, December 2016

Hi Brian,

I must firstly thank you for a fantastic time I had with your outfit. It was indeed a birder's birding experience with passion! Classic birding by sight and ear, and the sixth sense: the Protea Seedeater and the Rock-jumpers were sixth sense; the guy with the scope couldn't find them until you showed him where! 

Will come again to SA. 


Western Cape Birding, November 2016


Thanks for a couple of great days bird watching. We really enjoyed those two days and appreciated your skill and help.

Overall I saw about 280 bird species in the 2 weeks in South Africa, of which 118 were life ticks. I also had close up views of leopard and great white shark, which were memorable.

Once again thanks and best wishes,

Mark Lees

Western Cape Spring 2016

Hi Brian

First of all, thank you so much for another superb trip! Your efforts on our behalf are greatly appreciated. 

All the best

August 2016 – Birding Western Cape

Hi Brian,

Hope all is well, we have just arrived back to HK the day before, fighting off the jetlag and getting back to work! Will just like to write to you to thank you for your warm hospitality and your expert guiding, it was very exciting birding with you, thanks for showing many of our target species! Will no doubt love to visit SA again sometime in the future!

Thanks again, and hopefully will be able to bird with you again in the near future.

Best regards,
Matt, TH & Selina Kwan
P.S We got 236 total species in the end

November 2015 Tanqua Karoo trip

Hi Brian,

Just a quick e-mail to say thanks for a great couple of days birding. I really enjoyed it. 
So it's Northern Cape the next time we come back!

Once again, thanks for the great birding and company,

Best wishes
Gordon Ellis - UK

November 2015 - Habitat Trip Cape Town

Hi Brian,

Re: Habitat trip around Cape Town - 72 species. 
Arrived home today and we agreed on the journey that we must contact you, but you beat us to it.Thanks for the email but especially for a lovely day. The trouble is that we were convincing ourselves that we did not need to 'do' South Africa again, however we enjoyed your tour and the Kalahari sounds good.
So, you may find us back in touch again.

Rick Adams
From a very wet Norfolk

Birding the Western Cape - February 2015

"Brian Vanderwalt took four of us around the Western Cape for seven days, found all the birds, drove 1500km, organised some wonderful and unique accommodation in the various habitats and at all times generated a happy good humoured time for all. He is a birding legend and this is an experience that no serious birder should miss."

Very best wishes

Mary Keith Glenn and Lucy 

Our recent trip to SA - Birding Nov 2014

Hi Brian
Yesterday returned to a freezing cold UK after 2 weeks in Sunny Cape Town.

Just a short note to say thank you for the 2 days brilliant birding we did with you last week in the Cape area. Not only did we see the normal brilliant selection of birds in some stunning habitat but you also managed a couple of lifers for us and a trip to a winery!

We will be returning!

Very best wishes,
Jan and Kathy Haeck.

Birding tour November 2014

The tour was excellent and Brian worked very hard to find all the top birds, with great success.  I was really not in the same league as the other 5 who were experienced and expert birders.   But I was in no way made to feel uncomfortable - quite the opposite and I got lots of help from Brian and them all.   However the tour ticked the boxes I was after, giving me the opportunity to see some marvellous landscapes as well as birds.

I felt it was good value for money, and we were extremely lucky to have Brian as a guide.   He is a truly expert and enthusiastic birder, a good driver, and he was unfailingly good humoured in all circumstances    He is obviously popular round the circuit and knows the geography intimately, as well as the birds.     

Best wishes

Birding Western Cape - November 2014


Thanks again for a fabulous day birding the cape.

I look forward to the next time I am down your way.

Kind regards,

Tanqua Karoo - August 2014

Hi Brian

This is just to say THANKS for a great trip!

Worked out ideally from our perspective.

By the way, I ended up with 17 lifers, which is a great 2 day trip total.

More importantly, we got such great views of almost every new bird AND we got to see a beautiful part of the country!

We will recommend you to others.

Bruce Nygaard

Tanqua Karoo Trip - August 2014

Hi Brian,

We thought it was a great trip.  

I felt like we had a good amount of time at each of the stops. A little hiking/walking around every now and then for the legs was good. 

Now we know about the awesome Tankwa Padstal! 

The guesthouse was just right. Good food there and decent accommodation. 

Thanks again. I do hope we can do another guided tour with you some day. 
And we will definitely recommend you to others!

Tricia Nygaard

Betty's Bay & Tanqua round trip

Hi All,

I took 2 clients on an overnight trip to Tanqua Karoo via Betty’s Bay.

After all the rain on last week, the weather was kind to us the thereafter.  Cape Siskin performed well along Clarens Drive close to the road.  No wind at Rooi-els so birding was pleasure with great views of Yellow Bishop, Neddicky, Cape Rock-thrush as well as two fairly good sightings of Cape Rock-jumper.  A Cape Grassbird called well and loud from the top of a shrub.  Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens was also windless and Victorin’s Warbler gave great views.  
Fairly big groups of Blue Cranes at Botriver with Red-capped and Large-billed Larks with hundreds of Cape Canaries & Cape Sparrow filling in the gaps.  Malachite Sunbirdreally looking spectacular feeding in the exotic acacias. 

An adult Martial Eagle was seen on the way to Villiersdorp hunting over Renosterveld.  Going through Villiersdorp a lone Grey-headed Gull scavenged through town, with a pair ofWhite-backed Duck on one of the pond on the Worcester side of the town.

An early start at Ceres was chilly at 5 degrees, but “wait there is more” once we topped Therons Pass the gauge said -0.5 degrees!!!!!!!!!!!! Grass was white and stiff and the puddles were sheets of glass!  No wonder the Cape Clapper Lark gave an unusual call in the rising sun.  

Down to Karoo Poort where we spent 2hrs birding the various habitats.  Black-headed and Yellow Canaries, Layard’s Tit-babbler, Grey-backed Cisticola, Namaqua Warbler, Long-billed Crombeck, Mountain Wheatear and a pair of SA Shelduck , with the male bringing up the rear as usual, flying past.  At the Karoo Poort manor house Pied Starling, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Bokmakierie, Hamerkop, Red Bishop, Red-faced Mousebird, seen whilst eating a packed breakfast.  Once through the poort the wind eased down and White-backed MousebirdRock Kestrel, Fairy Flycatcher were seen.

The Fairies gave really good displays as they fed in the shrub around us.  Whistled for the Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and silently and suddenly it appeared on the rock close to us and gave its high pitched strong song.  Soon disappeared and called again from on top of the hill, still clearly heard.  A large group of Alpine Swifts flew low over the rocks.  One of the last birds to be seen in this pentad was a Sickle-winged Chat.

Near Inverdoorn Dam the resident Fish Eagle appeared on the far bank of the dam with a pair of Yellow-bellied Eremomela feeding in the low bushes.  I found this unusual as they normally use taller bushes, but with the Tanqua being very dry for this time of the year, any habitat will do I suppose!  Quickly found the Karoo Eremomela at Eier/perdekop with the weather becoming very comfortable. 

Spike-heeled Larks and Trac-trac Chats were seen on the road to the pit stop at Tanqua Padstal.  Strangely no Karoo Larks or Rufous-eared Warbler were seen or heard up to then which was quite strange.   This changed after lunch and Rufous-eared WarblerKaroo & Trac-trac Chat and Karoo Lark and a very obligingPririt Batis pair were seen.  With the area being very dry we did not see many Canaries or Black-eared Sparrow-larks at this end of the Tanqua.  

On the way back we encountered a pair of Karoo Korhaan.  After walking a short distance away from the road, the one sat down amongst some rocks but not sure if it was on eggs. It was fairly close and this was unusual for them to sit down as they normally walked away slowly. Did not want to disturb the bird by flushing it.

African Black Ducks and a Spotted Eagle-owl were seen at Slanghoek Valley on the way home at dusk. 

Another great day in the Tanqua Karoo.  Could almost call it a “warbler run”. Total of 106 species seen.

Brian Vanderwalt