Tanqua Karoo in Winter - July 2009

Hi All,

I did a “Habitat” & Tanqua trip over 2 days recently.

The target was of course the Tanqua, but Tanqua in one day does not work well. So we added a night stopover. We slept in Ceres and travelled to Karoo Poort early (40k) and at the first stop, as we went into Karoo Poort, a surprise awaited us. We stopped and next to the car was a Caracal! We watched it slink slowly up the slope. When we eventually exited the car we saw Namaqua Warbler in the fragmites reeds displaying quite well. I scanned the opposite bank and lo and behold another Caracal walking towards us! Remembering that this was sheep country, and we were not far from the Karoo Poort farmhouse, one wondered how long these two would last. Were these two going to meet up, maybe mating season? Anyone know? Anyway we birded on and saw a lonely Lark-like Bunting on the mountain slopes. No Black-headed Canaries this time.

Bogey Bird - Herero Chat - Namibia

On a recent visit to Western Namibia with friends, one of my bogey birds was Herero Chat which I had missed twice before.

We called on Spitzkoppe Reserve to look for the bird and were told to try campsite 10 which we did. No luck there and we then spread our wings over the area which I thought would be appropriate habitat and yes there was a bird!
We moved closer and eventually I was close enough to photograph the adult. I soon noticed that it was ferrying food to a small tree behind which I hid. On peering through, a juvenile was sitting within a meter of me on the other side of the tree.

I then just waited for the adult to call and a 'lifer' picture presented itself!
Unfortunately not all lifers are presented as adult and juvenile in the same frame!

Mike Nelson - 3 June 2009

Hi Brian

We had a fantastic time with you in the Western Cape and look forward to coming down again and doing the Garden Route or the Kalahari next time.

Love to come back though as we really enjoyed it so much.

Thanks again and good birding.


Mike Nelson

Major Threat - Verlorenvlei (Ramsar Site SA103) - May 2009

At the Western Cape Birding Forum meeting recently, Neil Smith (from Birdlife SA) outlined the serious threat to Verlorenvlei and the Verlorenvlei Valley arising from the application by Bongani Minerals for tungsten mining rights in the valley.

The planned development is a massive 50ha open-cast mine, with a possible 20-year lifespan, which will destroy the valley and the vlei.  The implications are huge for Verlorenvlei, which is one of the largest natural coastal wetlands in the Western Cape, supporting 189 species of birds, 77 of which are waterbirds.

Stephanie Coghlan - 20 October 2009

Dear Brian

Thank you again for the days guiding you gave us at the Cape and the West Coast. We enjoyed it greatly and you found us so many species and gave us great views.

Thanks also for the travel hints you gave us about Bushmanland and the Kalahari.

We had excellent Kalahari sightings. We saw 212 species of birds, lions on all 4 days and a leopard in a tree with prey in the Auob valley.

Many thanks again for stepping in to help at short notice.

Stephanie Coghlan

Langebaan & Geelbek

Spent a casual day in the Langebaan/Vredenberg area yesterday.

We were too late for the incoming tide at Geelbek (11.30 Cape Town tide was full + - 1.00pm) and only saw 2 Ospreys taking fish, so we moved on to Seeberg Hide which works better on the full tide. Here there were many waders of all sizes.

Birds seen here were:

Little Stints, Sanderlings, Kittlitz, White-fronted & Grey Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers, Turnstones, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Euro Curlew, but the best sighting was a Terek Sandpiper which gave great close up views. Caspian, Sandwich & Common Terns were roosting on the sandbank, even saw a Southern Black Korhaan and

Tanqua Karoo - another 2 great days birding! - July 2008

I spent 1.5 days in the Tanqua birding with a Birding Eco Tours client.

We drove straight to the Tanqua on Monday and birded till it was dark and returned to Ceres for the night (Village Guest House).  After filling up at Touws River one of the great birds seen was a Black Harrier on the outskirts of the town.  At Karoo Poort we stopped for a snack and had great views of Acacia Pied Barbet, Familiar Chat and Namaqua Warbler under the poplars.

Once through the Poort we tried for Cinnamon Breasted Warbler on the rocky skree but nothing doing, only Layard’s Tit-babbler, White-throated Canary, Mountain Wheatear, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Fairy Flycatcher. I had a fleeting look at the Elephant Shrew amongst the rocks at the picnic site. Also found a small strange button mushroom. Who would have expected a mushroom amongst rocks in the Karoo!

Along the road to Eierkop, Rock Kestrel, Karoo Larks and Sickle-winged Chats made their appearance.

Booted Eagle and others - July 2008

Spent Saturday 21 June birding Habitat areas in the Western Cape with a client and saw the following of interest:

Dolphin Beach pans: Black, Little, White-rumped and Alpine Swifts, and a pair of Greater-striped Swallow, second time I have seen these swallows there in the past 3 weeks! Are they early?

Melkbos: Malachite Kingfisher fishing off the rocks in the sea! Also the 2nd time I have seen it there. I thought only Pied fished in the sea?

Koeberg: Booted Eagle, pale phase, 1st for the season or is it one from Cederberg that has not started breeding yet?

Durbanville Hills: Mountain Wheatear always strange to see them so close to Cape Town. Don't know of any others around here.

We saw 113 species on the route without birding Kirstenbosch, not bad for a Cape winter's day!

Happy Birding,
Brian Vanderwalt

Booted Eagle and others in Cape area - Jul 08

Hi All,

Spent Saturday birding habitats with a client and saw the following of interest:

Dolphin Beach pans: Black, Little, White-rumped and Alpine Swifts, and a pair of Greater-striped Swallow, second time I have seen these swallows there in the past 3 weeks!  Are they early?

Melkbos: Malachite Kingfisher fishing off the rocks in the sea! Also the 2nd time I have seen it there. I thought only Pied fished in the sea?

Autumn in Tanqua - June 2008

I spent a short while in the Tanqua yesterday with a client and friend. Even though she had been there before and seen the normal Karoo birds she had never seen or heard the specials. She of course still needed the easy ones, Double-banded Courser, Burchells Courser and Cinnamon-breasted Warbler! Not much time was therefore spent on the “locals” and also we only arrived there at noon thanks to delayed flight from JHB.

We headed for the CBW sites first and ended off with Courser sites leaving only at 4pm for Cape Town! It was great to drive there again as the R355 has kept its upgrade and driving was a pleasure, they are even upgrading the P2250 from the R355 side and have progressed about 12kms. Sad that this only happens once the Tanqua Guest House is no longer.

Weather was mild, about 19C and there was a fair amount of activity and all the Chats namely Karoo, Mountain, Ant-eating, Sickle-winged and Trac-Trac were seen. Karoo, Large-billed and Red-capped Larks were foraging amongst the shrubs which looked fresh from the rain that had fallen. On the way there were a few Pale-chanting Goshawks, Greater and Rock Kestrels as well as Jackal Buzzard (white breasted form seen beyond Eierkop this time).

Tanqua this week - again! - June 2008

Spent a looong day yesterday birding for specials in the Tanqua with 7 clients.  Weather was good for birding, not cold at all.  The aim was to find the Burchells Courser and Cinnamon Breasted Warbler amongst others.

Even though we tried numerous spots for Cinnamon Breasted Warbler, the only area where it called and only twice, was at Skitterykloof but here the wind caused directional and distance problems in locating the source. We did not see the Cinnamon Breasted Warbler but I photographed a skink/sand-lizard there that I had not seen before and found an un-flowered lithops (will have to wait for this one).

However we had better luck with Burchells Courser.  

Autumn Birding in the Cape - May 2008

I took 2 UK clients on an 8day trip around the West Coast/Karoo/Overberg last week looking at birds and flowers amongst other things. Weather was good but cool and we always seemed to be ahead of the rain.
Route was Velddrif - Riviera Hotel, Lamberts Bay Hotel, Calvinia – Hantam Huis, Ceres – Village Gueste House, Grootvadersbos Guest House, De Hoop – The Cottage Guest House, Pringle Bay – The Barnacle Guest House.

The road from Calvinia through Tanqua was not good for first 40k into the Tanqua after going down Bloukrans Pass but there after road surface improved dramatically as the upgrading of the road was progressing well from Karoo Poort side.

Some interesting sightings were:

10000 birds - Birding with Brian - May 2008

from Charlie Moores Blog about Birding the Cape:

For my second trip to South Africa in just three weeks, this time to Cape Town (the first was to Johannesburg), I decided to hire a professional guide for the two (actually, one-and-a-half) days I would be there. Normally I’m happy just to hire a car and wander around, but sometimes - and this felt like it would be one of those times - I like to hire a guide.

Guides obviously know the area well, they’ll usually do the driving, they know the birds of course - and they know the calls those birds give: all things that infrequent visitors either don’t know, or - in the case of driving - don’t particularly want to do.

Western Cape sightings - Jan 2008

Hi All,

Whilst on tour last week a few Lesser Kestrels were seen on the plateau of Therons Pass hawking insects in the cut wheat fields. I assume they were from the Ceres roost? Anyone found the roost yet? Protea and Streaky-headed Seed-eaters were also found at their usual watering hole with Orange-breasted Sunbirds and Cape Sugerbirds. Two Booted Eagles, one dark and one light phase were seen on the R355, one of which had a radio tracking aerial sticking out beyond its tail.

North Western Namibia

Hi All, just returned from an 11day trip with 3 great friends to the Northern and Western Namibia and thought I should post a short note about our birding etc. Route was Cape Town, Keetmanshoop, Otjwarongo, Kunene, Kamanjab, Uis, Swakopmund, Windhoek, Springbok and back to Cap[e Town.

Our target birds were the Ruacana specials, Grey Kestrel, Cinderella Waxbill, Madagascar Bee-eater, Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush and Bare-faced Babbler and boy did we see them!

Report: Northern Cape birding November 2007

I have just returned from a 10 trip to the dry west and Kalahari Nat Park with South African clients.

The weather was warm with a max of 37C but mostly around 30C which as very pleasant even with a few thunder showers thrown in! Various parts had already had rain and had green grass and yellow flowering "dubbletjies" however the Park was still dry and no new leaves were evident on trees.