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:

White-backed Duck (8) and Hottentot Teals (2) at Dolphin Beach pans, Black Harriers (5) on West Coast, Lesser Honeyguide at Geelbek blue gums. The Cape Gannets at Lamberts Bay seem to have moved in in numbers and hopefully the colony is now re-established.

Greater Kestrels were on nests near Van Rhynsdorp, bit early? The pale form of Jackal Buzzard seen at Eierkop in Tanqua again as well as Karoo and Yellow-bellied Eremomelas, Karoo Korhaan, Lanner and Pale Chanting Goshawks. White-Faced Duck (18) Suurbraak Dam !, Secretary Birds (2 Tienie Versveld reserve Darling, 3 on dirt road to the pont at Malgas and 1 outside Napier), Denhams Bustard (25 before the pont at Malgas) and Karoo Korhaan. I also see that the good scrub spot for Agulhas Clapper Lark before the pont has been plowed under - pity! Black Eagle, Cape Vulture, Yellow-billed Kite and Black Saw-winged Swallows at Potberg – saw one Yellow Billed Kite there last month and plenty of Agulhas Long-billed Larks seen at road side. Ground Woodpeckers and Cape Rockjumpers seen well at Rooi-Els, but the best and last bird the clients saw before flying home was a Victorins Warbler that was well exposed and 1m away. We eventually had to leave it!

The Kokerboom Aloe forest near Niewoudville was spectacular as they were in flower and the Dusky Sunbirds were all over. Lachenalias, Oxalis and Mesems were already in flower and great to see the variety of colours. The veld is looking good as rain has already fallen and if it carries on a good flower season can be expected.

Saw a Cape Rock Elephant Shrew (“edwardii) in Tanqua on the R355 at the picnic spot amongst the rocks just after Karoo Poort, a new mammal for me.

Two Puffadders, one large were seen at De Hoop moving across the dirt road. I am pleased to see that they are repairing the old rondavels on the cliff edge at De Hoop Nature Reserve but the dirt road is still not in good condition I also believe that De Hoop will be getting an upgrade from the private sector.

Travelled 1970km and 182 species were seen. Many common birds such as Long-billed Crombek, Masked Weaver and Red Bishops were missed!

But birding is still good in the CAPE. Happy birding from a 20C blue sky Cape Town.
Brian Vanderwalt