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Cape bird watching - West Coast - Feb 2011

Hi all,

I took 3 Johannesburg clients to Langebaan and the West Coast on Saturday.  One of the first birds we saw as we entered the Park was an Adult Black Harrier fairly close to the road.  Was this an omen for the rest of the day????

As the tide was full in Cape Town at noon we decided to try to be at the hide at 10 ish so as to catch a few of the birds on the incoming.  This sometimes works quite well and also gave a time to call on Abrahamskraal waterhole.

On arrival there we noticed that the water was a brown colour, had there been rain here causing a mud inflow?  This was underground water as far as I know and was normally clear.  Anyone know what happened?   It did not seem to distract the Cape Bulbuls and Yellow Canaries from drinking and bathing.  A Black Crake was seen on the opposite bank sitting in a small shrub, maybe scared off as the two SA Shelduck flew away on our arrival.  African Spoonbill and Sacred Ibis preened on a small island.  Little Grebes were scurrying across the water with Red-knobbed Coot in hot pursuit.  Cape Teal, Cape Shoveller and Yellow-billed Duck were dabbling in the shallows.  Little Rush and Lesser Swamp Warblers were seen going about their business in the reed beds.  As we left a Karoo Lark called from a low bush but did not do a display flight.  Always a good hide to call on.

At Geelbek hide the water was already too high and only Flamingos were in evidence, so off to the high tide hide at Seeberg and what a good decision that was!  The sandbanks were still open as the tide pushed in causing most birds to feed and move closer to the hide.  Many of the 400 plus shorebirds were already in partial breeding plumage and their closeness to the hide showed them off well.  There was one lone Whimbrel but over 200 Bar-tailed Godwit.  We scanned them carefully looking for Black-tailed but no such luck!  The mix of bird species was good and the following were seen. Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit,  African Black Oystercatcher, Grey, Ringed, White-fronted, Kittlitz’s, and Three-banded Plovers,  Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Sanderling.  Two Terek Sandpipers made their busy-busy appearance fairly close to the hide, always good to have close-up views of this wader.  I wonder how many were counted on the bi-annual count done on Saturday, normally there are not many around anyway. Talking of Wader Counts, does anyone have an idea if this was a good year in Siberia for the wader breeding?  We spent at least an hour in the hide as the birds really gave you a good opportunity to see the difference in size, shape and colour of the various waders.  The large group of Terns on the sandbank produced Caspian, Swift, Sandwich, Common and Little Terns.  If you can go, this is the time to go to Langebaan and see the waders.

A quick lunch in Langebaan and then off to the farmland and sea shore.  On our way to Jacobsbaai a Southern Black Korhaan, Long-billed Pipit and a few Sickle-winged Chats were seen but not much else in the afternoon heat.  It was much cooler at the beach and firstly a family of Grey Tits and then in the same bush a family of Cape Penduline Tits were seen.  A lone White-throated Canary was feeding on the boxwood berries, it’s favourite, with White-backed Mousebirds.  Pied Starlings and Capped Wheatear were actively foraging in the stony dry west coast scrub.  At the tern roost there were no surprises unfortunately, but with the tide in, close-up sights of Swift, Sandwich and Common Tern were had.

On our way back on a quiet dirt road were looked for Cape Long-billed Lark and friends.  A single call of this Lark was heard but it was too far away in the long grass.  Only Karoo and Large-billed Larks were well seen with Grey-backed Cisticola and Karoo Prinia.  A number of Yellow and White-throated Canaries were drinking at an overflow pipe from a water tank.  There were no Black-headed Canaries unfortunately, maybe they have returned to the Karoo.

All in all a good hot summer days birding with 101 birds seen.

Brian Vanderwalt

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I have been an avid birder in the Western and Northern Cape for over 45 years. Since 1999, I have guided Day trips and Overnight Tours (5 days or longer), as well as organised Birding weekends and Bird Ringing (Banding) outings. Read more...

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