Cape Endemics - Oct 2010

Before departing the UK, a guide in Cape Town had been recommended to me.  I booked Brian Vanderwalt for a full day's birding in the Cape area.  His brief was to attempt to find as many Cape endemics as possible with Cape Rockjumper being a must.  As I was unable to undertake a pelagic as I wasn't in Cape Town over a weekend, I decided to concentrate on the land based endemics prior to any future visits.  It is worth saying at this stage that Brian has a great sense of humour, is very good company and I would unreservedly recommend him to anyone travelling the Cape area or wider in Africa where he has a wealth of experience.  He can be contacted via his email at [email protected] or www.brians-birding.co.za.

We visited the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens once more and it goes to show that if you visit early in the morning with no disturbance the birds perform much more obligingly.  Brian knew where a pair Lemon Doves were nest building and sure enough the 2 birds were found close by roosting under trees.  Another pair of Spotted Eagle Owls was seen with a chick close by and some good Cape endemics were seen including Cape Sugarbirds, Forest Canary, Orange-breasted Sunbirds, Sombre Greenbuls, Cape Spurfowl and with a supporting cast of African Goshawk, Southern Boubou and Olive Pigeons the day had started well.

We continue to the Rooi-els area in search of Cape Rockjumper.  However, before reaching the well known area a number of good birds were seen on the various telegraph wires and buildings including Familiar Chat, Cape Rock-thrush, Rock Kestrel, a couple of stunning Grassbirds and Yellow Bishops.  We continued along the track seeing Cape Buntings, Cape Robin-chats and then our quarry a female Cape Rockjumper followed by a confiding male and what were thought to be 2 immature birds.  As I photographed the birds, 2 Cape Siskin flew in next to me and Grey-backed Cisticolas were in evidence.  As we left the valley, A Verreaux's Eagle soared above and a Jackal Buzzard loafed.

Cape Rockjumper                    Cape Bunting

We progressed to Harold Porter Water NP for lunch and to look for some more endemics.  After an enjoyable lunch that was interrupted by passing White-throated and Greater Striped Swallows along with Alpine and African Black Swifts we proceeded to search the rest of the park.

Brian was alerted by the song of a warbler.  He explained that we were looking for a Victorin's Warbler, an arch skulker and more often heard than seen.  With patience and following the moving vegetation the gorgeous warbler was seen extremely well with long black tail, orange wash to the front and indeed the orange eye-ring what a cracker.  As we moved around the park we also had excellent views of a male and female Cape Batis and 2 Dusky Flycatchers.

Brian then drove to an area near Bot River and farmlands that were crossed by "Transporter" roads.  In the fields adjacent to the roads many Blue Cranes were seen and soon at least 3 Fiscal Flycatchers with Common Fiscals becoming common place.  As we proceeded along the road we stopped to look at numerous birds including a stunning male Cape Sparrow, several Cape Weavers and Capped Wheatears.  The only Crowned Plovers of the trip were noted along with 2 stonking Orange-throated Longclaws.  Red-capped Larks were common and a solitary Pied Starling was noted amongst the commoner European Starlings.  Other notable birds were an African Hoopoe, Alpine and Black Swifts and a large colony of Southern Red Bishops.

Our final stop of the day before returning to Cape Town was the Cape Town Water Treatment Works.  Everywhere in the world these sorts of locations never cease to turn up good birds.  The only Black-headed Heron was seen along with numerous Sacred Ibis; however the attraction was the wildfowl.  Cape and Red-billed Teal were present in good numbers along with Southern Pochard, and Cape Shoveller.  Hundreds of Black-necked Grebe and Greater Flamingo were present along with a single White Pelican.  Levaillent's Cisticolas were very vocal and 2 Purple Swamphen were seen with many Red-knobbed Coots.  As we were departing a real bonus came in the form of a drake Maccoa Duck.  Outside the works 2 House Crows were seen, which soon to be eradicated may not be on the South African list for too much longer.  We returned to the hotel after a very enjoyable and productive day thanks to Brian's local knowledge. Many Thanks.

I would once again recommend Brian Vandervalt in South Africa for a very professional approach to birding.