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Cape Town birdwatching - Habitat trip - Feb 2011

Hi All,

I took a group of US clients, who only had one day available, out birding on a Habitat run.

We called early at Kirstenbosch and many birds were still sunning themselves in the morning light.  Sombre Greenbul was also very vocal and visible for a change as was Cape Bulbul.  Olive Thrush and Cape Robin-chat were already busy in undergrowth scratching for an early worm or two.  The Dell had the Spotted Eagle-owl in its summer "house" as I suppose the other trees above the Dell are now too open and hot.  Only one bird though, wonder where the other one and Juv were?

Cape Batis flitted about as we looked for the elusive Lemon Dove, always great to see this dove!   As we were about to exit the Dell there they were ahead of us in the pathway doing their own thing.  Not bothered by us at all.  Once in the fynbos, many species appeared such as Karoo Prinia, Swee Waxbill, Cape and Forest Canaries.  Southern Double-collared and Orange-breasted Sunbirds were feeding on the flowering Ericas and provided excellent photographic opportunities.  A Southern Boubou was scolding from inside the small grove of trees above the Dell and eventually both birds made their appearance.  After not seeing Cape Sugarbirds a few weeks ago they definitely came to the party this time!  Many males were displaying from the tops of the taller Proteas and were in good morning light.  A pair of Black Saw-winged Swallows cruised nonchalantly over the lawns and through the trees.  They always seem to be enjoying their flybys!   By this time Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Geese, Helmeted Guineafowl and Cape Francolin had made their appearance. Red-eyed and Turtle Doves were in evidence feeding in the fruiting trees but no Rameron Pigeons.  A lone Steppe Buzzard cruise over the forest to the south and two pale phase Booted Eagles circled slowly overhead and afforded good views.  Migrants or local birds wonders , pity they don't have as "ZA" sticker somewhere, but that would make it too easy!

We left Kirstenbosch at 10am and headed for the Table Bay coast where Sunset Beach pan produced, Little Swift, Brown-throated Martin, Yellow-billed and Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe and Common Moorhen.  Rietvlei Wetland had flock of at least 60 White Pelicans taking off and a large number of Spur-winged Geese and Greater Flamingos along the shore.  Dolphin Beach pans were busy as usual with plenty of Coot, Dabchick and Hartlaub's Gulls.  The Juv Great Crested Grebes were starting to feed on their own and were fairly close to the shore for easy viewing.  A lone Purple Heron was out in the open water and not tucked away in the reeds as is normal.  Yellow-billed Duck and Cape Shoveller were roosting on the water which was starting to become slimy with the green algae growth, but only 2 White-backed Ducks amongst some reeds.  Their white back/rump could be seen as the one preened.  The Kittlitz's Plover group were in their usual place on the sandy hill along the beach.

At Blouberg a walk down a pathway to a freshwater pond near the beach produced Bar-throated Apalis, Karoo Prinia, Yellow Canary, Grey-backed Cisticola and White-backed Mousebird from the costal scrub.  At the pond White-throated Swallow were still building a nest, but the Cape and Masked Weavers were finished although still scrambling through the reeds.  Little Rush Warbler pecked insects off the water whilst hanging onto a reed whilst Le Vaillant's Cisticola foraged between the reeds and scrub. A pair of African Black Oystercatchers was scampering over the white sand dune  probably have a nest close by!

Melkbos Cormorant roost was further out than normal as the tide was out and also many people were clamouring over the rocks.  A flypast of 10 Cape Gannets looked good as they battled into the SW wind.  There were no Bank Cormorants but a number of Cape, Crowned and White-breasted were preening on the outer rocks.  The Tern roost only had Swift, Sandwich and Common Terns, no black terns!!!!!!!!! The resident White-fronted Plovers were high up the beach amongst the dry kelp, probably have a nest there.  Chaos was caused when a Peregrine Falcon decided to fly low across the beachfront.

A quick lunch at a local farm stall and into the coastal scrub again where we found Cape Sparrow, White-throated, Yellow and Brimstone Canaries feeding on the Box Thorn berries. Good very shrub to have in the garden for birds.  A farmland loop had a pair of Blue Cranes with one juv feeding in the dry wheat stubble and a lone Capped Wheatear standing in the shade of a pole to escape the direct sunlight.  Black-necked Heron were a plenty in the fields with many gerbil holes. Yellow-billed Kites and Steppe Buzzards were using the wind on the lookout for a stray gerbil, but the Jackal Buzzard was roosting in the blue gum trees, probably had it's fill for the day. Even the Barn Swallows were roosting on the road in the afternoon heat which did not seem to bother the African Pied Starlings.  The surprise of the day was a Mountain Wheatear at Malans Hoogte!  I have seen this bird there before but must check the month as the habitat seems incorrect.  Near a farmhouse a hovering Black-shouldered Kite awaited a brave mouse to venture into its sight.  There were no Red-capped or Large-billed Larks today, wonder where they were?

The final stop for the day was Strandfontein Waste Water Treatment Works where the flotillas of Cape, Red-billed Teal, Maccoa and Yellow-billed Ducks did not disappoint. Also the huge groups of Pied Avocet and Greater Flamingos looked good in the afternoon light, seems to bring the pink out.  Three Hottentot Teals were cruising across the small pan opposite the bird hide building, always good to see them down here.   We were watching a few Purple Swamphen, Greenshank and Marsh Sandpiper when an African Marsh Harrier took off with a Black-winged Stilt in its talons. All too soon it was time to leave but a tally of 109 for the hot windy day was not bad at all.

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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