(Japie Claassen was at it again and here he reports on a short birding trip to some very interesting birding destinations in the Western Cape province).
I took two Canadian clients on a short trip through the Western Cape last week (third week of April 2009) and although the weather wasn't always good, we had some excellent birding.
West Coast National Park: Black Harrier and Black Crake at Abrahamskraal where the new hide will be of great benefit to birders in future. There were African Black Oystercatchers, Grey-winged Francolins and a few waders such as Sanderling, Common Ringed Plover, Common Whimbrel, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper on western side of lagoon. A male Southern Black Korhaan was hiding against the wall of the first house in Langebaan as you enter the village from the park. We also found a Lanner Falcon on a telephone pole between Langebaan and Velddrif. We spent the evening at the Kuifkopvisvanger B&B outside Velddrif. Great accommodation and highly recommended. Contact email@example.com or 022 7830818. The owner can also take you on a boat trip on Berg River.
Piketberg: Some Barn Swallows, as well as Greater Striped Swallows, several Jackal Buzzards, and Alpine Swifts were seen in this area. Porterville: Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk . Tanqua Karoo: Lots of Large-billed and Red-capped Larks, Tractrac Chat, Black-headed Canary (Karoopoort), and Greater Flamingo. Unfortunately no Karoo Eremomela or any of the coursers. I haven't seen the Tanqua Karoo in such a good condition in the last 10 years and the rainy season has not yet started! Gannaga Pass is in a terrible state and it is an a shame that the local government has so little interest in this area. We stayed at Gannaga Lodge on top of the pass - excellent staff, food and facilities and all of this at affordable prices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Johann at 079 9221688.
We found a beautiful Martial Eagle just east of the lodge, as well as displaying Karoo and Large-billed Larks. Later on Karoo Eremomelas about 5 km south of Middelpos and several Verreaux's Eagles between Middelpos and Fraserburg. A great surprise was finding two groups of Cape Spurfowl in lucerne fields some 60 km north of Sutherland – I have never seen them this far inland. We found another group of about 25 km north of Sutherland. Also Ground Woodpeckers between Sutherland and Fraserburg.
Gamkaskloof: We spent the evening in Gamkaskloof, where the facilities are also excellent – make reservations through CapeNature. Here we saw Cape Batis, several Southern Tchagra, Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, Streaky-headed Seed-eater and Southern Boubou. We also visited Rondevlei near Wilderness where we were fortunate to find Rednecked Spurfowl, a variety of ducks including a few White-backed Ducks, Great Crested Grebe, Knysna Turaco and Giant Kingfisher.
The last evening was spent in the Bontebok National Park near Swellendam. The new chalets are very comfortable. The next morning it started raining and the birding was not that good. We did though find a pair of Secretary Birds in the Park, as well as Yellow & Brimstone Canary. Along road to Malgas there were lots of Blue Cranes, three Karoo Korhaans and about twenty Denham's Bustards. Just west of Malgas we found two Longbilled Pipits and later on two displaying Agulhas Long-billed Larks. We saw about twenty Jackal Buzzards between Napier and Caledon, as well as one Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk.