Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

SOUTH AFRICA PART Part 5: Swellendam to West Coast National Park

Southern Black Korhaan

Following our stay at Honeywood Lodge (see here) we headed north-west to Paternoster on the coast north of Cape Town for a 3-night stay, in another nice lodging booked through Air Bnb. We travelled via Karoopoort and Ceres to take in the bottom end of the Karoo ecosystem. 
We failed to find Cinnamon-breasted Warbler in a couple of likely looking spots and did not have time to head further north to the main sites for this species. In the karoo and rocky outcrops we saw Karoo Prinia, White-backed Mousebird, Pale-winged Starling and Fairy Flycatcher. 

Karoo Prinia

White-backed Mousebird
We also saw a couple of Klipspringer.

Paternoster is a delightful town with boulder-strewn beaches and buildings structured around classic Cape Dutch-style architecture.

Coast near Paternoster

Paternoster town
On our first morning at Paternoster we drove east to St Helena Bay. In roadside fields were numerous larks including the western race of Cape Clapper Lark, a likely split, and plenty of Red-capped Larks and Large-billed Larks.

Large-billed Lark
Other birds included White-throated Swallow, Southern Red Bishop, Capped Wheatear, Familiar Chat and White-throated Swallow. 

White-throated Swallow

Southern Red Bishop

Capped Wheatear

We caught up with two targets missed on previous trips – Grey Tit and the diminutive Cape Pendulite-Tit in the strandveld vegetation.

Grey Tit

Southern Penduline-Tit
Other birds in the strandveld included Karoo Scrub-Robin and Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler.

Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler
Blue Crane was plentiful in the area and Spotted Thick-knees were about in areas with open ground.

Blue Crane & Sacred Ibis

Spotted Thick-knee

 European Bee-eaters had arrived in numbers for their annual summer visit.

European Bee-eater
In the afternoon we visited the Lighthouse Reserve south of Paternoster. Cape Spurfowl was numerous and White-fronted Plover was on the beaches in numbers.

Cape Spurfowl

White-fronted Plover
Offshore we saw several fairly distant Southern Right-backed Whales, while Cape Gannet was plentiful.

Cape Gannet

Southern Right Whale
Southern Double-collared Sunbird was common about our lodge. Kelp Gull and Speckled Pigeon were abundant around the town.

Kelp Gull & Speckled Pigeon

Southern Double-collared Sunbird
Later in the afternoon I drove along another side road off the Vredenburg-Paternoster road and succeeded in finding another target – Cape Long-billed Lark.

Cape Long-billed Lark
The next day we visited the West Coast National Park, where wildflowers were in abundance amid a magnificent coastal vista of sweeping strandveld plains, lagoons and coastal dunes.

West Coast National Park

West Coast National Park

West Coast National Park

West Coast National Park
At Seebook Lookout, not far from the park's northern end, we flushed a male Southern Black Korhaan – another much-wanted South African endemic – and then a second korhaan. Grey-winged Francolin was also here.

Southern Black Korhaan
Yellow Bishop was an inquisitive visitor at a lunch stop.

Yellow Bishop
We saw two Black Harriers, surely one of the most impressive raptors, separately hawking the strandveld.

Black Harrier
Around the lagoons were Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Cape Teal, Kittlitz's Plover and African Marsh-Harrier.

Cape Teal

Greater Flamingo

Kittlitz's Plover
During our return to Cape Town the following day via the Darling Wildflower Route, we found a pair of Southern Black Korhann roadside (first image of this post). We flew to Johannesburg for an overnight stay before flying home.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

SOUTH AFRICA PART 4: Cape Town to Honeywood: Victorin's & Knysna Warbler, Larks of Algulhas

Victorin's Scrub-Warbler

Following our visit to Kruger National Park and Johannesburg, we flew to Cape Town, surely one of the world's finest cities. As usual, the imposing Table Mountain behind a stunning coastline did not disappoint. We had a nice apartment hired through Airbnb which overlooked the coast and Robben Island. Our first day saw us up on the mountain summit courtesy of that draw-dropping cable car ride.

Table Mountain, from Cape Town waterfront

Table Mountain, from summit
Cape Rock Hyrax was about the mountain top as usual.

Cape Rock Hyrax
Our second day had us pottering about the city after we couldn't get a seat on a ferry to Robben Island. Day three and we headed south to the Cape Peninsula, Cape of Good Hope and Cape Hope. The coastal scenery was something to see and proteas and other wildflowers in the fynbos were in full bloom everywhere we went. The region had been suffering severe drought but we were fortunate because good late-autumn rains had fallen, ensuring a bumper wildflower season.

Cape Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Cape Peninsula

Proteas, Cape of Good Hope
Nice birds included Grey-backed Cisticola, Common Ostrich, Cape Robin-Chat, Malachite Sunbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Cormorant.

Cape Cormorant

Grey-backed Cisticola

Malachite Sunbird

Orange-breasted Sunbird
Common Ostrich
We moved on to the pretty coastal village of Simonstown, where a small colony of African Penguins is thriving.

African Penguin
After our Cape Town visit we headed east through Swellendam to check out the Agulhas Plain on the road to Malaga, about 10 km south of the highway. I was after two target birds – Cape (Agulhas) Clapper Lark and Agulhas Long-billed Lark – and these were found without too much trouble. Other birds included Red-capped Lark, Long-billed Pipit and Sickle-winged Chat.

Cape Clapper Lark
We moved on to our accommodation for the next three nights – the delightful Honeywood Lodge, our base for exploring the adjoining Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve in the Landeberg Range. We saw our first Blue Crane for the trip on the way.

Our rooms at Honeywood Lodge

View from Honeywood Lodge
Birds around the lodge included Cape Weaver, Lesser Honeyguide, Swee Waxbill and Fiscal Flycatcher. I was pleased to see a Black Harrier hawking the fields as we watched a stunning sunset from our lodge verandah.

Cape Weaver

Swee Waxbill
On our first morning at Honeywood we were in the fynbos above the reserve. Here I tracked down a Victorin's Scrub-Warbler, a bird I'd looked hard for without success during my last visit to the Cape. Later I heard one calling just below the lodge.  We moved down to the mosaic of tracks cut through the wet forest of the Grootvadersbosch Reserve, the westerly range limit for quite a few South African birds. Here we found another bogey bird, Knysna Warbler. We ended up hearing 5 or 6 birds over a couple of days and saw it three times, including a good view, but the skulker refused to be photographed. 

Grootvadersbosch Reserve - fynbos meets forest

Grootvadersbosch Reserve forest
Other birds in the forest on this and the following day included Cape Batis, African Dusky Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul, Red-chested Cuckoo and Terrestial Brownbul. We saw Olive Woodpecker and then finally had brief views of a Knysna Woodpecker, another target.

African Dusky Flycatcher

Cape Batis

Red-chested Cuckoo
Birds in more open areas around the lodge and park headquarters included Brimstone Canary, Greater Striped Swallow Cape Canary and Olive Thrush.

Brimstone Canary