TRIP REPORT: Birding western South Africa: Cape Town to the Kalahari
I'd like to report briefly on a recent trip from Cape Town to the Kalahari,
western South Africa (once completed, I'll be posting a full trip report,
information, on the Birding Africa website at www.birding-africa.com).
Highlights among the 320 bird species recorded included 123 southern
African endemics and near-endemics, including 20 species of larks, 7 bustard
species, 7 eagle species, the elusive Damara Tern, Protea Canary, Knysna
Woodpecker, Red, Sclater's and Barlow's Larks, Burchell's Courser, Cape
Eagle Owl, White-faced Owl, Black Harrier, Ludwig's Bustard and an
out-of-range European Marsh Warbler in Pofadder, Bushmanland (!). Mammals
highlights include Lion, Cheetah, Caracal, Smith's Red Rock Rabbit and Rock
After initially covering the area around Cape Town (mountains of the Cape
Floral Kingdom) and the West Coast (lowland coastal vegetation and RAMSAR
wetlands), our route extended along the Garden Route (Afromontane forests)
before heading inland to the desert areas of the Tanqua Karoo and
Bushmanland, Namaqualand and the Kalahari.
-KAROO ENDEMICS HIGHLIGHTS-
The vast arid areas in the west of southern Africa hold the majority of the
region's endemics (the Succulent Karoo is one of the world's 25 biodiversity
hotspots as defined by Conservation International). Many of the endemics are
localised and nomadic. Perhaps the highlight was the secretive
CINNAMON-BREASTED WARBLERS feeding at arm's length on a rocky slope in
Namaqualand [take the R355 between Kliprand and Platbakkies for 16.4 N
Kliprand]. The 'butterfly flight' breeding displays of BLACK-EARED
FINCHLARKS in the Tanqua Karoo was also spectacular [take the R355 from
Ceres to Calvinia, after 66 km N of Karoopoort, turn E towards Middelpos and
continue for 4.5 km]. The nomadic LUDWIG'S BUSTARD was seen at the same
locality. KAROO KORHAANS were seen numerous times, especially between
Aggenys and Gamoep, 5km NW of Brandvlei and 30 km N Upington. DUSKY SUNBIRDS
and PALEWINGED STARLINGS were predominantly seen on the northern areas, such
as Augrabies Falls National Park campsite and in Pofadder town. KAROO
EREMOMELA was seen in the Tanqua Karoo. NAMAQUA WARBLER was seen on the
Tanqua River, at "Die Bos" [S. Calvinia] and Augrabies Falls. Both the
BLACKFACED and WHITEFACED (DAMARA) forms of BLACKHEADED CANARY were seen,
with the former widespread in the Tanqua Karoo and the latter predominantly
in the Namaqualand uplands near Loeriesfontein. TRACTRAC and KAROO CHATS
20 species, including:
SCLATER'S LARK- drinking at a watering trough 10 km north of Brandvlei
STARK'S LARKS- 7 km east of Gamoep on the edge of Bushmanland.
BRADFIELD'S LARK- Nossob Riverbed, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
PINKBILLED LARK- 3 large groups between Upington and the KTP
AGULHAS LONGBILLED LARK - Buffeljags-Malgas, 8km S Malgas, near De Hoop
RED LARK - Plains form: 5 km NE Brandvlei, Dune Form: at Blomhoek, and also
BARLOW'S LARK - just south of the mining fence on the northern edge of Port
-CAPE FYNBOS ENDEMICS-
The smallest of the world's six floral kingdoms, the tiny Cape Floral
Kingdom is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots on earth. Fynbos
vegetation, cloaking the mountains of this region, holds a number of often
tricky endemics.PROTEA CANARY eventually relented at Paarl Mountain Reserve,
while CAPE ROCKJUMPER (a family feeding fledglings that had left the nest),
SISKIN, VICTORIN'S WARBLER, CAPE SUGARBIRD and ORANGEBREASTED SUNBIRD were
all seen in the mountains near Sir Lowry's Pass.
-BENGUELA CURRENT ENDEMICS-
DAMARA TERN was the most exciting - we had 3-4 pairs prospecting nest sites
north of Port Nolloth. BANK and other CORMORANTS (3 endemic marine
cormorants), AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, CAPE and HARTLAUB'S GULLS at
Kommetjie. AFRICAN PENGUIN and others at Boulder's Beach.
A host of typical African forest species, but also including KNYSNA LOURIE,
CHORISTER ROBIN [start of the trail the Woodville Big Tree], FOREST BUZZARD
[N2 between George and Wilderness], the skulking KNYSNA WARBLER [Wilderness:
Halfcollared and Brownhooded Kingfisher trails] and, eventually, a pair of
KNYSNA WOODPECKERS! Other highlights included a very close male NARINA
TROGON and a westerly BLACK CUCKOO.
Very active birdwise, but getting quite warm! Lots of snake-eaters including
over 20 BLACKBREASTED SNAKE EAGLES and SECRETARY BIRD.
BURCHELL'S SANDGROUSE very active. KORI BUSTARD abundant. PURPLE ROLLER and
other more tropical species. WHITE-FACED OWL at close quarters.
-OTHER GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS-
Great mammals including Lion (probably too close for comfort...), Cheetah,
Cape Mountain Zebra, Gemsbok, Caracal, African Wild Cat, Springhare (a
rodent resembling a cross between a rabbit and a kangaroo), Smith's Red Rock
Rabbit and Rock Elephant Shrew. Herps included Cape Cobra, Puffadder and
Painted Reed Frog. The botanical highlight was without doubt the neon-yellow
floral display of the succulent Eurystigma clavatum carpeting the barren
expanses of the Tanqua Karoo, a phenomenon witnessed only once a decade.
Once completed, I'll be posting a full trip report, including locality
information, on the Birding Africa website at www.birding-africa.com Many
thanks to Julian Francis for his superb company on the vast majority of this
trip, and to Claire Spottiswoode and Andrew Hester for their assistance.
Anyone planning to visit these areas in western South Africa is most welcome
to contact me for more detailed birding information.
Callan Cohen Percy FitzPatrick Institute
of African Ornithology,
Tel: +27 21 683 1898 University of Cape Town,
Mobile: +27 83 256 0491 South Africa.
Fax: +27 21 671 2990
For African birding & travel information, guiding & pelagic trips, visit:
BIRDING AFRICA www.birding-africa.com
CAPE TOWN PELAGICS www.capetownpelagics.com
Birding-Aus is on the Web at
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