December 2011 Trip to the Cape (Ch 1)

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5 years 10 months ago #65721 by John Young
John Young created the topic: December 2011 Trip to the Cape (Ch 1)
The family and I spent three weeks recently in the Cape, opting to drive down from Durban. Although the purpose of the trip ultimately was to spend Christmas with family, I made sure I found time to do some twitching in a few of the Cape’s birding hotspots. I had been in the Cape many times before, even lived there for about a year in the late 80’s. But that was before the birding bug bit me about 2 years ago. <!-- s:bouncy: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/bouncy.gif" alt=":bouncy:" title="Enthusiastic" /><!-- s:bouncy: --> So this was my first real opportunity to see what the Cape had to offer from a birding perspective.
It was awesome to say the least.

The overall stats for the trip are as follows:
Lifers – 17
Photo lifers – 25. One of each of the lifers, and eight of others missed in the past.
Total species seen – 171. A number of others seen were not positively identified, so cannot include them.
Total number of Species seen per Provinces visited and travelled through, (I’ve excluded KZN as my passengers were sleeping and couldn’t scribe for me, and I had doubts if I would be able to add to my existing list - KZN being my home Province):
Free State (50). One lifer: Black Stork
N. Cape (2).
E. Cape (33). Two lifers: Willow Warbler, Blue Korhaan
W. Cape (134). Fourteen lifers: Bank Cormorant, Black-Necked Grebe, Cape Rockjumper, Cape Siskin, Common Chaffinch, Great Crested Grebe, Grey-Backed Cisticola, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Lemon Dove, Peregrine Falcon, Pied Avocet, Red-Capped Lark, Victorin's Warbler, and Yellow Canary.

Our route took us inland over the northern side of Lesotho, and keeping away from the national roads as much as possible. The roads in some places were absolutely shocking, that at one stage we opted for a gravel road from Wepener to Smithfield which proved to be better than the tar section – good choice as it yielded me a lifer. Our destination for the night stop was Middelburg.

Black Stork on a farmer’s dam near Smithfield (Free State).

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Other birds seen en route included Spur-Winged Goose, Black-Shouldered Kite, Fan-Tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Pied Crow, African Pipit, African Stonechat, Cattle Egret, Jackal Buzzard, Common Fiscal, Long-Tailed Widowbird, Pied Starling, Red-Knobbed Coot, Red-Winged Starling, Speckled Pigeon, Black-Headed Heron, Secretary Bird (photo lifer), Blacksmith Lapwing, Northern Black Korhaan, Ant-Eating Chat, Cape Longclaw, Steppe Buzzard, Yellow-Billed Duck, Little Grebe, South African Shellduck, White-Breasted Cormorant, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, White-Fronted Swallow, Grey Heron, Eastern Clapper Lark, Diderick’s Cuckoo, Lesser Kestrel, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, and Common Ostrich.

Lesser Kestrel (Male)

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Lesser Kestrel (Female)

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Eastern Clapper Lark

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Diderick Cuckoo



On reaching our night stop (Celtis Country Lodge – recommended should anyone be interested) there was time to take a stroll around the town. Near the centre of town we came across a memorial park with a few trees, in which a small pale speck caught my eye. This would prove to be my second lifer for the trip.

Willow Warbler

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It was a very hot day, and across the road from the memorial park was a Keg so we pulled in for a thirst quencher. No Windhoek on tap so we opted for a draught in the bottle instead. Seriously the coldest beer I have ever consumed – chilled to an ideal temperature of about 3.50C. So good that we had three before making our way back to the lodge!! <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: --> Other birds seen whilst strolling through town (before the Keg pit stop that is!! <!-- s:lol: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_lol.gif" alt=":lol:" title="Laughing" /><!-- s:lol: --> ) included Red-Eyed Dove, Laughing Dove, Cape Sparrow, House Sparrow, Southern Grey-Headed Sparrow, Amethyst Sunbird, Cape Wagtail, Cape Robin Chat and Karoo Thrush.

Day 2 (18 Dec), and our journey continued through the Karoo which yielded the following sightings: Pale Chanting Goshawk (photo lifer), Cape Crow, Sacred Ibis, Hadeda Ibis, Blue Crane, White-Necked Raven, Rock Kestrel, White-Backed Mousebird, Hamerkop, Yellow-Billed Kite, Cape White-Eye and Southern Double-Collared Sunbird.

Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Day 3 (19 Dec) started with a short stroll around Rondebosch Common where we added Common Starling, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Hartlaub’s Gull and Kelp Gull to the list.

Common Starling - Juvenile

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Next on our agenda was a family swim at Muizenberg and meet up with some of Kyle’s varsity friends. We stopped in at Cecelia Forest on the way to see if I could pin one of my target birds for the trip – Cape Siskin. I had read a blog by Mike Buckham a few weeks earlier so thought I’d give this spot a go. We walked around for about an hour seeing African Dusky Flycatcher, Neddicky, Forest Buzzard and my target bird. Sadly it was quite a distant viewing. So much so that I wrote it down in my notes as an “LYJ”. It was only later when I posted an image on this forum for an ID, to which Trevor Hardaker replied with good news and bad news -it was indeed a Cape Siskin but I’d need to go back and get better pictures. (I tried a few times later on during the holiday, but it evaded me). :(

Neddicky



The sea at Muizenberg was a tad too cold for me so I used the time to get some shots of the gulls. It was here that frustration set in as my SIGMA 150-500mm lens started to play up. When trying to get BIF shots with lens pointing upwards, autofocus decided it was best not to respond. I did get a few half decent pics, but my mind was thinking fast on what to do to overcome the problem seeing that I still had plenty of places to visit and birds to see, and seriously did not need camera failure to ruin my holiday. <!-- s:banghead: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/banghead.gif" alt=":banghead:" title="Frustration" /><!-- s:banghead: -->

Hartlaub’s Gull

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Dave

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5 years 10 months ago #65722 by John Young
John Young replied the topic: Re: December 2011 Trip to the Cape (Ch 1)
Day 4 (20 Dec) was never going to be a birding day as it was my eldest’s 21st birthday. <!-- s8) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cool.gif" alt="8)" title="Cool" /><!-- s8) -->
The day was spent getting some booze for the evening braai with family and friends, trying to find a Vodacom shop as Kyle’s SIM card would not fit the new iPhone we gave him for his birthday, and getting hold of my camera agent in Durban for details of the repair shop in Cape Town who had previously worked on my lens (twice I kid you not!!). Suffice to say I left the lens with them in the afternoon and left holding thumbs for an early return. I was to be very pleasantly surprised.

Our plans for 21 Dec was a trip in the cable cars up Table Mountain – I ain’t fit enough for the walk up! <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: -->
On the way to town, the repair shop called to say they’d sorted out the lens problem. Truth be told, they couldn’t quite find what was wrong with it but nevertheless replaced the main circuit board as well as the entire optical stabliser mechanism. Seeing that it was within the 3-month warranty period of previous work done, there was no charge for the work done. Now that’s what I call efficient service! Thanks Tudor Tek. <!-- s:hypnodisk: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/hypnodisk.gif" alt=":hypnodisk:" title="Hypnotised" /><!-- s:hypnodisk: -->
The weather gods were on our side, and with tickets in hand we setoff up the mountain. And the camera performed as it should. Not a great variety of bird species up there but was able to add Orange-Breasted Sunbird and Familiar Chat to our trip list, along with a number of mammals, plants and lizzards.

Red-Winged Starling (Male)

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Red-Winged Starling (Female)

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Orange-Breasted Sunbird (Male)

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Orange-Breasted Sunbird (Female)

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Lesser Kestrel (BIF)



Cape Siskin (the best that I could get sadly)

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And for those with other interests apart from birds, here's a few of the mammals, plants and lizzards on offer:

Juvenile Rock Hyrax

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For this one I pushed the settings out to F29 so as to capture some of the background down below!



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5 years 10 months ago #65725 by Doug
Doug replied the topic: December 2011 Trip to the Cape (Ch 1)
Nice trip report and some nice photos.


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5 years 10 months ago #65740 by John Young
John Young replied the topic: Re: December 2011 Trip to the Cape (Ch 1)
Thanks Doug - will add to it soon . . . (I hope - this one took me long enough...)

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5 years 10 months ago #65784 by gordon
gordon replied the topic: Re: December 2011 Trip to the Cape (Ch 1)
Very nice trip Dave and well done on all those lifers!!

Cheers,
Gordon

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5 years 9 months ago #65827 by John Young
John Young replied the topic: Re: December 2011 Trip to the Cape (Ch 1)
Thanks Gordon - it was most enjoyable.

How are the newly weds doing - glad I'm sure you're not in Kruger now during the floods.

Dave

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5 years 9 months ago #65897 by docandy
docandy replied the topic: Re: December 2011 Trip to the Cape (Ch 1)
Great trip report and well done on all the lifers! :D

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