South Africa: 2-Day Agulhas Plains Birding Tour Report, March 2022

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26 – 27 MARCH 2022

By Dominic Rollinson

agulhas plains birding reportKnysna Woodpecker can be seen with some effort in De Hoop Nature Reserve.

Overview

This short two-day birding trip into the Agulhas Plains (Overberg region) was put together to target a number of specials which are best found in this region, a few of which are endemics or near-endemics to South Africa. Some of these species occur here at their most westerly extent and thus this is the closest they can be seen to Cape Town. This trip was highly successful, with some of the highlights including Horus Swift, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Cape Gannet, African Penguin, Cape, Crowned and Bank Cormorants, Secretarybird, Cape Vulture, Knysna Woodpecker, Southern Tchagra, Cape Rockjumper, Agulhas Long-billed, Cape Clapper and Large-billed Larks, Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Swee Waxbill.

agulhas plains birding reportThe Agulhas Plains host large numbers of the majestic Blue Crane.

Detailed Report

Day 1, 16th March 2022. Cape Town to De Hoop Nature Reserve

We left Cape Town early and headed east, with our first birding stop being near Sir Lowry’s Pass where we hoped to catch up with a certain skulking warbler. Soon after getting out the car, we heard our quarry calling nearby and after much effort we eventually got views of a Victorin’s Warbler. We had a few other nice birds in the area including small group of Cape Siskins and a number of Orange-breasted Sunbirds. Our next birding site was a small, quiet farm road near Swellendam. The birding here was excellent and we soon notched up many of our target birds for the area. Standout birds included Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan, Agulhas Long-billed and Cape Clapper Larks, Capped Wheatear, Pearl-breasted Swallow and a small group of Quailfinches, although these were only heard as they flew high overhead. A few widespread raptors were also seen in the area, such as Black-winged Kite, Common and Jackal Buzzards and Rock Kestrel.

After cleaning up on most of our open-country targets, we carried onto De Hoop Nature Reserve where we would spend the rest of the afternoon. On the outskirts of the nature reserve, we found a few distant Cape Vultures which breed at the nearby Potberg colony. After checking into our accommodation, we immediately headed out and made our way to Koppie Alleen, a large dune which overlooks the Indian Ocean. In early summer this is one of the best places around to look for Southern Right Whales however unfortunately they are not around in late summer. A quick scan out to sea did however produce a few Cape Gannets and many Greater Crested Terns. The drive to and from Koppie Alleen gave us some nice birds such as Long-billed Crombec, Yellow and White-throated Canaries, Cape Bunting, Kittlitz’s and White-fronted Plovers, Crowned Lapwing, Bokmakierie and many Common Ostriches. There were of course large numbers of animals around including the likes of the Cape subspecies of Blesbok, known as Bontebok, (Cape) Mountain Zebra, Common Eland, Grey Rhebok, Steenbok and large troops of Chacma Baboons.

We finished off the day with a walk around the campsite, which was relatively quiet although we did find Cape Spurfowl, calling Grey-winged Francolins, African Hoopoe, Fiscal Flycatcher, Great Crested Grebes in the nearby wetland, and great visuals of Fiery-necked Nightjar as it got dark. We enjoyed a tasty South African braai (barbecue) with the nightjars calling in the background, before heading to bed for the night.

agulhas plains birding reportCape Spurfowl were very common and quite cheeky at times.

Day 2, 27th March. De Hoop Nature Reserve to Cape Town

We awoke just before sunrise and spent the next few hours wandering around the campsite which was incredibly productive. It didn’t take long to locate one of our major targets Southern Tchagra, and they actually proved quite numerous in the campsite over the morning. Our next target Knysna Woodpecker took a lot more effort but eventually we were rewarded with point-blank views of a bird as it went about feeding, completely oblivious to our presence. Other good birds here included the likes of Horus, Alpine, White-rumped and African Black Swifts, Willow Warbler, Spotted Eagle-Owl, Speckled and Red-faced Mousebirds, Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Pied Starling and Water Thick-knees along the shoreline. A small flock of Namaqua Sandgrouse were seen as we departed the campsite.

agulhas plains birding reportSouthern Tchagra was an important target which was rather numerous in De Hoop Nature Reserve.

 

After having spent most of the morning in the nature reserve we started to make our way back to Cape Town with a number of important birding stops planned en route. Just outside the reserve we had nice views of a circling Secretarybird and a couple of distant Cape Vultures. After a decent drive through the Agulhas Plains, our next stop was near Betty’s Bay where we had some very obliging Cape Rockjumpers. We then enjoyed a late lunch in Harold Porter Botanical Garden which gave us nice views of Brimstone Canary, Swee Waxbill and Cape Sugarbird. Next was a brief stop at Stony Point for African Penguin and Bank, Cape, Crowned and White-breasted Cormorants before we pressed onto our final stop at Rooi Els which delivered a cooperative Cape Rock Thrush. From here we headed back to Cape Town and finished the day in the late afternoon after what had been a very pleasant and productive couple days of birding.

 

Bird ListFollowing IOC (12.1)

 

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen.

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following BirdLife International: EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable.

 

Common Name Scientific Name
Ostriches (Struthionidae)
Common Ostrich Struthio camelus
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca
Cape Shoveler Spatula smithii
Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata
Cape Teal Anas capensis
Guineafowl (Numididae)
Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris
Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)
Grey-winged Francolin (H) Scleroptila afra
Cape Spurfowl Pternistis capensis
Swifts (Apodidae)
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
African Black Swift Apus barbatus
Little Swift Apus affinis
Horus Swift Apus horus
White-rumped Swift Apus caffer
Bustards (Otididae)
Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami
Karoo Korhaan Eupodotis vigorsii
Sandgrouse (Pteroclidae)
Namaqua Sandgrouse Pterocles namaqua
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock Dove Columba livia
Speckled Pigeon Columba guinea
Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata
Ring-necked Dove Streptopelia capicola
Laughing Dove Spilopelia senegalensis
Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata
Cranes (Gruidae)
Blue Crane – VU Grus paradisea
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Stone-curlews, Thick-knees (Burhinidae)
Water Thick-knee Burhinus vermiculatus
Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis
Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)
African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini
Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Blacksmith Lapwing Vanellus armatus
Crowned Lapwing Vanellus coronatus
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius pecuarius
White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
Grey-headed Gull Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus
Hartlaub’s Gull Chroicocephalus hartlaubii
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii
Penguins (Spheniscidae)
African Penguin – EN Spheniscus demersus
Gannets, Boobies (Sulidae)
Cape Gannet – EN Morus capensis
Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)
African Darter Anhinga rufa
Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Reed Cormorant Microcarbo africanus
Crowned Cormorant Microcarbo coronatus
Bank Cormorant – EN Phalacrocorax neglectus
Cape Cormorant – EN Phalacrocorax capensis
White-breasted Cormorant Phalacrocorax lucidus
Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
African Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus
Hadada Ibis Bostrychia hagedash
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
Black-crowned Night Heron (H) Nycticorax nycticorax
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Black-headed Heron Ardea melanocephala
Secretarybird (Sagittariidae)
Secretarybird – EN Sagittarius serpentarius
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus
Cape Vulture – EN Gyps coprotheres
Pale Chanting Goshawk Melierax canorus
African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus
Owls (Strigidae)
Spotted Eagle-Owl Bubo africanus
Mousebirds (Coliidae)
Speckled Mousebird Colius striatus
Red-faced Mousebird Urocolius indicus
Hoopoes (Upupidae)
African Hoopoe Upupa africana
African Barbets (Lybiidae)
Acacia Pied Barbet (H) Tricholaema leucomelas
Woodpeckers (Picidae
Knysna Woodpecker Campethera notata
Cardinal Woodpecker (H) Dendropicos fuscescens
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus
Bushshrikes (Malaconotidae)
Bokmakierie Telophorus zeylonus
Southern Tchagra Tchagra tchagra
Southern Boubou Laniarius ferrugineus
Shrikes (Laniidae)
Southern Fiscal Lanius collaris
Drongos (Dicruridae)
Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis
Monarchs (Monarchidae)
African Paradise Flycatcher (H) Terpsiphone viridis
Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
Cape Crow Corvus capensis
White-necked Raven Corvus albicollis
Rockjumpers (Chaetopidae)
Cape Rockjumper Chaetops frenatus
Larks (Alaudidae)
Agulhas Long-billed Lark Certhilauda brevirostris
Cape Clapper Lark Mirafra apiata
Large-billed Lark Galerida magnirostris
Red-capped Lark Calandrella cinerea
Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)
Sombre Greenbul Andropadus importunus
Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis
Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
Black Saw-wing Psalidoprocne pristoptera
Brown-throated Martin Riparia paludicola
Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula
Pearl-breasted Swallow Hirundo dimidiata
White-throated Swallow Hirundo albigularis
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Greater Striped Swallow Cecropis cucullata
Crombecs, African Warblers (Macrosphenidae)
Long-billed Crombec Sylvietta rufescens
Victorin’s Warbler Cryptillas victorini
Leaf Warblers & Allies (Phylloscopidae)
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Cisticolas & Allies (Cisticolidae)
Grey-backed Cisticola Cisticola subruficapilla
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Cloud Cisticola (H) Cisticola textrix
Karoo Prinia Prinia maculosa
Bar-throated Apalis Apalis thoracica
White-eyes (Zosteropidae)
Cape White-eye Zosterops virens
Sugarbirds (Promeropidae)
Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer
Starlings, Rhabdornis (Sturnidae)
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Pied Starling Lamprotornis bicolor
Red-winged Starling Onychognathus morio
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Olive Thrush Turdus olivaceus
Chats, Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
Karoo Scrub Robin Cercotrichas coryphoeus
Fiscal Flycatcher Melaenornis silens
African Dusky Flycatcher (H) Muscicapa adusta
Cape Robin-Chat Cossypha caffra
Cape Rock Thrush Monticola rupestris
African Stonechat Saxicola torquatus
Capped Wheatear Oenanthe pileata
Familiar Chat Oenanthe familiaris
Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)
Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea
Malachite Sunbird Nectarinia famosa
Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalybeus
Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
Cape Sparrow Passer melanurus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Weavers, Widowbirds (Ploceidae)
Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis
Southern Red Bishop Euplectes orix
Yellow Bishop Euplectes capensis
Waxbills, Munias & Allies (Estrildidae)
Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis
Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild
Quailfinch (H) Ortygospiza atricollis
Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)
Cape Wagtail Motacilla capensis
African Pipit Anthus cinnamomeus
Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
Cape Siskin Crithagra totta
Yellow Canary Crithagra flaviventris
Brimstone Canary Crithagra sulphurata
Streaky-headed Seedeater (H) Crithagra gularis
White-throated Canary Crithagra albogularis
Cape Canary Serinus canicollis
Buntings (Emberizidae)
Cape Bunting Emberiza capensis

 

Total seen 126
Total heard only 9
Total recorded 135

 

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included. This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

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