Cape, Namaqualand and Kalahari Trip Report, August 2016

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 15 – 27 AUGUST 2016

 By Dylan Vasapolli

Overview

This tour is timed to take advantage of the great birding conditions in the Western Cape fynbos zone along with the annual displays of the Namaqualand flowers. With only two participants the tour was run as a private tour, tailored to their exact wants.

Beginning in the southern part of the Western Cape Province, we experienced many of the fynbos-endemic birds close to Cape Town before transferring to the Overberg farmland region filled with green fields and Blue Cranes. A visit to the southernmost tip of Africa completed our stay here, before we transferred north into the Namaqualand region. Sadly, the flowers were not at their peak yet, due to a lack of rain throughout the area; however, good birding compensated for this. Transferring to neighboring Bushmanland, we enjoyed further excellent birding with almost all of our target species being found. The mighty Augrabies Falls put on a great show for us, and transferring to our northernmost point, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, was a grand success, filled with many great cat sightings along with excellent birding. Following a long drive to Kimberly, we made the most of our last days with some localized birds and many highly-prized mammals, including black-footed cat, aardwolf, and aardvark, before the tour ended.

 

Itinerary

 

DateLocationOvernight
15 August 2016Rooiels, OverbergPotberg
16 August 2016OverbergPotberg
17 August 2016Overberg, Ceres, ClanwilliamClanwilliam
18 August 2016KamieskroonSpringbok
19 August 2016Port Nolloth, SpringbokSpringbok
20 August 2016Springbok, Aggeneys, PofadderPofadder
21 August 2016Pofadder, Augrabies Falls NPAugrabies Falls National Park
22 August 2016Augrabies Falls NP, AskhamKgalagadi Lodge
23 August 2016Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkKgalagadi Lodge
24 August 2016Kgalagadi Transfrontier ParkKgalagadi Lodge
25 August 2016Askham, KimberleyKimberley
26 August 2016KimberleyKimberly
27 August 2016Kimberley

 

Day 1, August 15. Cape Town to the Overberg

Just after breakfast I met with Pat and Ginger, and we immediately set off toward Rooi-Els, where we would spend the morning. We started off well, recording our first Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, along with Cape Bunting, Karoo Prinia, and Grey-backed Cisticola. As we continued on our walk along the mountain path we picked up a few Cape Rockjumpers and later saw that they were ferrying food into a nesting site; we were enjoying some great views as the birds went about their business. We also managed to pick up both Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrushes, along with Cape Grassbird and Yellow Bishop, before a small group of Cape Siskins flew by, perching briefly atop the nearby rocks. The area seemed to be invaded by siskins; we had good numbers constantly moving through, although none of them showed for long periods. We then picked up a calling Victorin’s Warbler, although it was calling from way up the slope and we couldn’t get any closer. A small group of the vivid Ground Woodpeckers obliged just as we returned to the car. We headed off to the nearby Stony Point penguin colony and enjoyed close-ups with their famous residents, African Penguins. Bank, Cape, Crowned, and White-breasted Cormorants showed off too, along with good numbers of White-chinned Petrels together with a few Cape Gannets offshore. A Hamerkop flying over the shoreline was an odd sight. The nearby Harold Porter National Botanical Garden was next on the list, and after a good lunch we set off on a brief walk around the garden. We enjoyed the likes of Bar-throated Apalis, Speckled Mousebird, Cape Batis, Brimstone Canary, Yellow Bishop, Olive Thrush, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Spurfowl, and a small group of confiding Swee Waxbills before having to transfer onwards to the Overberg region. We enjoyed a large group of Blue Cranes next to the highway, although we sadly couldn’t stop, before arriving on the outskirts of Bredasdorp, from where we birded our way to our overnight accommodation.

Travel initially was slow, with many birds halting us on our way. We ran into our first Southern Red Bishops, followed by Large-billed and Red-capped Larks, Yellow, White-throated, and Cape Canaries, and Levaillant’s Cisticola. We pulled over for our first proper views of Blue Cranes – a group right next to the road, and scanning some odd ‘geese’ in a nearby field revealed a small group of four Denham’s Bustards. Albeit a bit distant, we enjoyed good looks at this prized species. Just slightly further along we ran into our first Capped Wheatear, and, as soon as we stopped, heard the characteristic call of Agulhas Long-billed Lark. After a bit of a wait I picked up the bird walking through a very grassy section of the field. The bird soon disappeared but suddenly reappeared in the middle of the road, right next to us! We had crippling views until a car came screaming along and sent the bird back into the field. We had barely left when an Egyptian mongoose came bounding across the road and moved off into the long grass. Many yellow mongooses were also seen as we continued on our way. Some of the last species encountered before arriving at our overnight accommodation were Cape Longclaw, African Stonechat, Pied Starling, and Black-winged Stilt. A fish dinner rounded off an excellent first day.

Day 2, August 16. The Overberg

Following a good breakfast we set off for the nearby De Hoop Nature Reserve. On the way we ran into African Spoonbill, Cape Shoveler, Cape Teal, African Marsh Harrier, Bokmakierie, Yellow Canary, Rock Martin, Fork-tailed Drongo, and our first of many Blue Cranes for the day. Grey rhebok and steenbok were highlights on the mammal side. After checking into the reserve we ran into Grey-winged Francolin perched right next to the road and enjoyed great views of the bird as it sat tight on the road verge. A rising whistle revealed the presence of a Cape Clapper Lark, and in no time we were enjoying great views of an individual perched on an Erica plant right next to us. We were fully able to enjoy the fine markings and details on the feathers of this species before it headed back into the fynbos. A Spotted Thick-knee perched next to the road, along with Common Ostrich, and bontebok and common eland were other notable sightings before we arrived at the camp area. Here we set off on a walk, targeting Knysna Woodpecker and Southern Tchagra. The tchagra wasn’t hard to find, and we enjoyed some great views of a bird completely in the open, with a tame Southern Boubou hopping around next to it for comparison’s sake. The woodpecker proved a bit trickier to find, and with a strong wind blowing and very infrequent calling it took us a while to pin the bird down. All of a sudden, though, I noticed a lovely male Knysna Woodpecker in a patch of sun, but it took a short flight. We rounded a bush and enjoyed some close-up views of a pair of them before they again took flight. We tried to find them again, although the closest we got was a bird that called from seemingly right next to us.

Content with our sightings we headed back to the car for a brief snack before transferring to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. A quick scan from here revealed Greater Crested Tern and more White-chinned Petrels offshore. After a good lunch in Struisbaai we headed for the nearby De Mond Nature Reserve. On the way to the reserve we enjoyed many birds, from the likes of fly-by Black Sparrowhawk through to a lovely male Southern Black Korhaan and a pan littered with Kittlitz’s Plovers, Little Stints, and Curlew Sandpipers. Arriving at the reserve we headed down to the lagoon and found that the tide was in. Many African Oystercatchers littered the sandbar, along with a group of Greater Crested and Caspian Terns and Greater Flamingos, and other shorebirds present included Grey Plover, Common Greenshank, and Common Ringed and White-fronted Plovers. A quick search upstream produced Common Sandpiper, and while leaving we walked into a Spotted Eagle-Owl perched in one of the large bushes, catching some of the last warm sun rays. Leaving the reserve we had a spectacular sighting of two adult Black Harriers, along with running into a beautiful male Malachite Sunbird. We arrived back at our lodgings just before sunset after another good day.

Day 3, August 17. The Overberg to Clanwilliam

We had a long day of travel ahead, transferring to Clanwilliam, and, having found all of the key species occurring around the Overberg, we departed after breakfast for Swellendam. We made a few stops on the route as the birding was good, and highlights included Cape Clapper, Agulhas Long-billed, and Large-billed Larks, many Blue Cranes, Denham’s Bustard, a covey of Grey-winged Francolins, and our first Karoo Scrub Robins. After heading through Swellendam we veered through the mountains heading to Ceres, with the weather continuously changing – from overcast to thick mist, rain, and sun. We immediately headed up to Gydo Pass, where we began our search for Protea Canary. We worked a number of the viewpoints and had perfect conditions – overcast, but no wind, and a hive of bird activity, but we just couldn’t get the Protea Canary. We had excellent views of many Cape Canaries, Cape Siskins, Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, and Cape Sugarbirds. Just as we arrived at the last point we planned to search, a light drizzle started falling, but we proceeded to try. Just as we were about to give up, another scan of the line of proteas revealed a small but chunky grey bird perched on top – a lovely Protea Canary. I had a slight scare as the bird disappeared before the clients could get onto it, but we managed to find it again much closer to us and enjoyed some good views. We had lunch in Ceres and then made the last stretch to Clanwilliam, arriving in the mid afternoon. After checking into our quaint accommodations we headed to the Kransvlei Poort, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon. En route wee enjoyed a lovely field of flowers. Sadly, we had a stiff wind blowing, which made the birding difficult, but we enjoyed the likes of Yellow-billed Kite, Little Rush Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Long-billed Crombec, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Red-faced Mousebird, and a calling Layard’s Warbler. As the sun set we called it a day and headed back to town.

Day 4, August 18. Clanwilliam to Springbok

Although we had broken up the normal, long drive from Cape Town to Springbok, we still had a fair bit of ground to cover today, and we only did a relatively short birding walk this morning. Birding activity was quite slow, but we enjoyed both White-backed and Red-faced Mousebirds and Common Waxbill along with a large family of Southern Fiscals, the parents busily attending to their large young. Following breakfast we picked up some supplies from the local supermarket for lunch and were on our way to Kamieskroon. A lovely Black Harrier was the only noteworthy sighting en route. We arrived in good time, headed off on some back roads, and started with a skittish group of meerkats, followed by lunch. We made regular breaks during the lunch for the likes of Layard’s Warbler, Grey Tit, Karoo Lark, Bokmakierie, and a persistent Cape Clapper Lark that kept on displaying just out of our sight. Although we had seen this species already, we were quite intent on getting views of the west coast apiata subspecies as well. We enjoyed some fields of flowers between the birding as we continued. A magnificent pair of Verreaux’s Eagles played along the rocky ridges, an Acacia Pied Barbet peeked precariously out of its nesting hole, and a Mountain Wheatear perched atop a large boulder. We had to turn around all too quickly and birded some of the roads just north of Kamieskroon for a bit. We had some excellent birding; our first attempt for Cinnamon-breasted Warbler produced the goods, and we had good views for a brief period of time, until the bird perched atop some large boulders with the sun directly behind it. Other good birds seen included Karoo Chat, Rufous-eared Warbler, Malachite Sunbird, Capped Wheatear, and a group of the leucolaema subspecies of Black-headed Canary. We arrived at the excellent Naries Namakwa Retreat shortly after the sun had set.

Day 5, August 19. Port Nolloth and Springbok birding

After having our packed breakfast early in the morning we hit the road for Port Nolloth. A ‘stop and go’ stop on the way produced our first Karoo Eremomela, although the bird stayed a bit distant, and as we neared Port Nolloth a large group of Ludwig’s Bustards, numbering eight individuals, flushed from the roadside. We worked our way along the beachfront before moving north to target the Port Nolloth special – Barlow’s Lark. We enjoyed a group of Greater Flamingos feeding in the surf, along with Little Egret, Cape and Crowned Cormorants, African Oystercatcher, and a lone Grey-headed Gull mixed in with numbers of Hartlaub’s Gulls. Transferring into the coastal vegetation, we immediately began our search. We found a few different Barlow’s Larks, but all remained rather distant; however, after a bit of patience we were rewarded with some good views. Birding was excellent, and we also enjoyed great views of Cape Penduline Tit, Tractrac Chat, Cape Long-billed Lark, Grey Tit, Lanner Falcon, Greater Kestrel, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Black-chested Snake Eagle, and another fly-over of Ludwig’s Bustard. Brants’s whistling rat showed well on the mammal side.

We headed back toward Springbok and checked into the Goegap Nature Reserve, where we spent the afternoon. Following a good lunch in the reserve we birded the surrounding rocky slopes and were rewarded with crippling views of a very calm Cinnamon-breasted Warbler that hung around for over ten minutes and simply went about its business. A male Dusky Sunbird also proved a highlight along with a pale-breasted Jackal Buzzard. We headed onto the circular drive, but, sadly, late rains had meant that the flowers were yet to be in bloom. However, we enjoyed the wealth of succulents present, along with a number of mammals, including gemsbok, springbok, Cape mountain zebra, and South African ground squirrels. Birding, on the other hand, was relatively slow, but we did enjoy Ant-eating Chat, Karoo Scrub Robin, Verreaux’s Eagle, and eventually our main target, a lively group of Karoo Eremomelas. We had stopped to view a few Cape mountain zebras when we picked up on the soft calls of this species, and after a bit of running around we had excellent views as the birds passed by incredibly close to us, presenting far better views than this morning. Following our afternoon drive we arrived back at Naries with a bit of daylight left, and Ginger and I set off on a walk. We enjoyed some good birding with exceptional views of a Cape Clapper Lark (displaying and perched), along with Karoo Lark, Karoo Thrush, Yellow Canary, and a few unexpected Southern Black Korhaans, which showed well, until the sun set and we returned back for a cozy dinner.

Day 6, August 20. Springbok to Pofadder

We began the day with a brief walk around the grounds before breakfast. The birding was good, and we barely made any ground before having to return. We enjoyed excellent views of Karoo Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Karoo Thrush, Karoo Scrub Robin, Cape Weaver, Yellow Bishop, Pale-winged Starling, Long-billed Crombec, and Malachite Sunbird. After breakfast we collected a few supplies in town before setting off toward Pofadder via the back roads. Our first birding stop was near Aggenys, where we would search for the first of the proper Bushmanland specials – Red Lark. Activity was a bit slow, but some persistence paid off as we initially started with some distant views of a displaying bird and eventually bumped into a bird feeding right next to the road, affording some good views as it scampered between bushes. Grey-backed Sparrow-Larks were present in large numbers, and following up on a brief call revealed a small group of Stark’s Larks that showed well, but only briefly before moving off. As we settled down for lunch a nearby water source produced a regular flow of birds, including Red-headed Finch, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Mountain Wheatear, Lark-like Bunting, Fawn-colored Lark, and our first Sociable Weavers.

We continued on our way to Pofadder with regular stops for species including Karoo Long-billed, Sabota, and Spike-heeled Larks, Pale-winged Starling, Sickle-winged and Karoo Chats, a pair of Namaqua Sandgrouse, White-backed Mousebird, and Pale Chanting Goshawk. We made a detour toward a new site for Sclater’s Lark, as a few of their other localities had failed to produce them on a recent trip. The main way to see this highly nomadic species is to wait at a water trough in suitable habitat for the birds to come and drink – which they do regularly throughout the day. After arriving we were immediately rewarded with a pair of Sclater’s Lark; however, they didn’t hang around long and seemed to vanish into thin air. We waited a little while longer at the water trough, and a further individual came in, but again didn’t stay around for any length of time. We tried birding some of the surrounding scrub and heard a group of them flying by, but, try as we might, we just couldn’t lay eyes on them. All too soon we had to call it quits here and continue on our last leg to Pofadder. The late afternoon was pretty quiet, but we managed to add Northern Black Korhaan along with bat-eared fox, klipspringer, steenbok, and another group of skittish meerkats before we got to town.

Day 7, August 21. Pofadder to Augrabies

Having done quite well with the majority of the ‘Bushmanland/Karoo’ specials yesterday, we set out to try and track down the last few remaining species possible. We started off well with African Red-eyed Bulbul and a pair of Karoo Korhaans that showed brilliantly. Following this, the bird activity dropped down remarkably, and we had a largely quiet morning with lots of hard work producing not very much. Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Rufous-eared Warbler, Chat Flycatcher, Sociable Weaver, and Acacia Pied Barbet were the most notable sightings before we turned around and made our way over to the nearby Augrabies Falls National Park. We managed to get excellent looks at the highly-desired Pygmy Falcon en route. After arriving we sat down for lunch and, following this, set off to explore the falls area. It was a lovely day, and in between marveling at the falls we enjoyed the likes of Black Stork, Peregrine Falcon, Alpine Swift, African Reed Warbler, Orange River White-eye, and African Fish Eagle. Following a bit of R&R, we headed out on a late afternoon game drive. The breezy conditions made the going tough, but we managed to eke out Crested Barbet, Little Swift, Goliath Heron, African Dater, and a lovely adult Verreaux’s Eagle on its nest, feeding a chick. We also managed to get a few mammals, including chacma baboon, vervet monkey, klipspringer, springbok, and rock hyrax.

Day 8, August 22. Augrabies Falls to the Kgalagadi

We began the morning with a quick breakfast, followed by a morning birding session around the camp area. Sadly, the wind was blowing quite strongly, which always makes birding a bit more difficult, but despite this we enjoyed a good morning. A Giant Kingfisher flew overhead, calling loudly, while many Namaqua Warblers tormented us for some time as, try as we might, we just couldn’t see the birds in the stiff wind. Eventually, as we had practically given up on seeing them, an individual popped up just in front us and gave us some great (and greatly relieving) views! In the process of trying to get views of the warblers we enjoyed comparative looks at Cape and African Pied Wagtails, along with feeding groups of Common Waxbills, Familiar Chat, White-throated Canary, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, African Hoopoe, and White-throated Swallow over the open lawns. The Acacia patches held a number of great birds, including Pririt Batis, Brubru, Crested and Acacia Pied Barbets, Swallow-tailedBee-eater, White-backed Mousebird, Dusky Sunbird, and Common Scimitarbill, among others. Before long, though, we had to begin the long trip northwards to the base of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, where we would be staying just outside the park. Following a good lunch in Upington we made steady progress and started with some birding around Askham. The birding was good, and we enjoyed numbers of Grey-backed Sparrow-Larks together with nesting White-backed Vultures, Lilac-breasted Roller, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Fork-tailed Drongo, Common Scimitarbill, African Grey Hornbill, and Cape Starling.

We transferred to the nearby Kgalagadi Lodge, where we would be based for the next few days, and the clients opted for an easy, relaxing afternoon. Late in the afternoon Ginger and I went out for a walk around the property and got acquainted with some of the Kgalagadi birds. Black-throated Canaries, Scaly-feathered Weavers, and Red-headed Finches flitted between bushes, while noisy Black-chested Prinias danced around in the rank growth. A colony of White-browed Sparrow-Weavers fed on the ground below their nests before a Kalahari Scrub Robin started calling from the tree tops, which seemed to spur on a lively Chestnut-vented Warbler from the same tree, and a group of Namaqua Doves flew by at the end of the walk. As we headed for dinner we had a lovely show from a Western Barn Owl flying around us, calling loudly, before it headed off into the night.

Day 9, August 23. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Following a quick breakfast we entered the famous Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park with tons of excitement. Today we would work our way up towards Nossob before returning for a quick ‘early dinner’ at the lodge and having a sunset/night drive out of Twee Rivieren. The day was largely excellent, with good numbers of sought-after birds, plenty of raptors, and our fair share of brilliant mammal sightings. Namaqua and Burchell’s Sandgrouse treated us to a great showing at a few of the waterholes, and we watched a Gabar Goshawk attempt to take out a Laughing Dove, admittedly, fairly half-heartedly. Raptors were well represented, and we enjoyed Bateleur, Tawny and Martial Eagles, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rock Kestrel, and Lanner Falcon. After some effort we eventually managed to locate some Kori Bustards seeking respite from the relentless sun under the shade of some large camelthorn trees.

The ‘smaller’ birds were also well represented, and during the course of the day we observed the likes of Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, African Hoopoe, the striking Crimson-breasted Shrike, Ashy Tit, Long-billed Crombec, Desert Cisticola, Chestnut-vented Warbler, both Karoo and Kalahari Scrub Robins, Marico Flycatcher, Red-billed Quelea, and African Pipit. On the mammal side we enjoyed a spectacular day for cheetah, encountering at least two different families. We started off with a mother with three cubs standing sentinel atop one of the dunes, followed by a mother with four cubs moving through some woodland. We ran into another mother with three cubs later in the day, not too far from our first sighting of them, and so suspect they were the same family. We were also treated to two lions lazing about in the dry riverbed. A black-backed jackal ran across the road and, stopping alongside this individual, we watched as it quickly ate a rodent it had caught. We finally enjoyed some good looks at the prized meerkats, while antelopes were represented by springbok, blue wildebeest, gemsbok, and steenbok. At one of the picnic sites we had good looks at a four-striped grass mouse that had become habituated to people. Following our dinner we headed back for our sunset/night drive. This too was good, and although birds were only represented by Northern Black Korhaan and numerous Spotted Eagle-Owls, we enjoyed good looks at both Cape and bat-eared foxes and excellent views of many African wild cats along with common duiker, scrub hare, and springhare.

Day 10, August 24. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

With another full day in the park we headed up towards Mata Mata this time. The birding was pretty good throughout the day. We started well with an excellent Pearl-spotted Owlet sighting together with Groundscraper Thrush before heading into the park proper. Beginning with the larger birds, raptors were again well represented with many great Secretarybird sightings, along with African Harrier-Hawk, White-backed Vulture, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagles, Bateleur, Martial and Tawny Eagles, Jackal Buzzard, a stunning adult Black Harrier quartering over the dunes, Rock and Greater Kestrels, along with Lanner and Red-necked Falcons. The Red-necked Falcon sadly left a bit to be desired, as it flew out of one of the trees in the riverbed while we were watching a Brown Snake Eagle and disappeared further up the river – we were unable to relocate it. Many of these species were seen on nests, and we also enjoyed a pair of Tawny Eagles with a large snake firmly in the grasp of one of them. We didn’t have to battle for Kori Bustards today and enjoyed good looks at many individuals. We watched as a pair of Lanner Falcons put the fear of god into a large contingent of doves and finches at one waterhole.

We had many of the same ‘smaller’ species as yesterday, while new additions included Purple and Lilac-breasted Rollers, Common Scimitarbill, Southern Yellow-billed and African Grey Hornbills, a distant Cardinal Woodpecker, Sabota Lark, a very confiding Yellow-bellied Eremomela, a somewhat out-of-place Short-toed Rock Thrush at one of the picnic sites, and a Violet-eared Waxbill that simply refused to cooperate. What was surprising was the number of Spotted Eagle-Owls we saw today – finding a number of roosting individuals throughout the park. The mammals were a little slower today, but we did enjoy our first red hartebeest and giraffes aside from the regular array of species. Our cats were somewhat limited, and we only came across our first cat in the late afternoon – a regal lioness lying in the riverbed, roaring softly. After a good two days in the park we retired for a well-deserved meal.

Day 11, August 25. Kgalagadi to Kimberley

With an incredibly long day of driving ahead of us we hit the road shortly after breakfast. Today was almost entirely a travel day and saw us arriving at Marrick Safaris, just outside of Kimberley, in the late afternoon. That being said, we made a number of stops on the way to break up the journey. Our first stops were near Askham, where we enjoyed our first look at a Lappet-faced Vulture flying low over the road. Kori Bustard, White-backed Vulture, and Tawny Eagle followed shortly after. An opportunistic stop near Griekwastad produced a few Bradfield’s Swifts among a number of Little and African Palm Swifts. After arriving Ginger and I again set off to explore the area surrounding the main house. We had a good late-afternoon walk and managed to notch up a number of birds. Wattled Starling, Crowned Lapwing, Northern Black Korhaan, and the sought-after Double-banded Courser were seen on the open plains, while the surrounding Acacia woodland was excellent and produced Black-throated and Yellow Canaries, Black-faced Waxbill, Marico and Fiscal Flycatchers, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Chestnut-vented Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Brubru, Pririt Batis, Common Scimitarbill, and a calling Golden-tailed Woodpecker that we just couldn’t find. Despite the day being mostly a driving day, we managed to get some good birds during its course.

Day 12, August 26. Kimberley

We woke up ready for our last full day on the tour and got going shortly after a good breakfast. We spent the entire morning birding around the property, taking in all its open, grassy habitats together with its excellent Acacia woodland. The woodland delivered many exciting species, including excellent views of Black-faced and Violet-eared Waxbills, Red-headed Finch, Cape Penduline Tit, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Acacia Pied Barbet, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Common Scimitarbill, and some visuals this time of Golden-tailed Woodpecker. The open areas, however, were the prime focus of our birding, and we were well rewarded. We managed to get more excellent views of multiple Double-banded Coursers, which are always exciting to see. Larks were also well represented, and after some work we eventually managed to get stunning views of the sought-after Pink-billed Lark. Spike-heeled, Red-capped, and Eastern Clapper Larks and Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark featured as a good supporting cast. We were treated to excellent close-up views of a Cloud Cisticola on the ground, while nearby Ant-eating Chats and Northern Black Korhaans vied for attention. Both Kori Bustard and Namaqua Sandgrouse treated us to good flybys, while Quailfinch obliged a few times with some rather poor flybys, sadly.

A number of Pearl-breasted Swallows worked over the area, and we had good views of them when they eventually alighted on a nearby fence. A pair of South African Shelducks walking in the open fields was a strange sight. Before rounding the morning off we enjoyed good views of nesting Western Barn Owls up in a high nesting box. Mammals were also well represented, with springbok pronking and black wildebeest, red hartebeest, giraffe, plains zebra, and common duiker all being seen well. Following a large lunch and a bit of time off we headed to the large Kamfers Dam on the northern outskirts of the city. The normal access point only treated us to distant views of the birds, and after some scouting we tried a few back roads and managed to get ourselves right to the dam’s edge. Here we marveled at the thousands of Lesser Flamingos, together with smaller numbers of their larger cousin, Greater Flamingo. We were also treated to a small group of Hottentot Teals with some Yellow-billed Ducks on the dam’s flooded edge. A number of waders/shorebirds were also present, and sifting through them revealed Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, and Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plovers. A few Common Moorhens scuttled quickly across openings in the vegetation, while noisy Grey-headed Gulls constantly flew overhead. The surrounding woodland produced a lovely White-bellied Sunbird together with a lone Pale Chanting Goshawk, Wattled Starlings, and Common Waxbills.

We returned back to Marrick for the last bit of daylight, and Ginger and I headed off to visit a nearby pond, while Pat relaxed. We enjoyed a number of seedeaters coming in to drink, consisting of Scaly-feathered Weaver, Red-headed Finch, Lark-like Bunting, Yellow Canary, Red-billed Quelea, and a lone non-breeding Shaft-tailed Whydah. After a good dinner we readied ourselves for our night drive around the property. We were joined by Johnny for the evening, and we headed out with high hopes. We had barely got going when we had a striped polecat scamper across the road and disappear. Large numbers of springhares were in evidence, and we were also treated to good views of Cape Hare. Not long afterwards we picked up on some promising eyeshine, and as we got slightly closer we confirmed that it was indeed that of black-footed cat. This is an incredibly sought-after cat, due to both its scarcity and secretive habits, and it is always truly exciting to come across one. We managed to get a bit closer and enjoyed some good looks before the cat hunkered down in the vegetation and disappeared out of sight. Excellent! A highveld gerbil followed soon after, and we were also treated to a quick view of a Cape porcupine before it disappeared. The small hyena-like aardwolf was next up, and we truly had incredible close-up views of one – certainly the best views I’ve had of one ever before. We were able to fully appreciate this magnificent creature with its bold stripes and shaggy fur. Aardvark was the only outstanding target, and we spent the next hour or so searching without seeing much more. We eventually managed to get onto a bat-eared fox, and while we were enjoying it picked up on a ‘large’ beast scampering away – aardvark. We had to backtrack a bit and drive a small loop to intercept the animal. We picked it up shortly after and watched as it came toward us. Although it never got really close, we had good views of it and even watched as it began digging, sending masses of dirt into the night air. This secretive, nocturnal mammal is also a highly-prized species, and a sighting is never guaranteed. With all our targets having been seen well we called it an evening after an excellent night drive – we certainly couldn’t have asked for a better one!

Day 13, August 27. Departure

With Pat and Ginger having a mid-morning departure from Kimberley Airport, we had only a brief period this morning available for birding before having to head to the airport. After breakfast we set out on a walk to see what we could track down. Despite the wind we had a good morning with sightings of Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Ashy Tit, Cardinal Woodpecker, Pririt Batis, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Black-faced Waxbill, and African Hoopoe. Numbers of Swifts were moving overhead, and we enjoyed looks at Bradfield’s, Little, and White-rumped. Before long we were on our way to the airport, and when dropping Pat and Ginger off, I said goodbye to them.

 

I would just like to thank Pat and Ginger for the good times shared, the good fun had, and the brilliant birding we enjoyed! The vast array of areas, habitats, and regions covered resulted in an impressive list of species seen, including some of the region’s most prized species. Our incredible night drive on the last night must surely rank as one of the top highlights, along with our spectacular cheetah sightings, but on a tour filled with so many great areas and wonderful birds and mammals there were many highlights.

 

Please see the downloadable PDF above with the full species lists included.