26 – 27 MARCH 2022
Knysna Woodpecker can be seen with some effort in De Hoop Nature Reserve.
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.
The Agulhas Plains host large numbers of the majestic Blue Crane.
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.
Cape 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.
Southern 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 List – Following 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.
|Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
|Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)
|Grey-winged Francolin (H)
|African Black Swift
|Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
|Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
|Blue Crane – VU
|Great Crested Grebe
|Stone-curlews, Thick-knees (Burhinidae)
|Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)
|Common Ringed Plover
|Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
|Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
|Greater Crested Tern
|African Penguin – EN
|Gannets, Boobies (Sulidae)
|Cape Gannet – EN
|Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)
|Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
|Bank Cormorant – EN
|Cape Cormorant – EN
|Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
|African Sacred Ibis
|Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
|Black-crowned Night Heron (H)
|Western Cattle Egret
|Secretarybird – EN
|Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
|Cape Vulture – EN
|Pale Chanting Goshawk
|African Fish Eagle
|African Barbets (Lybiidae)
|Acacia Pied Barbet (H)
|Cardinal Woodpecker (H)
|Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
|African Paradise Flycatcher (H)
|Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
|Agulhas Long-billed Lark
|Cape Clapper Lark
|Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
|Greater Striped Swallow
|Crombecs, African Warblers (Macrosphenidae)
|Leaf Warblers & Allies (Phylloscopidae)
|Cisticolas & Allies (Cisticolidae)
|Cloud Cisticola (H)
|Starlings, Rhabdornis (Sturnidae)
|Chats, Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
|Karoo Scrub Robin
|African Dusky Flycatcher (H)
|Cape Rock Thrush
|Southern Double-collared Sunbird
|Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
|Weavers, Widowbirds (Ploceidae)
|Southern Red Bishop
|Waxbills, Munias & Allies (Estrildidae)
|Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)
|Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
|Streaky-headed Seedeater (H)
|Total heard only
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.