South Africa Holiday - 3rd October to 20th October 2007

Wednesday 3rd October

At the airport we soon picked up our first birds of this highly anticipated holiday. A Pied Crow, House Crow and Sacred Ibis were first on the list. We picked up the car and got safely to our high rise apartment in Bloubergstrand with fantastic views out over the South Atlantic Ocean. Around the apartment we picked up Black Oystercatcher, Cape Cormorant, Kelp Gull and Hartlaub's Gull.

We had researched and knew a reserve that was nearby. Despite being tired from travelling we decided to go for a look and stay awake until the evening. Rietvlei Reserve was fantastic! A wetland habitat with large bodies of water lined with reed beds and scrubby ground surrounding it. Not one other birder was seen and there were birds everywhere. It really was a birdwatchers heaven! African Darter were seen on the lake edge with Grey Heron, Hadeda Ibis and Egyption Goose. Moorhen, Redknobbed Coot, Blacksmiths Plover were seen and a superb Water Dikkop was a great find!

African Darter

Water Dikkop

Blacksmiths Plover

Sat high in an old tree were 2 African Fish Eagle. We got great views of these birds watching them fly out over the lake. Red Bishop were seen in the reed beds, the males really are an incredible bright red colour. From the hide looking over the wetlands we saw White-breasted Cormorant, Great White Pelican, and a lovely flock of around 30 Greater Flamingo! Also seen here were Yellow-billed Teal, Cape shoveler, Great crested Grebe, Little Grebe and Red billed Teal. Just in front of the hide an African Spoonbill was showing incredibly well along with a cracking Black Winged Stilt. To the right of the hide 3 Yellow Billed Egret were seen.

Black Winged Stilt

African Spoonbill

Away from the hide around the scrubby area Helmeted Guineafowl and Cape Francolin were seen. Levaillants Cisticola were identified with Cape White Eye, Cape Sparrow and Cape Wagtail all showing well. European Starling were present with Southern Masked Weaver and Cape Weaver adding to our list.

Flitting it the scrubby vegetation was our first Karoo Prinia and a superb male Pin-tailed Whydah showed well. The tail on this bird really is a amazing! Speckled Pigeon, Laughing Dove and Feral Pigeon were also seen on the dry grassy areas and when walking back to the car a Red Capped Lark was seen and a Rock Martin was flying overhead. What a place! We really could have spent 3 days walking round here instead of 3 hours!

There was one final bird to be seen as we were all in the car. It was a lovely Fiscal Shrike sat on a post. What a brilliant few hours of birding!!

Pin Tailed Whydah

Fiscal Shrike

Thursday 4th October

Scanning the ocean from the window we found a pair of Southern Right Whales the first of the trip! A Lesser Kestrel was also seen flying around the apartment. Today we visited Simon's town and on the way had amazing views of whales just offshore. We also stopped near a lake and saw Greater Striped Swallow and Cape Turtle Dove. At Boulders beach which is unfortunately very commercial we saw Jackass Penguin, a colony of Swift Tern, 2 lovely Speckled Mousebird, Cape Robin and Red Winged Starling.

We then drove to Noordhoek and on the beach saw White Fronted Plover with Avocet and Black Winged Stilt feeding in the fresh water nearby. On the scrub was a Cape Bulbul and soaring over the mountain was a Black Eagle. Brown Throated Martin were also seen here.

While driving we spotted Cattle Egret, Crowned Lapwing and Black Shouldered Kite.

Friday 5th October

From the apartment in an early watch a large brown Skua was seen. We presumed it to be a Subantarctic Skua. We went for another quick look around Rietvlei Reserve before heading for table mountain. At Rietvlei we added more great birds to our list. Purple Heron was seen and photographed in flight. Malachite Kingfisher, Crested Cormorant and Sandwich tern were seen along with a female Lesser Double-collared Sunbird, Yellow Canary and Yellow Bishop with an African Marsh Harrier over the reeds.

We caught the gondola up to the top of table mountain and just as we got out of the car a Sparrowhawk/Goshawk species raced past but could not be identified. At the top of the mountain an Orange-breasted Sunbird was seen and a Peregrine Falcon was also spotted. Amazing views from the top of Table mountain!

Saturday 6th October

We couldn't resist one more look around Rietvlei reserve in the morning. Mum, Dad and Jack headed into Cape Town while Greg and I hit the reserve one last time. As soon as we turned up a Night Heron flew across the lake and a Common Waxbill and Cape Reed Warbler were seen nearby. Flying above the houses next to the reed beds was a Yellow-billed Kite. Walking towards the hide a White Throated Swallow was seen perched with Alpine Swift flying overhead and 2 Caspian Terns calling loudly as they flew over the lake. When we reached the hide we spotted Etheopian Snipe and hundreds of Knot in the distance. We noticed that there were Lesser Flamingo as well as Greater Flamingo and Greg picked up a smart Purple Gallinule.

Sunday 7th October

Today we visited Hermanus to try and see whales. On the way we stopped off and saw Cape Bunting on a mountainside, Cape Sugarbird, Fiscal Flycatcher and a White-necked Raven. At Hermanus there were plenty of Grey-headed Gulls and we watched Southern Right Whales very close to the shore with a Humpback Whale breaching in the distance. On the way back we stopped off again for a short walk and saw Jackal Buzzard soaring and nearby a Black Kite with a Dusky flycatcher seen well along with a Fork tailed Drongo.

Monday 8th October

Today we moved inland to Stellenbosch the wine region, staying in a lovely place in Franzhoek. We went to a vineyard and in the carpark had brief views of Malachite Sunbird and Swee Waxbill with a male Lesser double collared sunbird also noted. On the walk in the vineyard we saw Three-banded Plover very well and a Black Duck on a small lake. We then had excellent views of Crowned Lapwing along with White-rumped Swift and African Pipit. The wine tasting was great and not much birding was done on the return walk.

Three Banded Plover


Crowned Lapwing

African Pipit

Tuesday 9th October

Today we drove to the game reserve. On the way we stopped off to look at Blue crane. There were a few in fields and while we were looking at them a Stonechat and Capped Wheatear were also seen. Whilst driving many Spur-Winged Goose were seen.

After arriving at the game reserve we went for a look around. There was a hide looking over a waterhole and a lovely Hoopoe was seen well as it sat on a post for a while. Still one of my favourite birds.


Pied Starling were seen along with Pearl breasted Swallow, a Bokmakierie and 2 Speckled Mousebird. Nearby were more Red Bishop in the reeds.

Speckled Mousebird

Red Bishop


We went on a drive around the reserve seeing Clapper Lark and Levaillants Cisticola with views of the wild Cheetah and a Mongoose the mammalian highlights. On return to our accomodation we saw a Black headed Heron at the water hole, the only one of the trip and a Greater double-collared sunbird was seen nearby. I also had brief views of a bird i'm certain was a Pied Barbet but as they weren't supposed to be in the area so I doubted myself. A great place with plenty to see.

Levaillants Cisticola

Wednesday 10th October

On the morning game drive we saw a Hammerkop on a small pool which supposedly was some what of a rare bird on the reserve and a real cracker to see.


We also saw a Blue Crane with a chick and a displaying Stanleys Bustard was a added Bonus.

Blue Crane 

It was a really enjoyable game drive even though many of the animals weren't completely wild. Around the accommodation a Bar-throated Apalis was seen as well as Karoo Robin. As we walked around the grounds we spotted a Wattled Starling sat on wires and a Bully Canary was noted. One of our best finds was a Spotted Dikop sat camouflaged before moving slowly away. As Mum, Dad and Jack went to be introduced to a Cheetah Greg and I had spotted another Malachite Sunbird nearby and set about getting some photos of this beauty as it fed on nectar and succeeded.

Malachite Sunbird

We travelled now along the coast to Danabay. After we arrived, on the drive opposite our first Cape Rock Thrush was seen with Black Saw-Winged Swallow feeding and a Streaky Headed Canary in the garden.

Cape Rock Thrush and Saw Winged Swallow

Thursday 11th October

From the balcony of the apartment a school of Bottlenose Dolphins was seen surfing the waves.A lovely view when having breakfast!

Bottlenose Dolphins

Black Oystercatchers were on the beach and 4 Cape Robin were around the house.

Cape Robin

A Speckled Pigeon was seen along with Cape Sparrow, Hoopoe and Fiscal Flycatcher. Nearby 2 Jackal Buzzard were seen perched and a Greater Double Collared Sunbird was in the garden opposite.

Cape Sparrow

Greater Double Collared Sunbird

Friday 12th October

On an early morning walk we saw two new birds. A Giant Kingfisher was seen over the sea and 2 Sombre Greenbul were seen on the scrubby slopes. Dolphins were surfing the waves and as walking along the beach a Lanner Falcon flew low overhead with 8 Black Oystercatcher on the beach. We drove to the Wilderness national park and saw another Giant Kingfisher fly up the river and perch on a branch. A monster of a Kingfisher! Cinamon Dove, Long Billed Crombec and Terrestrail Bulbul were all knew birds seen on the walk.

As we were driving home a Spotted Eagle Owl flew up from in front of the headlights! A real unexpected bird.

Other animals seen during the day were Puff Adder in the road and almost underneath Jack's foot in the national park, Natal Green Snake swimming in the river when canoeing and a Green Turtle also seen.

Saturday 13th October

Today we drove to Plettenberg for our final stop. On the way we stopped off briefly outside Knysna seeing Curlew on the mud flats. Just over the road from the accommodation was a lagoon which held many birds. Grey Plover, Greenshank, Ringed Plover,Whimbrel, Purple Heron and Common Sandpiper were quickly seen.

Purple Heron

Sunday 14th October

A look over the lagoon in the morning produced African Spoonbill, Sacred Ibis and a bit further along the beach a large Swift Tern colony consisting of 50-60 birds.

Swift Tern

We then went for a drive and on wetlands beside the road near the Keurbooms nature reserve we saw Cape Teal, Hottentot Teal, South African Shelduck, Glossy Ibis ( only one of the trip), lots of Black Winged Stilt a single Three-banded Plover and many more Cattle Egret.

Back at the apartment in the trees around the lagoon a Paradise Flycatcher was seen. Unfortunately only briefly but the sight of its huge tail was unmistakable. Around the lagoon were plenty of waders, Ringed plover, Grey Plover and Black Oystercatcher all seen well.

Black Oystercatcher and Grey Plover

Monday 15th October

Today we went see kayaking and saw loads of Fur Seals playing around us and one brief view of a Humpback Dolphin.

In the trees by Plettenberg beach car park an Amethyst Sunbird was seen, the only one of the trip. On a walk from the apartment,along the beach a large flock of Swift Tern were seen sat on the beach and a Caspian Tern was over the lagoon.

Tuesday 16th October

Today we tried again to do the cage dive but once again the sea was too choppy so the dive was aborted. We were all gutted, no Great White Shark for us. The boat trip produced an Arctic Skua and on the drive a Steppe Buzzard was seen. We went for a walk along the Roberg peninsula in the afternoon and saw a White necked Raven and a Black Crow flying with an egg. Greg also saw a Southern Boubou.

Wednesday 17th October

Today we went on a boat trip up the Keurbooms river and it produced some great birds. Our main target the Knysna Lourie was seen well along with Rameron Pigeon and Cape Batis. A Half-collared Kingfisher was great to see adding yet another kingfisher to the list and a Black headed Oriole was seen. A beautiful Paradise Flycatcher was seen very well and a Forest Canary was noted. Greater Striped Swallow, Dusky Flycatcher and Steppe Buzzard were also  seen.

Knysna Lourie

Back at the lagoon a Marsh Sandpiper was showing well.

Thursday 18th October

An early scan aver the lagoon produced 3 Black Crake by the reed bed and a White faced Duck flew by. Purple Heron, Little Egret and African Spoonbill were all showing well. On a very choppy boat trip we managed to see 4 Sooty Shearwater, one of which almost flew into Gregs head!! Also seen was a lovely pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.

Back at the Villa a surprise in the garden came in the form of a Burchell's Coucal and in Knysna an Olive Thrush was seen.

We then went for a walk in a woodland called the garden of Eden and saw some great birds. A Red Billed Woodhoopoe was seen high in a tree calling loudly which was great to see and a Chorister Robin was found. We had great views of Paradise Flycatcher here along with Dusky Flycatcher and Black Headed Oriole. A Frog was seen on a rock in the river.

Red Billed Woodhoopoe

When back at the villa we concentrated on the Swifts and identified White rumped Swift around our balcony and Black Swift was overhead, resembling European.

Friday 19th October

On the lagoon 2 African Spoonbill were showing well along with 10 Little Egret a single Black Crake was seen along with a Pied Kingfisher.

Jack,Greg and I took a boat back up the Keurboums river today. We had flashes of Knysna Lourie again in the forest, its wings flashing a brilliant red! A Hamercop that dropped into the beach calling was nice and a Cape Batis was seen along with a Reed Cormorant diving for fish near the boat.

Little Egret and African Spoonbill

Saturday 20th October

Today was our last full day! A holiday of amazing birding was coming to an end! 

The Lagoon was holding the usual suspects in the morning. A single Black Crake was showing again with a Purple Heron, African Spoonbill, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper and Black Oystercatcher. A Sacred Ibis was on grass near the Villa.

In the garden Cape Batis, Cape White Eye and Cape Weaver were all seen.

Sunday 21st October

On the drive to Port Elizabeth we spotted a Brown Hooded Kingfisher from the car which was a real bonus.

We then hit the best roadworks i have ever seen. The delay allowed us to get out of the car right next to a wetland. A 10 minute scan produced Ruff, Balck Winged Stilt, Cape Teal and a superb African Jacana walking over the lillypads, our only one of the trip! A Kite species was seen as we drove to the airport. We boarded the plane after a brilliant holiday packed with some fantastic wildlife. It was a shame about the Sharks but just means we will have to go back!