18 Jun 2009

Birding the Cape Peninsula

We stayed in Simons Town at the luxurious Shearwater apartment owned by Marie - Louise & Patrick Cardwell of Avian Leisure and used this as a base to explore the local area. Birds seen regularly whilst breakfasting on the balcony were Cape Bulbul & Cape White-eye along a flcok of Common Waxbill. Night brought a nocturnal visitation from the local Porcupine to eat fruit left out for him by Marie- Louise.

Simons Town is famous for the Boulder beach penguin colony and one of the highlights of the trip was returning from the pub to find a Penguin walking down the pavement past the '7 till 11' supermarket. Not something you'd see at our local Tesco's Express!

With bad weather forecast our planned pelagic trip was put back by a day but, contrary to the forecast, Saturday dawned bright and sunny albeit with the occasional shower. We decided to explore the Cape Peninsula and look for some of the local endemic species & undertake a seawatch from the spectacular cliffs. Chacna Baboons are common here and we saw at least one 'mugging' where an unsuspecting tourist was robbed of his sandwiches by a large male. You really don't want to start a fight with these b*stards.

The Sunbirds are spectacular and we saw three species in this area - Southern Double-collared, Orange-breasted and the magnificent Malachite. Cape Sugarbirds were also present but proved hard to photograph!

Seawatching proved fruitful although the birds were distant. Loads of Sooty Shearwaters were moving offshore and we picked out several Shy & Blackbrowed Albatross. Rock Hyrax were common and we saw a single Cape Eland.

Other good birds seen in this area were Ground Woodpecker, Cape Francolin, Rock Kestrel, Familiar Chat, Cape Robin-chat, Cape Gassbird and the ubiquitous Spotted Prinia. Life would have been much more difficult without old Africa hand Eddie with us who saved us alot of time thumbing through the SASOL guide!

The dominant vegetation of the Cape peninsula is Fynbos - a scrubby mix of low bushes and flowering shrubs. Birds are scarce here but the rewards are superb. A walk to to lighthouse is a must for any tourist and although we failed to find one of target birds (Cape Siskin) here we did find them at another site. Red-winged Starlings were common around the lighthouse and incredibly tame.

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