June is definitely off-season in southern Africa, especially the farther south you go. Fewer birds are breeding, and both the European visitors and some intra-African migrants have left the area. In addition, winter in Cape Town can bring a considerable amount of cold, rainy weather with occasionally strong winds. Taking all these factors into consideration, Andrea and still decided to visit Victoria Falls, the Okavango Delta and Cape Town during 15 days in June. It was five years after our only other trip to Africa, that one to Kenya. The scenery, the people, the mammals and the birds all made us glad that we did. For a bonus, the weather was surprisingly good.
Since it is pretty much necessary to fly through South Africa to get to the Okavango Delta, it made sense to combine the two areas into one trip. We booked Botswana through Ker and Downey, which generally includes a few nights in Victoria Falls in its Okavango package. There is a patch of rain forest in Victoria Falls and some habitats that differ greatly from Okavango, so we thought it would all go together nicely. We actually decided to go for three nights in Vic Falls instead of the standard two, but flight schedules made that too difficult (and expensive), so we opted for two - and wish we could have had one more day there.
Throughout this report, I will use the SASOL names for the birds. I used both that field guide and an old edition of Roberts.
Andrea and I left the Atlanta airport at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 6. From Atlanta, South African Airways flies directly to Cape Town one day and directly to Johannesburg the next. We "lucked" into the Cape Town day, so our travel time was several hours longer. We mainly slept or rested, hardly even checking out the movies (although Snow on Cedars looked good). It was still dark when we left Cape Town at 7 a.m., Wednedsay, June 7, so we did not get any birds until the Johannesburg Airport. There, we saw Cattle Egrets, Southern Olive Thrush, our first Cape Wagtails and our only Grey-headed Gull.
We were supposed to fly British Air to Victoria Falls at 12:15, two hours after our scheduled arrival. However, we quickly learned that the flight was cancelled. The transit agent suggested a flight at 2:30, but we were eager to get going and asked about going earlier. A South African Airways flight was leaving at 10:30. Since we had arrived early, we were able to talk our way onto it - although our luggage could not. Better to be where you want to be without luggage than to be in an airport with it, so we took off almost two hours earlier than the flight we had booked. It was a good thing, too, as the 2:30 flight ended up also being cancelled. Although the airlines were saying "mechanical problems," it appeared that the cancellations were related to tourists cancelling trips to Zimbabwe because of the sticky political situation.
When we arrived two hours ahead of schedule, Ker and Downey had someone at the airport to meet us. After filling in some paperwork for our missing luggage, we headed from the airport to the Gorges Lodge, a good ten miles from the falls on a dirt road. As we checked in, we got to see some of the garden birds, including the omnipresent Black-eyed Bulbuls and White-browed Sparrow-Weavers, some Blue Waxbills (the name Blue-breasted Cordonbleu has more charm), Yellow-fronted Tinker Barbet and Cut-throat Finch. This finch (named, as if by pirates, for the red line at its throat) was one of several birds that we saw only on the grounds of the lodge, which were ecologically distinct from the parts of Victoria Falls near the falls.
After a quick snack, Andrea and I were off with one non-birder guest for a game drive in one unit of the National Park. Above the entrance gate, vultures were circling. Most were Hooded Vultures, but one Lappet-faced Vulture swooped low and impressed me with its size.
In the park, we had a close-up encounter with elephant cows and their babies, and we saw some birds, including Little Sparrowhawk, three species of hornbill, a flock of Red-faced Mousebirds, a Crested Barbet and White-bellied Sunbird. We left just before sundown, and it was dark for most of the drive back to the lodge. We saw two nightjars on the road. One that appeared small may have been Natal Nightjar, but we were able to identify the other as Mozambique Nightjar. We also had two owls, one of which appeared to be a Wood Owl.
After a rather lively and tasty late dinner, we were ready for sleep, pretty much adjusted to the time difference.
The next morning, I awoke early and met Stewart, one of the managers of the lodge, for 90 minutes of birding before breakfast. Stewart was not an experienced birder, but he was eager to explore the lodge and learn more about its birdlife. We started out in low light and low bird activity. One of our first birds was a (pale-form) Familiar Chat. After walking in circles trying to follow it, we managed to track down a Jameson's Firefinch. Then, the birds started getting more active. We had a mixed species flock that included White Helmetshrike, White-browed Robin, Black-collared Barbet and Yellow-bellied Bulbul. A hawk landed in a tree not far off, and we were able to walk up to it and study its throat to identify it as a Lizard Buzzard. Another small flock had Green-winged Bleating Warbler, African Barred Warbler and Eastern Bearded Robin. A flock of whydahs took flight, in which one bird was still in full breeding plumage. It seemed to me to be a Broad-tailed Whydah, but because it disappeared so quickly, I could not be certain it was not a Paradise Whydah. Stewart and I pushed through the woods in an unsuccessful attempt to relocate the flock and found a Golden-tailed Woodpecker as a consolation prize. We then turned around and met Andrea for breakfast.
After a hearty meal, we headed down to the falls. Chris Pollard had said that the Livingstone's Lourie showed up approximately 10:30 each morning at an opening near the spray from the falls, so we headed off in that direction, stopping briefly in the rainforest to admire some sunbirds and barbets, a Yellow-breasted Apalis and a Yellow-bellied Erememola. We never saw the lourie, so we continued along the walkway to our first views of the falls, and views of Blue-grey Flycatchers, a (female) Shaft-tailed Whydah, a Tropical Boubou, some African Pied-wagtails, several Red-faced Cisticolas and a bright yellow bird that was either a Cuckoofinch or a Yellow-eyed Canary. The latter two birds should be easy to distinguish, but this one got away.
We walked to the end of the trail, then turned back and took in other views of the falls until noon. We were going to have a fancy lunch at the Victoria, but decided first to try and catch up with Chris Pollard, a local birder. He talked us into eating a quick lunch and then going out for a little birding. We found Collared Palm-Thrush and Long-billed Crombec along an electric fence, and the best bird at the golf course was a Giant Kingfisher. We got over to the Victoria in time to get in a van for our boat ride on the Zambezi River. Before we even got moving, we saw Darters. Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese were on the shore of an island, and a Black Egret flew overhead. We saw Hadeda Ibis and two Hamerkops. As we were heading back after watching the sun set, a Giant Eagle Owl flew across the river.
Our second (and last) morning in Victoria Falls, Andrea and I headed out early for a dawn game drive with Chris Pollard and Charles Brightman. This time, we identified the Wood Owl that flew by the car as we left the lodge. Once we got to the park, Charles started doing his Pearl-spotted Owl imitation, which brought in Southern Black Tits and other small birds, as well as four different Pearl-spots. We also saw some Burchell's Zebras, Lesser Honeyguide (a new family for me), Gymnogene, a pair of Secretarybirds, Red-billed Oxpecker, Red-billed Woodhoopoe, Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater, Kurrichane Thrush, Plum-colored Starling, Buffy Pipit and Brown Snake-Eagle. As we headed out to the airport, we checked the wires to look for a Racquet-tailed Roller, but the only rollers we saw were all Lilac-breasted (beautiful enough to be the national bird of Botswana, but common.)
From Victoria Falls, Andrea and I flew to Maun, where we got on a smaller plane that never seemed to get more than 200 yards off the ground. We had to pick someone up from the Machaba camp, so we flew there first before going to Pom Pom. From the air, we could see giraffes, elephants, antelopes and herons. As we landed at Machaba, I could see White-faced Ducks along the shore of a pond. As we took off, I looked down and saw a White-headed Vulture. It was the first time I had ever identified a lifer from the air.
The driver who picked us up at the airport allowed us to proceed at a fairly leisurely, bird-finding pace. We saw Slaty Egret, African Fish-Eagle, Saddle-billed Stork, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Scimitar-billed Woodhoopoe, Red-billed Francolin, African Green Pigeon, Fan-tailed Cisticola, Malachite Kingfisher, Grey-hooded Kingfisher (rare in summer), Red-billed Francolin, Red-billed Firefinch and another 30-35 species of birds, plus three species of antelope.
When we got into camp, we had a little time to unpack and relax before tea and biscuits, which in the Ker Downey camps always precedes the afternoon game drive or makoro ride. We opted to have someone pole us out into the lagoon, from which we got good lucks at African Jacanas, Golden Weavers, Southern Masked Weavers, Black Crakes, Martial Eagle and a Malachite Kingfisher. From shore, we saw Pygmy Goose and Red-billed Teal.
I got up the next morning while stars filled the sky - and I even got to watch a meteor before I actively started listening for birds.
After breakfast, Amos took Andrea and me out for a game drive that included a good walk in the woods. We saw African Hoopoes everywhere, and our walk produced a Kalahari Robin, an Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, an Ashy Tit and one Terrestial Bulbul (later, at the Shindi camp, I saw these bulbuls in groups). When we came upon a grassy field, three Tsessabies were staring intently at a spot a hundred yards or so away. Amos said that they had detected a predator. Because of the length of the grass, he figured it was probably a Leopard. We swung around in front of the Tsessabies and then saw them looking at a spot between us. There, we found the Leopard, which the Tsessabies proceeded to drive away.
After lunch, Bruce pointed out an African Scops-Owl that was roosting in a small branch at the edge of the lagoon - right where people enjoyed their tea and biscuits. We took another game drive that afternoon, this time accompanied by two non-birding elderly women from Durban. We got to see the giraffes they had hoped to see, and they watched us enjoy two Double-banded Sandgrouse, Marico Flycatcher, Plain-backed Pipit and a Rattling Cisticola.
As dinner was ending, Bruce asked Andrea and me whether we were interested in going out for Pel's Fishing-Owl. We were ready in a heartbeat. On the way out to the bridge, we stopped for a Bushbaby (Lesser Gallago) that was in a tree eating gum. The owl was not on the bridge, as it often is, but we spotted him up high in a tree over the water - and we watched him fly up and land back on the same branch. Going back, we heard Giant Eagle-Owl and saw a Large-spotted Genet.
On the morning of June 11, I saw a Black-crowned Night-Heron and then a White-backed Night-Heron fly over the camp before dawn, and then walked to the "village" where I heard and then saw a Fiery-necked Nightjar. Near camp we found some Hartlaub's Babblers, but we were later to see larger groups at Shindi. Our game drive took us to some waterholes, where we saw Dickinson's Kestrel and many Marabou Storks, but not as many ducks and shorebirds as we had expected. Amos took me to a spot to see papyrus, and we went on a brief boat ride past herons, Darters and cormorants. When we returned to shore, Andrea and I drifted a little ways off looking for birds - me further than Andrea. Amos looked down on the ground and saw fresh male lion tracks, so he got us back to the van. We drove a short distance and came upon many vultures up in dead trees. They were watching over two lions and the giraffe they had killed.
As we drove back to the lodge, we saw African Barred Owl, African Rail and three Wattled Crane, which were standing in a field exuding elegance.
The two women from Durban joined us for the afternoon game drive - and they said in advance that they wanted a game drive, rather than a bird drive. Maybe we had pushed our luck a bit studying this pipit and that cisticola. We admired groups of elephants and zebras and returned to the lion kill. We saw some birds as we traveled, but mainly checked out a Black-bellied Koorhan and had a second look at the cranes. It was late when we returned, and we got a good view of a Mozambique Nightjar and heard another Fiery-necked Nightjar. In the last bit of light, I saw some Open-billed Storks on a dead tree in the lagoon not far from shore.
On our final morning, June 12, Andrea and I opted for another makoro ride. It was a very peaceful way to enjoy the water of the Okavango Delta, and we got to see a few new birds, including a glimpse of a Little Bittern. After lunch, we were off to catch our plane, stopping en route to see some Black-throated Canaries, which we later got to see daily on the grounds of the Shindi Camp.
Our drive from the airfield to Shindi was shorter and less birdy than the drive to Pom Pom had been, but we quickly could sense that the habitat was somewhat different, so that we could expect somewhat different birds. Our first new one was right near the runway: a Sabota Lark in the road. We then quickly learned that the camp managers at Shindi were even more helpful than those at Pom Pom and more eager to make sure that we saw all the birds we could. Paul and Gill loaned me their book on LBJ's of Africa, which had wonderful information for sorting out various cisticolas and larks. (When we reached South Africa, I bought a copy for myself and one to send to our Shindi guide, "Joe.") They also made sure that our game drives were for us only. One day, they sent out six guests in three vans, so that the photographers could have the time they needed for pictures, Andrea and I could have the opportunity to focus on birds and two others could concentrate on game.
Joe had to take some other guests on the motorboat to the heron roost our first evening at Shindi, so we went out with Ais. Before leaving, Andrea and I studied a Bennett's Woodpecker just outside our tent. On the drive, we saw Yellow White-Eye and Black-winged Stilt, and we stood looking across a pond while Lions roared from a distance on either side of us. On the ride back to camp, we had good looks at a Serval, a Mozambique Nightjar and some nesting Barn Owls.
On June 13, we saw Brown Firefinch in the camp just after breakfast. We started our game drive by heading into some woods, where we saw our first Black-chested Prinia. At the pond, we were startled by a Painted Snipe and also saw a Three-banded Plover. An Augur Buzzard flew overhead. We checked another wet area where a Black Egret was doing its umbrella hunt routine, but did not get any new birds there. On the way back to the camp, however, we saw a Pink-billed Lark.
That afternoon, we had an early tea and got an early start on the boat ride to the heronry. We enjoyed close-up looks at the waders and were surprised to see how pink the Yellow-billed Storks were in breeding plumage. An African Fish-Eagle swooped into the heronry, but it did not take any egret chicks, as one had the evening before. On the ride back, we had a Little Bittern fly right in front of us, then it got too dark to see much of anything.
In the morning of June 14, Andrea and I went out with Joe ready to tackle the remaining cisticolas and larks. We started by the woods, where we finally found a Neddicky. We watched some Black-backed Cisticolas and a Rufous-naped Lark, got more observations of Rattling and Fan-tailed Cisticolas, but could not add any others.
After lunch, I was sitting up on the tower near the pool, and a Chirping Cisticola flew in (chirping) and landed in the reeds not far out from the tower. I then went out in the fields on the other side of the camp and walked up two Pink-throated Longclaws. As we boarded the car for our last afternoon game drive, I made some requests to Joe from the wish-list, and he came through quite well. The best birds were a Long-toed Plover, a Black Coucal (rare in winter), and a flock of Southern Brown-throated Weavers. At dusk, we saw a Side-striped Jackal and a Spotted Hyena.
For our last morning in Shindi, Andrea and I decided that it would be best to experience the waters one more time from a makoro. We made the choice without really believing it would be the best way for us to see new birds, but it was. Just after we got started, we saw a few Red-shouldered Widows. After we looked at some of the tiny frogs on the reeds, a flock of Knob-billed Ducks flew by. The sun/observer/bird lighting was bad, but the profiles were very distinctive. We also heard a fair number of Chirping Cisticolas and saw several, then tracked down an African Sedge Warbler and finally a Lesser Jacana. We also had at least four different Long-toed Plovers. When we stopped at an island, I saw a weaver that appeared to be Lesser Masked Weaver. Unfortunately, before I could ascertain its leg color, someone walked up the trail from the other direction and flushed it.
We returned from the makoro ride in time to pack up, rest a bit, eat lunch and head out for our plane. Joe drove us, and he made sure we got to enjoy some Long-tailed Shrikes before we boarded the plane to the Maun airport.
The flight from Maun to Johannesburg was uneventful, and our attempts to get onto an earlier flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town were unavailing. Friday, June 16, was a South African holiday (youth day) and many people were standing by hoping to get on planes. We arrived a few minutes early but still close to 11 p.m., were surprised by the extra charges for our rental car (we should have stuck with Comet, a local car rental agency) but happy to get all our luggage and get on the road fairly quickly. The directions that Afton Grove had e-mailed turned out to be right-on, and we did not make a single wrong turn as we drove (on the "wrong" side of the road) on the highways and the twisty mountain road to arrive at Afton Grove after midnight. Chris was there to welcome us and talk birds until we collapsed.
The next morning, June 16, we did not start breakfast until after 8 and, between phone calls relating to future days' birding and some planning and map studying, it was after 9:30 before we drove off. We got a few life birds right in the backyard at Afton Grove, including a Malachite Sunbird, the first of our Cape Bulbuls and a Rameron Pigeon, a bird we never saw anywhere else. Other birds there that morning included a Giant Kingfisher and a Chaffinch.
Since we were getting a late start, we went directly to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The scenery en route was spectacular, rocky mountains dropping directly into a beautiful sea. As we were nearing the place to pay our admission charge, I pulled over to watch our first Cape Canaries at some fynbos plants right on the ground. We drove toward Cape Point, but had to pull over when I glimpsed my first Cape Sugarbird. Unfortunately, it flew off , and we were not able to officially add that bird to our life lists for a few days. While we were stopped, we saw male and female Orange-breasted Sunbirds working the fynbos. A Speckled Mousebird flew overhead. On the path at Cape Point, we spotted Cape Robins. Near the bathrooms, we saw a Cape Siskin that did not appear to be doing too well. It flew into the wall more than once. Further along, we saw our first Cape Buntings and got to a place from which we could look at cormorants, including at least one Crowned Cormorant. One patch of flowers had at least five Orange-breasted Sunbirds and some Malachite Sunbirds. Higher, we saw a singing Grassbird. Red-winged Starlings and Cape Buntings begged for some of our lunch. Then we headed to a sandy beach, where we spotted Swift Terns, African Black Oystercatchers, Cape Cormorants, Spotted Prinia and Cape Gannets. We had no luck in our efforts to find cisticolas in the fynbos along the road toward Olifantsbos. When we reached the end of the road, however, we found birds, including Cape Francolins, Hartlaub's Gulls and Bokmakieries, and two beautiful Bonteboks. The Familiar Chats there were much more colorful than the one I had seen at Victoria Falls. A Peregrine flew across a cliff and landed.
We stopped at Kommertjie on our way back to Afton Grove. One of the plovers there was a White-fronted Plover, which was new for us. We also got to examine the masses of cormorants and get good looks at good numbers of Cape and White-breasted, plus two Banks.
Before leaving the US, I had booked a pelagic trip that was scheduled to go out either June 16, 17 or 18. Once it was clear it would not go out June 17, I called Callan Cohen and changed our plans so that we could go out with him to Karooport June 17. We got a reasonably early start for a winter morning (6:30 a.m.,) and headed out over a series of mountains. We stopped a few times en route to look at some birds Andrea and I had never seen before, including White-necked Raven, Cape Rock Thrush, and Fiscal Flycatcher in Bank Cliff, Cape Weaver, and then Jackal Buzzard near Ceres, and finally Cape Sparrows, Pied Starlings, and Red Bishops on the other side of Ceres. We also saw a Neddicky that looked quite unlike the Neddicky we had seen in Shindi.
When we got to our first Karoo stop across from an old farm house in Karooport, Callan played the call of Namaqua Warbler and got no response. I started thinking this was a bad omen, but I needn't have worried. Before driving off, we recorded White-throated Canary, White-backed Mousebird, Cape White-Eye and Mountain Chat. A few hundred meters farther along the road, we added Yellow-rumped Widow, Yellow Canary and Pririt Batis.
Our next stop was a cliff near an intersection. We scrambled up to a point where there was a bushman painting on a rock. From there, we saw Fairy Flycatcher, Layard's Tit-babbler and a distant Cinnamon-breasted Warbler. Callan asked whether we wanted to try and get closer, and we both quickly said "yes." We scrambled some more and then stopped and played the tape. The warbler flew onto a bush maybe three feet away, dropped behind it and then reappeared on top of a rock five or six feet from us. The sun over our shoulders afforded us a spectacular study of this beautiful bird.
A bit later, a short walk brought us good views of a Rufous-eared Warbler and a Thick-billed Lark. Soon afterward, we added Karoo Robin and Titbabbler. We tracked down a Southern Black Koorhan, which flew right over our heads. On the way back to the car, we saw Karoo Chat and Karoo Lark. We turned toward the koppies where we were to find Karoo Eremomelas and saw a Pale Chanting Goshawk on the telephone wire. We heard and saw the eremomelas, but they turned out to be the only new birds that day that we did not get great looks at. That brought us to a decision point: we could continue on to look for Spike-heeled Lark, Tractrac Chat and Southern Ant-eating Chat, or we could hurry back to try for Cape Rock-Jumper and Victornin's Warbler. Andrea and I opted for the latter. A quick stop at the Namaqua Warbler spot brought a bird up within a few seconds. We got better looks at the passes we were crossing, as the rain we had driven through in the morning had stopped. The sun was already just about down when we arrived back at Bank Cliff, but there was still a reasonable chance of success. We reached the closest possible site and were rewarded with great views of both a male and a female Cape Rock-Jumper. We could hear Victornin's Warblers, but unfortunately could not get close before dark. We headed back to Afton Grove quite content.
On June 18, we went to Kirstenbosch hoping the heavy clouds and light drizzle would give way to sunshine. The misty drizzle stopped, but the sun broke out for only a short time. During that short time, however, four different Cape Sugarbirds appeared to dazzle us. Other birds in the gardens included Cinnamon Dove, Sombre Bulbul and Red-breasted Sparrowhawk. Callan had suggested a place nearby in Constancia called Die Hel. There, we got a Knysna Warbler to respond to tape, but could not get it to come into the open. We got good looks at a Cape Batis. From Constancia, we went into Cape Town to shop.
The next day, we combined several cites near Afton Grove. At Chris's recommendation, we started at Rondevlei. In less than two hours at this beautiful spot, we recorded 45 species, including African Spoonbill, Darter, Cape Teal, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Purple Gallinule, Red-knobbed Coot, Spotted Dikkop, Caspian Tern, Cape Reed Warbler, Levaillant's Cisticola and Bully Canary. We also saw a hippo in the water.
We did not spend enough time at Strandfontein to do it justice, but in approximately two hours, we recorded more than 40 species, including several not at Rondevlei, such as White Pelican (some quite pink in breeding plumage), South African Shelduck, Maccoa Duck, African Black Oystercatcher and Orange-throated Longclaw.
After some shopping in Kalk Bay and Simonstown, we went to the penguin colony at Boulders. The highlight there was Jackass Penguin, which we got to see tending to chicks, standing, walking, swimming and braying. There were fair numbers of sunbirds around and a few White-backed Mousebirds.
We stopped again at Kommertjie on the way back and got a distant view of a few unidentifiable seabirds. At that point, the pelagic trip had failed to go on any of the three days scheduled, and I did not expect that I'd get a chance to see any pelagic birds close up.
Back at Afton Grove, Brian Patterson, of North Carolina pelagic fame, surprised me with a call. He was looking to charter a boat and wanted to know if I was interested. My answer was "yes, I'm interested," but I needed to talk with Andrea first. Before long, we had plans to go out on the 21st, weather permitting. When we returned from dinner, Alvin Cope (our guide for the boat trip) called to say we were going out the next day. I quickly got my things together and went to sleep with visions of albatrosses dancing through my head.
June 20 started lovely. I headed toward our meeting place, driving into scattered clouds illuminated by the rising sun. We set out from the dock, and soon Alvin drew our attention to a Humpbacked Whale. We were still in False Bay when Brian spotted a Subantarctic Skua. Soon after we cleared Cape Point, Brian found a distant albatross. Alvin told us to be patient, because we would see the birds from up close. The wind was at our backs, and the seas were amazingly calm. Because we had chartered the same boat that the Cape Town Bird Club uses for its pelagics, we had plenty of room.
Our first close-up pelagics were Sooty Shearwaters and White-chinned Petrels, the white of the chin shining brightly in the sun. Then, a Shy Albatross crossed our path and gave us magnificent views of his upperwings and underwings. Alvin and the captain had a ship on radar that they thought would turn out to be a trawler, so we set a course toward it. A few Black-browed Albatrosses came right beside the boat, and then we came upon hundreds of Antarctic (Broad-billed) Prions. An albatross some distance from us appeared to be much bigger than the other albatrosses, but we never saw it well enough even to call it a "royal/wandering" albatross.
Before we got to the trawler, we started seeing Wilson's Storm-Petrels and Pintado Petrels. Some Yellow-nosed Albatrosses (bassyi subspecies) flew just off the boat. When we reached the trawler, the numbers of birds increased exponentially. Most of the time, we just kept our binoculars hanging from our necks as we enjoyed close-up views of whatever species we chose to admire. We needed the binos only to confirm the identification of both Southern and Northern Giant Petrel, getting to study the differences in bill color. Cape Fur Seals and porpoises were bobbing up and down in the wake of the trawler, and birds kept coming up with the pieces of fish. A Flesh-footed Shearwater showed up among the Sooties, as did a Pomarine Skua among the Subantarctics.
As we started our trip back toward shore, the wind was again at our backs. Only when we were closing in on Cape Point did we have any water splash over the bow, and it wasn't enough to get any of us wet. We saw another Hump-backed Whale and got a less-than satisfying look at an Antarctic Tern, and then we worked our way in through False Bay.
The skies were clear when I got up early on the morning of June 21, but the strong winds indicated bad weather coming. Chris took Andrea and me to nearby Wildevoelvlei. We topped 40 species, but did not manage to find either an African Black Duck or a White-backed Duck. Our only lifer was an Ethiopian Snipe. We realized it would have been worth stopping here on at least one of our other afternoons. From there, we drove back to Kommertjie and finally got to see some Antarctic Terns. The strong westerly winds were bringing some birds near shore, and Chris called out "albatross." I positioned my 20X Bushmaster travel scope and saw the underwings clearly enough to identify it as a Shy Albatross, a treat for Andrea who had opted not to go on the pelagic. We also had Cape Gannets and Sooty Shearwaters, as well as stockier birds that I chose not to try and name.
Andrea and I then shopped in Noordhoek and went to lunch at a winery. After lunch, we checked out Tokai Plantation for awhile and were singularly unimpressed.
The rain came that evening, but we went over the ridge to have a delicious dinner in Kalk Bay. Andrea had ostrich with pesto, and I had Cob, after we shared a delightfully curried bowl of butternut squash soup.
On June 22, we agreed to go to Paarl Mountain Reserve and then have lunch in a winery before going to the airport. We stopped near a waterfall and walked about, finding sunbirds and Rock Pigeons, and Fiscal and Dusky Flycatchers. We drove up to the boulders where we saw a Jackal Buzzard in the air and a bird not far from it with a distinctly longer, barred tail. It was a Black Harrier!
We headed down and came upon the reserve's information center and gardens. Although our time was growing short, we had to check out the paths - and it was worth it. We found Cape and Bully Canaries, Southern Olive Thrush, and Swee Waxbill. Just when it was about time to go, I spotted a Protea Canary. Before Andrea could get on it, she was distracted by our first Bar-throated Apalis. I shifted to that bird, and Andrea relocated the Protea Canary on the head of a Protea. At that point, we were both ready to head down to a winery for a somewhat hurried, but very tasty lunch.
All things considered, the weather turned out not to be the negative factor we had feared it might be. Birds may be a bit easier to find in summer, but a winter trip to southern Africa is most worthwhile. Especially when you are able to stay in places where the people are so friendly and so helpful, and when the guides you get are as good as Chris Pollard, Alvin Cope and Callan Cohen.
C = Cape Town and all areas nearer than Karooport
P = Pom Pom camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana
S = Shindi camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana
V = Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Ostrich C Jackass Penugin C Great Crested Grebe C Dabchick PSC Shy Albatross C Black-browed Albatross C Yellow-nosed Albatross C Southern Giant Petrel C Northern Giant Petrel C Pintado Petrel C Broad-billed (Antarctic) Prion C White-chinned Petrel C Flesh-footed Shearwater C Sooty Shearwater C Wilson's Storm-Petrel C Eastern White Pelican C Cape Gannet C White-breasted Cormorant C Cape Cormorant C Bank Cormorant C Reed Cormorant VPSC Crowned Cormorant C Darter VPS Grey Heron SC Black-headed Heron C Goliath Heron C Purple Heron C Great White Egret C Little Egret VPSC Yellow-billed Egret SC Black Egret VPS Slaty Egret PS Cattle Egret VPSC Squacco Heron PS Green-backed Heron VPSC Rufous-bellied Heron PS Black-crowned Night-heron PSC White-backed Night-heron P Little Bittern PS Hamerkop VPS Open-billed Stork PS Saddle-billed Stork PS Marabou Stork VP Yellow-billed Stork S Sacred Ibis C Glossy Ibis PC Hadeda Ibis VPSC African Spoonbill SC Whitefaced Duck Machaba S Egyptian Goose VPSCK South African Shelduck C Yellow-billed Duck PSC Mallard C Cape Teal C Red-billed Teal PSC Cape Shoveler C Southern Pochard C Pygmy Goose PS Knob-billed Duck S Spur-winged Goose VPSC Maccoa Duck C Secretarybird V Hooded Vulture VPS White-backed Vulture VPS Lappet-faced Vulture VS White-headed Vulture Machaba PS Black-shouldered Kite C Martial Eagle P Brown Snake-Eagle V Black-breasted Snake-Eagle S Bateleur S African Fish-Eagle VPSC Jackal Buzzard C Augur Buzzard VS Lizard Buzzard V Red-breasted Sparrowhawk C Little Sparrowhawk V Gabar Goshawk V Pale Chanting Goshawk K Dark Chanting Goshawk V African Marsh-Harrier SC Black Harrier C Gymnogene V Peregrine Falcon C Rock Kestrel C Dickinson's Kestrel P Crested Francolin P (heard only) Red-billed Francolin PS Cape Francolin C Swainson's Francolin VPS Harlequin Quail PS Helmeted Guineafowl VC Wattled Crane PS African Rail P Black Crake PS Purple Gallinule C Common Moorhen C Lesser Moorhen P Red-knobbed Coot C Black-bellied Koorhan PS Southern Black Koorhan K African Jacana PS Lesser Jacana S Painted Snipe S African Black Oystercatcher C White-fronted Plover C Three-banded Plover SC Crowned Plover PS Blacksmith Plover PSC White-crowned Plover V Long-toed Plover S Greenshank S Ethiopian Snipe C Black-winged Stilt SC Spotted Dikkop C Water Dikkop VPSC Pomarine Skua C Subantarctic Skua C Kelp Gull C Grey-headed Gull Joh'burg Hartlaub's Gull C Caspian Tern C Swift Tern C Antarctic Tern C Double-banded Sandgrouse PS Feral Pigeon C Rock Pigeon KC Rameron Pigeon C Red-eyed Dove VPSC Mourning Dove S Cape Turtle-Dove VPSC Laughing Dove VSC Namaqua Dove VS Green-spotted Dove VPS Cinnamon Dove C African Green Pigeon PS Meyer's Parrot VPS Grey Lourie VPS Black Coucal S Coppery-tailed Coucal PS Senegal Coucal V Barn Owl SC Wood Owl V Sh African Scops-Owl PS Pearl-spotted Owlet VP Sh African Barred Owl P Giant Eagle-Owl V PhSh Pel's Fishing-Owl P Fiery-necked Nightjar P Sh Mozambique Nightjar VPS African Black Swift VC Little Swift VP Palm Swift VPS Speckled Mousebird C White-backed Mousebird KC Red-faced Mousebird VPS Pied Kingfisher VPSC Giant Kingfisher VC Malachite Kingfisher PS Brown-hooded Kingfisher C Grey-hooded Kingfisher P Striped Kingfisher VPS White-fronted Bee-eater VS Little Bee-eater VPS Swallow-tailed Bee-eater VPS Lilac-breasted Roller VPS Hoopoe PS Red-billed Woodhoopoe VPS Greater Scimitarbill P Trumpeter Hornbill V Grey Hornbill VPS Red-billed Hornbill VPS Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill VPS Crowned Hornbill V - heard only Ground Hornbill P Black-collared Barbet V Yellow-fronted Tinker-Barbet VS Crested Barbet VPS Lesser Honeyguide V Bennett's Woodpecker S Golden-tailed Woodpecker V Cardinal Woodpecker VPS Bearded Woodpecker S Rufous-naped Lark PS Flappet Lark PS Sabota Lark S Karoo Lark K Pink-billed Lark S Thick-billed Lark K Chestnut-backed Finch-lark VS Lesser Striped Swallow VPS Rock Martin VK Grey-rumped Swallow PS Banded Martin P Black Cuckooshrike P Fork-tailed Drongo VPS Black-headed Oriole PS Pied Crow VC White-necked Raven C Southern Grey Tit K Ashy Tit P Southern Black Tit VP Arrow-marked Babbler VPS Hartlaub's Babbler PS Cape Bulbul CK Black-eyed Bulbul VPS Terrestial Bulbul PS Sombre Bulbul C Yellow-bellied Bulbul VS Kurrichane Thrush VPS Southern Olive Thrush Joh'burg C Cape Rock Thrush C Mountain Chat K Capped Wheatear P Familiar Chat VC Karoo Chat K Stonechat S Heuglin's Robin VPS Cape Robin C Collared Palm-Thrush V Cape Rockjumper C White-browed Robin V Karoo Robin K Kalahari Robin P Eastern Bearded Robin V Titbabbler K Layard's Titbabbler K Cape Reed Warbler C African Sedge Warbler S Ch Knysna Warbler C heard only Victorin's Warbler C heard only Bar-throated Apalis C Yellow-breasted Apalis V Long-billed Crombec VPS Kh Karoo Eremomela K Green-backed Bleating-Warbler VPS African Barred Warbler V Cinnamon-breasted Warbler K Grassbird C Fan-tailed Cisticola PS Desert Cisticola S Grey-backed Cisticola K Rattling Cisticola VPS Red-faced Cisticola V Black-backed Cisticola PS Chirping Cisticola S Levaillant's Cisticola C Neddicky SC Tawny-flanked Prinia S Black-chested Prinia S Spotted Prinia CK Namaqua Warbler K Rufous-eared Warbler K Dusky Flycatcher C Blue-grey Flycatcher V Marico Flycatcher PS Fiscal Flycatcher C Cape Batis C Chinspot Batis VPS Pririt Batis K Fairy Flycatcher K African Pied Wagtail V Cape Wagtail Joh'burg S Kh C Grassveld Pipit PS Plain-backed Pipit P Buffy Pipit VS Orange-throated Longclaw C Pink-throated Longclaw S Fiscal Shrike KC Long-tailed Shrike S Southern Boubou C Tropical Boubou V Swamp Boubou PS Puffback VPS Brubru PS Three-streaked Tchagra VP Black-crowned Tchagra VPS Bokmakierie CK Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike P White Helmetshrike VP European Starling C Pied Starling C Wattled Starling VPS Plum-colored Starling V Burchell's Starling PS Glossy Starling PS Greater Blue-eared Starling PS Red-winged Starling VC Red-billed Oxpecker VP Cape Sugarbird C Malachite Sunbird C Orange-breasted Sunbird C Marico Sunbird VPS Lesser Double-collared Sunbird CK White-bellied Sunbird VP Collared Sunbird VS Cape White-eye KC Yellow White-eye S White-browed Sparrow-weaver V House Sparrow C Cape Sparrow CK Grey-headed Sparrow PS Cape Weaver KC Southern Masked Weaver PSKC Golden Weaver VPS Southern Brown-throated Weaver PS Red-headed Weaver PS Red-billed Quelea PS Red Bishop C Yellow-rumped Widow KC Red-shouldered Widow S Melba Finch V Jameson's Firefinch V Red-billed Firefinch VPS Brown Firefinch S Blue Waxbill VPS Common Waxbill VKC Swee Waxbill C Cut-throat Finch V Bronze Mannikin VS Shaft-tailed Whydah V Paradise Whydah V Steelblue Widowfinch VS Chaffinch C Black-throated Canary PS Cape Canary C Cape Siskin C Bully Canary C Yellow Canary K White-throated Canary K Protea Canary C Golden-breasted Bunting V Cape Bunting C Rock Bunting V
Return to trip reports.