Big Year: Cape Town Birding Day Out

Greater Flamingo
Pan with Table Mountain in the background

I decided that 2018 will be the year I attempt to do my first Big Year. I had never really listed my observed birds before but felt inspired after recently re-watching the movie “The Big Year”. As I am Cape Town based I don’t expect to have a very long list this year. However I do have some trips scheduled for the year so I hope to add some variety when I travel.

Cape Town has a few very good options when it comes to planning a Birding day. You can go to one of the many wetlands around like Rondevlei, Rietvlei, Zandvlei. Or if you prefer you can do the coastal zones in the Southern Peninsula like Kommetjie, Olifantsbos or Cape of Good Hope. There are also some Pelagic trips on offer or you can go birding at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately Fynbos does not support a huge variety of birds, but the above mentioned places will arguably give you the best diversity of bird life in Cape Town.

Black Shouldered Kite

I decided to do a Birding day with a combination between Strandfontein and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It is easily do-able in a day and both have such different habitats that I was sure I would see plenty of birds. 

Strandfontein Birding Area is a coastal wetland in the middle of the Cape Flats bordering False Bay (it also falls within a Sewage works). It lies adjacent to Rondevlei and Zeekoeivlei and together forms the False Bay Nature Reserve which has been proclaimed a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Here I saw a variety of marine species, waders, some raptors and a few bush birds. Roughly 200 species of birds have been recorded here, but I only managed to see around 60  on a half day worth or birding. The area is also known for rarities, so I will definitely make a few visits there this year.

Birds observed during summer of 2018 include: Cape Longclaw, African Pipit, Jackal Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, African Marsh Harrier, African Shelduck, Lesser and Greater Flamingo, Kelp and Grey Headed gull, Hottentot, Red-Billed and Cape Teal, Glossy, Sacred and Hadeda Ibis, Great White Pelican, Sandwich and Swift Tern, Little Grebe, Black Winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, African Oystercatcher, White Breasted and Reed Cormorant, Ruff, Little Stint, Wood and Marsh Sandpiper, Cape Bulbul, Red-knobbed Coot, Pied crow, White Necked Raven, Southern Pochard, Grey-, Purple- and Black headed Heron,

Black Winged Stilt
African Snipe

Cape Sugarbird

I arrived at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens later in the that morning. Luckily the day was still cool and I headed for the Protea Garden where the concentration of fynbos species seem to congregate. I did a circular walk of the Garden, my first observation happened to be a Rameron Pigeon, a few hundred metres from the Rycroft gate. I walked in between the fynbos vegetation and forest margin and quickly added more species to my list. Kirstenbosch is best to explore during the early morning before the crowds descend on the Gardens as it is one of the top 5 tourist sites in Cape Town. However even on a busy day all you need to do is find a quieter spot away from the main attractions. 

Species observed include African Olive pigeon, Lemon Dove, Swee Waxbill, Cape Spurfowl, Olive Thrush, Cape White Eye, Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Double Collared Sunbird, African Harrier Hawk, Steppe Buzzard, Cape Sugarbird and many more. The key here is to take your time, be patient, and explore the different habitats that Kirstenbosch has on offer.  

Lemon Dove
Swee Waxbill
Dusky Flycatcher

If you would like to book a guided experience and either of these places, feel free to contact

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