We engaged Avian Leisure of Simon’s Town, a suburb of Cape Town, for 6 days of birding, mammal viewing and wine tasting in Western Cape Province of South Africa. Avian Leisure is owned and operated by Patrick and Marie-Louise Cardwell, and Patrick was our driver and guide for the week. Although Patrick and Louise operate a small B&B, it was full at the time and so they arranged for us to stay at Mariner’s Guest House in Simon’s Town for the first 3 nights. The 4th night was near the De Hoop Nature Reserve east of Cape Town and the 5th night was at a dairy farm near the Grootvadersbosch Forest area east ot Swellendam. Our final night was at a hotel near the airport so that we could catch an early morning flight to Windhoek, Namibia for another 11 days of birding and photography.
We were surprised by the number mammals to be seen in the Western Cape. Among them were Elands, Africa’s largest antelope.
Cape Mountain Zebra is one of the 2 subspecies of Mountain Zebra. [Mountain Zebra, found only in southwest South Africa and in Namibia, is one of the 3 species of Zebra: Grevy’s Zebra is confined to northern east-central Africa, Burchell’s Zebra is widespread, and Hartman’s Mountain Zebra is the Mountain subspecies found only in northern Namibia]. We enjoyed the challenge of distinguishing between Burchell’s and the 2 subspecies of Mountain Zebra, so here is a pictorial. As we saw the Burchell’s and Hartman’s only later in Namibia, this is a bit out of sequence, but it makes for a nice challenge right here.
Bontebok are strikingly patterned antelope that once were on the brink of extinction. Down to about 30 individuals, they were saved by local farmers and are now securely established in several South African preserves.
Other antelope seen in the Western Cape area were Grey Rhebok and Cape Grysbok.
Of course, one of our primary goals was to see the Jackass (African) Penguins, the only penguin species found in Africa. We need not have worried, as these funny little birds were numerous and tame at Boulder Beach in Simon’s Town and at another coastal area that we stopped at later in the trip. This became our 10th lifetime penguin species, adding to the 9 that we have seen in the southern part of the western hemisphere.
I have been making a mild effort to see at least one species of each family of birds in the world. There are about 10,000 species, in about 200 families. South Africa provided a potential of 4 new families for me: Sugarbirds, Honeyguides, Buttonquail and Whydahs. At the wonderful Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town, the Cape Sugarbirds graced the colorful and unique Fynbo vegetation in good numbers, making for a pleasant garden experience. Kirstenbosch Gardens is a jewel, not to be missed.
Patrick and Marie-Louise invited us to their house in Simon’s Town for tea one morning, and we were delighted to view in their garden a pair of Pin-tailed Whydahs, the second of the four new families sought.
We did not succeed in finding any of the other two families, Honeyguides or Buttonquail.
We enjoyed an afternoon visiting one of the oldest vineyards in South Africa, the Groot Constantia, and tasting several of its wines. Founded in 1685 by the first governor of Cape Town, an official of the Dutch East India Company, the vineyard has survived changes of ownership and the original mansion is still maintained on the premises.
Among the more colorful new species found during the drives around the countryside were Denham’s Bustards
Orange-breasted SunbirdsLesser Double-collared Sunbirds
African Black Oystercatchers
African Paradise Flycatcher
African Black Duck
Southern Red Bishop
We spent one night at a dairy farm near Grootvadersbosch. The family maintains a herd of about 500 Jersey milchcows. They treated us to a lovely home-cooked meal with them in their 200 year old farmhouse. This was certainly a highlight of our South Africa experience.
Finally, this Cape Cobra made its escape from our wheels as we drove along one of the rural roads.
I started the South Africa trip with a total of 2,934 species of birds on my world List. I added 92 in South Africa, to break my 3,000 target.
Avian Birding and the Cardwells are a fine choice for anyone seeking a short and pleasant birding experience in the Western Cape. They include, in addition to birding and animal viewing, other activities and interests and pleasant and interesting companionship.