Birding in Table Mountain National Park
Although bird numbers are not always impressive (compared to the bird rich eastern and northern parts of South Africa ), the Table Mountain National Park ’s cumulative bird list is a large one and there are several SA endemic species.
The diversity of habitats present (ocean, shoreline, cliff-face, rocky highland, fynbos, forest and suburbia) contributes to the large species count, as does the geographical positioning at a continent’s corner, which means many vagrants swell the list, due to weather conditions blowing stray birds or miscalculated flight journeys on the part of individual birds.
In fynbos regions one should search for Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Prinia, Cape Sugarbird , Orange-breasted, Malachite and Southern (Lesser) Double Collared Sunbird. Cape Siskin, Cape Rock-thrush and Ground Woodpecker should be looked for in rocky areas at higher elevation. In damp areas at high elevation, Striped Flufftail are found, although this species is more likely to be heard than seen. Birds of Prey should also be looked for overhead in these higher altitude areas. Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle, Jackal and Steppe (summer) Buz za rd, Rock Kestrel , and the occasional Lanner and Peregrine Falcon should all be scanned for. White-necked Raven is common.
In forest patches Sombre Greenbul (Bulbul), Olive Thrush, Cape Batis , Dusky and Paradise Flycatcher, Black Saw-wing, African Olive-Pigeon (Rameron Pigeon) and Lemon (Cinnamon) Dove are usually to be found. African Wood-Owl too is often present but is more elusive as are Rufous-chested (Red-breasted) Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk. In areas where exotic pines and oaks are present, pockets of the dwindling Chaffinch population may still be found. Dense thickets on forest fringes is the haunt of the Knysna Warbler, although this species is more likely to be heard than seen, particularly between September and November. Honey Buz za rd is another special to be searched for between from Newlands to Tokai, Constantia and Hout Bay .
One of the birding highlights of the peninsula is the African (Jackass) Penguin colony at Boulders Beach . Several hundred penguins are present all year round and the bird’s lack of fear and a well designed boardwalk means that visitors can obtain excellent sightings of this species at close quarters. During July 2000 a Greater Sheathbill found its way into the colony. It was thought to be a ship-assisted bird from the sub-Antarctic Islands .
If one has access to a telescope, pelagic seabird watching can prove rewarding at several points along the peninsula coastline. Cape Gannet, Blackbrowed Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, Whitechinned and Giant Petrels can be seen all year round when strong winds bring the birds closer to shore. Winter is the best time for seabirdwatching and Shy, and Yellownosed Albatross and Pintado Petrel compliment the previously mentioned species. Get on board an organised pelagic boat ride and you will see many more open-ocean species as well. Cory’s Shearwater is recorded in summer, particularly on the False Bay side of the peninsula.
Along the Peninsula coastline, African Black Oystercatcher may be found as well as four species of cormorant. Crowned, Bank, White-breasted and Cape Cormorant are all present, sometimes even seen side by side. Cape (Kelp) and Hartlaub’s Gull are abundant throughout, while Antarctic (winter), Swift (all year), Sandwich and Common (both summer) Tern may all be located.
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