Table Mountain National Park
Although bird numbers are not always impressive, the Table Mountain's cumulative bird list is a large one. The diversity of habitats present (ocean, shoreline, cliff-face, rocky highland, fynbos, forest and suburbia) contributes to this, 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 Greybacked Cisticola, Spotted Prinia, Cape Sugarbird, Orangebreasted, Malachite and Lesser Double Collared Sunbird. Cape Siskin, Cape Rockthrush 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 almost impossible to see without a tape recorder. Birds of Prey should also be looked for overhead in these higher altitude areas. Black Eagle, Jackal and Steppe (summer) Buzzard, Common Kestrel, and the occasional Lanner and Peregrine Falcon should all be scanned for. Whitenecked Raven is common.
In forest patches Sombre Bulbul, Olive Thrush, Cape Batis, Dusky and Paradise Flycatcher, Black Sawwing, Rameron Pigeon and Cinnamon Dove are usually to be found. Wood Owl too is often present but is more elusive as are Redbreasted 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 Buzzard is another special to be searched for between Tokai, Constantia and Hout Bay.
One of the birding highlights of the peninsula is the African Penguin (formerly 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 an American, or Greater, Sheathbill found its way into the colony. Thought to be a ship-assisted bird from the sub-Antarctic Islands, there is no telling how long this scavenger will make its home amongst the penguins.
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. 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, Whitebreasted and Cape Cormorant are all present, sometimes even seen side by side. Kelp and Hartlaub's Gull are abundant throughout, while Antarctic (winter), Swift (all year), Sandwich and Common (both summer) Tern may all be located.
The park surrounds the Langebaan Lagoon, which is a world Ramsar site (site's deemed to be of global significance to wetland bird species). Many of the wader species are Palearctic migrants, so summer is the best time to visit the lagoon, particularly in September as species return fatigued from their transcontinental travel, and March when they congregate in large numbers to feed heavily prior to undertaking the reverse journey. In such times, the birds are often changing into or out of their Northern Hemisphere breeding plumage. The best time to observe the lagoon waders is to visit the Geelbek hide from low tide as the tide is coming in.
As the water level rises the waders are forced closer to the hide until eventually they must fly off until the tide has receded once more. The smaller species depart first, with the more long-legged godwits, whimbrels and curlews the last to leave. Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Ruff, Marsh, Terek and Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone, Ringed and Grey Plover, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Curlew and Bartailed Godwit are present on most occasions, while there is always the possibility of seeing rarer species. Little Egret and South African Shelduck may be seen alongside the waders. Flamingoes and White Pelican frequent deeper water, and there is chance of seeing Osprey. Another isolated hide west of the Geelbek educational centre overlooks a salt pan that is an excellent place to see Chestnut banded Plover
The reserve's fynbos surrounding the lagoon hosts Black Korhaan, Cape and Greywinged Francolin, Southern Grey and Cape Penduline Tit, Anteating Chat, Whitethroated and Yellow Canary, Karoo Lark, Titbabbler, Bokmakierie and Cape Bunting are all easily seen. African Marsh and Black Harrier can often be seen quartering the ground.
The coastal islands at the mouth of the lagoon are breeding havens for a number of species such as Kelp and Hartlaub's Gull, Cape Gannet, and African Penguin. Cormorants and terns are present too.
Information on birding in the Agulhas region needs to be consolidated. Damara Tern breeds at De Mond Nature Reserve. Stanley's Bustard, Blue Crane and Secretarybird are some of the larger, more visible species present, while Southern Tchagra, Thickbilled, Clapper and Longbilled Lark, Karoo Robin and Cape Bunting are common amongst the smaller species.
The park is noteworthy as an excellent place to see Stanley's Bustard. Other large and visible species include Blue Crane, Spurwing Goose, Secretarybird and Black Korhaan. Malachite and Lesser Double Collared Sunbird should be seen at the reception building, while the campsite attracts a number of species. Prominent amongst these are Fiscal Flycatcher, Klaas's Cuckoo (summer), Pied Barbet and Redfaced Mousebird.
Pearlbreasted Swallow are regularly seen. Swee Waxbill frequents the dense riverine bush adjacent the Bree River, while Water Dikkop are regular along the river's shoreline.
While birding on the plains route, larks and chats are prominent. Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig's Bustard and Namaqua Sandgrouse should also be looked for. The park's best birding occurs in and around the campsite. Pied Barbet, Redeyed Bulbul, Karoo and Cape Robin, Titbabbler, Layard's Titbabbler, Yellowbellied Eremomola, Palewinged Starling, Lesser Doublecollared and Dusky Sunbird and Redheaded Finch are all ever present. Karoo Eremomela, Namaqua Prinia and Pririt Batis are regional specials to be looked out for.
The tidal nature of the Touw River adjacent the Ebb and Flow Rest Camp exposes mudbanks that host Whitefronted Plover. The series of lakes connected by the Touw River (Eilandvlei, Langvlei and Rondevlei) host a variety of aquatic species and is an internationally proclaimed Ramsar site. Major concentrations of Great Crested and Blacknecked Grebe are present on Rondevlei and Bo Langvlei. Grey and Purple Heron, Little Egret, African Spoonbill, Little Bittern and Redknobbed Coot are prominent. Wildfowl is prolific including Yellowbilled, Macoa and Whitebacked Duck, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard and Cape, Redbilled and Hottentot Teal. There is a hide at Rondevlei, from where careful scanning of the reeds could produce Purple Gallinule, African Rail, Black and Baillon's Crake. The Swartvlei Estuary immediately east of the Touw River lakes hosts many of the species listed above. It is also a better venue for viewing waders. Caspian Tern and Kelp Gull are prominent.
The forested hillsides that surround the area are home to several raptors, including Cuckoo Hawk, Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Black and Redbreasted Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk.
The tidal lagoon and open estuary of the Knysna River provides an excellent place to view waders in the summer months. Grey Plover, Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Whimbrel are prominent. In winter the lagoon harbours some non-migratory larger species (egrets, gulls, cormorants, ibises). The threatened African Black Oystercatcher is present all year, but their numbers increase in winter to what is regarded as a globally significant population. Cape Shoveller, Avocet and Blackwinged Stilt are also present in good numbers.
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