We arrived in Cape Town on a Friday afternoon, so after battling through some traffic we eventually arrived at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. My aim for visiting the gardens was to look forMalachite Sunbirds, Cape Sugarbirds and to walk along the newly built Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway (The Boomslang).
Soon after entering the gardens I spotted a couple of Cape Canaries and an Olive Thrush. As we walked up the sloping path towards the protea section we saw the cutest little mouse scuttling about amongst the bushes. It looked to be a Striped Mouse.
The gardens are truly something to see, such variety and the views up to the mountains and across Cape Town are breathtaking.
We had a possible fly over of a Malachite Sunbird, I was pretty certain it was one, but still it was not the perfect sighting I was hoping to see. We continued our walk up the path to the Protea section which should be ideal habitat for sunbirds and sugarbirds. I was beginning to feel rather despondent about ever finding these birds. As we were about to walk through a dense stand of pincushion proteas I said something along the lines of “Come on little birds, show yourselves”. Seconds later my Dad spotted it! The Cape Sugarbird! It was feeding right on top of a gorgeous yellow pincushion protea and was quite relaxed with our abrupt stop and presence. I quickly shot off a whole lot of photo’s and as usual the first one I took ended up being one of the better ones. The beautiful little bird with its long tail feathers posed perfectly on the flower with the dark blue, almost storm cloud background. There was a second bird in a lower bush which could have been a female or maybe a baby, but it kept itself well hidden from us.
Very thrilled with that sighting we moved on heading back down the slopes and went to find the canopy walkway. The bridge is quite the piece of art as it winds with interesting angles through the canopy. You can definitely feeling the bridge moving under you as you walk,and the strong winds on the day didn’t do much to help that, but it was still fun to walk across it.
We stopped in at the curio shop and then had something cold and refreshing to drink at the restaurant where the temperature dropped rapidly as the sun went behind the mountains, and I then felt like I needed a tea!
My folks then dropped me off at my friend Kat’s house who I would be staying with for the weekend. We had some serious birding to do and she wanted to show off Cape Town’s best spots for nature activities.
Our first activity would be to go looking for a Scrub robin that has turned up in Cape Town for some odd reason. This is not one of South Africa’s Scrub robins though, this is a bird from way up North who is normally not seen further South than Kenya. The Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin was reported on the Rare Bird News reports and has caused quite a stir in the birding community with people travelling across country to go twitch this bird. It worked out so well that I would be going to Cape Town and could possible see it too. I would never have flown to Cape Town just to see the bird, I’m not that kind of crazy birder!
The bird had already been around for about a month and I checked on the reports daily to make sure it was still around. A report came through early on the day we wanted to go find this Rufous-tailed Scrub robin that it was still present, so that was encouraging. We arrived at Zeekoevlei in the False Bay Nature Reserve to be met by a couple who were just leaving but told us they had been watching the bird hopping along the pathway and flying between 2 specific trees. Ah, this is going to be easy I thought…Nope!
Two and a half hours later, after lots of searching and an increasingly sinking feeling in my heart we eventually found the little bird! Another birder that had also arrived actually spotted the bird and called us over to where he saw it. Then it popped out of the long grass onto an open sandy patch and sat still for a while so we could get a decent look at him and attempt some photo’s through the grass. It was much smaller than I was expecting and definitely much paler than some of the photos I had seen going around on the net (Too much editing!).
I was unbelievably relieved to have had a successful twitch of this bird, I would have been rather bleak having made the trip into a not entirely great part of Cape Town and wasted a whole morning searching for it. I reckon we were about 10min away from just leaving before the bird showed itself, so we were very lucky!
We then headed to Simon’s Town to go to the world famous Boulder’s Beach so I could tick off African Penguins on my year list. It was fantastic being back in that part of the Cape as I haven’t been there in years, so it was nice to see all the familiar streets and suburbs.
It really is a stunning area which I can’t wait to go back to! Last time I was at Boulders we went to the private beach there and I remember the penguins being right there on the beach and swimming around too. They weren’t there this time as I think the beach area was too busy, so we walked around to the other viewing area where you see hundreds of penguins scattered all over the dunes and on the beach. They are super cute things! Along the pathway you would see a little family group of penguins with their chicks, still all fluffy and grey. They are doing great work looking after the penguins there and they provide little plastic shelters for them in the undergrowth.
Just off the beach there were huge rocks with massive flocks of cormorants on them, I didn’t have my bird book with me so I thought I’ll just take a photo and identify the birds later on. I also didn’t have my binoculars with me, so didn’t have an actual good look at any of the birds…..This would bite me in the ass later that day when I checked my photos and realised there were some sort of Terns on those same rocks! I hadn’t seen them, I didn’t see them! I can’t count that on my list! I identified the birds as Swift Terns and I did manage to see some later on in the trip so could legitimately add them onto my year list. Lesson learnt…look properly at the birds and don’t just take photos!!
We then headed over the mountain and stopped in at Silvermine Nature Reserve. Kat has often told me about this reserve and how amazing it is, and she was right! From just the small section of it that i saw it looks really nice and a great place to spend a day. There are awesome picnic/braai sites tucked away amongst the trees and rocks and there are hikes you can do up to some caves. As we were walking in we stopped to look at a sweet Cape Batis and when I turned to watch it fly away I spotted it…Malachite Sunbird! Malachite Sunbird! Out in the open, relatively close by and showing off that intense green sheen!
That evening we drove down to Camps Bay after first stopping off at a view point to watch the sun set, a very cool spot for some selfies!
We had a delicious ice-cream (white chocolate and poppy seeds) and then some of the most delicious sushi ever.
The next day was miserable weather so we just went up to Groot Constantia for breakfast, which again was delicious…Cape Town really knows how to do good food! My folks picked me up around midday and we headed out of Cape Town in the direction of Bontebok National Park.