I’m a big fan of city birding. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy getting away from it all out in some remote forest or desert, but a good city can combine some excellent birding and outstanding diving, drinking, dining and sightseeing. Of these great cities Cape Town is fast becoming one of my favourite birding spots in the the world. Perched near the spot were the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, it combines an utterly outstanding location with excellent wine country, a fabulous historic centre and a location dab in the centre of a endemic hotspot. What follows is a quick intro to some of the highlights you can find around the city.
Cape Town’s outstanding botanical gardens have been written about on this site before. They are one of the finest gardens in the world, nestled in a stunning location at the foot of Table Mountain (and that mountain’s associated national park). The oustanding displays of endemic flowers (the region is home to it’s own floristic kingdom) attract a huge number of birds. On my recent visit I managed to see specialties like Spotted Eagle Owls, Swee Waxbills, Cape Sugarbirds, Malachite Sunbirds and Cape Francolins. The gardens are so bird rich books have been written about what can be seen in them. An essential visit that can be squeezed into the briefest of visits, and the stunning gardens and views will entertain even the least birdy of companions!
Cape of Good Hope
I’m not certain why the Cape of Good Hope is the cape everyone talks about, it isn’t the southernmost point in Africa (that goes to Cape Agulhas, 150 kilometres to the south east). It is apparently the meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, but how this is so isn’t clear to me. I looked and couldn’t see a line, but maybe you need to be an oceanographer to work such things out. It is a good place to come down to from the city and look for Ostrich, Cape Gannets, Cape Cormorants, Cape Sparrows, Cape Buntings, Cape Sugarbirds, Cape Grassbirds and presumably lots of other birds with cape in the name. It’s also a good place to pick up some African game if you’re on a quick trip, I saw Bontebok and Eland, two types of antelope, as well as Chamca Baboons, and if you’re lucky you can find Mountain Zebra here too.
Fynbos flowers are highlight of the cape
People go to Boulder’s Beach for one reason… penguins! It’s the easiest place in the world to see wild penguins (well, except for the parking in summer), namely African Penguins. That said, you can also pick up Swift Terns, African Oystercatchers and a few other things, so it’s worth a longer look. But mostly, just drink in the penguins!
At 10,000 Birds we’re big fans of visiting poo ponds (or sewage works) to pick up birds and Cape Town has a cracking set in Strandfontein. It’s the place to learn your African waterbirds, particularly ducks. I’ve seen Cape Teal, Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveller, Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, Egyptian Goose and Spur-winged Goose here. You can also get Black-necked Grebe here (Eared Grebe to Americans) and if for some reason you don’t want to see Greater Flamingos in a drainage ditch in the rest of the city you can see them here instead. Cape Bulbul, Cape Weavers, and Cape Wagtail are all common here if you feel you need even more birds with cape in the name. Cape Mongoose are also easy to see. The network of roads through the ponds are open to the public and easily birded from a car.
Cattle Egret in spring flowers
Rondevlei Nature Reserve
Rondevlei is a small wetland reserve that actually adjoins to Standfontein, but instead of birding from a car there are trails and hides. The deep reedbeds and pools hide many species, including some hard-to-see hippos! It’s a nice spot that I’ve picked up a few lifers in including African Snipe, Water Thick-knee, Booted Eagle and (amazingly I had never connected with this before) African Swamp Hen.
Black-headed Herons are an African speciality
But wait…. there’s more!
There’s more great stuff just a bit further out. And I’ll be writing about that next time. In the meantime, why aren’t you off there already?
Heading there for the first time in a couple of months. This was delightful, both in content and in manner.
What a wonderful post! I too, love city birding, and in fact feel very strongly that protecting and promoting birds in cities is the best way to reach new birder converts. I am delighted to see that Cape Town is taking such good care of its avian neighbors.
Was quite surprised to see a post about South African Birding. As a South African Birder – I fully agree that South Africa has great birding potential due to its diversity of biomes and the number of endemic species that could only be found in Southern Africa.
I’m a big fan of South African birding Jeane. I’ll sing it’s praises any day!
Info on birding at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve here (free to download):
Maybe not the best birding spot in the SW Cape, but great for seeing pelagics from the shore and always the chance of a mega. And it’s a beautiful place!