Birding Trip Down the Cape Peninsula

We were approached to test an app for logging birds during a competition. The organisers needed people to log birds from all over the country in an arbitrary manner. We volunteered.

My wife Amanda and I live in Cape Town on the slopes of Table Mountain.

Table mountain is the  base of a triangle of land, a peninsula and being really original, we call it “The Peninsula” but we may on occasions refer to parts of it as the “South Peninsula”.

The first European name of “The Peninsula” was the “Cape of Storms” so named by a very wind blown Portuguese explorer who was blown past the tip of Africa and had to beat his way back to find land again. This picture of a yacht under a single genoa sail and trailing a sea anchor will give you and idea of the power of our local wind.

Winds can gust up to 70 km/h which is when  the harbour is closed, people get blown off their feet and buses get blown over. Cape Town is beautiful, but you do not really want to go out in one of our serious gales. You can see pictures of a serious winter storm here. We did, and survived. We reserved tent in the Smitswinkel Tented camp for Saturday evening and set out at 12 on Saturday morning to our first stop, Milnerton Lagoon. The mountain on the right is Devils Peak

It doesn’t look windy but at that stage it was blowing at about 30 km/h. The white spots you can see in the water are Greater Flamingos. In the following picture, Pied Avocecs work the mad flats.

Having scored about twenty bird species we moved on to Intaka Island and still in sight of  a bit ofTable Mountain and Devils Peak through the construction site. The cloud you can see is the Table Cloth and only arrives when the wind is really moving.

Intaka island is a water reclamation site for Century City. It really is a special place surrounded by the city and is open to the public. You can take a ferry from the big shopping centre and cruise at your leisure around the whole area. Read more about Intaka here. We scored the cute picture of the day here too.

Red Knobbed Coot chicks just starting to fledge.

Bath time, weavers in partial mating plumage. We moved onto Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where we “knew” there were baby owls to be seen. No such luck they had moved on. But the scenery and the flowers made up for it.

The top picture is a Mountain Dahlia and the bottom one is an unusual picture of a King Protea. Normally they are shown fully open. This one is partially open which, I think makes a nice difference. Kirstenbosch is in the Fynbos Biome which has the most species of plants (9000 ) in any biome but it is also the smallest biome in area. See more on Kirstenbosch here.

We moved on towards Smitswinkel bay and we both assumed we knew where the tented camp was. Down by the sea, at Smitswinkel bay.

You can see the settlement with the end of the peninsula, Cape Point, in the distance. The only access is down a gravel path so we loaded our bag with sleeping bags, dinner and a bottle of bubbly and set off down.

Only to find that the tented camp was back up the slope and 2 km further. Please note that the bay is a jealously guarded piece of property and visitors are not really welcome. So we climbed back up, drove the 2 km and found the tented camp.

Nestled in a grove of wind blasted flowering gums, it is one of the overnight stations for the four day Hoerikwagga Hiking Trail which traverses the Table Mountain chain.

The accommodation is basic, but comfortable. Problem is that when the wind is blowing the tent thunders quite dramatically.

By this stage we had gotten 44 birds and were seriously considering going straight home, but the Cape Point Nature reserve was right next door, so next morning we headed that way.

Looking back toward Cape Town, the sea blown flat by the howling wind. The wind was really strong, we watched with some amusement as a Cape Longclaw flew up, was blown backwards, gave up and took to walking.

Everlastings. The hillside was covered in them.

A Black Headed Heron caught and lost a snake, then stood staring into the bush the snake had vanished into for a long while before giving up and moving on.

This is a screen shot of the BirdLasser App we use for tracking our sightings. A great app, limited to South Africa.

In all we got 62 birds, which considering the wind was not a bad score