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Robben Island and Sea Point:

As the place where Nelson Mandela spent many of his prison years, Robben Island is burdened with a notoriety disproportionate to its small size and unprepossessing appearance. However, for birders, it is renowned not only for its sinister political history: the island supports significant seabird breeding colonies, including a substantial population of the endemic African Penguin (p.32*), and is of additional local interest in that it plays host to two introduced species found nowhere else in South Africa. The prison, including Nelson Mandela’s cell, are visited as part of the 3-hour organized tour, including ferry transport, that is currently the only way to visit the island. Ferries depart from the Waterfront hourly from 09h00 to 12h00, and at 14h00.

In 1964, customs officials in Cape Town used the island as a conveniently isolated depot for half a dozen captive-bred Chukar Partridges, which are native to Europe and Asia. The birds have since flourished, and small coveys are usually seen on the prescribed bus tour as they scurry through the alien thicket and low scrub that covers much of the terrain.

Found lurking in the denser thicket is the other introduced species that gives the island its birding reputation — Common Peafowl. Though many small feral populations of this familiar species exist in South Africa, only the Robben Island birds have been officially recognized as genuinely wild-breeding, thus legitimately worthy of listing.

Of rather higher significance in a global context are the substantial breeding colonies of African Penguin, Bank Cormorant (breeding on the harbour breakwater; see box, p.21), Crowned Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher (p.32*), Hartlaub’s Gull and Swift Tern. These are all easily seen along the island’s coastline. A boardwalk offers access to the penguin colony. There can also be interesting seabirding en route to and from the island, and Sabine’s Gulls may be seen lifting off the waves on tri-coloured wings as the ferry ploughs its way across Table Bay in summer. Arctic and Pomarine Skuas can also been seen in summer, while in winter Subantarctic Skuas mercilessly harry the other seabirds for their hard-won meals.

For those with limited time, or less of a stomach for the choppy ride across the bay, there is plenty to see along the city’s western seaboard. The alternately rocky and sandy shoreline from the Waterfront westward to the suburbs of Mouille Point and Sea Point supports small numbers of roosting African Black Oystercatchers, Cape and Crowned Cormorants, as well as Swift and Common Terns. South of Sea Point, the coastal road passes through the haunts of Cape Town’s wealthiest and trendiest, the suburbs of Camps Bay, Clifton and Bantry Bay. At Bakoven, good numbers of the globally threatened Bank Cormorant breed on the elephant-like boulders that lie just offshore, and are best observed by telescope.

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4 Crassula Way, Pinelands, 7405, Cape Town, South Africa

27/09/09: Dalton Gibbs reports back from Gough Island! Read the blog!

26/09/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip report from trips of 12 and 19 September 2009.

30/08/09: British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water proved very successful, with sunny weather and over 20,000 visitors. Callan's "Birding Namibia and the Okavango" was the most highly-attended lecture on the Saturday, with over 240 people. Congratulations to the winners of the Birding Africa competition and the African Bird Club raffle that we helped sponsor!

12/08/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip reports from August and July 2009. Highlights: Little Shearwater and more!

07/08/09: The sub-adult Black Sarrowhawk visits our garden again! Read on about Raptor Research in the Western Cape.

27/07/09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has grown! And its sibling never had a chance to hatch. See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

27/07/09: To follow modern nomenclature and systematics, we've adopted the IOC World Bird List, Version 2.1.

13/07/09: The 8th African Bird ID Challenge has launched! Win a 50% discount on a Cape Town Pelagics trip, a copy of Southern African Birdfinder, or African Bird Club membership for 1 year.

6 July 09: Cape White-eye research in our garden.

2 July 09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has hatched! See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

2 July 09: Campbell Fleming, a Cape Town scholar, avid birder and photographer, joined Birding Africa last month as an intern. Click here, to see what he got up to.

2 July 09: New pelagic trip reports from the Cape Town Pelagics trips in June 2009. Highlights: Slenderbilled Prion and Leach's Storm Petrel

30 july 09: Our latest Cape Fynbos and Karoo trip reports feature Hottentot Buttonquail, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and other fynbos and Karoo endemics...

26 June 09: Tungsten mining threatens RAMSAR site, South Africa's Verlorenvlei. Read the Media Release.

22 June 09: Claire Spottiswoode, one of the Cape Birding Route founders, was part of the exploratory team at Mount Mabu. The mountain is part of the newly discovered largest rainforest in Southern Africa.

11 June 09: A colour-ringed Black Sparrowhawk visits the Birding Africa office garden. Read why it's a 10 months old male!

14 June 09:
Wildlife at the office of The Cape Birding Route, Birding Africa and Cape Town Pelagics.

31 May 09:
Michel Watelet wins the 7th African Bird Club & Birding Africa ID Challenge. Test your African birding skills and WIN a Birding Africa Cape town day trip or a copy of the Birdfinder!

30 May 09: A tragedy unfolds at Kommetjie south of Cape town as 44 beached False Killer Whales were shot. Click here for more details and pictures.

14 March 09: Raptor Watch in Cape Town on 14 March 09