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Select Specials: West Coast

Black Harrier

This striking harrier is one of four raptor species endemic to southern Africa. It ranges widely over scrub and grassland in western South Africa, and is most regularly encountered in the West Coast National Park. While the pied adults are very distinctive, immature birds regularly pose identification challenges. They are best recognized by their combination of a white rump, white undersides to the inner flight feathers (which result in a pale patch on the underwing), dark upperparts and brown, streaked underparts. The Black Harrier is the emblem of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, an organization of international repute based at the University of Cape Town and involved in research on the ecology, evolution and conservation of the continent’s birds.

Southern Black Korhaan

This small bustard, endemic to the winter-rainfall areas of South Africa, is one of the most characteristic species of the West Coast and is held in fond regard by the locals. It is sexually dimorphic, and the strikingly plumaged males produce a raucous, grating call in spring. It has been split from the Northern Black Korhaan of the interior grasslands on the basis of differences in call, display, size, plumage and examination of genetic material (see p.12). Although it is widespread throughout the region and may be seen anywhere, it is best found by searching the road edges in the West Coast National Park (p.49). Korhaan is an Afrikaans word that refers to small bustard species, and is derived from the Dutch word for the Palaearctic Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix).

Protea Canary

Protea Canary is regarded as one of the most elusive of the fynbos endemics, largely because it is uncommon close to Cape Town. It can, however, be quite common in many of the less accessible mountainous areas of the region, such as the Cederberg Wilderness Area. For visitors without the time to venture so far off the beaten track, the best areas to search for it are Kransvlei Poort (p.56), Paarl Mountain (p.82), Mitchell’s Pass (p.81), and, further afield, Swartberg Pass (p.123). Although inconspicuous, it draws attention to itself by its distinctive song. It is by no means restricted to protea stands; in fact in many areas it appears more common in tall, non-protea vegetation.

Cloud Cisticola

The Cloud Cisticola is best detected in spring when the calling males are visible as distant, almost imperceptible specks fluttering high in the air during their undulating display flight. Good views can often be obtained by waiting patiently until they eventually drop sharply to land in the grass. The southern Cape subspecies is distinct from others further north, in South Africa and Zambia, both vocally and by its conspicuously streaked breast, which is an excellent field character to separate it from the otherwise dauntingly similar Fan-tailed Cisticola. There are several indications that this distinctive subspecies may be a full species (see p.13). It is best found in grassy and agricultural lands, especially the Tienie Versveld and Oudepos Wildflower Reserves (pp.46 and 45) and the Overberg wheatlands of the south coast (p.64).

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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