We recently conducted a two day birding tour on the Garden Route of South Africa, Western Cape Province for a small target list of birds which our client wanted to see. The two main species which he still needed for his world list where two potentially tricky birds, the Olive Bush Shrike and endemic Knysna Woodpecker
With only two days on the programme, we decided to base ourselves at Kingfisher Guesthouse in Wilderness, on the stunning Garden Route. The area is rewarding to bird and a very good place to locate the aforementioned species. Our first morning produced excellent views of forest and edge specialists birds like Forest Canary, Chorister Robin Chat, Red-necked Spurfowl, Lemon Dove, African Swee Waxbill, Cape Batis, Sombre Greennbul Greater Double-collared, Grey, Amethyst and Collared Sunbirds. Knysna Turaco's are common in this area and no matter how many times you have seen one, they are always amazing to look at. A fine breakfast was enjoyed on the guesthouse patio, after our initial early morning birding spell.
Grey Sunbird reaches it southern limit of its range along the Garden Route
During the later-half of the morning we walked through nearby Wilderness National Park's Ebb and Flow camp site along the Touws River. A beautiful Half-collared Kingfisher, a bird that gets just about anyone's attention when seen at close range, and the electric blues on this living jewel are something to behold. Knysna Warblers called loudly from a nearby thicket, but were reluctant to show, as they remained in the darkness of the dense thickets. Brown-hooded and African Pied Kingfisher were seen as we walked along the river, and Black-bellied Starlings fed in the fruiting trees. A male Bushbuck disapered into a thicket just as we laid eyes on it and Black-headed Oriole called loudly. A Little Sparrowhawk was seen perched at the top-end of the camping area. An afternoon walk at Hoekwill Forest against the slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains produced Grey Cuckoo Shrike and calling Emerald Cuckoo. Olive Woodpeckers were common allowing us some clear views. Our two target birds however, the Olive Bushshrike and Knysna Woodpecker could not be located, puting the pressure-on for the following day.
African Swee Waxbill
Day two started with more Knysna Turacos and a number of the species mentioned above. We decided to focus our efforts close to the guesthouse, having had good success here on previous occasions for them. A short-walk along the old rail road track produced a calling Knysna Woodpecker. Tuned into it's call, we manged to track the sound to its position. We carefully peered into the thicket and within a short period of time, spotted the bird moving about the branches about three metres above the ground. Both our clients managed good views of this potentially difficult to locate endemic woodpecker. Very pleased with the find and with heightened spirits we could now focus on Olive Bushshrike.
Greater Double-collared Sunbird male
A dazzling Narina Trogon was found in a Yellowwood tree along one of the forested trails, and the super-skulky Knysna Warbler provided a brief and partial views. Knysna Warbler is one of those difficlut to observe low light species that seldom show well. Some dedicated effort is often required to obtain prolonged open views of this species. We were starting to feel cheated by the bush shrike, just as the guesthouse owners phoned us, to say that there was one calling in their garden. Rallying quickly, we scurried hastily back to the guesthouse, with fingers crossed that the bird would still be there.
Arriving on site, we soon heard it and with some careful scanning, locked eyes onto our target and enjoyed great open views of an Olive Bush Shrike going about its business. Feeling content and having seen our target species our short trip was concluded having seen 81 species and having heard a further 7. Other notable species seen included: Long-crested Eagle, Malachite Kingfisher, Black-backed Puffback, Blue Manteled-crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Green-backed Camaroptera, Fiscal FLycatcher, Cape Weaver and Yellow-fronted Canary.
The elusive Lemon Dove is easily seen at Kingfisher Guesthouse on most mornings