Birding in Cape Town: more raptor watching at Kirstenbosch

Some more time was spent raptor watching at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens this last Saturday. A decent number of raptors (for this area) were seen (8 individuals), but species were limited to Steppe Buzzard, Forest Buzzard and Black Sparrowhawk. Admittedly, I got there a little late. The optimal time is probably 8am because by 9am most buzzards are already cliff soaring and difficult to spot.

Here are a few images from the morning:

Forest Buzzard

Not the best picture of a Forest Buzzard, but one can clearly see the distinctive features – pale underwing coverts that do not contrast with the remiges, pale chest and under belly – in flight Forest Buzzard also looks more compact than Steppe Buzzard with, in my opinion, faster wing beats.

Butterfly spp

Does anyone perhaps know what butterfly spp this is? I haven’t had a chance to look it up yet.

Spotted Eagle Owl

Not exactly a cliff-soaring raptor, but the Spotted Eagle Owls were displaying nicely in the Dell so I thought I’d include this pic.

Birding in Cape Town: raptor watching at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Each summer Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, serves up some good raptor watching. The main attraction is the number and variety of buzzards that one can encounter. An average morning will produce between 5 to 10 individual birds; good mornings have produced 12 different species of raptor! Steppe Buzzard Buteo vulpinus (summer migrant) is most common, Forest Buzzard Buteo trizonatus breeds in the area, but the star attraction is Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus a rare summer visitor. Honey Buzzard was first discovered on the Cape Peninsula at Tokai Forest (+/- 10km south of Kirstenbosch) in the 1980s and small numbers of these migrants are now sighted annually.

Below are a few photos from a brief raptor watch on Saturday 5 December: [sorry about the Painted Lady – one tends to photograph other things when the raptors aren’t performing :) ]

Steppe Buzzard worn remiges

Steppe Buzzard

This first buzzard was rather distant [hence the poor image], but note the rather worn remiges. The primaries in particular are well worn.

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard worn tail1

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard worn tail

Steppe Buzzard

This Steppe Buzzard was more obliging – note the worn tail feathers.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

Other species regularly seen whilst raptor watching include: African Harrier Hawk Polyboroides typus, Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius, Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris, Black Sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus, African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro, Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolis, Verreaux’s Eagle Aquila verreauxii and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus.

I hope to catch up with a Honey Buzzard this summer – watch this space…