Kirstenbosch raptor watching notes and directions

At the risk of being monotonous, I visited Kirstenbosch for a third weekend in a row on Saturday 29 January 2011 to see what raptors were around. The start was a bit earlier than usual as I was joined by Callan who was guiding two Birding Africa clients.

Raptor watching kbosch

The vantage point we use to watch raptors is, in my opinion, probably one of the better locations to watch raptors from in Cape Town. I’ve never equaled the 12 species haul that Callan and I notched up in the 90’s at Tokai forest, but over the years we’ve tried Newlands Forest, Cecilia and other locations close to Kirstenbosch and this one seems to be the most consistent.

Raptor Watching Spot reduced

Kirstenbosch raptor watching spot [Image source: Google Earth]

The vantage point is located in the Lubbert’s Gift area of Kirstenbosch and can be a little tricky to find if you don’t know the paths. Essentially you need to get onto the gravel track that runs above the National Botanical Institute buildings towards Newlands Forest. We stand at the point where the road splits [see map above] as this gives you a panoramic view from Wynberg Hill towards Newlands.

Raptor watching2 kbosch

View towards Castle Buttress

A quick thought about timing. If you want a better chance of seeing accipiters then an early start is recommended. On previous raptor-watching sessions, which have generally only started around 10am, accipiters were recorded infrequently. On this visit we recorded African Goshawk (not at Kirstenbosch – Callan had one at Constantia Nek), Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk (2 birds were sparring above Window buttress at about 8:15am) and Black Sparrowhawk all before 9:30am. Of course you can see them any time of the day, but early morning certainly seems to be better for them.

Black Sparrowhawk

Black Sparrowhawk

For buteos and other raptors a later start appears to be better. We generally only start seeing good numbers of buzzards from about 10am until around lunch time. The weather also has a part to play – warm, sunny days are better.

African Harrier Hawk

African Harrier Hawk

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Yellow-billed Kite

Yellow-billed Kite

Getting back to Saturday 29 January, the morning started off well with the flurry of accipiters described above and a lone African Harrier Hawk over the car park. Apart from that, raptor numbers were rather low through the morning and the species count was limited to Steppe Buzzard, Yellow-billed Kite and fleeting glimpses of a Honey Buzzard over Newlands Forest. I imagine that most Steppe and Honey Buzzards are thinking about heading north right now, but if anyone does visit this raptor watching spot please let me know what you see.

David Winter

1 comment to Kirstenbosch raptor watching notes and directions

  • Toby

    Jeez David… Come on…update your photo on birding africa!! (…Just kidding!) I’ve only just received a surprise newsletter. Such cool photos…some amazing trips you Birders go on. Divine! Hope you are well. Take care. Toby.XX

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