Western Cape 2018

Autumn 2018 (in the Southern Hemisphere) saw us in Southern Africa again, beginning our trip in the Western Cape to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday with family. We did spend a couple of days in Cape Town, visiting the African Penguin colony at Boulders Beach near Simonstown and walking around Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden on a very windy day (not very good for bird photography) in between catching up with family and friends.

Most of our time in the Western Cape was spent with my parents in Montagu, a small town in the Little Karoo region. I had fun stalking birds in their garden when the weather wasn’t too miserable. The Pepper Tree (Schinus molle – not a native tree) had lots of little red berries so was very popular, as was the Liquidamber in the front garden. I got to practice my identifications, with both Common Fiscal (aka Fiscal Shrike) and Fiscal Flyatcher making an appearance, and a cute but elusive Fairy Flycatcher playing hide and seek in a large tree.

I did do a bit of exploring around town – the lei-water dam and the Nature Garden were good spots, and I found a Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk) in a palm tree in the primary school grounds (not easy to get a good angle though). There were lots of Red-winged Starlings around and I was happy to get one in flight, showing where their name comes from.

Birding in Montagu

Nana's cheeky robin-chat waiting for his snack.
Nana’s cheeky robin-chat waiting for his snack.

Firstly some apologies for my absence – we’ve been travelling for a few weeks. My original plan was to prepare some posts to publish on the go but things got away from me and it never happened. Maybe next time! And so back to July last year for a look at my favourite birding images from my stay in Montagu. The Cape robin-chat above is very tame and has my parents well trained to produce snacks of cheese on demand. If they are a bit tardy, he wanders into the house to hurry them up!


Birding in my parents’ garden is always rewarding, especially as they have a good supply of bird feeders. Another awesome spot in Montagu is the lei-water dam, used as a roost by egrets, herons and cormorants. It is right in town and has a great hide/platform which gives good access for photography. I could probably spend a whole day there — no-one else in the family can quite see the attraction as it is a bit smelly. My favourite image is the male Cape weaver in breeding plumage hanging from the bottom of his nest, which is built on the end of a thorny branch and suspended over water. Hope the lady weaver approves! We also found more industrious weavers in the nature garden on the other side of town – this time, a Southern masked weaver was busy with the beginnings of his nest. It was fascinating to watch him weave the grass strands in and out.

More Montagu at sunrise

Montagu reed sunrise
Montagu reed sunrise

I think I broke a photography rule or two with this Montagu image – I was facing pretty much due north, looking straight toward the sun. But I love the way the reeds are backlit with the golden morning light shining through and how the mist has made the mountains and factories in the background all hazy. This was on the edge of town, standing on the bridge where Route 62 crosses the Kingna River on the way to Barrydale. From here I headed up the hill towards the nature garden and made another image looking in more or less the same direction, just from a different elevation.

Montagu valley view

Montagu vineyards

Langeberg at sunrise
Langeberg at sunrise

Visiting family in South Africa in July gave me a great opportunity for capturing landscapes, sunrise in particular. As the country only has one time zone, sunrise in the Western Cape in winter is not too early, and I cheated a bit by still being on Perth time. Getting up early wasn’t too much of an effort, even though it was freezing cold (definitely needed gloves for working with a camera and tripod). Montagu, the town my parents now live in, is very scenic and surrounded by some of my favourite things – mountains! The mountain range highlighted by the morning sun in the image above is known as the Langeberg, part of the Cape Fold mountains. Montagu is also well provided with vineyards (great for leading lines) and heritage buildings.

Montagu vineyard at sunrise
Montagu vineyard at sunrise