Birding Around Cape Town – Mowbray and Kirstenbosch


This was the second consecutive weekend that I would be in Cape Town, and luckily for me the Snowy Egret was still around, giving me something to do while Megan was at work on Saturday.

Saturday was off to a rough start, with having woken up at 4am with back pain and struggling to sleep. During summer this would be acceptable, as the sun would soon be out and adventures could already begin to get underway. However, with the sunrise only around 7:30am, it meant that there was a lot of time to kill. Eventually the sun arrived and I stumbled out of bed, severely sleep deprived and made my way to the Black River to pay my fourth visit to the Snowy Egret.

Snowy Egret in flight with strong morning light.
Snowy Egret moves across a still, reflective Black River in Mowbray
Snowy Egret feeding in the shallows.

Upon arrival the bird was showing well with the early morning light and unlike previous times, conditions aided in the ability to get a few in flight shots as the bird moved up and down the river feeding. I spent a good couple hours watching the bird move around and trying to capture the best in flight shots I could, while trying to avoid the rubbish in the background of the images.

Snow Egret moving across the Black River
Sacred Ibis in Flight

I would be lying if I said I didn’t have ulterior motives for this visit though. I had also been seeing several images on social media of Little Bitterns that were photographed along the river, and still need it for my life list. So while the Snowy was stationary I scanned the reeds in the hopes of getting a new tick – unfortunately it never came and I had to leave without the addition to my life list. How long will they elude me for?!

Onto Kirstenbosch Gardens

The next day Megan was free and we were able to go out and do something together, so we opted to head to Kirstenbosch Gardens at around 10:30 on Sunday morning. I of course, had completely forgotten that those with fathers were busy celebration, and as such the gardens were packed — less than ideal if you’re looking to do some birding.

We walked around, scowling and grunting at the screams of annoyingly happy families and their kids who behave like they’re in a shouting match, not in nature.

A small waterfall in the Dell area of the gardens.
Lesser Double Collared Sunbird
Common Waxbill being very obliging.
Swee Waxbill perched.


I still needed to find the Lemon Doves, and this time we even researched which area they’re usually seen at. However, when arriving at The Dell, we had were surrounded by people; running, shouting, screaming, crying — you name it. Needless to say the birds had done the smart thing and left the area, and we couldn’t find any of the Lemon Doves (another tick that escapes me).

I hadn’t yet seen the Boomslang trail that was established a couple years ago, so we decided to head to that. There had been numerous social media posts and images about it, and I was quite keen to see what all the excitement was about, but I just felt confused over where the hype had come form. The Boomslang is a great idea and could have been great had it been extended a few hundred meters, instead the walkway is only a few meters long and is basically just a short little look out point. Granted it provides some nice views of the gardens and the horizon – but not quite what I had expected.

More of the Boomslang canopy walk at Kirstenbosch Gardens.


The Boomslang Canopy Walk in almost its entirety.
A Lesser Double Collared Sunbird exposing himself out in the open for a few seconds.


On our way back to the car we managed to finally see some real birds, with Swee Waxbills, Common Waxbills and Lesser Double Collared Sunbirds present along the walkways. We spent some time while I waited for some LDCSs to land on the colourful plants around us and give me some shots. The Waxbills were both lifers for Megan which was great, and she got to add an additional species when we came across a Rufous-Chested Sparrowhawk while on route back to the main entrance.

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