27th April - Santiago, Cape Verde

 The final stop on the Hondius was Praia in Santiago and we hopped out and immediately went on a day-long birding tour which was great fun.  At the first stop there were good sightings of Cream-coloured Courser, Greater Hoopoe-lark and Black-crowned Sparrow-lark.  Hopping about in the bushes were also the endemic Iago Sparrow.  

Onwards to the next stop where we were lucky enough to catch up with the Cape Verde Buzzard.  As we were driving between all these stops we were also seeing numerous Grey-headed Kingfisher which really are beautiful.

Grey-headed Kingfisher

A stop off at the dam was a bit lacking but then as we headed back to the buses I picked up a Spectacled Warbler so it was not all in vain!  

Some gorgeous plants
Finished off the day with Cape Verde Swift and Cape Verde Warbler and that was the end of the birding for the trip, although I would go onwards to meet with friends in Lisbon and Funchal before heading home.  

Cape Verde Warbler

Life List: 1128

15th to 24th April - St Helena, at sea aboard the m/v Hondius & Ascension Island

 St Helena was antoher place on this trip I'd meant to have a lot more time on, but due to the way the flight in and the boat out worked, I only had 3 nights there which was not nearly enough.  There were people on the yachts in the harbour who had arrived intending to be there for a week and were still there two years later!  It's certainly a unique, brilliant place and I hope I have the opportunity to go back.  If anyone is heading there, I stayed at Wellington House with the delightful Ivy and her adorable cat and I'd highly recommend it.  Anne's Place is wonderful for a bite to eat and you must visit Paul and Sally up at the distillery for a short tour and guided tasting. 

St Helena
Bird wise, I headed out of Jamestown to see the only endemic species, the wirebird (St Helena Plover) and got to see quite a few.  Talking of endemic species, there used to be a St Helena Giant Hoopoe and I would have LOVED to have seen that.  There were Red-Billed Tropicbird nesting behind the hotel which was a delight to wake up to and see out of my window and plenty of White Tern nesting all around the island, especially in the trees in Castle Garden, where you could watch them roost as you ate and drank at Anne's Place.  Out on a boat trip around the north-west coast there were tonnes of birds including Black Noddy and Masked Booby, as well as loads of dolphins, a turtle and my first ever whale shark.

St Helena Plover

Masked Booby

Black Noddy
It was then onto the Hondius for the trip up to Cape Verde, with a stop off on Ascension Island.  I didn't get to do as much sea-watching from deck as I would have liked due to my M.E having a few dodgy days but I still had sightings of some wonderful pods of dolphins, some whales and a good few birds.  A lot of Band-rumped Storm Petrel were seen down towards the St Helena bit of the voyage, slowly giving way into an area filled with Leach's Storm Petrel instead.  Once we got to Ascension Island, I added Ascension Frigatebird and White-tailed Tropicbird to my life list as well.  

White Tern

White-tailed Tropicbird (and baby!)

Ascension Frigatebird
The it was onwards to Cape Verde!

12th & 13th April 2023 - South Africa (flying visit!)

Back in 2019 I booked an awesome trip which centred around taking a ship from St Helena to Ascension Island to Cape Verde and I had planned for a good amount of time before the ship in South Africa, including Cape Town and a safari up near Johannesburg.  This trip got postponed for covid reasons and now that it was finally able to go ahead, I sadly had other commitments that meant I only had 3 days in South Africa.  I split that into two days in Cape Town (wine tasting and birding) and a day in Johannesburg (birding).

First off on the Cape Town birding day I met with guide Mark Hawthorne at my hotel and we headed to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens which is incredibly beautiful. I am incredibly envious of anyone who has that as their local patch!   The great thing about birding in a new area is that nearly every single bird I saw was brand new for me.  There were lots of Olive Thrush around, with Cape White-eye hopping through the trees and a Jackal Buzzard soaring off in the distance.  A few beautiful White-backed Mousebird were seen as we wandered along and the star of the show were the incredibly tailed Cape Sugarbird.

Cape Sugarbird

Southern Double-collared Sunbird

Sadly we couldn't stay at Kirstenbosch all day and it was onwards to the peaceful Rondevlei reserve where we added some waterbirds to the list, along with Fork-tailed Drongo and a few stunning Black-shouldered Kite.  Round to Strandfontein and to the list we managed to add ducks in the form of Yellow-billed Duck, Fulvous Whistling Duck and Cape Teal, as well as Black-headed Heron.  A really cool snake was headed along the road too but I can't remember the name of it.  

Black-shouldered Kite


Black-necked Heron

Greater Flamingo
Popped in briefly to Boulders Beach to see the tiny penguins which are LOUD and then finished the day off down at the Cape of Good Hope, adding Cape Bunting, Cape Cormorant and Cape Starling amongst others.  A great day to start off my trip!

African Penguin
I got a flight the next morning up to Johannesburg and Safari Wian picked me up to head out to Rietvlei Nature Reserve for the afternoon.  We started with African Wattled Lapwing and Crowned Lapwing, then added a tonne of Common Fiscal and Stonechat along the drive around.  I rather liked the personality of the Arrow-marked Babbler and we rounded off the day with a grumpy Spotted Thick-knee.  

Spotted Thick-knee