We weren't allowed to go to the hotel until early afternoon, so, after the compulsory two hour wait to get through customs check and then baggage claim to find the luggage hadn't followed us, the coach drove the half hour to Signal Hill from the airport. This seems to be the usual tourist type of stop, with parking for coaches and cars, from which the high heeled and slipon-ed could trudge up to the magnificent views of Cape Town - plenty of noise here and hustle & bustle, but not many birds from the view point. As usual, it was much better to go in the opposite direction to the general herd. There weren't too many birds in the scrub and bushes below the car park, which may have been due to the amount of people in the general area and the time of day (we were there over midday). However, a little bit of patience found numerous approachable Helmeted Guineafowl, and even better, a flighty Cape Robin, and an equally elusive Karoo Prinia. The latter fellow popped up most obligingly on calling to it. In the air over the hill were 3 White-necked Ravens and a solitary Steppe Buzzard. The chances are that this would be an unlikely birding spot as such but may improve even more at quieter and cooler parts of the day.
This was to be our rather prestigious home for the week. It is very impressive and quaintly colonial, with all the amenities that the swimmer, sunbather and general lounger would need for a rather relaxing and pampered time. However, the temptations to myself were the potential birding gardens surrounding the main buildings, and parks adjacent to the hotel.
Prospects looked good from the balcony of the hotel room, with a couple of Red-winged Starlings clinging to other balconies, and Speckled Pigeon on an opposing roof. The hotel and gardens were a little different from my expectations. The buildings appear old and colonial style, and fairly well concentrated in one area, with some, although limited, space and vegetation between. In front of the hotel, the gardens are reasonably extensive, with one part much quieter and with more potential than the busier recreation area. The former was lawned with palms, bushes, and ornamental trees forming the body, and was very good for a small variety of the more common garden birds. The water jets sprinkling the lawns provided an added bonus, giving plenty of reason for birds to congregate around them and the pools they created. On the open areas of lawn were plenty of Olive Thrushes, Red-winged Starlings, Speckled Pigeons, Red-eyed Doves, & Laughing Doves. An unexpected bonus was a small group of Cape White-eyes, which were partial to the bushes which were being directly pounded by water jets.
From the hotel I took the first right from the main hotel entrance (Buxton Hof), which is a road going up the bank in suburbia to the base of Table Mountain. It passes by De Waal Park, which has plenty of trees, but seemed quiet apart from feral pigeons. Molteno Reservoir is open to the public, but is very sterile, with concrete banks - home to a few Hartlaub's Gulls, Egyptian Geese, and motley but small collection of pigeons and doves. There are security guards here, and many restrictions - haven't a clue why, since the place is pretty well boring. Just below here was a single Fiscal Shrike, which wasn't too easy to view properly, but certainly showed the faded supercilium that seems characteristic of Cape birds. It also seemed to be more of a slate grey than black. The road after the reservoir continues to climb towards Table Mountain, but probably does not contain much of interest until the base of the slopes are reached, since it is basically a small avenue of trees surrounded by suburban houses with small gardens. The predominant birds by both sight and sound are Red-winged Starlings, with Eurasian Starlings a runner-up, along with plenty of Speckled Pigeons and Laughing Doves.
Walking back down to the hotel, I found a small waterworks plant within the De Waal Park, right next to a playground. This consists of one football pitch sized lagoon, and another half the size, which are reasonably well vegetated (particularly the smaller one). They turned up a superb and very approachable Blacksmiths Plover, along with a sizable group of Hartlaub's Gulls. I would think that this small oasis has the potential to bring in other birds at different times.
Late in the afternoon, we all trooped on to buses, and were dropped off at the base of Table Mountain. Riding to the top on the revolving cable car is a novel and sometimes worrying experience, but certainly well worth the effort for the excitement of the ride itself. Omens were good when what looked like a Cape Sugarbird flashed in front of the cable car before take off. The plateau itself extends a lot further south than expected (reportedly around 2 miles) when looking up from Cape Town. After clambering off the car with the masses, and bypassing them as they pinpointed the gift shop and cafe, I quickly found better birding territory. The plateau is mainly flat for some distance, with plenty of very low scrub, and one or two small ravines. Birds are few and far between. Most common and equally impressive, with vivid front standing out against green leaves were Orange-breasted Sunbirds, characteristically vocal and also approachable. A juvenile Cape Grassbird also made its presence felt, with a parent not far away. Most impressive was first sighting of a single Black Eagle which appeared low over the plateau. Soon after, 2 were seen circling high over the mountain, showing the distinctive shape of narrow wings pinched in at the base. Hundreds of hirundines and swifts were in what seemed like the same vicinity, but too distant to distinguish. Returning back to the cable car station, more Swifts were seen in front of the mountain face. Most were African, with a few Alpine interspersed.