I collected Birding Africa clients Ross and Sandy at their Guest House in Pinelands at 07h00 on a cool morning. It was a lovely day with open blue skies by the time we reached our first stop at Mitchell's Pass close to Ceres. This stop was prompted by a very obliging female Cape Rock-Thrush next to the road, but we were soon entertained by several Swee Waxbills feeding on grass seeds near the car, as well as Rock Martins and Greater Striped Swallows foraging overhead. There was excitement when no less than three Booted Eagles, two pale form and one dark form bird, soared past.
We pushed on to the farmhouse near Karoopoort where an Olive Thrush was the first bird seen. This was soon followed by Cape Sparrow, Cape Weaver and Pied Starling. The star bird here was a pair of very vocal Namaqua Warblers that for once provided clear and prolonged views. A cheeky Familiar Chat followed us around and Malachite Sunbirds were feeding on aloes along the road. Skulking Karoo Scrub-Robins were frustratingly difficult to see but fortunately many were found during the remainder of the trip.
The next stop a short distance further on was the picnic site on the edge of the semi-desert plains of the Tanqua Karoo. Here we were treated to several endemic and near-endemic birds such as Mountain Wheatear, Layard's Tit-Babbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, White-throated Canary, White-backed Mousebird, Grey-backed Cisticola and a pair of South African Shelduck flying past. A surprise find was a very confiding but busybody Cinnamon-breasted Warbler that provided excellent views as it clambered and crept amongst the rocks.
On the way to Eierkop a Grey Rhebok dashed across the road and we also stopped to appreciate a pair of Sickle-winged Chats flitting from bush to bush. The distinctive Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk prominently perched on telephone poles along the road. Eierkop is a distinctive tillite hill and the many flowering succulents on its slope attracted Dusky, Malachite and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds. Karoo Chats, Grey Tits, Rufous-eared Warblers, Large-billed Lark and a calling Karoo Lark were found on the adjacent plains.
Late in the afternoon we headed for Skitterykloof on the way to our overnight stop in the Swartruggens mountains. We found a foraging group of Grey-backed Sparrowlarks next to the road and a small puddle had both male and female Black-headed Canary quenching their thirst. At Skitterykloof, Cape Bunting was particularly common and we also found White-necked Raven and Rock Kestrel. The small wetland produced Common Waxbill, Southern Red Bishop and Levaillant's Cisticola, and Cape Spurfowl was common in the mountain scrub.
Day 2: Sunday 23 September 2012
As we set off on our way back to Skitterykloof and the Tanqua National Park, we heard and saw a few Cape Clapper Larks in the fynbos plains on the Swartruggens plateau. Early morning birding at Skitterykloof was very productive and we managed to find a Spotted Eagle-Owl being mobbed by Black-headed Canaries, a lone adult Black Harrier quartering the valley and a very vocal African Reed- Warbler in the reedbeds. The colourful Bokmakierie called from its perch on a Clanwilliam aloe (Aloe comosa).
Then it was on to the legendary Tanqua road but not before stopping at an acacia-lined river to find an obliging Pririt Batis. After a short distance we found a pair of nest-building Black-eared Sparrowlarks with the male that often hovered right above our heads! Yellow Canary, Tractrac Chat, Lark-like Bunting and numerous Red-capped Larks were found in the vicinity. A stop at the Oudebaaskraal Dam produced waterbirds such as African Fish-Eagle, Greater Flamingo, large numbers of Black-necked Grebes, Kittlitz's Plover, Three-banded Plover, Little Stint and Common Greenshank. The open areas next to the dam had a few Capped Wheatears and numerous European Bee-eaters hawked insects overhead. On the way to the Park Office we found a large Puff Adder crossing the road and kept our distance as it disappeared into the roadside scrub. The Paulshoek area, which I fondly call "korhaan corner", did not disappoint and we found a group of five Ludwig's Bustards and two Karoo Korhaans. Shortly thereafter a pair of Spike-heeled Larks made an appearance. On the way back after a very satisfying trip we found a Secretarybird right next to the road.
A Birding Africa Trip Report by Tour Leader Tertius Gous.
For a full list of species from this trip, please
Our Cape tours and day trips are aimed at keen birders and
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