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Cape Birding Tour:

Bushmanland - Red Lark Tour


Top birds


•  Ludwig's Bustard
•  Karoo Korhaan
•  Burchell's Courser
•  Red Lark
•  Sclater's Lark
•  Stark's Lark
•  Black-eared Sparrowlark
•  Karoo Eremomela
•  Cinnamon-breasted Warbler
•  Black-headed Canary


Tour description

It is impractical to cover all great birding spots in Bushmanland in a few days, so we usually suggest that the area is explored over at least five or six days.

Bushmanland is a vast and sparsely populated semi-desert of stark beauty. Its stony plains are scattered with low bushes, punctuated by broken country and the occasional dune field. The freedom of these open spaces will be a welcome respite for those wearied by the stresses of city life, and the dedicated birder will equally appreciate its wealth of highly desirable southern African endemics. It is most famous in birding circles for hosting one of the world’s highest diversity of larks, with an amazing 14 species occurring regularly. Furthermore, Red Lark is a true endemic to Bushmanland, and Sclater’s Lark and Black-eared Sparrowlark are most easily seen in this region.

Our tours to this region are usually linked with a Tanqua Karoo visit, hence, we usually approach the area from the south via Ceres and the Tanqua. Continuing from Calvinia northward to Brandvlei, you will notice the landscape becoming markedly more arid until we enter Bushmanland. Roadside birds we will search for are Ludwig's Bustard, Booted Eagle, Black Harrier and Greater Kestrel. We will also stop at South African Cliff Swallow (active September to April) colonies that can be found under road culverts south of Brandvlei.

Red Lark, a little-known bird whose nest was only discovered as recently as 1986, is the only species whose global range is totally restricted to Bushmanland. For the best chance of success, we’ll search a number of spots and listen out for their calls.

Tractrac and Karoo Chats are the most common chats in the region, although Familiar, Sickle-winged and Southern Ant-eating Chats may also be seen. Don’t worry, we will help you sort out this tricky group! The stocky Chat Flycatcher often perches on telephone wires, while Karoo Long-billed Lark, the region’s most widespread lark, is often seen perched on the fence-posts. Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-chested Prinia and Bokmakierie are common on the scrubby plains, whereas we will search for Cape Penduline Tit along drainage lines. The commonest raptors are Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Greater Kestrel and Lanner Falcon, while Martial Eagle and Black-breasted Snake-eagle are also often seen.

Largely restricted to this region, Sclater's Lark is one of our target specials! It is unique among larks in that it lays only one egg, a phenomenon shared by several other unrelated species (such as Double-banded Courser and Karoo Korhaan) that co-habit its harsh habitat. This is a highly sought-after, nomadic species which is by no means guaranteed on a trip to the region, but with our expert knowledge we stand a very good chance!

Burchell's Courser occurs sparsely here, and over the whole of Bushmanland. We may also see Karoo Korhaan and Double-banded Courser at the roadsides, and Black-eared Sparrowlark is usually present in the area. A very common bird of the stony plains is the enchanting Spike-heeled Lark. These birds move about in small, active groups, jerkily scuttling about the pebbles and digging with their bills into the soft sand accumulated around the bases of bushes. Namaqua Sandgrouse are often seen flying to water in the mornings, delivering their characteristic, bubbling ‘kelkiewyn’ calls.

Bushmanland can be successfully combined with visits to the West Coast and, for those with more time, the Kalahari. Let us know if you are interested in combining these areas, it makes for an excellent trip!

Cinnamon-breasted Warbler photographed by Callan Cohen. See this Cape endemic bird on a Birding Africa trip from Cape Town See Cinnamon-breasted Warbler on a Cape Endemics, Tanqua Karoo, Namaqualand or Bushmanland Birding Tour with Birding Africa © Callan Cohen

See Burchell's Courser on a Cape Endemics, Tanqua Karoo or Bushmanland Birding Tour with Birding Africa © Callan Cohen

See Karoo Korhaan on a Cape Endemics, Tanqua Karoo or Bushmanland Birding Tour with Birding Africa © Callan Cohen

See Tractrac Chat on a Cape Endemics, Tanqua Karoo or Bushmanland Birding Tour with Birding Africa © Callan Cohen

About Birding Africa

Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders. We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent. We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.

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Black Harrier photograph courtesy of Keith Offord.
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