(This article by Trevor Hardaker, posted on the capebirdnet during 2006 , is published with his permission. - Ed.) Sion and Tiana Stanton and Margaret and I spent the weekend birding the Karoo National Park and surrounds in the hope of catching up with a few of those "difficult to get" species in the Western Cape and hopefully getting some photos of them.
We left Cape Town early on Friday morning and, apart from the necessary stomach refuelling at a few 1-stops, our first real stop was in the vicinity of Leeu Gamka. Here, we quickly found a number of the more regular Karoo species including Dusky Sunbird, Namaqua Warbler, Pririt Batis and Namaqua Sandgrouse. We also found our first real quarry here in the form of Red-billed Quelea, generally not an easy bird to find in the WC.
Another stop just a little north of Leeu Gamka produced our first Red-eyed Bulbuls for the trip as well as a few other common species, viz. Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, Karoo Prinia, etc. From here, we headed north to Beaufort West, stopping only at the "stop-go" roadworks set ups and once for a pesky speed cop that jumped out from behind a bush...
By the time, we reached the Karoo NP, the wind had started pumping and continued so for the remainder of the day. Nevertheless, we decided to work the Lammertjiesleegte loop in the wind and managed to find a few birds including Karoo and Sickle-winged Chats, Spike-heeled Larks, Rufous-eared Warbler, Chat Flycatcher and another special in the form of Black-throated Canary.
Saturday morning we started with a leisurely breakfast at the restaurant and then headed out of the park to work the surrounding farm land areas. We managed to see a number of other more common species including Karoo Long-billed Lark, Mountain Wheatear, Pale-winged Starling, White-backed Mousebird, Black-headed Canary, Lark-like Bunting, Blue Crane, Karoo Korhaan and at least a dozen Ludwig's Bustards. The day was also brilliant in terms of Western Cape birding and we came up trumps with Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cinnamon-breasted (Rock) Bunting, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Scaly-feathered Finch, Eastern Clapper Lark, Sabota Lark (the western race sometimes split as Bradfield's Lark) and no fewer than 4 Kori Bustards!
Sunday was spent in the park itself and the day started off well with an African Rock Pipit sitting on the gable of our chalet and calling! We spent the day working the campsite, then the Klipspringer Pass and finally the Lammertjiesleegte Loop again. New birds for the trip included Grey-winged Francolin, Karoo Thrush, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Southern Tchagra, Verreaux's Eagle and Booted Eagle (3 pale morph birds all together).
During the course of the weekend, we also managed to see a number of mammals and pride of place probably goes to the Aardwolf on our night drive. All in all a great weekend with some brilliant Western Cape birding and a few half decent photos thrown in as well!