(This article submitted by Japie Claassen clearly illustrates how underrated birding in the Karoo is. Also keep in mind that we regularly update information on birding weekends on www.westerncapebirding.co.za Do your planning of participation in such a way that you consider joining one of the Karoo weekends. - Ed.)
“We hosted another brilliant birding weekend at Rietfontein Private Nature Reserve just outside Matjiesfontein from 2 to 4 May 2008. Although the weather wasn't ideal for birding we managed to see 99 bird species. Saturday morning we were greeted at the chalets by the resident Grey Tits. We birded from Matjiesfontein via the Moordenaars Karoo and Komsberg Pass to the Roggeveld and returned via the tar road to Matjiesfontein.
A nasty north-easterly wind was blowing and it was overcast, making the birds hiding in the bushes. Well, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks had to be in the open on the telephone poles and the distinctive call of the Karoo Korhaans awoke everybody. After quite a search for them in a randjie, we located three of them, well camouflaged amongst the bushes. We also saw a group of Black-headed Canaries with some Yellow Canaries. At two locations we called up some Karoo Eremomelas which gave splendid views. Karoo Long-billed, Karoo and Large-billed Larks were spotted along the road with several Fairy Flycatchers, Layard's Titbabblers and Long-billed Crombec.
As we neared Komsberg Pass it started drizzling. A surprise at the foot of Komsberg Pass was a few Cape Spurfowl at a little dam where you should expect Grey-winged Francolins. While hiding against the wind in the pass during lunch, a Verreaux's Eagle soared overhead. On top of the Roggeveld Mountains several dams host some water birds like Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Teal, Cape Shoveller and Spurwinged Goose. Waders were mainly Three-banded Plover, some Kittlitz's Plover and a very late Common Sandpiper. A few late Greater Striped Swallows were feeding over one of the dams. On an almost bare pan Spike-heeled and Red-capped Larks fed in the drizzle with some Tractrac Chats.
In the meantime Mike Ford was ringing birds at the nature reserve until it started to rain. He hasn't had many retraps on last years ringing but caught a good variety of birds. Since Friday Rietfontein NR gave a good variety of birds like Martial Eagle, Barn Owl, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Karoo Long-billed & Spike-heeled Lark, a late White-throated Swallow, Malachite Kingfisher, Cardinal Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, several Namaqua Warblers, Dusky Sunbird and Cape Canary.
If you want to stay at Rietfontein on your journey through the Karoo, please contact Alan Veasey at 082 5573844.