WEEKLY FEATURE 33: BIRDING IN THE TULBAGH DISTRICT - PART 1Posted on the 12th August 2015
THE TULBAGH REGION
The historic village of TULBAGH is reputably regarded as a prominent tourist destination. It is the third oldest town in South Africa and is set in the heart of a spectacular valley surrounded by the thrilling Obiqua, Winterhoek and Witzenberg Mountain Ranges. Superb restaurants, award-winning wines and other local produce support a culturally abundant, authentic past with Church Street alone offering the highest concentration of National Monuments in one street in South Africa.
Tulbagh is reached by travelling from Cape Town along the N1 to Paarl and then joining the R44 past Wellington and Gouda to the NUWEKLOOF PASS on the R46. Bird-watchers should seize the opportunity to visit the VOËLVLEI DAM (33° 20'39”S 19° 01'25”E) just before Gouda. A medley of waterfowl is available and visitors should be especially vigilant for the AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE, MALACHITE KINGFISHER and SOUTH AFRICAN SHELDUCK as well as most of the district’s ducks, grebes, herons and teals. There are still choice patches of remnant renosterveld habitat remaining near this dam and it is certainly not uncommon to find threatened species such as the BLACK HARRIER, SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN and SECRETARYBIRD. Birders will relish a stay at the SILWERFONTEIN GUEST FARM as there is an intriguing hiking trail and more than 200 bird species have been identified on this striking farm. “Named after the mountain source which provides the crystal clear spring water, Silwerfontein, a declared Natural Heritage Site, nestles on the mountain slopes surrounding the 8km long Voëlvleidam, with spectacular lake and mountain views.”
CONTACT DETAILS: Tel: +27 (0)79 500 1906 E-mail: email@example.com Website: http://www.silwerfontein.co.za/
There are unfortunately very few sufficient areas in the NUWEKLOOF PASS (33° 19'07”S 19° 05'05”E) where birders can park and enjoy bird-watching comfortably. The BOOTED and VERREAUX'S EAGLES and ROCK KESTREL are recorded fairly regularly, but caution is advised when birding along here.
|Historic Church Street in Tulbagh|
|Waterval Nature Reserve (Images by Anton)|
An intersection is reached at 33° 18'48”S 19° 06'53”E, where a left turn can be taken to Tulbagh and a right turn leads to the WATERVAL NATURE RESERVE. This reserve has vast bird-watching potential, but according to the management access can unfortunately not be allowed at this point due to contractual constraints. However, details of the promising bird-watching possibilities at Waterval will be included on this web page as soon as it is possible.
Time should undoubtedly be spent in the village of TULBAGH in order to revel in the historical architecture, local art and premium restaurants. Birding in the village is superb and the AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK is the raptor most often seen. The AFRICAN GOSHAWK and BLACK SPARROWHAWK were also recorded. The CAPE BULBUL, FAMILIAR CHAT, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT and KAROO THRUSH coupled with most of the region's doves, flycatchers, mousebirds and sparrows are delightfully common throughout the village. Visit the tourism office (33° 17'17”S 19° 08'19”E) at the beginning of the historical Church Street or obtain more information from the dropdown menu below.
|Southern Masked-Weaver (Image by Wilfred Crous)|
|Acacia Pied Barbet (Image by Richard Masson)|
The majority of roads in the Tulbagh Valley run past vineyards and private property, therefore, permission for entry should be obtained when necessary. Most of the destinations featured in the detailed descriptions below are not accessible to day visitors, unless otherwise indicated. Kindly note that the fine, featured destinations and accommodation establishments are those that responded to correspondence and requests for interviews. Hence, it is accepted that there are many more remarkable establishments in the area. The descriptions below focus on the Twee Jongegezellen Road, the Theuniskraal Road ending at the foot of the enthralling Winterhoek Mountains and the road to Wolseley, as captivating bird-watching opportunities are on offer along any of these alluring routes.
|Cape White-eye nest (Image by Richard Masson)|
|Neddicky (Image by Anton)|
THE TWEE JONGE GEZELLEN ROAD
Untold outstanding birding opportunities are available along the Twee Jongegezellen Road. This phenomenal route starts at the northern end of Church Street (33° 16'58”S 19° 08'18”E) and initially runs in a westerly direction. A dam is reached at 33° 16'36”S 19° 07'25”E just before the famed MONTPELLIER WINE ESTATE, which unquestionably deserves particular attention. A variety of waterbirds such as the BLACK CRAKE, AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE, PURPLE HERON, AFRICAN SNIPE, WHITE-BACKED and WHITE-FACED DUCKS are present in small numbers. The REED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS, AFRICAN DARTER, LITTLE GREBE and CAPE SHOVELER are reasonably common.
Various options are available at the Montpellier intersection (33° 16'29”S 19° 07'01”E). A gravel road runs from Montpellier to the TULBAGH WINERY (33° 15'09”S 19° 08'38”E), which is regarded by many as the prime spot in the district to look for LBJs. Frequently observed species include all the cisticolas of the region, CAPE CLAPPER LARK, LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, CAPE LONGCLAW, AFRICAN PIPIT, KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN, GREY-BACKED SPARROWLARK, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CAPPED WHEATEAR. Listen closely to the distinctive call of the ZITTING CISTICOLA during spring and early summer. The CAPE SPURFOWL is typically spotted along here and in the rest of the district. The JACKAL BUZZARD, BLUE CRANE, BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE, SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN and SECRETARYBIRD were all recorded along this road during a recent visit. A dam is reached at 33° 15'41”S 19° 07'46”E where waterbirds are seasonally abundant. A dam at 33° 15'35”S 19° 07'49”E is visibly noteworthy as it hosts extensive reed beds and regularly features an ample diversity of waterfowl. All three grebes and COMMON MOORHEN, AFRICAN SNIPE and AFRICAN PURPLE SWAMPHEN are often present and the trees should be carefully scanned for the secretive BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON. The reed beds support sound numbers of warblers, particularly in summer when the birds are charmingly vocal.
|Oudekloof Wine Estate|
|Montpellier wedding chapel (Images by Anton)|
Another gravel road starts at the Montpellier intersection and runs east towards the buildings of TULBAGH DRIED FRUIT at the access road between the R46 and the village. There are sizeable remnant patches of renosterveld along here and the road consistently produces a diversity of LBJs. The birds to look out for, however, are the threatened and endemic BLACK HARRIER that habitually quarter over the vegetation and the SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN. These two gravel roads further offer a convenient circle route using Tulbagh as base.
The splendid OUDEKLOOF WINE ESTATE (33°16'4"S 19°4'29"E) is found beyond Montpellier and offers marvellous accommodation from where fynbos, renosterveld and rocky mountain slopes can be explored. The diversity of species here is profound and the access road is deserving of particular interest. A dam at Montpellier recently produced the BROWN-HOODED, GIANT and MALACHITE KINGFISHERS and a variety of ducks. The BOKMAKIERIE, CAPE GRASSBIRD, BLACK HARRIER, CAPE SUGARBIRD, SECRETARYBIRD, CAPE SPURFOWL and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD were astonishingly all seen on the drive to Oudekloof and SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL and GREY-WINGED FRANCOLINS were found close to the farm buildings.
CONTACT DETAILS: Tel: +27 (0)82 440 9459 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.oudekloofwineestate.com
|Raptor Rise family cottage (Image by Anton)|
|Secretarybird (Image by Wilfred Crous)|
We were fortunate to enjoy a stay at RAPTOR RISE SELF-CATERING ACCOMMODATION (33° 15'33”S 19° 06'47”E) further along the Twee Jongegezellen Road. “Privately positioned at the foot of the farm is a fully equipped self-catering cottage complete with swimming pool and spectacular mountain views. (33° 14’59”S 19° 06’11”E). Nearer to the farmstead, but still enjoying the mountain views, are the recently converted stables which consist of four self-catering, en-suite rooms.” Most of the garden birds to be expected in the region are evident and the picturesque mountain slopes behind the buildings produced sightings of the JACKAL BUZZARD, VERREAUX'S EAGLE, FAMILIAR CHAT, ROCK KESTREL and CAPE ROCK-THRUSH. The BLUE CRANE, BLACK HARRIER and SECRETARYBIRD all extraordinarily flew past while we were sitting on the patio. This is an ideal spot to use as base to explore the multitude of excellent birding and other tourism delights that Tulbagh and the valley has to offer.
CONTACT DETAILS: Tel: +27 (0)72 555 3782 E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.raptorrise.co.za
|Pied Kingfisher (Image by Dawid Malan)|
|Cape Longclaw (Image by Carin Malan)|
Both the SARONSBERG (33° 14'41”S 19° 06'53”E) and TWEE JONGEGEZELLEN WINE ESTATES (33° 14'22”S 19° 06'46”E) are well known and celebrated for wine tasting, but do not underestimate birding opportunities in the well established gardens with old trees. The CAPE BATIS, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER and AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER, the latter being seasonal to summer, are all seen here regularly. The area around Twee Jonge Gezellen is deservingly best known for sightings of the LESSER HONEYGUIDES parasitising CARDINAL WOODPECKERS. Once one has passed through Twee Jongegezellen there is a section of road featuring rocky hills with thickets on the right hand side. Be on the lookout for the ACACIA PIED BARBET, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, FAIRY and FISCAL FLYCATCHERS and CHESTNUT-VENTED TIT-BABBLER. The many casuarina trees along here, which farmers use as windbreaks, should be studied for the often difficult to find CAPE SISKIN – yet another remarkable endemic species associated with fynbos habitats. Two dams are found to the left of the road as the road continues further towards the THEMIKA GUEST FARM (33° 29' 09”S 19° 18'58”E). Both of these can produce excellent waterbird viewing and photography when conditions are optimal.
CONTACT DETAILS: Tel: +27 (0)83 373 5818 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.themika.com
The Twee Jonggezellen Road is just one example of the dazzling myriad of bird-watching opportunities in the Tulbagh Valley with towering Boland Mountains creating a continual pleasing backdrop.
|Orange-breasted Sunbird (Images by Anton)|