I needed a break from the daily routine in Kleinmond. So we, my wife and daughter – now a budding birder, and I decided to visit Witsand for a few days. Leaving after midday was not a good idea for birding along the way. Even so our sightings included a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Jackal Buzzard, Western Cattle Egret, Pied Starling and a few doves.
We took the R324 just past Buffeljags to Witsand. I mistakenly thought this was a tarred road, but this gravel road was full of displaying LBJs as we headed south for 40+Km. We decided that getting there was a priority and that birding needed to wait until the next morning.
First thing the next morning was a walk along the beach and there we found a parcel of 20+ African Oystercatchers. A lone Grey Heron had patiently waited for low tide to wade through the pools in search of a meal while the Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gulls patrolled up and down the beach and the river’s edge. A lone Kittlitz’s Plover also enjoyed the rock pools during low tide.
This quaint town at the mouth of the Breede River is actually two villages, Witsand and Port Beaufort and the border between the two is clearly marked with signage. Witsand is marketed as THE nursery for the Southern Right Whales that annually go there to calf in San Sebastian Bay and we saw many. Port Beaufort is situated on the Breede River that can apparently be navigated for many kilometers in the direction of Malgas.
We drove a few Km’s out of town on the R322 and found a pan filled with water and lots of birdlife. There were South African Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Teal, Red-billed Teal, Spur-winged Goose, African Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Grebes, Little Stint, Eurasian Whimbrel and Common Greenshank.
Back in Witsand there were Yellow and Cape Canaries, African Hoopoe, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Bokmakierie, Cape Robin-Chat, Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Boubou and Crowned Lapwing. Driving down the main road a Rock Kestrel was taking a sand bath. Rock Martin, Greater Striped Swallow, White-throated Swallow and Little Swift were seen frequently. A Fiscal Flycather was building its nest in a 2m palm tree at a local restaurant.
A visit to the Lower Breede River Conservancy Trust office was worthwhile as they were helpful in finding the birding spots. The next day we took to the gravel roads. I have never seen so many Capped Wheatears – they were everywhere. On the road there were Namaqua Dove, Red-capped and Large-billed larks, Plain-backed and African pipits. Yellow and Southern Red bishops were in breeding colours. We spotted Karoo Korhaan in a field and while watching them we heard numerous Cape Clapper Larks doing their wing-clapping and drawn out whistle while parachuting to the ground.
The new Malgas ferry is not yet officially in operation, but while testing the public is ferried across. So we lunched at the Malgas Hotel. In that area a Pin-tailed Whydah performed and Sombre Greenbul, Cape Weaver and Rock Kestrel were present.
Returning to Witsand we found the Southern Black Korhaan and a family of Grey-winged Francolins. Highlights were the six Cape Vultures that soared past in a valley at eye-level like jumbo-jets coming in to land and a pair of Peregrine Falcons showing off. Yellow-Billed Kite and Common Buzzard were also spotted during our stay.
On the Swellendam – Infanta road we at last found an Agulhas Long-billed Lark. Closer to Swellendam we saw what looked like a breeding colony of Sacred African Ibis.
The birding trip to the Witsand area is definitely worth it.