On our way we passed big groups of Sacred Ibis, White Pelicans and White Storks at the slaughterhouse near Voëlvlei Dam (Gouda). Of course there will also be the ever present White-necked Ravens and Yellow-billed Kites when there is a possibility of food! Arriving at 6pm at my Gydo Pass dammetjie, my first job was to use my secateurs and cut back the bramble. Whilst doing that I enjoyed the fresh ripe brambles!!!!!! Once the cleaning and opening up the rock pond was done we could stand back and watch the procession of birds coming in to drink and bath. Firstly the Cape Turtle Dove, then the Olive Thrush, followed by the Yellow Bishops. The Cape Robin-chats hid in the bramble until there was a gap in the procession and had a quick bath. The juv had a dry clean as most youngsters do! A drab male Malachite Sunbird also made and appearance, but the surprise and fist for the dammetjie was a juv male Swee Waxbill. Then the bird we had been waiting for arrived at 7pm, washed, drank and preened on one of the open twigs. Great sighting!
Next morning at 6am we departed from Ceres and climbed out of the valley to Therons Pass where the temp was 6C……BRRRRRRRR. No wonder there were no Clapper Larks around. The first stop was of course at Karoo Poort where it had warmed up somewhat. Karoo Scrub-robin, Familiar Chat and Mountain Wheatear came to inspect us, but better was to come. A group of Grey Tits called high up the mountain slope but they never moved down towards us unfortunately. A call similar to a Rock Hyrax caught my attention and I said “That is close”. And it was. A Ground Woodpecker was calling from a boulder next to the road and was later joined by its mate. Really a good bird to see at such close quarters. Our attention was now called by a Namaqua Warbler in the fragmites reeds in the dry riverbed. A little time was needed to have excellent views of it. Moving along the cliff face scrub, Layard’s Tit-babblers gave great views as did Long-billed Crombek.
At the Manor house breakfast was had under the poplar trees disturbed by Acacia Pied Barbet, Cape Bulbul, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler and Olive Thrush. The fruit on the fig trees attracted a number of birds and amongst the Red-winged Starlings, Pale-winged were seen. A noisy Canary calling from the fig trees drew our attention, a Streaky-headed Seedeater. Was this out of range or do they just call here when the figs are ripe? Red-faced and White-backed Mousebirds were of course also feeding on figs. Two large birds landed in the dry unploughed fallow field ….Hamerkop. We have seen them there before so I am sure they have a nest close by. Should ask the farmer sometime.
Once through Karoo Poort the Tanqua opened up to different birding. Karoo Lark was one of the first, followed by Karoo Chat, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk and a low flying pale phase Booted Eagle. A very accommodating Rufous-eared Warbler called from the side of the road. This was my badge and called for a closer view! It flew over the road and sat even longer and gave excellent photographic opportunities. The Inverdoorn dam was still very empty so we moved on to Eierkop or Perdekoppies as the maps say. Here the birding was interesting as it all seemed to be concentrated on the slopes of the hill. Cape Bunting, Karoo Chat, Trac-trac Chat, Dusky Sunbird (could not see what it was feeding on!) Grey and Penduline Tit, Large-billed Lark and number of Little, Black and Common Swifts were cruising low over the hill. It seems as if there may have been a few drops of rain on the hill lately. This proved to be correct as the vegetation thereafter till Skitterykloof turnoff was much greener, in fact there were 3 road wash aways from some thunder storm that they had had, gratefully this had already been repaired.
The Acacias in the riverbeds were in good leaf and many leaf gleaners were about. Cape White-eye, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Karoo Prinia were in the trees but White-throated Canary, Cape Sparrow and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds were enjoying the water left behind in the gullies, some of which was still running. Semi-deserts always have a few surprises! A lone male SA Shelduck was trying to look inconspicuous on a pan of rain water. Suspect that the female was breeding somewhere.
Down one of the side roads where there were no trees we encountered a number of Spike-healed Lark groups. Always fun to watch them chirping away whilst one of them stands guard on a low scrub. Back on the R355 we stopped off at another stand of Acacia Karoo in a gulley that also had some water. Here we looked for and found Pririt Batis, always great to see.
On our way into Skitterykloof we saw a Pipit on the Cliff-face which was not calling. We of course wanted it to be African Rock Pipit as they had not been seen here before. But after scoping it for some time and referring to a number of books it turned out to be Long-billed Pipit. Normally we only see it in the wheat fields. Good bird for the Tanqua. At the picnic site a Fairy Flycatcher entertained us and was close enough to see the pink blush to the breast. After a quick lunch we had to head back to Cape Town hoping to see some Karoo Korhaan, but no such luck.