Posted on the 22nd August 2009

Not many people have heard of the bird-watching potential in the Theewaterskloof municipal area.

Landscape along the Swartriver road

This municipality straddles the N2 between Elgin and Riviersonderend and members of BirdLife Overberg have in the past undertaken day outings to the open gardens show at Elgin and Grabouw, the van der Stel pass, and the Botanical Gardens and nature reserves at Caledon, Greyton and Villiersdorp. The Swartrivier road outside Botriver is a firm favorite for most of us and Anita de Jager recently recently posted a trip report on the Oudekraal road elsewhere on this website. Further to this atlassers participating in the SABAB2 project have recorded fantastic sightings in the region and there are still those mistery “buzzards” to sort out up in the Grabouw area. We have also presented Flight for Birders courses in Grabouw and Greyton and as a result of this we are now in the process of forming two BirdLife South Africa branches, namely BirdLife Groenlandberg and BirdLife Sonderend.

On 22 August members of BirdLife Overberg and BirdLife Walker Bay undertook a morning outing that took us via the Swartrivier road to the Botanical Gardens at Caledon and the nature reserve at Greyton.

Arum Lily

 Two birders from the proposed new satellite branch at Greyton joined us in Caledon and a good number of others joined us at Greyton, this despite cold, cloudy and generally miserable weather. The Swartrivier road once again proved to be a winner and we were able to have a field day trying to distinguish between the wealth of LBJ's to be found along this road. We saw vast flocks of Egyptian Geese and Blue Cranes and were fascinated to find a rather bedraggled looking Greater Stripe Swallow at this time of year. We will forward a photograph of this bird to Trevor Hardaker for comment. Birds seen included all four the cisticolas, two of the pipits and three of the larks that one expects to find in the area. As always we were excited about finding SA Shellduck, Capped Wheatear, African Stonechat and even Burchell's Coucal. We did not find regulars such as African Fish-Eagles, the two harriers and for that matter most of the raptors, Secetarybirds and Denham's Bustard, as we were in a bit of a hurry to meet up with the rest of the birders at the Caledon Botanical Gardens.

The garden at Caledon is one of the prime birding spots in the Western Cape – it offers water, fynbos, “riverine forest” and mountain habitats and therefore a great diversity of bird species. It is situated right on the N2 highway and represents an ideal birding stopover when traveling between Cape Town and the Garden Route. It is a great pity that these gardens are not open for the public over weekends, rather difficult to get little old ladies and “bedonnerde ou omies” over the locked gates.

Caledon's window

The blooming flowers in the reserve are currently awesome and this alone necessitates a visit. We have uploaded a photo gallery to wet the appetites – go to, then on the homepage select “Overberg Birding Routes”, go to “gallery” and select “Caledon and Greyton”. We delighted in watching Cape Sugarbirds, several Sunbirds such as Southern and Greater Double-collared, Malachite and Orange-breasted, Common and Swee Waxbills, Cape Bulbul and Sombre Greenbul, Cape Robin-Chats and very active weavers, white-eyes and thrushes. Some participants thought that they saw Verreaux's Eagles and Cape Rock-Thrushes in the area around “die Venster”, but fleeting glimpses did not allow for positive identification. This reserve is fantastic in summer and a great place to watch varieties of flycatchers, cuckoos, raptors and the vast majority of the so-called “fynbos specials”. And the landscapes, plants and flowers …................... One wonders if the growing interest in birds and birding in this region could not in future lead to a “Friends of the Caledon Botanical Gardens” type of organisation as this reserve could be utilised far more effectively as a top educational and recreational eco-tourism destination for the Overberg. And then the birders will naturally start flocking there. We will take this matter up with officials of the Theewaterskloof municipality and other role players.

Purple Heron

 The road between Caledon and Greyton is now rapidly approaching its full splendour of the famous yellow and green landscapes associated the Overberg wheatfields in spring. (See photo gallery). There were surprizing numbers of good birds to be seen along this road and this included many Blue Cranes, Spur-winged Geese, Pied Starlings, crows and ravens and Jackall Buzzards. The undoubted highlight however was seeing Purple Heron right out in the open on two seperate occasions.

The hamlet of Greyton, together with the adjacent Moravian mission station at Genadendal, must rate as the greatest birding surprise package in the Overberg. We unfortunately experienced very bad weather here and some of the locals

Cape Grassbird

even predicted that it would snow. We did take a casual stroll up towards the waterfall and had great fun studying the varying colorations of Red and Yellow Bishops moulting into breeding plumage. We also saw most of the fynbos specials described at Caledon, as well as Cape Grassbird. Previous visits to the village and the reserve produced Cape Siskin, African Black Duck, African Harrier Hawk and most of the other Sparrow-Hawks, Giant Kingfisher and Victorin's Warbler. Greyton also has a great reputation for flufftails. Throw in the well known Saturday morning market to the mix and a weekend birding visit to this region comes highly recommended.

It should be mentioned that a variety of great rural drives are also available in this area and maybe we will explore these shortly. These include the road between Greyton and Riviersonderend, the Krige circle route and the farmlands between Greyton and Villiersdorp. One wonders how many of these relatively unchartered birding hotspots there are still available in the Western Cape Province.


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