WEEKLY FEATURE 29: MITCHELLS PASS AND CERESPosted on the 19th July 2015
The charming town of Ceres is reached from Wolseley and Tulbagh by travelling through the stupendous MITCHELL’S PASS. This is yet another of the transcendent passes in the region and time should be spent admiring the Ceres Mountain Fynbos Reserve from any of the lay-bys or picnic spots. The parking area at 33° 22'55”S E19° 17'22”E offers a divine view of the waterfall and the CAPE BUNTING, BOOTED and VERREAUX'S EAGLE, ROCK KESTREL, CAPE ROCK-THRUSH and STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER are encountered regularly. In summer, one may expect to find large numbers of the common swallows, swifts and martins to be found in the region. The majority of fynbos associated species may be found here and records indicate that the PROTEA SEEDEATER, CAPE SUGARBIRD, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD and VICTORIN'S WARBLER, as well as the CAPE GRASSBIRD and MALACHITE and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRDS occur. Some reports of GROUND WOODPECKER sightings have been received.
Be certain to stop for a meal at DIE TOLHUIS restaurant and sample their traditional 'Boerekos'. Birding along the trails in the verdant gardens is marvellous. The arboraceous trail that leads to the railway line hosts the PROTEA SEEDEATER along the Protea-clad slopes. The BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON, CHESTNUT-VENTED TIT-BABBLER and SWEE WAXBILL, together with the AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER during summer, inhabit the dense bush around the Tolhuis.
|African Dusky Flycatcher|
The Ceres district consists of four diverse areas – each with its own unique charm and landscapes. The town is an ideal base to explore these areas through a variety of scenic drives. The WARM BOKKEVELD enclose Ceres and Prince Alfred’s Hamlet and is the centre of one of the richest agricultural regions of the Western Cape. BO-SWAARMOED is a distinctive farming area situated at the foot of the Matroosberg Mountains, which is famous for its cherry picking in season, snow during winter, proteas and breathtakingly panoramic views of the Ceres valley. KOUE BOKKEVELD features the cosy village of Op-die-Berg and is the heart of this highland fruit and vegetable producing area. The CERES KAROO is a spectacular semi-arid area, with endless horizons, which boasts unique indigenous animal and plant life. It is used to access the exceptional TANKWA-KAROO NATIONAL PARK.
Furthermore, Ceres may be used as a convenient base to travel circular routes, which allow access to the gorgeous mountain passes. Here, endemic bird species and other noteworthy birds associated with fynbos and Karoo habitats may be found. This description will initially focus on birding opportunities in the town itself. Thereafter, two striking, recommended circle routes from Ceres, that may be used to delve into the region, will be discussed. The first circle route traverses the worthwhile Swaarmoed Pass, Bo-Swaarmoed farming area, Droëhoek Road and Gydo Pass. The second circle route is substantially longer and mostly highlights the plentiful birding opportunities through the Ceres Karoo and Swartruggens Plateau. Some other thrilling destinations chronicled include the Theronsberg Pass, Karoopoort, R355 through the Tankwa Karoo, Tankwa Farm Stall, Katbakkies picnic site, Swartruggens Plateau and Gydo Pass. Finally, the birding delights of the Tankwa-Karoo National Park will be discussed in great detail.
Many locals rightfully regard the CERES GOLF CLUB (33°22'32”S 19° 18'13”E) at the entrance to Ceres from Mitchell's Pass as the prime birding hot spot in town. Leisurely walks around the course offer unforgettable views of the surrounding mountains, which together with the rugged hills, can produce a diversity of species. Most of the common garden birds found in the region are on display. Waterbirds observed include cormorants, several ducks, AFRICAN DARTER, LITTLE EGRET, HAMERKOP, GREY and PURPLE HERONS, GIANT KINGFISHER, COMMON MOORHEN and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON. Other exciting species found regularly include VERREAUX'S EAGLE, SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK, ROCK KESTREL, BROWN-HOODED KINGFISHER, BARN OWL and CAPE SPURFOWL. This is a top-notch area to test one's identification skills of tricky species as several of the region's LBJs are found as well as swallows, swifts and martins, which are abundant in summer.
CONTACT DETAILS: Tel: +27 (0)79 550 4515 or +27(0)23 312 3068 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.ceresgolfclub.co.za
The more adventurous birder should consider a rendezvous with CERES ZIPLINE ADVENTURES – the rugged mountain scenery is astounding and many excellent birds can be observed. The DEJA BREW COFFEE SHOP is situated next to the Ceres Zipline Adventure office at the entrance of the town (33° 22'32”S 19° 17'54”E). Enjoy a meal here, but scan the surrounding rocky outcrops as the CAPE BUNTING, FAMILIAR CHAT, BOOTED EAGLE, CAPE ROCK-THRUSH and even the GROUND WOODPECKER have been observed. However, the best spot to search for these species that are associated with mountainous habitats is certainly a trail that leads to the town's dam. It is found at the pine plantation behind the hospital. (33° 21'38”S 19° 17'53”E). Besides the species already mentioned , other reliable reports include the VERREAUX'S EAGLE, CAPE ROCK-JUMPER, SENTINEL ROCK-THRUSH, occasional PROTEA SEEDEATER and VICTORIN'S WARBLER.
The PINE FOREST HOLIDAY RESORT (entrance at 33° 21'59”S 19° 17'59”E) brings a completely different set of species to the fore and birding here comes highly recommended. A river gushes through it and there are many attractive dams and ponds featuring most of the region's waterbirds. Look particularly for the AFRICAN BLACK DUCK and the area is well known for its warblers. A recent, memorable outing produced the BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, LONG-BILLED CROMBEC, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON, GREATER and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRDS and CARDINAL WOODPECKER. The AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER is common in summer.
CONTACT DETAILS: Tel: +27 (0)23 316 1882 E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.pineforest.co.za
The CERES and PRINCE ALFRED HAMLET area offers an immoderate amount of accommodation establishments from luxury game reserves, a nature reserve, guesthouses, bed & breakfasts, a holiday resort, self-catering units, farm cottages to mountain & eco-huts, and camp sites. There are far too many to mention! Consult the link to 'ACCOMMODATION IN CERES' in the dropdown menu below. From a birding perspective, the region serves as a wonderful base to explore the circle routes that are now described.