BIRDING IN THE KLEIN KAROO - ANITA DE JAGER REPORTS
Posted on the 15th March 2016
BIRDING IN THE KLEIN KAROO
Recently Hugo and I spent a couple of days birding in the Ladismith and Calitzdorp areas at the end of February 2016.
Our first stop was at Koedoeskloof Country Lodge about nine kms from Ladismith. The Lodge is situated in the fertile and very beautiful Dwarsrivier Valley at the foothills of the Klein Swartberg Mountain range. Towerkop, the highest mountain peak in the area, towers majestically over this pristine agricultural heartland of export fruit and grapes. Birds are abundant. On a three km stroll along the dirt road beside the burbling Dwarsrivier I counted 30 species in less than two hours. The dam which is less than five minutes walk from the lodge offers a big variety of waterbirds. African Black Duck were a first sighting on the dam. Yellow-billed Duck, Red-billed Teal, White-backed Duck, South African Shelduck to name a few. Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot and Egyptian Geese are common. On the grassy banks Grey and Black-headed Herons are often seen foraging for food whilst on the overhead power lines a Giant Kingfisher will patiently wait for maybe a bite to eat. Sitting on the restaurant deck in the late afternoon a Hamerkop comes flying past accompanied by the faraway and haunting call of an African Fish-Eagle. As dusk settles over the valley Fiery-necked Night Jars start their sing-song. In the night the haunting call of a Spotted Eagle- Owl was prominent.
African Black Ducks
Early the next morning we were awakened by a chorus of Cape Turtle-Doves, Laughing Doves, African Hoopoes, Hadeda and Bokmakieries announcing the new day. Eagerly we set off to the Voorbaat Vallei and Van Zyl’s Damme just a short drive away. The mountainous and rugged scenery in Voorbaat is spectacular whilst a drive through the Van Zyl’s Damme agricultural and wetlands area is equally beautiful. Quaint little streams with low-water bridges, and abundance of many bird species found in the area is a recipe for pure tranquillity. Our highlight there was to watch an African Fish-Eagle soaring high in the cobalt blue Karoo sky.
Later in the day we took the always rewarding drive through Winkelplaas to the Buffelsdrift Conservation Area. On the dam at Winkelplaas we spotted a family of four African Darters on a dry tree with White-breasted Cormorants and Reed Cormorants keeping them company. On the opposite side a lone African Spoonbill was foraging for food. Again several species of duck were swimming around in circles. The Conservation area has many birding surprises. We were once surprised by an Western Osprey taking off in the reeds just ahead of us. All regional species of kingfishers have been seen previously, but they eluded us this time around. The area is a paradise for Warblers and Little Brown Job enthusiasts. Sunset again found us on the restaurant terrace sipping our sundowners and reminiscing over two days of exhilarating and very exciting birding.
Alas, on the morning of our departure to Matjiesvlei we were almost jolted out of our car seats on the road to Ladismith. Firstly a juvenile Booted Eagle on a lamp post and low and behold not one km further along a Forrest Buzzard on a dry tree stump!!!!!!
Matjiesvlei is beautiful holiday resort nestling in the foothills of the majestic Swartberg Mountain range. The turn-off from the R62 is about four kms before Calitzdorp. A seven km gravel road brings you to Matjiesvlei Cottages. Accommodation compromises a few extremely comfortable and immaculate cottages. Gardens are well tended and the surrounding area consists mainly of pastures and olive groves with the Klein River meandering through the valley below. The Picnic site on the banks of the Gamka River is a true birder's paradise. We almost dislocated our necks to identify all the birds that were flitting around in the trees. African Dusky Flycatcher, African Paradise-Flycatcher, European Bee-Eater and Cape Rock-Thrush!
Anton, sorry old chap. You can never resist setting almost unattainable boundaries - alas no Fairy Flycatchers or White-Throated Bee-Eaters magically made their presence known. A swim in the Gamka River was just the right medicine after a long hot day. Back at the ranch we lit a braai fire and from the wide veranda watched Common, Little and White-rumped Swifts, together with Pearl-Breasted Swallows soaring and diving high above. Later a spot of stargazing in a crystal clear Karoo sky. If you are searching for peace, tranquillity and bird spotting, Matjiesvlei comes highly recommended!
And then to finally put the seal on our Little Karoo round trip. Just as we were exiting the Tradouw Pass an Black Harrier perched high on a telephone pole to bid us a last farewell.
Anita de Jager
The Dwarsbar at Koedoeskloof Country Lodge - Image provided
The beautiful Dwarsrivier Valley with Towerkop in the background - Image Provided