Posted on the 14th August 2016

Our morning outing on Saturday once again caused great excitement. We planned to do the Swartrivier road and the Caledon Wildflower Garden. We were joined by the LaBelle family from Vermont, USA that read about the outing on our website. The decision was then taken to go and show them the VERMONT SALT PAN first. Most of the usual suspects were present and these included the MACCOA DUCK, GREATER FLAMINGO, CAPE SHOVELER and CAPE TEAL, with WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS and GREY HERONS being particularly numerous. Around the edges the CAPE BULBUL, LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA and COMMON WAXBILL were very active and vocal. The water level of the pan is currently very high thus not allowing for foraging space for waders. We only recorded 23 species at the pan.

African Olive-Pigeon
SA Shelduck  (Images by Dawid Malan)









From here we went to the KARWYDERSKRAAL ROAD. We finally put our two-way radios into play and this certainly is a welcome and very practical innovation. The fact that we could alert each other of species being present really helped a lot. Species seen along this section of the road included a group of at least six DENHAM'S BUSTARDS, JACKAL BUZZARD, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE, CAPE SPURFOWL and AFRICAN STONECHAT. Carin and Dawid were waiting for us at the metal bridge over the Bot River. The Bot River has overflown its banks and this created a huge influx of waterfowl. The WHITE-FACED and YELLOW-BILLED DUCKS, GIANT KINGFISHER, CAPE SHOVELER, DUCK AFRICAN SPOONBILL and CAPE TEAL were all recorded and a PEREGRINE FALCON passing overhead caused great excitement. The lush vegetation along the river further produced species such as the BOKMAKIERIE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, CAPE GRASSBIRD, SOMBRE GREENBUL, AFRICAN OLIVE- PIGEON and CAPE ROBIN-CHAT. An early arriving migrant in the form of a WHITE-THROATED SWALLOW surprised us all.

Yellow Canary
Brimstone Canary  (Images by Anton)












We made our way slowly up the SWARTRIVIER ROAD and spent a lot of time in areas where the farms were not overgrown with wheat and canola. This is LBJ heaven and we had a great time studying their various identification features. CAPE CANARIES were abundant, with BRIMSTONE and YELLOW CANARIES less so, but we were able to compare them properly. GREY-BACKED and ZITTING CISTICOLAS were found fairly easily, while the diminutive CLOUD CISTICOLA and NEDDICKY were only seen once. LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS were abundant and CAPE CLAPPER LARK was only seen a few times. The most numerous pipit was undoubtedly AFRICAN PIPIT, but we were delighted to find PLAIN-BACKED PIPIT very often. KAROO PRINIA, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CAPPED WHEATEAR were very common. This is probably the best area in the Western Cape Province where visitors can systematically observe and learn to identify the LBJs of the region and birding here is recommended strongly.

Grey-backed Cisticola
Zitting Cisticola (Images by Anton)












Large-billed Lark (Image by Anton)
African Pipit  (Image by Dawid Malan)









The highlight of the morning was undoubtedly when a pale juvenile BLACK SPARROWHAWK tried to catch an adult HELMETED GUINEAFOWL. It was unable to fly off with its catch and two PIED CROWS then mobbed the raptor and eventually drove it off over the hill. The guineafowl looked very groggy, but seemed to have survived its ordeal. We then enjoyed a light meal at the Gabrielskloof Wine Estate, while windy and stormy weather started moving in. It was decided not to go to Caledon and we returned slowly along the Swartrivier road. Many BLUE CRANES were seen, but the highlight was an immature MARTIAL EAGLE, again being mobbed by PIED CROWS. We also enjoyed hundreds of seedeaters at the farm at the intersection with the Karwyderkraal road. In total we were able to identify 93 species – not too shabby for a winter's morning, with only one migrant being present. We will again do this trip in summer and it will be interesting to compare numbers then.

Immature Martial Eagle
White-throated Swallow











Seedeaters aplenty (Images by Dawid Malan)








The Karwyderskraal and Swartrivier roads certainly offer the best Overberg wheatfield bird-watching in close proximity to Hermanus and Cape Town and should by included in the itinerary of all bird-watchers visiting the region. An added bonus along the Swartrivier road is the Gabrielskloof Wine Estate (34°14'19”S, 19°15'9”E) – an ideal venue to visit for tea, breakfast or lunch, and even some wine tasting.















(Images by Carin, Dawid & Anton)


DIANA PARKER (posted: 2016-08-14 17:47:24)
Hi Anton
Thanks for a super outing - I liked the radio contact to make me aware of birds I might myself not have observed, great idea. Really enjoyed it and you might have a potential new member, Vennesa!
I hope to make the meeting on Monday.
Best wishes
PETER LABELLE (posted: 2016-08-14 17:45:39)
Hello Anton!
I wanted to send an email to thank you for being so welcoming to my parents and I this morning on the bird walk. We enjoyed it immensely and saw some great birds. We\'re definitely planning to be at the Monday night dinner as well.
You mentioned some webpages about birding sites in the area that you could send us - we\'d certainly be interested in those.
Could you please forward them to us?
We look forward to seeing you and the other birders at the Monday night gathering.
Peter LaBelle