Birding Routes

THEEWATERSKLOOF BIRDING - INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS Show details

THE ENDEMIC AND OTHER SPECIAL BIRD SPECIES OF THE THEEWATERSKLOOF REGION Show details

BIRDING IN THE OVERBERG WHEATBELT IMPORTANT BIRD AND BIODIVERSITY AREA - INTRODUCTORY OVERVIEW Show details

THE SIR LOWRYS PASS SITE Show details

THE KOGELBERG BIOSPHERE RESERVE Show details

THE HIGHLANDS AND VALLEY ROADS LOOPS Show details

THE ELGIN/ GRABOUW COUNTRY CLUB & EIKENHOF DAM Show details

HOTTENTOTS HOLLAND NATURE RESERVE Show details

VILLIERSDORP Show details

THE THEEWATERSKLOOF DAM Show details

BOTRIVER VILLAGE AND VAN DER STEL PASS Show details

THE KARWYDERSKRAAL AND SWARTRIVIER ROADS Show details


The KARWYDERSKRAAL and SWARTRIVIER loop roads represent high quality wheatfield birding in close proximity to Hermanus and Cape Town. The description of species abundance is based on findings in SABAP2 (the bird atlasing project) report cards from the region. BLUE CRANES are abundant along these roads and very large flocks occur in winter. Photographic opportunities are excellent during breeding season in summer as pairs are regularly found with their chicks close to the roads. DENHAM'S BUSTARDS are present in good numbers and raptors to be found fairly regularly include the BLACK HARRIER, AFRICAN MARSH-HARRIER and even SECRETARYBIRD.

Common species in abundance include the CATTLE EGRET, COMMON FISCAL, HELMETED GUINEAFOWL, BLACK-HEADED HERON, BLACKSMITH LAPWING, AFRICAN STONECHAT, CAPE WAGTAIL and the endemic CAPE WEAVER. Common endemics or near-endemic species along these roads are the BOKMAKIERIE, CAPE CROW, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, and CAPE SPARROW. Others include the FORK-TAILED DRONGO and MALACHITE SUNBIRD. Endemics found less often are the CAPE BULBUL, CAPE SPURFOWL, PIED STARLING and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD.

The BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE is common and in summer expect to find good numbers of STEPPE BUZZARD and YELLOW-BILLED KITE. The MARTIAL and VERREAUX'S EAGLES and LANNER and PEREGRINE FALCONS are rare, but sometimes produce great photographic opportunities.

The KARWYDERSKRAAL ROAD can be reached from two points (34° 15'47”S 19° 10'54”E) and (34° 21'35”S 19° 08'35”E) along the R43. Caution is advised when stopping along this road – keep well left and be on the lookout for cyclists that often practise here. The landfill site at 34° 20'12”S 19° 09'27”E is of interest in that a diversity of birds can often be observed from the road with spotting scopes. Watch out for scavanging GREAT WHITE PELICANS, CAPE and PIED CROWS, and WHITE-NECKED RAVENS and good numbers of birds of prey. In summer YELLOW-BILLED KITES and WHITE STORKS are often present in large numbers, and vagrant AFRICAN OPENBILLS and MARABOU STORKS have even been photographed here in the past.

The CAPE GRASSBIRD and CAPE SUGARBIRD are regularly found in the remnant patches of fynbos found along this road that is dominated by agricultural activities. Only a few records of the CAPE SISKIN and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD have been recorded. Ensure that enough time is spent at bluegum trees at the farm at 34° 17'02”S 19° 11'09”E, as well as the single-lane metal bridge across the Bot River just thereafter. The rank exotic vegetation along the river sometimes produces the TAMBOURINE DOVE, and species that are found commonly include the KLAAS'S CUCKOO, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, SOMBRE GREENBUL, CAPE ROBIN-CHAT, GREY-HEADED SPARROW and OLIVE THRUSH. The DIDERICK and RED-CHESTED CUCKOOS are very vocal during summer months. The AFRICAN FISH-EAGLE and BLACK SPARROWHAWK breed here regularly and difficult to observe accipiters such as the AFRICAN GOSHAWK, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK and RUFOUS-CHESTED SPARROWHAWK have been recorded occasionally. Only a few records of the FOREST BUZZARD, BOOTED EAGLE and WESTERN OSPREY have been noted, but one can always try.

The Bot River often overflows its banks during wet spells and this creates a huge influx of waterfowl. The THREE-BANDED PLOVER and AFRICAN SPOONBILL, as well as the AFRICAN BLACK and WHITE-FACED DUCKS, SOUTH AFRICAN SHELDUCK, CAPE SHOVELER, CAPE and RED-BILLED TEALS are then particularly numerous. The HAMERKOP, AFRICAN SACRED IBIS, GIANT KINGFISHER, SPOTTED and WATER THICK-KNEES are common thoughout the year. LITTLE EGRET, GLOSSY IBIS, PIED KINGFISHER, KITTLITZ'S PLOVER, AFRICAN SNIPE and HOTTENTOT TEAL are recorded here rarely.

Vagrant Common Cuckoo (Image by CM)
White Stork  (Image by CM)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secretarybird  (Image by WC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swartrivier road (which starts at 34° 17'02”S 19° 11'09”E) is a gravel road that stretches between the farmstead on the Karwyderskraal road and the N2 by the Gabriëlskloof wine estate close to Botrivier town. This is a fairly quiet road and one can really bird at leisure. This affords locals the opportunity to compare the difficult LBJs of the region and visitors to get several of the region’s endemics. CAPE CANARY is abundant, with BRIMSTONE and YELLOW CANARIES less so. LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA is very common close to water, while GREY-BACKED and ZITTING CISTICOLAS can be found fairly easily while travelling towards the top of inclines. All three these species are very vocal during breeding season. Observant birders may find the diminutive CLOUD CISTICOLA at the top of hills. LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS are abundent along the Swartrivier road, with smaller numbers of CAPE CLAPPER LARK being present mostly at the top of inclines. The most numerous pipit is undoubtedly AFRICAN PIPIT, while PLAIN-BACKED PIPIT and CAPE LONGCLAW are fairly common. LONG-BILLED PIPIT occurs rarely. KAROO PRINIA, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CAPPED WHEATEAR are 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.

There are a few important spots along the Swartrivier road that needs attention when travelling from Karwyderskraal to the N2. There is a small dam to the right at 34° 16'52.20”S 19° 11'34.20”E. YELLOW-BILLED DUCK and EGYPTIAN and SPUR-WINGED GEESE are abundent and can often be observed with large clutches of ducklings. REED CORMORANTS and RED-KNOBBED COOTS are very common, with AFRICAN DARTER, WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANT, BURCHELL'S COUCAL, LITTLE GREBE and MALACHITE KINGFISHER available occasionally. Another small dam is found to the left a small distance further at 34° 16'37.53”S 19° 12'22.41”E and some interesting sightings are regularly found here. Ensure that slow birding is observed as this is of the best DENHAM'S BUSTARD, BLUE CRANE and LBJ habitat around. Namaqua Doves are also common during dry months.

Blue Crane  (Image by AO)
Denham's Bustards  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large-billed Lark  (Image by AO)
Grey-backed Cisticola  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A small bridge crosses a water course at 34° 15'55.50”S 19° 13'03.18”E. This general area produces large numbers of swallows, swifts and martins in summer, particularly early in the day. Vast numbers of BROWN-THROATED MARTINS, BARN, GREATER STRIPED and WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS and ALPINE and WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTS occur regularly. The ROCK MARTIN, BLACK SAWWING and AFRICAN BLACK and LITTLE SWIFTS are less numerous, but the impressive part of this spectacle is certainly the massive mixed flocks that occur. Also be on the lookout for far less common species such as the BANDED MARTIN, PEARL-BREASTED SWALLOW and COMMON SWIFT.

The hilly area that now follows should be investigated for some exciting species for this wheatfield dominated area. The JACKAL BUZZARD is very common and ROCK KESTREL is also seen fairly often. Study the rocks and cliff faces carefully as CAPE BUNTING, FAMILIAR CHAT, GREY-WINGED FRANCOLIN, CAPE ROCK-THRUSH and GROUND WOODPECKER are present, but in very small numbers. Look carefully as BARN OWL and SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL also sometimes roost among the rocks.

The low-water bridge over the Swartrivier at 34° 15'34.48”S 19° 13'28.72”E is certainly the highlight along this road. BLACK CRAKE, GREY HERON, COMMON MOORHEN and most of the region's ducks are numerous on the open water at the bridge. The extensive reed beds and vegetation along the river host SOUTHERN RED and YELLOW BISHOP, SOUTHERN MASKED-WEAVER, COMMON WAXBILLS, CAPE WHITE-EYE and PIN-TAILED WHYDAH. In summer expect to find AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER and COMMON QUAIL. Listen for the distinctive calls of AFRICAN REED-WARBLER (summer) and LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER. PURPLE HERON and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON are present, but are difficult to find due to their secretive behaviour. NEDDICKY and SWEE WAXBILL are scarce here. Also look for SOUTHERN BOUBOU, SPECKLED MOUSEBIRD, KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN, STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER and CHESTNUT-VENTED TIT-BABBLER in the thickets along the river.

Alpine Swift  (Image by CA)
White-throated Swallow  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vagrant Red-backed Shrike  (Image by AO)
Common Moorhen  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Swartrivier road is also very well known for vagrant species that are regularly recorded. AFRICAN and COMMON CUCKOOS, GOLIATH HERON, AFRICAN OPENBILL, EUROPEAN ROLLER, RED-BACKED SHRIKE, LESSER GREY SHRIKE and MARABOU STORK serve as examples in this regard. AFRICAN CROWNED EAGLES, probably from the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve near Heidelberg and CAPE VULTURES from the Potberg breeding colony are also seen occasionally.

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.

Restaurant Hours:
Wednesday to Monday: 9am to 5pm
Closed on Tuesdays
Tel: +27(0)28 284 9865
Email: info@gabrielskloof.co.za

(Note that there are links to more information, trip reports and the like below the photographs that may be used to further plan a visit to the area).

 

Swartrivier road in spring  (Image by AO)
Red-billed Teal  (Image by CM)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Levaillant's Cisticola  (Image by CM)
Cape Canary  (Image by CA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pied Starling  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CALEDON VILLAGE Show details

THE CALEDON WILD FLOWER GARDEN Show details

THE OUDEKRAAL ROAD AND TESSELAARSDAL Show details

THE R326 BETWEEN STANFORD AND RIVIERSONDEREND Show details

THE R406 TO GREYTON Show details

GREYTON VILLAGE AND NATURE RESERVE Show details

THE R406 BETWEEN GREYTON AND RIVIERSONDEREND Show details

BIRDING IN AND AROUND RIVIERSONDEREND Show details

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Show details