Birding Routes

INTRODUCTION TO BIRDING ALONG THE CAPE WHALE COAST Show details

ENDEMIC BIRD SPECIES OF THE CAPE WHALE COAST REGION Show details

PELAGIC ENCOUNTERS FROM KLEINBAAI WITH MARINE DYNAMICS Show details

THE ROOIELS SITE - IN SEARCH OF THE CAPE ROCKJUMPER Show details

AFRICAN PENGUINS AND CORMORANTS AT STONY POINT Show details

THE HAROLD PORTER NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN Show details

BIRDING AT THE KOGELBERG BIOSPHERE RESERVE AND KLEINMOND Show details

BIRDING AT ROOISAND ALONG THE BOT RIVER ESTUARY Show details

BIRDING AT FISHERHAVEN & THE HAWSTON SEWAGE WORKS Show details

THE VERMONT SALT PAN Show details

BIRDING AT ONRUS AND HARDERBAAI Show details

BIRDING ALONG THE HEMEL & AARDE VALLEY AND ROTARY WAY SCENIC DRIVE Show details

BIRDING ALONG THE HERMANUS CLIFF PATH AND THE KLEIN RIVER ESTUARY Show details

THE FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE AT HERMANUS Show details

BIRDING IN AND AROUND STANFORD Show details

FROM STANFORD TO THE UILENKRAALS ESTUARY AND BEYOND Show details

THE DANGER POINT PENINSULA Show details

KLEINBAAI AND THE DYER ISLAND CONSERVATION TRUST Show details

THE UILENKRAALS VALLEY TO BAARDSKEERDERSBOS AND BEYOND Show details


The Uilenkraals Valley is reached by turning off the R43 between Stanford and Gansbaai towards Grootbos Private Nature Reserve at 34° 32'30.37”S 19° 24'12.39”E and continuing along the gravel road in an easterly direction. The first recommended birding site in the valley is the area around the river in the poplar plantation at WITKRANS (34° 33'28.58”S 19° 27'38.48”E). This is reached by turning off to FLOWER VALLEY at 34° 33'42.67”S 19° 27'17.67”E. This site is very popular in birding circles and has developed a reputation for delivering on woodpeckers as the CARDINAL, KNYSNA and OLIVE WOODPECKERS are all found here regularly. Also look out for the BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, KLAAS'S CUCKOO, LEMON DOVE, AFRICAN DUSKY and FISCAL FLYCATCHERS, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, SOMBRE GREENBUL and CAPE SPURFOWL. Witkrans is however best known for sightings of important target species not to be found easily in other parts of the Cape Whale Coast. Here species such as the OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, TAMBOURINE DOVE, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER and BUFF-SPOTTED and RED-CHESTED FLUFFTAILS serve as examples. These species are notoriously difficult to find as they are secretive – knowledge of their calls is essential in locating them. It is best to look for these birds at the first light of day, because the dawn chorus here can be spectacular. Also expect to find migrants such as the DIDERICK and RED-CHESTED CUCKOOS, SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER, BLACK SAWWING and BARN, GREATER STRIPED and PEARL-BREASTED SWALLOWS in summer. The area immediately around Witkrans is also very good for birding as there are good patches of Fynbos giving access to most of the endemic species associated with this habitat type.

BirdLife Overberg at Witkrans (2012)
BirdLife Overberg at Witkrans  (2016)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

African Dusky Flycatcher (Anton Odendal)
Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher  (Carin Malan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLATBOS (34° 34'03.81”S 19° 27'38.78”E) is a very short distance from Witkrans. It is a privately owned patch of indigenous forest and probably the best example of this habitat type along the entire Cape Whale Coast ¬ Africa's southernmost indigenous forest. Expect to find similar species as those described for Witkrans. Significant however that previous visits by members of BirdLife Overberg produced 'regional specials' such as the OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, TAMBOURINE DOVE, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER and BUFF-SPOTTED FLUFFTAIL. One visit further produced two bird parties – the one consisting mostly of CAPE BATISES and the other mostly of AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHERS. In both cases there were tens of these birds messing around in close proximity of the birders – a remarkable experience. The quality of birding and walking the various hiking trails in this truly enchanted forest is simply superb. A "Forest Information Sheet" supplies a wealth of knowledge about the forest ecosystem. Trees are labeled along the way to help one with identification. The most impressive feature of Platbos is that quality accommodation is available further enhancing the experience of this wonderful forest. Reservations are essential to avoid disappointment. Casual visitors are asked to phone ahead for reservations to enter. Exact directions to the forest will then be given.

Enquiries / Workshop bookings Tel: +27 (0)82 4110448
Email: info@platbos.co.za
A detailed advertorial regarding birding opportunities at Platbos is also available at one of the links below.

Dawn chorus birding at Platbos (BirdLife Overberg)
Birding at Platbos Forest (BirdLife Overberg)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birding along the gravel road running through the Uilenkraals Valley should not be underestimated. Endemic species recorded here regularly include the BOKMAKIERIE, CAPE BULBUL, BLUE CRANE, CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE SUGARBIRD and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD, together with the other sunbirds to be expected in the region. Other abundant species are the BAR-THROATED APALIS, ACACIA PIED BARBET, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, AFRICAN HOOPOE and AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON. This area is also known for sightings of the ever popular SOUTHERN TCHAGRA. Birds of prey common in the area include the JACKAL BUZZARD, VERREAUX'S EAGLE, AFRICAN GOSHAWK, BLACK HARRIER and ROCK KESTREL. Expect to find large numbers of STEPPE BUZZARDS and YELLOW-BILLED KITES during summer months. 

Jackal Buzzard (Carin Malan)
Verreaux's Eagle (Anton Odendal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A T-junction is reached at 34° 34'32.26”S 19° 28'07.78”E and here one can choose to travel to the Uilenkraals estuary and the Danger Point peninsula (described elsewhere). Alternatively one can travel east to BAARDSKEERDERSBOS (34° 35'20.12”S 19° 34'13.91”E), ELIM (34° 35'28.62”S 19° 45'34.45”E), the Agulhas National Park and the other top birding destinations of the Cape Agulhas region. Driving east from this spot is an excellent option as outstanding bird-watching opportunities are on offer. This newly resurfaced road, together with the circle routes around Papiesvlei (described elsewhere) and WOLVENGAT (34° 40'01.94”S 19° 41'49.94”E) are of the best in the Cape Whale Coast to find the interesting species normally associated with the Overberg Wheatbelt. See the detailed description of birding along the Overberg Wheatbelt and the species to look for in various habitat types elsewhere in this web page. This rambling country road thread its way through an ever-undulating tapestry of changing colours and hues. Waterbirds are abundant during wetter spells, but this is BLUE CRANE country. It is not uncommon to come across flocks of several hundred of these birds in winter with breeding pairs predominant in summer. One can also expect to find the DENHAM'S BUSTARD and BLACK HARRIER, while large numbers of WHITE STORKS, LESSER KESTRELS and STEPPE BUZZARDS occur in summer. The AMUR FALCON is also found occasionally. Watch out for the CAPPED WHEATEAR, CAPE CLAPPER LARK, AGULHAS LONG-BILLED LARK, LARGE-BILLED LARK and CAPE LONGCLAW and a variety of birds of prey. This is a very good area to practice one’s identification skills on “Little Brown Jobs” as all of the region’s larks, pipits and cisticolas are found - the beauty of this though is that this road can be traveled safely and at leisure.

Blue Crane (Craig Adam)
Cape Clapper Lark (Richard Masson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



A few excellent birding spots along this road deserve to be mentioned. A bridge over the Uilenkraals River is reached within a short distance at 34° 34'28.81”S 19° 28'29.55”E. A group of BirdLife Overberg members had very good birding experiences at this bridge during a previous summer. Several members were able to photograph an active CARDINAL WOODPECKER nest and were able to compare the identification features of the WHITE-THROATED CANARY and STEAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER. The same applied to the BRIMSTONE CANARY and YELLOW CANARY. Other species that allowed for good photographic opportunities included the BROWN-THROATED and ROCK MARTINS, AFRICAN OLIVE PIGEON and THREE-BANDED PLOVER. Summer migrants on show were the BLACK SAWWING and BARN, GREATER STRIPED, PEARL-BREASTED and WHITE-THROATED SWALLOWS.

FARM 215 NATURE RETREAT AND FYNBOS RESERVE is reached at 34° 34'30.11”S 19° 29'29.33”E. “Guides take one into the mountains and into the mountain catchment of the "Koueberge" in this 800 ha reserve with pristine Fynbos. Furthermore, the deep riverine valleys with indigenous forest and waterfalls host a huge diversity of bird species. Lunch can be arranged at the lodge of the retreat.”
Adress: Hartebeeskloof & Koudeberg, Baardskeerdersbos, Gansbaai
Tel +27 28 388 0920
Email: book@farm215.co.za

The road from Stanford (discussed elsewhere) connects with the road to Elim at a T-junction at 34° 34'57.63”S 19° 38'15.22”E. This general area is simply outstanding for waterbirds, particularly during wet spells. It is advised that ample time be spent in this area as birding can be superb. This is a known site where one can listen for the distinctive call of the COMMON QUAIL during summer months. The SANDBERG NATURE RESERVE is reached just before Elim. “Accredited field guide Gerard van Deventer takes you on a tour on this 900 ha fynbos reserve in the plains just before the Moravian mission village of Elim and in the Geelkop Nature Reserve near Elim, home to a very special and localised fynbos habitat: Elim Fynbos".
Tel: 028 482 1616
Email: proteapermaculture@webmail.co.za 

African Stonechat - Image by Jessie Walton
Grey-backed Cisticola - Image by Anton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CASE-STUDY: OUTING ON SATURDAY 7 DECEMBER 2019

This brief birding trip report on an outing by BirdLife Overberg members on 7 December 2019 is included here to illustrate the vast birding potential of the Cape Whale Coast region and surrounding areas.

Rian and Christo kindly offered to guide a group of us around various loop routes between Die Dam and Elim to the east of Gansbaai and west of Cape Agulhas. Some of these gravel roads are not in the Overstrand local municipal area as such, but can be reached comfortably on day or even morning outings investigating the Overberg wheatbelt region. We got together just after 07h00 armed with picnic baskets, radios and the usual birding paraphernalia. We were scheduled to get together at the Witkrans site at 08h00, but were held up badly by the stop-and-go system along the road works between Hermanus and Stanford – remember to add at least 30 minutes to your travelling schedules when driving along this road at this stage.

Riaan and Christo had already been birding for a while by the time we reached Witkrans (34° 33'28”S 19° 27'38”E). By then they had already identified some great species such as the DIDERICK and RED-CHESTED CUCKOOS, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED FLYCATCHER, AFRICAN PARADISE FLYCATCHER and CARDINAL and KNYSNA WOODPECKERS. The well wooded area was alive with birds and we rapidly added the BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, KLAAS'S CUCKOO, AFRICAN DUSKY and FISCAL FLYCATCHERS and SOMBRE GREENBUL and more. The area immediately around the forested thickets produced the JACKAL BUZZARD, BLACK SAWWING, BARN and GREATER STRIPED SWALLOWS and CAPE SUGARBIRD. This placed our count for the morning on 37 species – what a site!

The beautiful Witkrans site
Even at such a distance it is interesting to see a Southern Boubou right out in the open

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


On the way to the bridge over the Uilenkraals estuary we managed to add the BOKMAKIERIE and WHITE-NECKED RAVEN and most excitingly a SOUTHERN TCHAGRA flashed past the front of our vehicle. The Franskraal sewage works (34° 36'01”S 19° 24'37”E) just before the bridge is reached produced the GREY HERON, the two common ibises, AFRICAN SPOONBILL and WATER THICK-KNEE. The Uilenkraals River estuary had been breached recently and unfortunately the majority of hundreds of waders were too far away for us to identify and we did not have the time to walk such a distance. The immediate area around the bridge however produced species such as the LITTLE EGRET, PIED KINGFISHER, BLACKSMITH LAPWING, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, CASPIAN and SWIFT TERNS and WHITE-FRONTED PLOVERS, with LITTLE and WHITE-RUMPED SWIFTS patrolling the skies. (34° 36'09”S 19° 24'52”E) Further away we were able to spot GREATER FLAMINGOS, the COMMON GREENSHANK, COMMON RINGED PLOVER, CURLEW and MARSH SANDPIPERS, COMMON and SANDWICH TERNS and COMMON WHIMBREL. This left us on 64 species by 09h30 – not too shabby.

We then moved fairly rapidly east past PEARLY BEACH until we reached the turnoff to DIE DAM. (34° 45'07”S 19° 41'17”E) From here we turned inland to explore some of the wonderful rural gravel roads where Overberg wheatbelt birding is simply breathtaking. (Refer to the detailed description of birding along the Overberg Wheatbelt Important Bird and Biodiversity Area at a link in the dropdown menu below). Of the best rural landscapes are available along the initial stretch of the road and this alone makes investigating this area worth one’s while. We started adding common endemic species to our list and these included the CAPE BULBUL, CAPE CANARY, KAROO PRINIA, PIED STARLING and CAPE WEAVER. Birds of prey also started coming into play with the COMMON BUZZARD and BLACK-WINGED and YELLOW-BILLED KITES being spotted in quick succession.

Large-billed Lark - Image by Anton
Capped Wheatear - Image by Jessie Walton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



The highlight of the day was undoubtedly an adult barred EUROPEAN HONEY BUZZARD, with the two dark bars and the broad dark tip to the tail being clearly visible when it took to flight. The smallish pigeon-like head was also prominent when the bird perched. The numbers of BLUE CRANES were picking up by now and Tristan spotted an awesome male DENHAM’S BUSTARD strutting its stuff in the distance. While we were watching this magnificent specimen I heard the distinctive frog-like ‘ONE, two, three, ONE, two, three’ calls of COMMON QUAILS – such a pity that these birds are usually not to be seen. This is always a wonderful species to locate during summer months.

From Wolvengat (34° 40'15”S 19° 41'58”E) we travelled east until we enjoyed something to eat beneath some blue gums. (34° 40'38”S 19° 44'41”E) The next section of gravel road takes one to the Rietfontein cottages in the Agulhas National Park and we travelled some distance along it before returning. This road seemed like LBJ heaven as we started spotting several cisticolas, the LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, CAPE LONGCLAW, AFRICAN and PLAIN-BACKED PIPITS, AFRICAN STONECHAT and CAPPED WHEATEAR. The star attractions however were displaying CAPE CLAPPER LARKS and the area’s mega sighting, the AGULHAS LONG-BILLED LARKS. These hugely sought-after endemics were often foraging in or along the road making for great excitement with the birds being lifers for some of our party. An immature BLACK HARRIER flying along the horizon at a rate of knots also created quite a stir. We found a single BLUE CRANE standing in a field and thought that this was rather odd. Sadly, we then discovered its mate killed after colliding with a farm fence. Ernst Retief is currently doing research on birds colliding or being killed on farm fences – always remember to report such incidents, together GPS reference points at ernst.retief@birdlife.org.za

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wind was picking up and the skies were clouding over, with the result that we decided to make a beeline for the ZOETENDAL WINE ESTATE (34° 36'03”S 19° 47'27”E) outside ELIM where we enjoyed lunch and a really excellent pink wine with lots of chat and banter about some special birds seen. The restaurant overlooks the Nuwejaarsrivier and the bird hide – a really promising birding destination. We were very pleased to add both the AFRICAN FISH EAGLE and AFRICAN MARSH HARRIER from the stoep. YELLOW-BILLED DUCKS also showed prominently. The irony of the day was that we only managed to find three really common species for the first time at this late stage of the day: CAPE ROBIN CHAT, STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER and HOUSE SPARROW.

View from the Zoetendal Winery restaurant
White-rumped Swift - Image by Carin Malan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In the end we managed to log 112 species – the complete list is available from us. Most excitingly a rough count shows that 30 of these birds are endemic or near-endemic, with 19 migrants having been logged. We will be back and already there is talk of a possible weekend outing to this area to include a visit to De Mond Nature Reserve. This was a memorable outing once again illustrating the vast bird-watching potential of the Overberg region. Need one say more?

(Besides thanking Riaan and Christo very much for guiding us along a few of their favourite back roads).

Anton

(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).

Pearl-breasted Swallows (Anton Odendal)
White-throated Swallow (Richard Masson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 1: KARWYDERSKRAAL AND SWART RIVER ROADS Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 2: THE OUDEKRAAL ROAD Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 3: THE PAPIESVLEI AREA Show details

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Show details