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 IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE DYER ISLAND CONSERVATION TRUST Show details

THE ROOIELS SITE - IN SEARCH OF THE CAPE ROCK-JUMPER Show details

AFRICAN PENGUINS AND CORMORANTS AT STONY POINT Show details

THE HAROLD PORTER NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDENS 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 PATHS 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

DYER ISLAND AND SURROUNDS Show details

THE UILENKRAALS VALLEY TO BAARDSKEERDERSBOS AND BEYOND Show details

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


THE SWART RIVER AND KARWYDERSKRAAL ROADS 
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 between Botriver village and Hermanus. Caution is advised when stopping along this road – keep well left and be on the lookout for cyclists that often practice 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 scavenging 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 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 blue gum 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 KARWYDERSKRAAL and SWART RIVER 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 atlas 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.
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 throughout the year. The LITTLE EGRET, GLOSSY IBIS, PIED KINGFISHER, KITTLITZ'S PLOVER, AFRICAN SNIPE and HOTTENTOT TEAL are recorded here rarely.

White Stork  (Carin Malan)
European Cuckoo  (Carin Malan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secretarybird  (Wilfred Crous)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swart River 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 abundant along the Swartrivier road, with smaller numbers of CAPE CLAPPER LARK being present. 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 Swart River 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 abundant and can often be observed with large clutches of ducklings. The REED CORMORANT and RED-KNOBBED COOT are very common, with the AFRICAN DARTER, WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANT, 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. The NAMAQUA DOVE is also common during dry months.

Blue Crane  (Anton Odendal)

 

Denham's Bustards  (Anton Odendal)

 

 

 

 

 

Large-billed Lark  (Anton Odendal)

 

Grey-backed Cisticola  (Anton Odendal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 in 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 the CAPE BUNTING, FAMILIAR CHAT, GREY-WINGED FRANCOLIN, CAPE ROCK-THRUSH and GROUND WOODPECKER are present, but in very small numbers. Look carefully as the SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL also sometimes roost among the rocks. The BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE is common and in summer expect to find good numbers of STEPPE BUZZARDS and YELLOW-BILLED KITES. The MARTIAL and VERREAUX'S EAGLES and LANNER and PEREGRINE FALCONS are rare, but sometimes produce great photographic opportunities.

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. The 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 the SOUTHERN RED and YELLOW BISHOP, SOUTHERN MASKED-WEAVER, COMMON WAXBILLS, CAPE WHITE-EYE and PIN-TAILED WHYDAH. In summer expect to find the AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHER and COMMON QUAIL. Listen for the distinctive calls of the AFRICAN REED-WARBLER (summer) and LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER. The PURPLE HERON and BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON are present, but are difficult to find due to their secretive behaviour. The NEDDICKY and SWEE WAXBILL are scarce here. Also look for the SOUTHERN BOUBOU, SPECKLED MOUSEBIRD, KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN, STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER and CHESTNUT-VENTED TIT-BABBLER in the thickets along the river.

Alpine Swift  (Craig Adam)

 

White-throated Swallow  (Anton Odendal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vagrant Red-backed Shrike (Anton Odendal)

 

Common Moorhen  (Anton Odendal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Swart River road is also very well known for vagrant species that are regularly recorded. The 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 Swart River 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 Swart River road is the Gabriëlskloof 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).

Typical Swart River Road landscape in spring
Red-billed Teal  (Carin Malan)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Levaillant's Cisticola  (Carin Malan)
Pied Starling  (Anton Odendal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 2: THE OUDEKRAAL ROAD Show details

WHEATBELT BIRDING CIRCLE ROUTE 3: THE PAPIESVLEI AREA Show details

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Show details