Birding Routes

BIRDING IN THE WITZENBERG REGION - INTRODUCTORY COMMENTS Show details

THE ENDEMIC AND OTHER SPECIAL SPECIES OF THE WITZENBERG REGION Show details

THE MOUNTAIN PASSES OF THE WITZENBERG REGION Show details

THE TULBAGH REGION 1 - GENERAL INTRODUCTION Show details

THE TULBAGH REGION 2 - THE TWEE JONGEGEZELLEN ROAD Show details

THE TULBAGH REGION 3 - THE THEUNISKRAAL ROAD Show details

THE TULBAGH REGION 4 - THE ROAD TO WOLSELEY Show details

BAINSKLOOF PASS AND BERGSIG WINE ESTATE Show details

BERGSIG WINE ESTATE TO WOLSELEY - AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE Show details

WOLSELEY AND MICHELLS PASS Show details

BIRDING IN CERES Show details

CIRCLE ROUTES FROM CERES 1 - CERES TO KAROOPOORT Show details

CIRCLE ROUTES FROM CERES 1 - KAROOPOORT TO TANKWA FARM STALL Show details

CIRCLE ROUTES FROM CERES 1 - KATBAKKIES TO OP-DIE-BERG Show details

CIRCLE ROUTES FROM CERES 1 - OP-DIE-BERG TO CERES Show details

CIRCLE ROUTES FROM CERES 2 - SWAARMOED PASS & BO-SWAARMOED FARMING AREA Show details

CIRCLE ROUTE FROM CERES 2 CONTINUED - THE DROEHOEK ROAD TO GYDO PASS Show details


Turn left towards Droëhoek at the summit of the Theronsberg Pass (33° 15'35”S 19° 32'05”E). The first section offers engrossing farmlands and pastures where BLUE CRANES, the BLACK-HEADED HERON and SOUTH AFRICAN SHELDUCK are often numerous. Ensure that the Karoo brush along the road verges is scrutinised as a hefty variety of smaller birds are frequently present. The BOKMAKIERIE, BRIMSTONE, CAPE and YELLOW CANARIES, LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, AFRICAN PIPIT, KAR00 SCRUB-ROBIN, CAPE SPARROW, AFRICAN STONECHAT, CAPE WEAVER and CAPPED WHEATEAR are just some of the species that are common along the road. The turn-off to MARINO FARM ACCOMMODATION is reached after a short distance. (33° 14'57”S 19° 32'00”E). Activities on the farm include mountain biking, swimming in the farm dam, birding and a range of accommodation options are available. It can further be used as base to indulge in the top birding destinations that the region has to offer, such as the Droëhoek area, Karoopoort, the Ceres Karoo and the Tankwa-Karoo National Park. This destination may additionally be used as base to explore the top birding destinations that the region has to offer, such as the Swaarmoed circle route, Karoopoort, the Ceres Karoo and the Tankwa-Karoo National Park.
CONTACTS: Tel: +27 (0)23 312 2596 or +27 (0)82 951 2140 E-mail: merinogtg@breede.co.za
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Matroosberg in the distance  (Image by AO)
Cranes in field at Merino  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Grebe  (Image by CM)
Black-headed Heron (Image by CN)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A T-junction is reached a short distance after Merino Farm Accommodation, where a left turn is taken towards Op-die-Berg. (33° 13'33”S 19° 31'56”E). Spend a while at the dam on the left immediately after the T-junction. This dam may hold immeasurable numbers of waterbirds, particularly during spring and early summer when water levels are high. The SOUTH AFRICAN SHELDUCK, CAPE SHOVELER and AFRICAN SPOONBILL are seen often and other ducks may include MACCOA, WHITE-BACKED and WHITE-FACED DUCKS, as well as the SOUTHERN POCHARD. A stream is crossed at 33° 12' 22”S 19° 30'43”E. The MALACHITE SUNBIRDS and COMMON WAXBILLS are present in impressive numbers and the reed beds house the BLACK CRAKE, GREY and PURPLE HERONS, COMMON MOORHEN, LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER, LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER and AFRICAN REED-WARBLER in summer. Inspect the rocky outcrops surrounding the stream for the JACKAL BUZZARD, CAPE BUNTING, FAMILIAR CHAT, GREY-WINGED FRANCOLIN and CAPE ROCK-THRUSH. 

One of the highlights along the Droëhoek road is undoubtedly the area surrounding the dam, which is reached at 33° 11'49”S 19° 29'30”E. Initially spend some time scanning the water and its edges, as scores of waterfowl are often present. Then drive over the incline to reach the turn-off to Baviaanshoek and Meulenhof. (33° 11'39”S 19° 29'06”E). It is suggested that at least an hour is spent in the first three km after the Baviaanshoek turn-off. The dam wall can be seen to the right some 100 meters away, but the hilly rock formations interspersed with mature stands of fynbos, proteas and many 'wabome' create a true Western Cape wonderland – a bird-watcher's paradise. On a recent visit most of the region's canaries, chats and sunbirds, including the MOUNTAIN WHEATEAR and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD were seen. The JACKAL BUZZARD, VERREAUX'S EAGLE, CAPE SISKIN, CAPE SUGARBIRD and GROUND WOODPECKER were also quite active and the area holds the highest density of KLIPSPRINGERS ever seen. This initial section of the Baviaanshoek road until the hilly terrain ends hosts assorted fynbos habitat types. Therefore, we would not be surprised if the HOTTENTOT-BUTTONQUAIL, CAPE ROCK-JUMPER, PROTEA SEEDEATER and VICTORIN'S WARBLER, as well as the BOOTED EAGLE also all occur here. This is probably one of the best examples of a relatively pristine mountain fynbos area in the Western Cape.

The BAVIAANSHOEK ROAD ambles mostly west through eye-catching, mountainous terrain, but passes through a multiplicity of habitat types to eventually reach the R355 close to the INVERDOORN DAM in the Ceres Karoo. Several streams and dams are passed through alluring areas, which range from mountain fynbos to grass and farmland. A summary of some species seen along here (including those mentioned above) clearly illustrates the potential of the area: GREY-BACKED CISTICOLA, BLUE CRANE, LANNER FALCON, SOUTHERN PALE CHANTING GOSHAWK, BLACK HARRIER, BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE, CAPE CLAPPER, LARGE-BILLED and RED-CAPPED LARKS, CAPE LONGCLAW, WHITE-NECKED RAVEN, PIED STARLING, RED-BILLED TEAL and WATER THICK-KNEE. It is recommended that this road be considered as an alternative circle route incorporating KAROOPOORT and the THERONSBERG PASS before returning to CERES.
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'Wabome' near Witklippies  (Image by AO)
Dam near Witklippies  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk  (Image by RM)
Black Harrier  (Image by CM)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-throated Canary  (Image by LA)
Yellow Canary  (Image by RJ)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This description now returns to the Droëhoek Road to cover the area between the Baviaanshoek turn-off and Ceres. WITKLIPPIES (33° 11'33”S 19° 28'36”E) is reached almost immediately and special attention should be given to the typical species normally associated with farmyards and large trees. The CAPE BULBUL, CAPE CANARY, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE SPURFOWL and CAPE WHITE-EYE serve as examples in this regard. A dam is reached at 33° 10'56”S 19° 26'24”E and it features most of the waterbirds discussed earlier. Scrub at a dry riverbed at 33° 10'35”S 19° 25'29”E deserves scrupulous attention – expect to find species such as the ACACIA PIED BARBET, LONG-BILLED CROMBEC, FAIRY FLYCATCHER, KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN, GREY TIT and CHESTNUT-VENTED TIT-BABBLER. Yet another promising dam is reached at DRIEFONTEIN FARM at 33° 10'25”S 19° 24'55”E. The descent from Driefontein to the infinite fruit farms of the Koue Bokkeveld again features rocky outcrops with significant potential of finding the typical species associated with this habitat type. There are, unfortunately, very few safe areas to park along here, with the result that caution is advised. The R303 between Op-die-Berg and Ceres is reached at 33° 11'04”S 19° 19'51”E.

A rewarding detour down the Witzenberg Valley may be considered before the return to Ceres, even if this is only to travel down this exquisite winding road and back. The Witzenberg Valley road turns off at 33° 13'20”S 19° 19'23”E. Travel slowly down this jagged mountain pass as the twisting road may produce marvellous bird-watching. The CAPE BUNTING, CAPE and WHITE-THROATED CANARIES, CAPE and SENTINEL ROCK-THRUSHES, CAPE SUGARBIRD, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD, MOUNTAIN WHEATEAR and GROUND WOODPECKER are common. The CAPE ROCK-JUMPER is one of the main attractions near the upper reaches of this pass and the scattered rocks should be scrutinised for this tricky to spot bird. The fynbos dominated seeps and streams towards the lower end of this snaking road is brilliant for the CAPE GRASSBIRD and VICTORIN'S WARBLER. Keep an eye on the skies for raptors such as the JACKAL BUZZARD, BOOTED and VERREAUX'S EAGLES and ROCK KESTREL as these often soar along the cliffs and rocks. 

The GYDO PASS takes visitors from the Koue Bokkeveld down to Prince Alfred Hamlet and Ceres. The pass was originally built by Andrew Geddes Bain in 1848 to connect the so-called Warm Bokkeveld with the Koue Bokkeveld. There are quite a few picnic spots and view points along the pass where bird-watching may be very rewarding. The view over the Ceres Valley is simply beyond description. It is, however, recommended that considerable time is spent at the main picnic area at 33° 14'01”S 19° 19'58”E. Many of the endemic species associated with fynbos habitats are to be found along the pass with the CAPE SUGARBIRD and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD being quite common when the Proteas are blooming. The MALACHITE and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRDS are particularly numerous. This is probably one of the best spots in the region to look for the elusive PROTEA SEEDEATER – the 'wabome' along the higher slopes of the pass should be surveyed for this species. The rocky outcrops and cliffs should be investigated for the CAPE BUNTING, ROCK MARTIN, WHITE-NECKED RAVEN, CAPE ROCK-THRUSH, MOUNTAIN WHEATEAR and GROUND WOODPECKER. Other sought-after species include the CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE SISKIN and SENTINEL ROCK-THRUSH. Birds of prey regularly encountered are the JACKAL BUZZARD, ROCK KESTREL, BOOTED and VERREAUX'S EAGLES, with the YELLOW-BILLED KITE and STEPPE BUZZARD being common in summer.
This circle route can be done in three hours, but it is suggested that at least a day be set aside to explore the stunning diversity of species available.
(Note that there are links to further information, trip reports and the like below the photographs that may be used to further plan a visit to the area).

Mating Verreaux's Eagles (Image by JW)
Steppe Buzzard  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long-billed Crombec  (Image by AO)
Karoo Scrub-Robin  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TANKWA-KAROO NATIONAL PARK - THE P2250 GRAVEL ROAD Show details

THE TANKWA KAROO NATIONAL PARK 2 - OUDEBAASKRAAL AND SURROUNDS Show details

THE TANKWA KAROO NATIONAL PARK 3 - THE INTERIOR ROADS AND ACCOMMODATION Show details

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Show details