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


The inviting KATBAKKIES PICNIC SITE is reached at the turn-off along the R335 to the Skitterykloof and Katbakkies Passes when travelling west to Op-die-Berg (32° 53'27.96”S 19° 46'09.90”E). This is 35 km after the Karoopoort picnic site. The picnic site, otherwise known as ‘Peerboomskloof’ or ‘Skitterykloof', is a short distance up the pass at S32° 53'58.26” E19° 33'29.12”. It is best known for sightings of the immensely popular CINNAMON-BREASTED WARBLER, but this bird is notoriously difficult to find due to its shy and secretive behaviour. It is best to acquaint oneself with its call, as it is otherwise almost impossible to find. Look for it on the rocky slopes along the pass. However, the picnic site offers much more as the acacia thickets are normally alive with birds. Species to look out for include the PRIRIT BATIS, FAIRY FLYCATCHER, KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN, GREY TIT, LAYARD'S TIT-BABBLER, MOUNTAIN WHEATEAR and sometimes even the GROUND WOODPECKER. Other interesting birds are the ACACIA PIED BARBET, CAPE BUNTING, WHITE-THROATED CANARY, YELLOW-BELLIED EREMOMELA and WHITE-BACKED MOUSEBIRD. 

The ROCK KESTREL, ROCK MARTIN and WHITE-NECKED RAVEN nest in the cliff face during spring. At this time of year, the DUSKY and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRDS are plentiful as the aloes (Aloe comosa) are still flowering. Other birds attracted to this bounty are the CAPE BULBUL, STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER, PALE-WINGED STARLING, MALACHITE SUNBIRD and CAPE WEAVER. The CAPE SPURFOWL is common and BLACK-HEADED CANARY and GREY-BACKED SPARROWLARK are seen occasionally. Raptors found regularly include the BOOTED and VERREAUX'S EAGLES, LANNER FALCON, SOUTHERN PALE CHANTING GOSHAWK and ROCK KESTREL, with the SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL and BLACK HARRIER seen less frequently. 

The sightly, small dam adjacent to the picnic spot holds the RED-KNOBBED COOT, YELLOW-BILLED DUCK, COMMON MOORHEN and SOUTH AFRICAN SHELDUCK. The THREE-BANDED PLOVER is pleasantly common, while the reed beds host the SOUTHERN RED BISHOP, LEVAILLANT'S CISTICOLA, LESSER SWAMP-WARBLER, COMMON WAXBILL, LITTLE RUSH-WARBLER and AFRICAN REED-WARBLER in summer. The BAR-THROATED APALIS, BOKMAKIERIE, KAROO PRINIA, SOUTHERN MASKED-WEAVER and CAPE ROBIN-CHAT are also common in this general area. 
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Cinnamon-breasted Warbler  (Image by RM)
Rock Kestrel  (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-necked Raven  (Image by CN)
Lesser Swamp-Warbler (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



From the Katbakkies picnic site, one travels via Katbakkies Pass and Skitterykloof to the stupendous Swartruggens plateau and Op-die-Berg. This is at the southern end of the Cederberg Wilderness and is approximately 200 m higher than the Tankwa Karoo. The vegetation is dominated by Karoo scrub. The rugged mountain scenery, however, does produce ravishing bird sightings: this is a hotbed of endemism and LBJ country. This is one of the closest regions to Cape Town where arid Karoo species may be found. The best time of year to visit the area is between August and late October when the veld bursts into colour and breeding birds are most active.

Enough time is needed to travel slowly along this road to fully appreciate the scenery as well as to get to grips with the diversity of species and identification problems created by the staggering numbers of LBJs in the area. Larks that are well represented include the LARGE-BILLED, RED-CAPPED and SPIKE-HEELED LARKS. The CAPE CLAPPER LARKS are particularly numerous and their entrancing display flights and calls during spring are something to behold. The same applies to KAROO LARKS. The LBJ identification drama is compounded by the presence of several chat species. The FAMILIAR, KAROO and SICKLE-WINGED CHATS are all available, with TRACTRAC CHAT being present in surprisingly generous numbers.

Other species that are relatively drably coloured may include the GREY-BACKED CISTICOLA, CHAT FLYCATCHER, LONG-BILLED PIPIT, KAROO PRINIA and KAROO SCRUB-ROBIN. On the more visually appealing side, expect to find compelling numbers of BLACK-HEADED and YELLOW CANARIES, with the DAMARA CANARY being present occasionally. The Swartruggens plateau is widely regarded as one of the prime areas for sightings of the CAPE SISKIN. The RUFOUS-EARED WARBLER represents yet another exceptional highlight along this road. There are, unfortunately, very few acacia-clad water courses and appropriate time should be spent along the crossing of the Rietrivier (32° 53'57.83"S 19° 32'20.14"E). Be sure to catch a glimpse of the LONG-BILLED CROMBEC, FAIRY FLYCATCHER, WHITE-BACKED MOUSEBIRD, CAPE PENDULINE TIT, DUSKY SUNBIRD, GREY TIT and CHESTNUT-VENTED TIT-BABBLER in this general area.

Rocky outcrops at higher altitudes often host an entirely different, enticing selection of species. The CAPE BUNTING, LAYARD'S TIT-BABBLER, MOUNTAIN WHEATEAR, in all its colour variations, and GROUND WOODPECKER are all common. The area even boasts occasional sightings of the CAPE ROCK-JUMPER. Birds of prey that are recorded regularly are the JACKAL BUZZARD, BOOTED and VERREAUX'S EAGLES and ROCK KESTREL, with the MARTIAL EAGLE, GREATER KESTREL and BLACK-CHESTED SNAKE-EAGLE being seen less frequently .

Other common yet superb endemic or near endemic species in the area are the BOKMAKIERIE, CAPE BULBUL, WHITE-THROATED CANARY, CAPE SPARROW, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, COMMON WAXBILL, CAPE WEAVER and CAPE WHITE-EYE. The SOUTHERN BLACK KORHAAN is another unusual bird to be found with relative ease. At night, expect to find the BARN OWL and SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, but listen carefully for the pronounced dog-like bark of FRECKLED NIGHTJAR. Finally, the Swartruggens area is probably best known for sightings of the ever evasive CAPE EAGLE-OWL. Rocky outcrops should be scrutinised for this very special bird.
 (The text continues below these photographs).

Jackal Buzzard  (Image by CM)
Spotted Eagle-Owl  (Image by CA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Familiar Chat  (Image by AO)
Dusky Sunbird  (Image by MG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four accommodation establishments along the Swartruggens Road, between the Tankwa Karoo and Op-die-Berg, offer bird-watchers fascinating opportunities to explore the birding joys of the region and the Tankwa Karoo itself. The turn-off to the SHAMBALLA SANCTUARY is situated between the R355 and the Katbakkies picnic site at 33° 07'34.3"S 19°45'55.0"E. This 1,200 hectares facility along the Ceres (or Tankwa) Karoo offers Succulent Karoo flora at its best with most of the endemic and special bird species associated with it. The vistas over the Roggeveld Mountains to the east and the Swartruggens range to the west are truly captivating – a fine choice to use as a base to transverse the Tankwa-Karoo National Park and beyond.

Mount Ceder is found on the main route through the Cederberg Mountain range and represents a perfect weekend and holiday destination . It offers visitors a host of exciting accommodation options and a diversity of outdoor activities to choose from. Most importantly Mount Ceder is any bird-watcher's delight. The vegetation is dominated by Karoo scrub, even though agricultural lands and the rugged mountain scenery with lots of water host a great diversity of bird species – well over 100 species have been recorded. This is one of the closest regions to Cape Town where arid Karoo species may be found. Mount Ceder further serves as a perfect base from which to explore the birding delights of the Cederberg Wilderness, the Swartruggens road (with the Katbakkies picnic site) and of course the Tankwa Karoo. Mount Ceder, P.O. Box 81, Koue Bokkeveld 6836 GPS: 32° 38'58"S 19° 24'31"E www.mountceder.co.za

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

Mount Ceder mountain landscape (Image provided)
Cape Rock-jumper (Image by AO)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black-headed Canary  (Image by RM)
Layard's Tit Babbler  (Image by RM)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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