Gydo Pass is about 12 km north of Ceres on the road to Citrusdal (R303). The original pass was built by Andrew Geddes Bain in 1848 and links the Warm Bokkeveld with the Koue Bokkeveld. The pass is very rewarding bird wise and has several picnic spots and view points. Look at the wabome (Protea nitida) along the road for the elusive Protea Canary. When the Proteas are flowering Cape Sugarbirds and Orangebreasted Sunbirds are common. Other birds you will find here are Cape Siskin, Whitenecked Raven, Common Buzzard, Yellowbilled Kite and Booted Eagle (summer), Cape Bunting and Common Grassbird.
Road to Witzenberg Valley
The road to the Witzenberg Valley turns off on top of the Gydo Pass. It winds through the rugged mountain pass with lots of excellent birds. Mountain Wheatear, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Sugarbird and Cape Canary are common along the road. Watch out for Cape Rockjumper on the high rocks on top of the pass and in the streams with fynbos Victorin's Warbler and Cape Grassbird occur. Verreaux's (Black) Eagle and Jackal Buzzard are often seen soaring along the rocks. If you descend into the valley you can look for African Snipe, Yellowbilled Duck and Redbilled Teals where the small streams cross the road. African (Grassveld) Pipit, Pintailed Whydah and African Stonechat are common.
Dams along the Citrusdal Road (R303)
A lot of waterfowl occurs on the dams along the road to Citrusdal (R303). The most common bird is the Redknobbed Coot, which counts in its thousands.
Ducks are also common with Eqyptian Gees, SA Shelduck, Yellowbilled Duck, Redbilled Teal and Spurwinged Geese. Little Egrets occur in good numbers while Greater Flamingoes move into the area when the damlevels are lower in the summer. Watch out for Maccoa and Whitebacked Duck at smaller dams with reeds, Black Storks walk along the permimeter and Lesser Swamp Warbler feeding on the water near the reeds.
Tweelingdam (Twin Dam) on Touws River Road (R46)
About 10 km from Ceres on the road to Touws River (R46) you will cross the Tweeling Dam (Twin Dam), getting its name from stretching its water to both sides of the road. This place is very rewarding, especially in summer when the water level is lower. Birds you can expect here are Great Crested Grebe, African Spoonbill, Blacknecked Grebe, Blackwinged Stilt, lots of ducks and in summer Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Ruff. In the vegetation along the water you will find Little Reed-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Southern Red Bishop and Karoo Prinia.
Karoopoort is about 45 km from Ceres (R46 & R355) and just beyond the turn off to Touws River. Karoopoort is on the old "Highway" to the North and the historical building at Karoopoort once served as a 'hotel'. The area around Karoopoort has an abundance of birds. A small water trough south of the picnic site attracts Yellow, Whitethroated and Black-headed Canaries, Pied and Palewinged Starlings and Cape Buntings. The picnic site is famous for Namaqua Warbler and Cape Canary, while African Reed-Warbler occurs in summer. Karoopoort also hosts a very long fig lane which attracts many fruit eaters such as Redfaced and Whitebacked Mousebirds, Masked Weavers, Acacia Pied Barbet, Wattled Starlings and Cape Sparrow. There is also a good possibility to spot Southern Greyheaded Sparrow here. On the northern cliffs above the buildings Verreaux's Eagles nest and Jackal Buzzard, Booted Eagle(summer) and Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk are often seen. The large bushes against the mountain are home to Layard's Titbabbler and Greybacked Cisticola. The thorn trees along the drainage lines host Fairy Flycatcher, Chestnutvented Titbabbler and Fiscal Flycatcher. The rocky area at the picnic spot near the Sutherland turn off is a good place to look for the elusive Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, while Mountain Wheatear is very tame here looking for crumbs and scratches. After rains when the plants are flowering Lesser Doublebanded and Malachite Sunbirds are plentiful.
About 14km from the Sutherland turn-off at Karoopoort, you will reach a pair of tillite hills on either side of the road. The hill on the right hand side is called Eierkop (Egg hill). A track leads up to the hill and it is a good spot for Karoo Eremomela. A small party is often seen moving quickly from bush to bush. Other birds in the vicinity or along the road are Karoo Lark, Karoo Chat, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rufouseared Warbler, Southern Grey Tit and Larklike Bunting. Listen for the call of Namaqua Sandgrouse in the morning while Tractrac Chat's white rump is often seen moving between the bushes. The plains around Eierkop are good for Largebilled Lark, Yellowbellied Eremomela, Karoo Korhaan, Cape Penduline Tit and Doublebanded Courser. In late Winter and Spring Ludwig's Bustard is also common on the plains.
Skitterykloof is a world famous birding place in the Western Cape and is situated at the foot of the Swartruggens Mountains. It is about 35 km north of the Sutherland turn-off, on the R355 towards Calvinia. This picnic spot hosts a big variety of birds, but is most famous for the resident pair of Cinnamonbreasted Warblers. They normally occupy the steep rocky slopes with huge shrubs. The acacia thickets are occupied by Pirit Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Acacia Pied Barbet and Karoo Scrub-Robin. Along the slopes you will find Southern Grey Tit, Layard's Titbabbler, Palewinged Starling and sometimes Ground Woodpecker. Whitethroated Canary, Cape Robin-Chat, Little Reed Warbler (summer), Cape Spurfowl and Lesser Doublebanded Sunbird are common in the picnic area. Skitterykloof also hosts the southernmost population of Aloe comosa which are flowering during mid November to January. The beautiful 1,5m flowers reveal an influx of birds to the area with hundreds of Malachite and Dusky Sunbirds, Streakyheaded Canary, Cape Weaver and Cape Bulbul. The small dam near the picnic spots hosts Common Moorhen, Redknobbed Coot, Common Waxbill and often Yellowbilled Duck and SA Shelduck. The nearby resident pair of Verreaux's (Black) Eagles is often seen drifting on the light breeze, while one can also spot Booted Eagle (summer), Rock Kestrel, Black Harrier and Whitenecked Raven. During the night one will hear Freckled Nightjar and Spotted Eagle Owl, while Cape Eagle Owl may be spotted on a rocky outcrop.
Tanqua Karoo National Park
The Tanqua Karoo National Park was established in 1987 and covers an area of about 90 000 hectares. It will soon become one of the prime tourist attractions in the Western Cape. It is situated about 152 km north east of Ceres (102 km on R355 and 50km on P2250 road). The park has accommodation available and it currently has a bird list of 125 species. The main target species found here are Burchell's Courser, Ludwig's Bustard, Sparrowlark and Karoo Longbilled Lark. Martial and Black Eagles are breeding residents while Greater and Lesser Honeyguides, Klaas's Cuckoo and Namaqua Warbler are found in the thickets along the Renoster River. The park's vegetation varies from almost desert plants in the west, where the rainfall is only 50 mm per annum, to renosterbosveld on the Roggeveld Mountains, with a rainfall of 400mm per annum. Game are being reintroduced with Springbuck, Gemsbuck, Red Hartebeest and Cape Mountain Zebra. Small game such as Bat-eared Fox, Steenbuck, Grey Duiker and hares occur naturally.
Information compiled by:
Karoo Birding Safaris
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