I returned from a quick trip to Augrabies Waterfall with clients to see the wonder of the water at the falls. That took us through the Northern Cape and we ticked 128 species along the trip. Just a warning – the gravel roads of the Northern Cape are from bad to worst, especially after the rain and it seems that the graders are all broken after Christmas.
Moving through the country side gave us a couple of excellent birds. Most of the Northern Cape is in a very good condition which results in very good birding. In the Molteno Pass north of Beaufort West we saw one of the resident pairs of Verreaux’s Eagle. Towards Loxton we also ticked Black-headed Canary, Martial Eagle, good numbers of Chat Flycatchers, Afr Black Swift, and Hamerkop and at the only open water some ducks and Curlew Sandpipers. Just before Loxton, we had a good display of swifts which includes Little, Common, Afr Black and White-rumped. We found the most southerly colony of SA Cliff Swallows about 13 km north of Loxton. The whole area between Loxton and Kenhardt teems with Grey-backed Sparrowlarks and Larklike Buntings.
Carnarvon has a good population of Lesser Kestrels. Another interesting fact is the expansion of Sociable Weavers southwards. A couple of nests are found from about 35 km north of Carnarvon towards Vanwyksvlei that didn’t exist some years ago. Towards Vanwyksvlei we saw a couple of lonely Spurwinged Goose at water pools and picked up some Karoo Eremomela.
A visit to Vanwyksvlei Dam, the oldest irrigation dam in SA (yes, that’s correct), was fruitless as the dam didn’t receive water yet. Close to the dam we found Karoo Korhaan and Rufous-eared Warbler and in town Afr Hoopoe and White-throated Swallow. Heading north towards Kenhardt we had good numbers of Sth pale Chanting Goshawks and Jackal Buzzards as well as Wattled Starling, juvenile Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Bradfield’s Sabota Lark and Capped Wheatear. At road side pools after the rain we had Cape Teal, Black-winged Stilt and Egyptian Goose, while Black-headed Heron was hunting in the adjacent grass.
In Kenhardt we stayed at the Boesmanland accommodation of Elma le Roux. She has different types of accommodation which are very comfortable. Elma is also a very knowledgeable person on the history and other sightseeing places in and around Kenhardt. She has also 2 stake outs for Red Larks in the area, but as this is on private farm land, Elma has to accompany you. You can contact Elma on www.bushmanland.co.za or email@example.com or at 054 6510022 / 082 6926350.
We paid a visit to the Rooiberg Dam outside Kenhardt which has some water after the rain. The lower area of the Sak River (here called the Hartbees River) is typical Kalahari veld with sand, Camel thorn trees and grass. Our first big tick for the area was a juvenile Lilac-breasted Roller sitting on telephone pole, a quite far south western record. Other good birds towards the dam were Eur Bee-eater, Fawn-coloured Lark, Lesser Grey Shrike, Karoo Longbilled Lark and Namaqua Sandgrouse. Not many birds have already turned up at the water in the dam, but could put on the SABAP list Kittlitz’s and Three-banded Plover, Hadeda Ibis (ORF), White-breasted Cormorant, Black-necked Grebe, Egyptian Goose and Cape Teal. In the reeds below the dam wall were Afr Reed-Warbler and Namaqua Warbler.
In the Kenhardt pentad we picked up a dead Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Cape Glossy Starling, out of range Afr Palm Swift, Booted Eagle, Orange River White-eye, Diderick Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Dusky Sunbird. A visit to the local sewage works produced Ruff, Little Stint, Little Grebe, ducks and Namaqua Sandgrouse which came to drink.
We drove to Augrabies via the gravel road and about 15 km out of Kenhardt we saw a juvenile Brown Snake-Eagle harassed by a Pale Chanting Goshawk first and then by two Drongo’s. It landed on a Camel Thorn tree close to the road and gave us excellent views. Further along the road we picked up a Pygmy Falcon and at a windmill along the road a small group of Black-faced Waxbills came to drink, also a far west record.
Augrabies with all it’s water was wonderful, an unbelievable sight. The internal roads are closed which restrict you to the falls and camp. Alpine Swifts swooped over the gorge and in the trees were Dusky Sunbirds and Orange River White-eyes. We returned to Kenhardt via Kakamas and Keimoes and the only new trip bird was a Kori Bustard about 20 km north of Kenhardt.
That evening about 70 Lesser Kestrels turned up in Kenhardt and roost in a bluegum tree near the rugby veld.
We returned via Brandvlei and Williston and lots of Black-eared Sparrowlarks can be seen between Kenhardt and Williston. We also found Ludwig’s Bustard, SA Cliff Swallow, Afr Harrier-Hawk, Large-billed Lark, Pririt Batis and a Grey-winged Francolin walking in the road on the way back. Fraserburg has also a good number of Lesser Kestrels which were feeding on the road towards Williston.
A very fruitful Northern Cape trip with lots of ORF’s from the SABAP2 side.
Places are still available on the Nylsvley / Kruger trip. Please contact me direct.