Tertius Gouws recently visited Tanqua Karoo and its surrounds in the first week of June 2008. He posted some of his observations on the SA Bord Network:
Karoopoort area: Several Namaqua Warblers were calling in the reedbeds at a stop along the R355 well before reaching Karoopoort. Fleeting but good views were eventually had after patiently waiting for some to show. We were surprised to find a few Cape Siskins on the fence next to the stream, with one singing bird allowing excellent views. A large flock of Rock Martins foraged above. A stop at where the R356 splits from the R355 produced a female Dusky Sunbird and several colour variants of Mountain Wheatear.
Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler were visible in the thick scrub. The small rocky outcrop at the picnic site was alive with the calls of very agitated LayardÂ¹s Tit-Babblers, White-throated Canaries, Cape Buntings, Familiar Chats, more Mountain Wheatears and a Fairy Flycatcher.
Closer inspection revealed an African Wild Cat that quickly scurried away amongst the rocks when it saw us.
Eierkop: A roadside stop along the R355 with Eierkop in the distance was one of the highlights of the trip. We first noticed a Grey Tit perched prominently on a low succulent which was soon followed by a succession of sought-after birds such as Karoo Chat, Karoo Eremomela, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Rufous-eared Warbler, Grey-backed Cisticola and Karoo Lark. They all foraged in a bird party through the low scrub and provided the UK birders with much excitement. Several Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks, a few Rock Kestrels and a lone immature Jackal Buzzard were the only raptors seen along the R355.
Skitterykloof: A lunch stop at the picnic site attracted the attention of the local and decidedly familiar Familiar Chats, Cape Robin-Chats, Cape Weavers and Bokmakieries. Other good birds were Streaky-headed Seedeater, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Fairy Flycatcher, Pririt Batis and Karoo Thrush. The cliffs were eerily silent and it was only late the afternoon of the second day that we heard a Cinnamon-breasted Warbler call high up along the ridge to the right (north) of the pass above the picnic site. The bird only called once and we were very lucky to flush it as we were scrambled up the ridge.
As always, it only provided two second views at a time as it constantly moved away from us over, under and between the rocks. As an added bonus, we found LayardÂ¹s Tit-Babbler to be quite common on top of the ridge.
P2250 road: The recent rains resulted in a few scattered puddles along the road and the plains were covered in a thin green carpet of sprouting annuals. Many of the mesembs were in flower and some areas were covered in a yellow flower carpet. All the endemic chats were present as well as a few flocks of Black-headed Canaries. Larks consisted of Red-capped and Large-billed Lark, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Karoo Lark and a few groups of Spike-heeled Larks. A single LudwigÂ¹s Bustard flushed next to the road and provided awesome views as it flew past. Several pairs of Double-banded Courser were found but dedicated searching for BurchellÂ¹s Courser proved unsuccessful. Raptors consisted of Greater Kestrel (both immature and
adult) and a few Jackal Buzzards (including one pale form bird). Pairs of Bat-eared Foxes were seen twice along this road, and a lone Steenbok was another mammal highlight.
Gannaga Pass and Lodge: We stayed at the newly established Gannaga Lodge at the top of the pass and were heartily entertained by the Scotsman and his able crew. The next morning dawned crisp and cool with an icy wind that silenced all but a few Pale-winged Starlings that sunned themselves on the rocks above the lodge. We descended the pass to spectacular views of the Tanqua plains below with a lone VerreauxsÂ¹ Eagle as company. The cold wind was not conducive to birding but a few Klipspringers kept the excitement going.
Tankwa National Park: An adult Black-breasted Snake-Eagle was present along the road from the Park Office to the Gannaga Pass the first day, but gone the next. This road is also good for BrantsÂ¹ Whistling Rat and several were seen in the early morning sunning themselves at burrow entrances. The road between the Park Office and the Paulshoek Cottage produced no less that five Karoo Korhaans. At first a nervous pair was flushed but a short distance further a very confiding group of three birds (male and two females) was found. While appreciating the Korhaans we noticed a large raptor sitting on a telephone pole in the distance that turned out to be a magnificent adult
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