Birding South Africa - November 2001 - DailyLog 

Second Part of the Daily Log: 21.11.2001 - 4.12.2001
21.11.2001 (Clanwilliam, Bushman Paintings, Botterkloof Pass) - 22.11. (Calvinia, Brandvlei, Kenhardt) - 23.11. (Kenhardt, Twee Rivieren) - 24.11. (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Mata Mata) - 25.11. (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Nossob) - 26.11. (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Unions End) - 27.11. (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Nossob, Twee Rivieren) - 28.11. (Upington, Augrabies National Park) - 29.11. (Augrabies, Pofadder) - 30.11.2001 (Koa Dunes, Goegap Nature Reserve, Springbok) - 1.12.2001 (Karoo National Park, Malmesbury) - 2.-4.12.2001 (Cape Town)

First Part of the daily log: Cape Town - De Hoop Nature Reserve - Gardenroute - Swartberg Pass - Tanqua Karoo - Pelagic 11.11.2001 - 20.11.2001

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In the morning an Acacia Pied Barbet visited the campground. We then headed towards Clanwilliam. Entering the N7 we first went southwards for about 7 km and turned right (sign: Paleisheuwel), after about 2 km we reached Kransvlei Poort, a favourite spot for Ground Woodpecker. Unfortunately we missed that species but had nice views on a Protea Canary.
Rock paintings In Clanwilliam we had a cup of coffee and drove then eastwards over the Pakhuis Pass, where we found a Black Eagle, some Klipspringer and also a Layards Titbabbler. 34 km from Clanvilliam lies Traveller's Rest farm with the unique Sevilla Trail. There are nine sites with ancient Bushman paintings along this 4 km trail. After paying a small fee for a permit at the nearby farm we started the trail, accompanied by barking Baboons, shy Klipspringers and some Rock Dassies (Hyrax). Best bird in the area was an unexpected male Cinnamonbreasted Rock Bunting (GPS-Data: S 32°05'04.9''; E 19°05'10.6''), but there were also other exciting birds like Longbilled Crombec, Whitethroated Canary and our first Mountain Chats.
In the afternoon we drove on the R364 via the Botterkloof Pass towards Calvinia. This gravelled road showed us some species of drier areas with a Southern Black Korhaan, our first Pale Chanting Goshawk, Spikeheeled Larks, Greybacked Finchlarks and also some beautiful Namaqua Sandgrouse. Especially the late afternoon hours turned out to be the best time. 35 km before Calvinia we entered the R27 along which we found some Greater Kestrels. For the night we stayed in a cheap hotel in Calvinia.

The Akkerendam Nature Reserve north of Calvinia was our first stop in the morning. There are some Springboks in the reserve and we also found a Black Stork. I was a little bit frightened when our car suddenly bumped into something like a dry river bed on the road, although I managed the situation I was so shocked that I left the reserve. Shortly after leaving the reserve we found a Martial Eagle on a pole.
We reached the area around Brandvlei at about noon. Since it was hot we found only few birds like South African Cliff Swallow, Rufouseared Warbler, Tractrac Chat, Chat Flycatcher, but also a Willow Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher as guests from the Western Palearctic.
Road The R27 between Brandvlei and Kenhardt in the afternoon was more exciting with a Kori Bustard, a Northern (?) Black Korhaan in display flight and a flock of Blackheaded Canarys. Just before reaching Kenhardt we saw the first giant nests of the Sociable Weaver and some Glossy Starlings. After checking in at the very recommended and affordable Kenhardt Hotel we drove in the evening about 10 kilometers on the R361 south-eastwards towards Van Wyksvlei. Although it was already very dark we found Whitebrowed Sparrow-Weaver, Swallow-tailed Beeeater and a probable Marico Sunbird.

Kenhardt The road of the evening before and another one going westwards were our first birding spots in the morning. To enter these roads turn off at the petrol station opposite of the Kenhardt Hotel. The next turn to the right is the R361 towards Van Wyksvlei. But before I looked for birds along the road straight on. Both roads were excellent with Martial Eagle, about 3 Northern Black Korhaan in display flight, 1 Karoo Korhaan and another bustard which was most probably a Ludwig's Bustard. Some smaller birds of the area were Dusky Sunbird, Scalyfeathered Finch, Redbilled Quelea, Redeyed Bulbul and a Blackchested Prinia. Then we visited the Kokerboom forest south of Kenhardt. Not that exciting but nice impressions.
Driving northwards on the R27 we took the untarred road to the right before crossing the Orange River. This road took us via Luisdale to Upington Along the road we found our first Pygmy Falcon and a Hamerkop.
From Upington we drove the R360 northwards to Twee Rivieren. Along this road we had 2 Lanner Falcons after leaving town and 150 km later 1 Whitebacked Vulture and 2 Lappetfaced Vultures. There was also a Striped Polecat which survived crossing the street nearly under our car. About 160 km north of Upington the road is no longer tarred but still easy to drive. After 60 km on this gravelled road we reached Twee Rivieren, a camp at the entrance of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, formerly known as Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. There are two other camps in the park, Mata Mata in the west and Nossob in the east. For these camps a reservation in advance is highly recommended, for details look at
At Twee Rivieren and Nossob socalled night drives are offered. We joined a night drive on our first evening in the park. We started in daylight around in the evening/night for some hours in a truck, equipped with big spotlights. During this drive we soon got an idea about the richness of wildlife in the park. Still in daylight we found Violeteared Waxbill, Shafttailed Whydah and a Gabar Goshawk, but also some mammals like Gemsbok, Springbok and Blue Wildebeest, all very common in the park. When it turned dark it was even more exciting. We had the luck to get one of the spotlights and with the experience we got in Australia we spotted some Bat-eared Fox, including 2 puppies, African Wildcat, Cape Fox, some Jackals, a Small-spotted Genet, but also even some birds like Spotted Eagle Owls and Double-banded Courser. Many kilometers away from the camp we had some problems with the truck since the battery was low and it turned out to be impossible to start the engine normally, but with all passengers pushing to start the motor our guide Liz brought us safely back to the camp.

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park covers 38.000 square kilometers in South Africa and Botswana. There are only few roads in the park, but vast distances to cover. To get an idea about the park, look at the following map (not in scale). Along the mostly dry river beds of Auob and Nossob is savannah and inbetween are more desertlike areas.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The camp gates open at 5:30 and since the first hours of daylight are the best ones we started like most of the people at this time. The road to the Auob River Valley goes first through an area of red dunes. Along the sandy road we found Kalahari Robin, some Burchell's Sandgrouse and an unexpected male Palid Harrier.
Mata Mata Reaching the Auob River Valley there were again some trees and birdlife changed with an Ashy Tit, Tawny Eagle and some Fawncoloured Larks. There are only few trees but it is worth to look at some of them. We saw Scimitarbills, Crimsonbreasted Shrike and in two trees also a Giant Eagle Owl. In the river bed Blue Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Springbok and Blackbacked Jackals are common.
In the afternoon we reached the Mata Mata camp. After choosing the campsite and saying hello to all the Ground Squirrels and some Yellow Mongoose we did another late afternoon drive (there are no night drives starting from Mata Mata). This time we had more luck with the mammals and could add 3 Lions (1 male, 2 females) aswell as 2 Giraffes to our trip list. On the way back to the camp we saw a Yellowbilled Hornbill, another Giant Eagle Owl and a Pearlspotted Owl. At 7:30 pm the camp gates close, at this time every visitor must be in a camp. Already in total darkness a Whitefaced Owl called in a tree close to our tent. I tried once with a spotlight and immediately found the bird in the treetops!

We started as usual early at 5:30 am. Soon after leaving the camp we found a single Cheetah walking through the savannah and in the distance a female lion. About five kilometers south of the camp we found a group of 9 Giraffes and later on another group of three Lions, probably those of the evening before. This time we had a better look at the swifts above us and realized that there were hundreds of European Swifts.
near Nossob We took the northern road between the Auob river and the Nossob river. Since it was still not very warm we saw many Northern Black Korhaan displaying and also one Redcrested Korhaan. At a waterhole in this area were another 3 Lions.
In the Nossob river bed the vegetation was slightly higher which made it more difficult to see the animals from our "normal" car. Along the road to Nossob was not much new to us besides a Redbacked Shrike and better views of some birds of prey like Bateleur and Whitebacked Vulture.
When we arrived at Nossob camp we saw some Yellow Mongoose in the camp but no Ground Squirrels. This is most probably due to the Jackals in the camp! After putting up our tent and relaxing we joined a night drive starting from Nossob.
Although we were not that successful on this night drive compared with our experience in Twee Rivieren we were happy to find a Puff Adder and a Barn Owl.

Today we went northwards towards Union's End. Soon after leaving the camp there was a Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill and a beautiful Purple Roller, the only bird of this species we saw in the Kalahari. Another good find was a group of Burchell's Starling. At one of the waterholes was a group of Whitebacked Vultures and single Lappertfaced Vultures.
Road Some Red Hartebeest which is common in the northern parts of the park added also a new mammal to our list. The other new mammal was a Slender Mongoose near Union's End. Unions End Other good mammals were a huge male Lion and a group of 5 Cheetahs. We found the latter when we stopped because of the many vultures we saw in a tree. After a while 5 Cheetahs walked through the high grass to the road. Since they sometimes looked back we had the idea that this was a hunting party which was chased away from their prey by stronger predators like Lions or Hyenas. Unfortunately we couldn't see the place with the prey but we saw a Jackal coming from there with a big piece of meat. The Jackal was chased by 2 Lappetfaced Vultures. The cheetahs were easy to watch while drinking from a puddle on the road.
We came back to Camp Nossob by the gate's closing time at 7:30 pm. In the evening I heard the call of Rufouscheeked Nightjar, following the calls I soon found two of them, one flying towards and another one sitting on the ground while calling. About half an hour past midnight Brigitte woke me up again. She couldn't sleep because of the loud calls of the Jackals in the camp. Fortunately we had a torch in the tent and spotlighted the fence surrounding the camp. About 20 meters away from our tent we saw a Leopard watching us - from the other side of the fence!

When we told the staff about the Leopard we heard that it had the habit to jump over the fence, walk through the camp and to jump again over the fence.
Today we drove along the Nossob River back to Twee Rivieren. Since there were still some birds to find we concentrated more on the "little brown jobs" and were happy to identify Desert Cisticola and Sabota's Lark. An easier species to identify was a Brubru in one of the trees.
In the late afternoon we made the "small" loop north of Twee Rivieren (look at map) with altogether 6 Lions, a Cheetah, a Cape Cobra and also some birds like two Harriers, probably Montagu's Harrier.

Sociable Weaver Nest Red sands Bad weather signs?
In the evening were heavy rainfalls at Twee Rivieren and our tent was at the deepest point of the campground. When the water raised to 20 cm above the ground around our tent we gave up and looked for shelter in the bathrooms. Later the rain stopped and we went back to our tent, this time at a higher place on the campground.

Entrance Kgalagadi This morning was our last one in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We only went some kilometers northwards, since someone reported a Brown Hyena in that area the day before. On the way there we found 2 Giant Eagle Owls, some Spotted Eagle Owls, a rare European Roller and also 3 Lions. But the best was the Brown Hyena crossing the road exactly at the same place and at the same time as the day before! (thank you to Fam. Hempel)
At about noon we left the Kalahari and drove via Upington to the Augrabies Falls National Park. The park is famous for the Orange River falls. We had luck and there was a lot of water and huge falls. For some years there were also Rhinoceros in the park, but for several reasons they brought them to another park. We found two Giraffes while driving around, a species which was also relocated into the area. There are also Springbok, but the most typical mammals in the park are Hyrax and numerous Klipspringers. Birds in the rocky areas along the river canyons were an African Fisheagle, Booted Eagle, many Sabota's Larks and some Palewinged Starlings.
We spent the night on the campground in the park.

Augrabies Falls There are two trails to walk in the Augrabies Falls National Park, the Klipspringer Trail (several days) and the socalled Dassie Trail, the one we took. Birds along the trail were Dusky Sunbirds, 2 Whitefaced Ducks, Reed Comorants, some African Marsh Warbler, Giant Kingfisher, a nice Diderik Cuckoo, Scimitarbill and Whitebacked Mousebirds. Brigitte also found a Nile Monitor besides some Cape Flat Lizards and Rock Agama. After visiting the lookouts and having a look at the impressive waterfall we left the area.
Near the village of Augrabies we took a small gravelled road to the right which brought us directly to the N14. Along this road were some larks including Longbilled Lark. The rest of the route till Pofadder wasn't that exciting. In Pofadder we chose a pension which in the night turned out to be the home of many Cockroaches and other pleasant animals.
In the afternoon we took the R358 towards Onseepkans on the border to Namibia. This gravelled road offers scenic views and at the end at the border there is a good chance to see Rosyfaced Lovebird (which we missed) and Palm Swift (which we easily found). Other birds around the border were Zitting Cisticola, Blackthroated Canary and Cape Reed Warbler. Interesting mammals were a Dassie Rat near the border aswell as a Striped Polecat and 3 Hares on the way back.

Early in the morning we took a smaller gravelled road, the P2961, south-westwards out of Pofadder. We started with a young Redfooted Falcon on the wire, a Longbilled Crombec near some rocks and after about 25 km we were lucky to find a family of 4 Burchell's Courser. 31 m away from Pofadder a Ludwig's Bustard flew over the road. Other birds were 2 Secretary Birds and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
Koa Dunes After about 54 km we took the road towards Gamoep until we came to the red Koa Dunes where we successfully searched for the endemic Red Lark. Another interesting bird in the dunes was a Common Quail.
At about noon we reached Springbok with the nearby Goegap Nature Reserve. The reserve is not that exciting but we found some Blackheaded Canaries, Karoo Chats and at the nearby campsite (outside the reserve) Layard's Titbabler. In the evening we made a kind of night drive south of Goegap with a Lanner Falcon and a Spotted Eagle Owl, but not the Cape Eagle Owl which is sometimes found along this road.

While Brigitte was still asleep I checked out the rocks surrounding the campsite near Springbok. Suddenly a rabbitlike animal sat on top of a rock, watching me for a while and hopping then from rock to rock. It was the nocturnal Smith's Red Rock Rabbit.
Namaqua NP From Springbok we took the road through the Namaqua National Park to the coast at Hondeklipbaai. The area is very scenic but with only few animals. We found some Glossy Starlings, a Namaqua Warbler and a Dassie Rat. Near Hondeklipbaai are some huge areas where the De Beers company is looking for diamonds.
On the way back to the N7 we also had Ostrich and Steenbok. Driving southwards on the N7 we had another stop at Kransvlei Poort (see 21.11.02) to give the Ground Woodpecker another chance...with the same result.
We drove until we reached Malmesbury where we stayed at the local campsite, a nice area with a small pond at which we found a Malachite Kingfisher.

Early in the morning we drove into Cape Town where we spent the last two days of our stay in South Africa. We visited the South African Museum, which is a Natural History Museum, the South African Art Museum, the closeby Constablers Garden with some Grey Squirrels, a sweet looking pest introduced from North America and spent some time relaxing in the beautiful coffee shops Cape Town has to offer. At the Waterfront we met again with Callan Cohen.

CapeTown, South African Museum CapeTown, market
We also visited some of the nice markets and were happy to stay for the last night again at Silbernagls before leaving this beautiful country early in the morning on the 4th of December.

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