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A Sunday of Sunbirds - Roadside Birding in the Klein Karoo | Lynette Boshoff

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to some birding friends of mine…. I call them My Bird Nerds. These are the guys I turn to when I need help identifying a bird. What’s great about them is that they have their own network of Bird Nerds so if I stump them, they send it on and eventually we get an answer.

Anyway while chatting to them the discussion around larks came up and how I was still battling to identify them. Gareth, my bird nerd friend says to me, “You’re in the best place for “larking”.” And he was totally right so I decided to go birding the following day along one of the many dirt roads in the area here in Oudtshoorn.

As we all know larks are up early, so we had to be up early. There we went to do the +-85km loop with our coffee, cameras and binoculars.

We had a very slow morning. I was expecting to see a lot more lark activity, but the weather was acting very strange for the area. There was an intermittent drizzle in the air. For those of you who know this area, you know, that is not normal.

Our first spot for the day was a lifer for me. Great start. Rufous-eared Warbler. Not the easiest to photograph as they are extremely busy little guys but I did get a half decent shot of them.

Rufous-eared Warbler
Rufous-eared Warbler

Our morning was filled with some of the usual sightings like, Southern Fiscal, White-backed and Speckled Mousebirds, Ring-Neck (Cape Turtle) Dove, Cape Sparrows and Familiar Chats. Bearing in mind the time of year we were spoilt with juvenile activity as well. Adding a whole different dimension to bird identification.

As the sun started fighting its way through the strange weather we came across an open patch of land with dozens of Sisal trees (Agave sisalana) or in Afrikaans the Garingboom. Although not indigenous to South Africa the birds love it. We must have spent about 20 minutes just watching all the different species. We watched the Malachite Sunbirds chasing each other around protecting their territory. It was so great to see.

As we progressed along the road we encountered dozens more of these trees. In fact they almost lined a large portion of the road and what did surprise or rather fascinate us was the amount of Malachite Sunbirds. Males, female, juveniles. We probably saw at least 40 to 50 of them throughout the entire day. It became a, “oh don’t worry, it’s just a Malachite Sunbird again.” kind of day. How truly blessed we were.

Another surprising sighting we had was the volume of swifts and swallows that were out. It’s amazing how many you don’t even see with the naked eye. Although it took us some time and quick reflexes we were able to identify a number of them, namely the Alpine, Little and White-rumped Swifts and Greater, White-Throated and Pearl-Breasted Swallows

Greater-striped Swallows
Greater-striped Swallows

The best part of my trip was the juvenile Verreaux’s Eagle we spotted sitting out in the open on a dead tree. It was just so unexpected. As with any birding, as you get the camera ready to snap a shot, off he flew, so there is no photographic evidence, well none that I can share without embarrassing myself. What made this sighting particularly special was how he flew around the cliffs in front of us for sometime and once he had ascended some way, we heard calling. I don’t think it was the same bird as he had flown up quite high by then but it was definitely a Verreaux’s calling. I scanned the cliffs for a glimpse of this guy but alas he was not to be seen.

By this stage of our trip we were starving. Having thought that we would be out for about 3 or 4 hours, we hadn’t packed in any lunch. It was now 2pm and we still had so much more road to cover. Not to be swayed we meandered on at the same pace and we were rewarded with another bird party of Sombre Greenbuls, African Hoopoes, a single Brown-Hooded Kingfisher and several Southern Masked Weavers. At this stage we still had not seen a Hadeda. I always tell my guests, “If you don’t see a Hadeda while birding, you are doing it wrong.” Similar to seeing impala in the Kruger. We did eventually spot one when we got closer to town again.

Through the farm lands we went adding more birds to our list and some less feathered creatures like this Southern Rock Agama, who kept us entertained for a while.

Southern Rock Agama
Southern Rock Agama

We eventually ended our day with a lis of 61 birds seen. A very successful day of birding as I added 5 birds to my Lifelist namely, Rufous-eared Warbler, African Reed Warbler, Cloud Cisticola, Karoo Lark and Common House Martin.

African Reed Warbler
African Reed Warbler

I can definitely recommend the back roads of the Klein Karoo for some birding. Just remember to pack lots of coffee, water, snacks and lunch.

Lynette Boshoff

+27 82 926 9648

Check out the other birding and nature experiences I offer on and in the Garden Route and Klein Karoo.

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