Tanqua in March 2010

Hi all,

I took a client to Tanqua on Tuesday. We arranged to leave at 1pm, so as to bird on the way to Ceres our overnight stop.

With all the hot weather we had been having I decided it was time to check the gas in the air-conditioner as 40C was a possibility or maybe even a certainty!

On the way there we spotted 300+ White Storks at the cattle feed pens near Voelvlei at Gouda. There were also some Yellow-billed Kites around.

The late afternoon call was at my bird bath on the pass outside Ceres where many birds come in to drink and bath. Not having been there for some months a cleanout and de-grass was necessary. It was not long wait when the Cape Robin-chat, Cape White-eye, Cape Sugarbird and the target, Protea Seedeater came in to drink. In fact 2 gave us excellent views. Then it was off to the guest house for the evening.

The heavens looked clear and the next day looked as if it was going to need air-con!

This was not to be as at 6am the heavens opened, but the Tanqua beckoned and so we tackled the Therons Pass where the weather had cleared and we spotted 3 Lesser Kestrels. Thought they had left by now? They reminded me that we still need to find the roost in Ceres. Any volunteers from that area?

Karoo Poort was cloudy and not many Namaqua Warblers were calling but we had great views outside the Poort. Ground Woodpeckers are always a surprise as they called from the cliffs. A pale and dark Booted Eagles glided over our heads.

On exciting Karoo Poort the Tanqua looked gloomy! Why would I need an air-con today I thought with all this dark cloud and rain approaching from Calvinia!

Fairy Flycatcher and Chestnut-vented Tit-babblers were fairly take for a change whilst Streaky-headed Seedeater, Yellow and White-throated Canaries were feeding more on the slopes of the hills than in the flats. On the telephone wires there was a group of 30+ House Martins roosting and it is not often that they can be observed at close quarters showing there white leggings. Greater-striped Swallows and White-rumped Swifts cruised low over the hills whilst White-throated Swallows quartered the streams and Barn Swallows were also feeding low over the shrubs.

Yes all the gulleys and streams were running strongly from very recent rain, in fact I have never seen rain or so much water in the Tanqua at this time of the year! I think the flowers are going to be early this year. Every time we ventured to the hills to try for Cinnamon-breasted Warbler the rain came down. This one we dipped on throught the day.

The usual Fish Eagle was seen at Inverdoorn Dam and along the road Pale Chanting Goshawk, Rock Kestrel, Lanner Falcon and Jackal Buzzard were seen perched on the poles. Rufous-eared Warblers and Karoo Larks were very vocal calling from the short shrubs. Karoo Chat replaced the Mountain Chat in the flat countryside. Inverdoorn Dam had a host of water birds, such as Egyptian Goose, SA Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck and Cape Shoveller whilst Black-winged Stilt and Black-smith Plovers waded in the shallows. A few Whiskered Terns and Brown-throated Martins skimmed the water for anything to eat. A pair of Grey Tits seemed out of place along the strongly running stream, normally associate them with dry country.

We could not go down one of the side roads as a dip was now a deep ditch of water and the mud on the side looked dicey so we decide to stay on the R355 as that did not have so many slippery areas. A call down to Skitterykloof seemed to be the obvious route but I was expecting the first stream crossing to be washed away. It had been repaired some time ago and seemed to have held up from the obvious flash flood that had moved through there.

At Skitterykloof 2 big trucks blocked the entrance to the picnic spot so we decide to go to the top and view the Tanqua from there. Looking north towards Calvinia the Tanqua looked black and wet and swamped with plenty of rain on the way. This prompted us to continue over to Katbakkies Pass and Op Die Berg where the chances of finding Black-headed Canaries was better. No such luck as only Yellow Canaries and Lark-like Buntings were feeding on the shrubs.

On the way home we noticed 20+ Lesser Kestrels gathering on the electricity wires outside Wellington close to the Berg River bridge. This was already at 6pm, wonder if the roost is still large or have the majority left?

A few pentads were done with the slow pace.

Always great to bird in the Tanqua Karoo with it's different moods and views!

Happy autumn birding,
Brian Vanderwalt