Tanqua Karoo - another 2 great days birding! - July 2008

I spent 1.5 days in the Tanqua birding with a Birding Eco Tours client.

We drove straight to the Tanqua on Monday and birded till it was dark and returned to Ceres for the night (Village Guest House).  After filling up at Touws River one of the great birds seen was a Black Harrier on the outskirts of the town.  At Karoo Poort we stopped for a snack and had great views of Acacia Pied Barbet, Familiar Chat and Namaqua Warbler under the poplars.

Once through the Poort we tried for Cinnamon Breasted Warbler on the rocky skree but nothing doing, only Layard’s Tit-babbler, White-throated Canary, Mountain Wheatear, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Fairy Flycatcher. I had a fleeting look at the Elephant Shrew amongst the rocks at the picnic site. Also found a small strange button mushroom. Who would have expected a mushroom amongst rocks in the Karoo!

Along the road to Eierkop, Rock Kestrel, Karoo Larks and Sickle-winged Chats made their appearance. At Inverdoorn Dam the Flamingos were no longer but Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese Cape Teal and Yellow Billed ducks filled their place. At Eierkop, the usual Karoo Eremomela were nowhere to be found, only Karoo Chat, Karoo Larks as well as the cheeky Rufous-eared Warblers. However further down the road a bird party, if something like that can exist in the Karoo, was found which contained, Rufous-eared Warblers, Karoo and Yellow-bellied Eremomelas, Long-billed Crombec, Cape Penduline Tits, Southern Grey Tits and Karoo Larks and Karoo Chats! Fantastic to be able to compare them at such close range.

At Skitterykloof, my whistle produced 2 Cinnamon-breasted Warblers who entertained us at close range. A pair of Pririt Batis, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler and Fairy Flycatcher moved through the Karoo Acatias with Long-billed Crombec not far behind.

Back on the R355 going north, Greater and Rock Kestrel, Pale Chanting Goshawks and Jackal Buzzard were seen on the telegraph poles. Chat Flycatcher, Trac-trac Chats, Large-billed and Spike-healed Larks filled up the bird list to the P2250 going east.

Once on the P2250 the vegetation became more sparse and it was now time to look for THE bird of the Tanqua, Burchell’s Courser. We found 2 at more or less the same place that I had found them last week and the week before. I am hoping they will breed in the area and also find their nest! Dream on, but I can only but try.

Three Ludwig’s Bustards flew off and but landed close enough that scope views could be had.

On the drive back to Ceres, Capped Wheatear, Trac-trac and Sickle-winged and Karoo Chats, Karoo Scrub Robin, Grey-backed Cisticola, Common Fiscal, Yellow and Black-headed Canaries filled the list. Great but strange to see Black-headed Canary feeding in short Karoo shrub with Yellow Canaries.

Our last stop on the 2nd day was to look for Protea and Streaky-headed Seed-eater which we found at a bird bath that I had made in a small mountain stream. It was great to see both seed-eaters eating an unknown seeds, other than Protea that is, so that a comparison could be made of their build and habits. Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbirds were also at the bath as was Cape Robin and Karoo Thrush. The last bird we found was Black Duck in the town of Ceres.

We then took the road home via Tulbagh where we saw another Black Harrier and 71 Blue Cranes.
All in all a bird filled trip and we only dipped on Karoo Korhaan (heard in the distance), Double-banded Courser and would you believe Masked Weaver.

Happy birding from the Tanqua Taxi,
Brian Vanderwalt