I did a “Habitat” & Tanqua trip over 2 days recently.
The target was of course the Tanqua, but Tanqua in one day does not work well. So we added a night stopover. We slept in Ceres and travelled to Karoo Poort early (40k) and at the first stop, as we went into Karoo Poort, a surprise awaited us. We stopped and next to the car was a Caracal! We watched it slink slowly up the slope. When we eventually exited the car we saw Namaqua Warbler in the fragmites reeds displaying quite well. I scanned the opposite bank and lo and behold another Caracal walking towards us! Remembering that this was sheep country, and we were not far from the Karoo Poort farmhouse, one wondered how long these two would last. Were these two going to meet up, maybe mating season? Anyone know? Anyway we birded on and saw a lonely Lark-like Bunting on the mountain slopes. No Black-headed Canaries this time.
The river was still running strongly and with more rain to come the season looks good for seedeaters. White-throated Canaries were the commonest but at the farmhouse poplar trees Cape Canary and Streaky-headed Seedeater made their appearance. A lonely Pririt Batis female, (the same one I saw 3 weeks ago?), hawked insects with Fairy Flycatcher, Cape and Masked Weavers, Cape Bulbul and Cape White-eye. In the dry fig orchard, Red-winged, Pied and European Starlings were mixed with White-backed Mousebirds. Around the farmhouse Olive Thrush, Cape Wagtail and Cape Robin-Chat were to be expected but Karoo Scrub Robin was also around. As we left the tar road 3 Klipspringers made a precarious climb up the cliff face, amazing that they don’t come crashing down.
Once through the poort, and seeing Bokmakierie, Common Fiscal and Longbilled Crombek, the Tanqua looked green and inviting. First stop produced White-throated Canary, Chestnut-vented and Layard’s Tit-babbler and a lone Malachite Sunbird in his sparkling green plumage. The traditional picnic site was rather quiet but Mountain Wheatear, Familiar Chat, Layard’s Tit-babbler and Fairy Flycatcher saved the day. No response from Kopje Warbler this time.
We moved on towards Inverdoorn Dam and Karoo Lark, Rufous-eared Warbler and Karoo & Sickle-winged Chats and the first Pale-chanting Goshawk for the day. It was ringed and I must see if I can read the ring from the pics taken. The dam was still very full but Egyptian Geese, SA Shelduck and Cape Shoveler were in evidence. No flamingos this time, however the resident Fish Eagle was roosting in some low trees on the north of the dam. Wonder were their nest is?
Towards Perdekoppies (Eierkop) a pair of Yellow-bellied Eremomelas entertained us close to the vehicle. Karoo Eremomelas were already in pairs close to the base of the Koppie amongst the green bushman’s candle and orange daisies. Grey Tits called high up the Koppie but remained unseen. As we left a dead raptor cause us to stop. It was the juv “ Augur” Jackal Buzzard which cause a bit of concern a few month ago. It still looked odd but the under wing had browned somewhat. A pair of Large-billed Larks were feeding next to the road and gave great views.
On the way to Skitterykloof, Red-capped and Spike-healed Larks made their appearance as did Trac-trac and Ant-eating Chats. Missed Greater Kestrel, think we did not go far enough up the R355. In the entrance to Skitterykloof we heard Kopje Warbler high up, but looking into the sun did not help and it only called once and did not respond to whistling. Dusky and Malachite Sunbirds were feeding on the Viscum which was flowering, small flowers and not easily seen by us, but worked for the Sunbirds. A few Rock Martins cruised around the crags and 2 White-necked Ravens seemed to control the airspace without the Black or Martial Eagles being around. A walk up the river (running!) produced Acacia Pied Barbet, Pririt Batis, Karoo Scrub Robin, Fairy Flycatcher and Cape Bunting. One more Kopje Warbler was heard somewhere around the corner of the large cliff but nothing would bring him closer.
The road back to Ceres in the late afternoon had us stopping a few times for pairs of Karoo Korhaan and Yellow Canaries, bright yellow in the afternoon light.
A great bit of Karoo birding again and a total of 65 species seen.