cape birding route > birding spots > bushmanland > brandvlei
Info Service
About Us
Birding Spots
Day Guiding
Car Hire
Contact Us
    Site Map
Brandvlei: An Introduction to Bushmanland

From Calvinia, take the R27 north to Brandvlei. As you enter Bushmanland, the landscape becomes more open and the bushes lower and sparser. From this point on, keep alert for Black-eared Finchlark, a nomadic species found throughout Bushmanland and which often moves around in flocks (p.96*). While driving, you are likely to spot the conspicuous, all-dark males fluttering over the road, although they invariably land frustratingly behind the bushes by the time you have stopped the car!

About 54 km north of Calvinia (95 km south of Brandvlei; use the distance signs to orient yourself), check the pan on the left that often contains water and Greater Flamingo, Black-necked Grebe, Avocet and South African Shelduck. The latter two may be seen on any pool of water in the region. Blue Cranes (p.72*) are regularly seen on the isolated patch of cultivated land 55 km south of Brandvlei, where Thick-billed and Red-capped Larks are common. There are colonies of South African Cliff Swallow (active September to April) under road culverts exactly 67 km, 97 km and 107 km south of Brandvlei.

Tractrac and Karoo Chats (see p.78) are the most common chats in the region, although Familiar, Sickle-winged and Ant-eating Chats may also be seen. The stocky Chat Flycatcher often perches on telephone wires, while Karoo Long-billed Lark (p.13), the region’s most widespread lark, is often seen perched on the fence-posts. Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-chested Prinia and Bokmakierie are common on the scrubby plains, whereas Cape Penduline Tit (p.81) prefer drainage lines. Look out for Ludwig’s Bustard (p.105*) and the occasional Kori Bustard (p.116*), which are often seen in flight, especially in the morning and early evening. The commonest raptors are Pale Chanting Goshawk, Greater Kestrel and Lanner Falcon, while Martial Eagle and Black-breasted Snake-eagle are also often seen.

Although Red Lark (p.96*) can be quite localized, it is found widely in the Brandvlei region and may be common where the vegetation is suitable. One such locality is precisely 23.6 km south of Brandvlei (1.1 km south of a picnic site), where a lone windmill stands among a large tract of scrubby vegetation on the east side of the road. For the best chance of success, get here early and listen out for their calls. It is the ‘plains form’ of the Red Lark that occurs here, which is much browner than the richly-coloured ‘dune form’ occurring near Pofadder (p.95). Karoo Lark does not occur here. Also look out for the localized Karoo Eremomela (p.85*) here and in the scrub exactly 10 km south of Brandvlei. This is a relatively scarce species in Bushmanland, unlike the Yellow-bellied Eremomela, which is common over much of the region.

Brandvlei is a small town of exceptionally forlorn demeanour, situated on the plains of central Bushmanland. Its unprepossessing appearance is deceptive, however, as excellent birding may be had close to the town. Make an early start, leaving any non-birding companions to sleep late in the Brandvlei Hotel. Red Lark (p.96*) may be searched for at the site mentioned above, but it also occurs even closer to town: follow the R27 for 2 km north of town, and turn left along the unsurfaced road to Granaatboskolk. Continue for about 2 km along here, and check the scrub on either side of the road at 1 (see map, right).

The area to the east of Brandvlei offers some excellent Bushmanland birding, including good sites for the desirable Sclater’s Lark (see box) and Burchell’s Courser (p.96*). From Brandvlei, take the gravel R357 towards Van Wyksvlei. Check the slightly thicker scrub (especially at 2 and 5 on site map, below) for Karoo Eremomela (p.85*). Continue to the bridge at 3, where European Bee-eater breeds in summer, and where Pririt Batis (p.85*) occurs in the sparse riparian vegetation. Look for Dusky Sunbird around the occasional flowering bush (often on rocky koppies) and in riverine trees.

Shortly after the bridge, you will be faced with a staggered, three-point intersection at 4. Take the northerly road, signposted ‘Van Wyksvlei’. The entire route from Brandvlei to Van Wyksvlei is excellent country for Sclater’s Lark. In particular, check the habitat precisely at 7, and at 3 km beyond 7 along the R357. Much of the road towards Van Wyksvlei is also recommended for both this species and Burchell’s Courser, and both can be found by driving along and stopping at their characteristically open habitat. Check the small farm dams for Sclater’s Lark. Burchell’s Courser occurs sparsely here, and over the whole of Bushmanland. Watch for them running away from you in the distance when walking through suitable habitat, which is usually the most open, sparsely vegetated areas available — from open stony plains to the grassy edges of dry pan areas. Their unusual flight call often attracts attention. Look out for them while driving, too, as their white wing patches are quite conspicuous in flight. Another rewarding route for both these species is the Haasfontein road: start from 4, and look especially on the plains around the farm Toekoms, 27 km from 4. Red Lark may be found 1 km east of 4.

You may also see Karoo Korhaan and Double-banded Courser at the roadsides, and Black-eared Finchlark is usually present in the area. A very common bird of the stony plains is the enchanting Spike-heeled Lark. These birds move about in small, active groups, jerkily scuttling about the pebbles and digging with their bills into the soft sand accumulated around the bases of bushes. Lark-like Bunting is often abundant. Red Lark occurs sparsely in the taller vegetation over this whole area: check at 6, and also at 17.7 km beyond 7 on the R357. Namaqua Sandgrouse are often seen flying to water in the mornings, delivering their characteristic, bubbling ‘kelkiewyn’ calls.

This website is maintained by Birding Africa.
Please do not use any text, images or content from this site without permission.
© Birding Africa 1997-2009
4 Crassula Way, Pinelands, 7405, Cape Town, South Africa

27/09/09: Dalton Gibbs reports back from Gough Island! Read the blog!

26/09/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip report from trips of 12 and 19 September 2009.

30/08/09: British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water proved very successful, with sunny weather and over 20,000 visitors. Callan's "Birding Namibia and the Okavango" was the most highly-attended lecture on the Saturday, with over 240 people. Congratulations to the winners of the Birding Africa competition and the African Bird Club raffle that we helped sponsor!

12/08/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip reports from August and July 2009. Highlights: Little Shearwater and more!

07/08/09: The sub-adult Black Sarrowhawk visits our garden again! Read on about Raptor Research in the Western Cape.

27/07/09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has grown! And its sibling never had a chance to hatch. See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

27/07/09: To follow modern nomenclature and systematics, we've adopted the IOC World Bird List, Version 2.1.

13/07/09: The 8th African Bird ID Challenge has launched! Win a 50% discount on a Cape Town Pelagics trip, a copy of Southern African Birdfinder, or African Bird Club membership for 1 year.

6 July 09: Cape White-eye research in our garden.

2 July 09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has hatched! See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

2 July 09: Campbell Fleming, a Cape Town scholar, avid birder and photographer, joined Birding Africa last month as an intern. Click here, to see what he got up to.

2 July 09: New pelagic trip reports from the Cape Town Pelagics trips in June 2009. Highlights: Slenderbilled Prion and Leach's Storm Petrel

30 july 09: Our latest Cape Fynbos and Karoo trip reports feature Hottentot Buttonquail, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and other fynbos and Karoo endemics...

26 June 09: Tungsten mining threatens RAMSAR site, South Africa's Verlorenvlei. Read the Media Release.

22 June 09: Claire Spottiswoode, one of the Cape Birding Route founders, was part of the exploratory team at Mount Mabu. The mountain is part of the newly discovered largest rainforest in Southern Africa.

11 June 09: A colour-ringed Black Sparrowhawk visits the Birding Africa office garden. Read why it's a 10 months old male!

14 June 09:
Wildlife at the office of The Cape Birding Route, Birding Africa and Cape Town Pelagics.

31 May 09:
Michel Watelet wins the 7th African Bird Club & Birding Africa ID Challenge. Test your African birding skills and WIN a Birding Africa Cape town day trip or a copy of the Birdfinder!

30 May 09: A tragedy unfolds at Kommetjie south of Cape town as 44 beached False Killer Whales were shot. Click here for more details and pictures.

14 March 09: Raptor Watch in Cape Town on 14 March 09