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Pofadder Area

Pofadder, the stereotypical South African one-horse town, bears the name of the Puffadder (Bitis ariens), a sluggish and highly toxic snake found throughout South Africa. Acacia Pied Barbet, Red-eyed Bulbul and Pale-winged Starling occur in the town itself. The giant nests of Sociable Weaver are common in this part of Bushmanland. A particularly picturesque assemblage of these nests, with a resident pair of Pygmy Falcon (p.110), is found in some camelthorn trees exactly 11 km east of Pofadder (1 on map below).

The 50-km unsurfaced road that leads from Pofadder to the Orange River at Onseepkans offers excellent birding across a diversity of habitats, from arid rocky gorges and dusty plains to lush riparian vegetation. The large-billed subspecies of Sabota Lark (see p.13), Karoo Long-billed Lark and Karoo Chat are common along the first section of this road. The acacia-lined watercourse (2) crossing the road (6.3 km from Pofadder) contains Acacia Pied Barbet and Pririt Batis. After 15 km from Pofadder (from 3 onwards), check the open plains for Burchell’s Courser (p.96*) and Stark’s Lark, and after 20 km look for Scimitar-billed Woodhoopoe, Sabota and Fawn-coloured Larks in the low thorn-trees on the right-hand side. Thirty-three kilometres from Pofadder, a beautiful gorge falls away on the left of the road: look here for Short-toed Rock Thrush (scarce; see also p.124) Cinnamon-breasted Warbler (p.85*), Pale-winged Starling, Dusky Sunbird and Black-headed Canary (p.105*). As you reach the first buildings of the hamlet and border post of Onseepkans, check the group of palms on your right for breeding Rosy-faced Lovebirds (an extremely localized bird in South Africa) and Palm Swifts. African Fish Eagle and Darter frequent the river. The riparian vegetation offers Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Cape Reed Warbler, African Marsh Warbler (summer), Namaqua Warbler (p.85*), Red-billed Quelea and Red Bishop. The peachy-flanked subspecies of Cape White-eye (p.13) is common here, as is Black-throated Canary. Fan-tailed Cisticola display over the agricultural fields close to the Orange River.

From Pofadder, take the gravel road to the southwest, towards Namies. [This is the P2961 (not the R358), and can be reached by turning into Buitenkant Street (on the western edge of the town) from the N12. At the T-junction with Springbok Street, turn right and follow this road, which becomes gravel after a short while. Continue along the gravel and turn left into the P2961 after 0.3 km.] At 4 (see map, previous page), search the open plains, and check the water trough at 5 for Sclater’s Lark. At dawn and dusk, listen for the frog-like duet of the Karoo Korhaan, one of the characteristic sounds of South Africa’s arid plains. Continue through the Namies mountains, where Cinnamon-breasted Warbler occurs on the rocky slopes at 6 and 7. Be particularly careful when driving on the unsurfaced road in this vicinity, as there are a number of treacherously sharp corners. Sabota Lark (see p.13) and Karoo Long-billed Lark are common; look for the former in the taller scrub, where it draws attention to itself with its canary-like song. Also look out for overflying Bradfield’s Swifts. At night, listen for the deep hoot of the Cape Eagle Owl (p.105*), which is resident on the slopes here, especially in the vicinity of the Ghaamsberg (8). This mountain is a treasure chest of biological diversity and threatened plants; sadly, the proposal to build the world’s largest open-cast zinc mine on its summit seems set to go ahead. Check the water troughs at 9 for large numbers of drinking Namaqua Sandgrouse and Lark-like Bunting. Continue to 0, where the road is crossed by intensely red dunes, and there is a stock enclosure lined with tyres on each side of the road. The dunefield is surrounded by sparsely-grassed and mesmerizingly flat expanses, punctuated by the occasional mountain. This is a well-known site for the richly-coloured dune form of Red Lark, which is in fact one of the most common birds in the vicinity. The larks are most easily found in the morning and late afternoon, when their rattling calls drifts across the dune crests. Between bouts of calling from the dune scrub, they feed on the ground, and can usually be seen running about between the bushes. Other common birds here include Grey-backed Finchlark, Scaly-feathered Finch, and Anteating Chat. Fawn-coloured Lark occurs less frequently. From 0, either retrace your steps to 9 and turn left towards the tarred N14 near the mining town of Aggenys (note that there is no accommodation available here) or, if well prepared with fuel and water, continue along the scenic gravel road to Springbok via Gamoep (see p.102). The first 15 km or so of this road will prove rewarding for Karoo and Northern Black Korhaans; also check carefully for Sclater’s and Stark’s Larks.

If you have a spotlight, it is always worth taking a night drive along remote gravel roads: Rufous-cheeked Nightjar is common on the plains in summer, and Cape Eagle Owl may sometimes be seen near rocky areas. The Bushmanland also has an exciting diversity of nocturnal mammals (see box, p.124). Aardvark (Orycteropus afer), whose deep burrows can be seen throughout the region, is occasionally observed on night drives in Bushmanland. Other common mammals are Springhare (Pedetes capensis) and Bat-eared Fox (Otocyon megalotis); sadly, the latter is a regular road casualty.

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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