cape birding route > birding spots > overberg & south coast > farmland loops
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Farmland Loops:

The superficially sterile monoculture of the Overberg wheatlands harbours a surprising diversity of birds, including such sought-after species as Black Harrier (p.57*), Blue Crane (p.72*), Stanley’s Bustard (p.72*), Karoo Korhaan, Agulhas Long-billed Lark (p.73*) and the endemic southern Cape subspecies of Clapper Lark (see pp.64, 116*). The area is also pleasantly scenic, with only the scatter of fiery red aloes across the winter hillsides destroying the illusion of a restful southern European landscape.

One of the best birding areas to explore is that between Swellendam and De Hoop Nature Reserve. Three good gravel roads (see map, p.58) run between the two, flanked by a mosaic of wheatfields, fallow lands, and, on the steeper hillsides and valleys, islands of natural renosterveld scrub (see p.7). A rewarding loop that offers access to all the important birds is the following: take the N2 national road past Swellendam, and continue for 7 km to the hamlet of Buffeljagsrivier. Just beyond the BP service station, turn right onto the gravel road (signposted ‘Malgas’); turn left after 3.3 km and continue for a further 4.3 km before pulling off. Search the scrub along the road edge for Agulhas Long-billed Lark and Clapper Lark. Both are common here and are especially conspicuous when aerially displaying in spring. This road is also good for the scarce Stanley’s Bustard, Karoo Korhaan (rather atypically, in such moist habitat), Southern Black Korhaan (p.57*), Grey-wing Francolin (seen feeding on the road verges in the mornings and late afternoons) and Long-billed Pipit. Exactly 28.3 km from the N2, shortly after you cross two cattle grids, look for one of the Cape’s few Horus Swift colonies in a gully on the western (right-hand) side of the road. Four kilometres further on, the road crosses the Breede River at the village of Malgas. Here, you can enjoy the quaint experience of having your car inched across the river on South Africa’s last working pont.

Just past Malgas, the route joins the gravel road that leads to Potberg and the De Hoop Nature Reserve, and ultimately to the town of Bredasdorp. The remnant patches of indigenous scrub near this junction are good for Clapper Lark, and the stretch from here to Bredasdorp (especially around the main De Hoop turn-off) is excellent for Stanley’s Bustard. If you wish to return to the N2, you can turn right at the fork 1 km later (see map p.58), and follow another gravel road to Swellendam, along which there are also good numbers of Agulhas Long-billed Lark and Blue Crane. The latter is a fairly common sight throughout this region.

The whole of the Overberg region is good raptor country; regularly seen species include Secretarybird, Martial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and Black Harrier. Common and characteristic species of the agricultural lands are White Stork, Black Crow, Southern Thick-billed and Red-capped Larks, Capped Wheatear, Orange-throated Longclaw, Pied Starling, Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow Canary and, particularly in stubble fields, Cloud Cisticola (p.57*).

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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