Western Cape – Albertinia and surrounding area

About the Birding

To date, 207 different bird species have been recorded in the area surrounding Albertinia. Best birding areas with the highest diversity of bird species are in the northern parts of the area close to the foothills of the Langeberg Mountain Range. However, very good terrestrial birding and LBJ birding is possible in the central agricultural zone.

Birders are advised to do frequent stops along the roads where the adjoining environments may area very drab and almost void of any bird activity. Careful and meticulous scanning of the barren areas will soon yield most of the LBS where they scurry along the ground. Pay special attention to bird calls as these are normally the first indication as to where to start searching.

Birding in these areas also constantly changes due to the status of the agricultural lands, whether freshly ploughed and seeded, covered in new growth, crops in full production, harvesting cycles or simply fallow areas. Each one of these stages attracts different species. In addition, the seasons of also play an important role in finding the respective bird species as many of the species are much more vocal or even displaying in courtship flights during breading cycles in springtime.

Along the roads near to the Langeberg Mountain Range foothills, bird species like Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra, Sombre Greenbul, Olive Bushshrike, Red-chested-, Diederik-, Klaas’s- and Black Cuckoos, as well as African Paradise-, Dusky- & Blue-mantled Crested Flycatchers can be encountered in dense vegetation along stream beds and riverine courses.

About the Birding Site

The area surrounding Albertinia is predominantly dominated by intensely developed agricultural fields but these areas present excellent opportunity to locate all the Little Brown Jobs (LBJ), seed-eaters, and birds of prey all year round. As can be seen on the above image, where the local district roads have been highlighted, numerous roads criss-cross through the area to the north of the N2 National Highway. During the rainy season some of these roads may become impassable for short periods of time. Almost all the roads are minor gravel roads serving the local farming community. Visitors are reminded to respect the privacy and security arrangements of the farmers and visitors should not venture onto private land or climb over fences. All gates should be left in the condition in which they are encountered on the respective roads.
Birding along the Rural Roads in the area laying to the south of the Langeberg Mountain Range, is rewarding as many diverse habitats are crossed through along these roads. The habitats range from intensely cultivated agricultural areas, pristine Fynbos hillsides, deep incised streams, some of them covered in dense indigenous vegetation, as well as beautiful views onto the foothills and kloofs of the southern facing slopes of the Langeberg Mountain Range.

Birding for this area is thus discussed in four different sections, namely:

  1. Whispering Tree in Albertinia
  2.  Rural roads to the north of the N2 National Highway and to the west of the Gourits River
  3. Soutpan (west of Albertinia)
  4.  Hectorskraal loop road (south of Albertinia)

The Whispering Tree (Wild Fig) is located at GPS -34.2062˚S, 21.5816˚E within the town of Albertinia. This wild fig tree is a nationally protected tree which is registered as a National Champion Tree (August 2017) with a trunk circumference of 14,6m and a diameter of 4,67m for the main trunk. The 17m tall tree has a crown diameter of 36,4m. Being Nationally recognised and registered means that access for the public to visit and view the tree is free and available at any time.
The tree is located on a private property with extensive gardens (1,6ha). Birding in the gardens surrounding the tree is encouraged by the owners and is quite rewarding, but as a private guest house is also operated on the site, visitors are requested to respect the privacy of the paying guests and maintain their silence during the visit not to disturb other guesthouse visitors.

Birding at the site:
Early morning and late afternoon birding at the site is best as these times afford the best opportunities to observe birds during the dawn chorus as well as when returning to their nesting sites at dusk.

The majestic tree itself is beautiful to observe but it also attracts many fruit-eating bird species and insectivorous birds. The adjoining gardens on the property are well kept with a small fishpond, small wetland areas, indigenous as well as foreign vegetation that all adds to the attraction of bird species to the gardens.
Special species that can be observed in season include birds like Spotted Eagle-owl, Brown-hooded- & Malachite Kingfishers, Cardinal Woodpecker, Red-chested-, Diederik- and Klaas’s Cuckoo, Southern Boubou, African Paradise-, Dusky-, Fiscal- & Spotted Flycatchers, Cape Batis, Cape White-eye, African Hoopoe, Olive Thrush, Speckled Pigeon, Red-winged Starling, Speckled- & Red-faced Mousebirds, Cape Robin-chat, Amethyst-, Southern Doubled-collared-, Greater Double-collared- & Malachite Sunbirds amongst many other more common urbanised bird species.

Permits:
No permits are required to visit the Whispering Tree site. Access to the tree is available at any time.

Description of Roads located to the North of the N2 Highway:

It is clear to see the extensive network of gravel rural district roads that exist in the area between the N2 National Highway and the Langeberg Mountain Range lying to the west of the Gourits River. Road sections that follow the small streams in the area provide a good opportunity to observe birds living in the riverine thickets. The most northern roads traverse along the southern foothills of the Langeberg Mountain Range and provide a distinct habitat where sections of indigenous forest patches are encountered along the deeply incised stream valleys.

Most of the area covered by the central rural roads can best be described as arid at most times, but after good seasonal rains some small and shallow pans form in the cultivated areas. These areas temporarily attract small numbers of waders that are normally not present in the area.

The habitat generally comprises intensely developed cultivated lands which are interspersed with small natural drainage channels, but the area adjoining the mountain foothills is much moister during all seasons.

Alongside the N2 highway extensive plantations of introduced foreign tree species are encountered. Although these areas are less prolific in bird numbers, the local raptor species all favour the elevated perch positions that are provided by dead trees along the plantation edges to hunt from.

Most of the roads indicated on the attached layout of the road network are minor gravel public roads. Travelling conditions along some of the smaller roads can be challenging after periods of good rain as some sections may be very muddy. Birders are advised not to enter private farms without first gaining permission from the owners. Many gates are encountered on some sections of these roads. Please leave the gates in the same status as it was upon your arrival.

Birding along the road network to the north of Albertinia:
The cultivated lands will likely produce the following special bird species, namely Common Quail, Black-shouldered Kite, Blue Crane, Denham’s Bustard, Jackal Buzzard, Capped Wheatear, Cape Clapper-, Large-billed-, Red-capped- & Agulhas Long-billed Larks, Zitting Cisticola, African-, Long-billed- & Plain-backed Pipits, as well as African Stonechat. After good seasonal rains drainage pans form in the cultivated lands which then attract bird species like Kittlitz’s- & Three-banded Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwing, Common Greenshank, South African Shelduck, Cape- & Red-billed Teals, Cape Shoveler, Egyptian- & Spur-winged Geese, as well as Sacred- & Hadeda Ibises.

Birding in these areas also constantly changes due to the status of the cultivated lands, whether freshly ploughed and seeded, covered in new growth, crops in full production, harvesting cycles or simply fallow areas. Each one of these stages attracts different bird species. In addition, the seasons also play an important role in finding the respective bird species as many of the species are much more vocal or even displayed in courtship flights during breading cycles in springtime.

The roads that traverse the southern Langeberg Mountain Range foothills may also yield bird species like Fork-tailed Drongo, Brown-backed Honeybird, Red-chested-, Diederik-, Klaas’s- & Black Cuckoos, African Paradise- & Dusky Flycatchers, Olive Bushshrike, Cape Batis, Cape Grassbird as well as Rufous-breasted- & Black Sparrowhawks, Black Harrier, Jackal Buzzard, and Booted Eagle.

Description of the Soutpan site:

A natural seasonal salt pan is formed at location GPS -34.2068˚S, 21.4626˚E. This salt pan is approximately 12km to the west of Albertinia along the N2 National Highway adjacent to the farm fence line. It provides for great close-up views of birds feeding on the salt pans and shallow salty waters.
Hardly any birds unfortunately visit the pans when the pans are dry.

Birding at the Soutpan salt pans:

When the salt pans are filled with water after good rain spells many bird species temporarily migrate onto the salt marshes and flats. Bird species that can normally be encountered at the pans include Kittlitz’s- & Three-banded Plovers, Blacksmith Lapwing, Common Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Cape- & Red-billed Teals, Cape Shoveler, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Sacred- & Hadeda Ibises, Cape Wagtail, and with luck Greater Flamingo.
The adjoining marshy areas and open veld areas are good to locate African Snipe, African Pipit, Large-billed Lark, Cape Longclaw, Capped Wheatear, Crowned Lapwing, Jackal- & Common Buzzards, Rock Kestrel, and Spotted Eagle-owl as well as Rufous-necked Nightjar.

Description of the Hectorskraal Loop Road:
This approximate 20km gravel loop road provides access to diversely different habitats. The road crosses through exotic Blue Gum and Black Wattle Plantations, Dune field straights (Duineveld), Marshlands, and a range of low hills covered in Fynbos. This diversity in habitat types obviously attracts numerous different bird species to the local area.

The western turnoff to the Hectorskraal Loop Road is located at GPS -34.2132˚S, 21.5695˚E on the N2 Highway to Riversdale and the eastern turnoff is located at GPS -34.2124˚S, 21.6007˚E. The Hectorskraal loop road is discussed in an anti-clockwise direction starting at the western access point. A small gravel road turns to the left (east) after about 4,7km and continues eastward for about 4,4km until it reaches a T-junction. At the T-junction you can elect to drive a short distance to the right (south) along the vleys which normally produce a few special bird species. Should you however elect to return directly to Albertinia you need to turn left (north) at the T-junction. The small road can be quite sandy in places and a high clearance vehicle is recommended for this loop road.

Birding along the Hectorskraal Loop Road:
In the plantation areas be on the lookout for Rufous-breasted- & Black Sparrowhawks, Peregrine Falcon, Fork-tailed Drongo, and Cape White-eyes. Immediately to the south of the plantation areas species like Common- & Jackal Buzzards, Booted Eagle, Black-shouldered- & Yellow-billed Kites, Bokmakierie, Southern Fiscal, Fiscal Flycatcher, Grey-backed Cisticola, Neddicky, Brimstone-, Yellow- & White-throated Canaries, African Stonechat, Pin-tailed Whydah, and Yellow Bishop can be located.

After the turnoff and heading east the landscape changes into very sandy dune field type of vegetation where bird species like Denham’s Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan, Hadeda Ibis, Blue Crane, Spotted Eagle-owl, Western Barn Owl, Rufous-necked Nightjar, Common Quail, African Pipit, and Large-billed Lark can be found.

After reaching the T-junction be on the lookout for especially African Snipe, Blacksmith Lapwing, Sacred Ibis, Western Cattle Egret, African Spoonbill, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, and Red-billed Teal in the marshes alongside the road.

Permits:
No permits are required to visit any of the areas mentioned in this section.

Other Related Information

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are several guesthouses offering farm stays on farms surrounding Albertinia as well as other accommodation types in the area which are available through the normal accommodation booking sites. Currently there are no Birder Friendly Establishments listed for this area.

Local guide information:
There are no community bird guides available for this area.

Text Prepared by:

Francois Furstenburg

Key species:

Special bird species that can be located along the rural roads surrounding Albertinia include Rock Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Booted Eagle, Cape Spurfowl, Blue Crane, Secretarybird, Denham’s Bustard, Southern Black Korhaan, White Stork, Spur-winged Goose, South African Shelduck, Common Quail, Cape Clapper-, Red-capped-, Large-billed-, & Agulhas Long-billed Larks, African-, Long-billed-, & Plain-backed Pipits, Capped Wheatear, Cape Longclaw, Zitting Cisticola, as well as Cape-, Brimstone-, Yellow- & White-throated Canaries.

Contact details:

Hessequa Tourism:
Tel: +27 (0)28 713 7953
Email: info@explorersgardenroute.co.za

Whispering Tree (Voëlroepersfontein Guest House): Marietjie Coetzee
Cell: +27 (0)83 228 2779
Email: martmari@mweb.co.za