Western Cape – Calitzdorp and Surrounding Areas

About the Birding

The areas surrounding Calitzdorp are dominated by intensely developed agricultural areas and vineyards close to the town and the majestic Grootswartberg (Great Black Mountain) Mountain Range to its north with Rooiberg (Red Mountain) Mountain to the south-west and Gamkaberg Mountain to the south-east. These areas present excellent opportunity to locate all the Little Brown Jobs (LBJ’s), the seedeaters, terrestrial birds, and birds of prey all year round.

Other bird species that may be encountered near the foothills of the Grootswartberg Mountain Range are species like Acacia Pied Barbet, Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra, Sombre Greenbul, Red-chested-, Diederik-, Klaas’s- & Black Cuckoos, White-fronted Bee-eater, as well as African Paradise-, Dusky- & Blue-mantled Crested Flycatchers.  These species can all be found in dense vegetation cover along stream beds and riverine courses.

To date, 206 different bird species have been recorded in the areas surrounding Calitzdorp.

About the Birding Site

Birding in the areas surrounding Calitzdorp is discussed in three different sections hereafter, namely:
• Matjiesvlei Road
• Groenfontein and Kruisrivier Loop Road
• Huisrivier Pass

Birding along the roads in the area, to the south of the Grootswartberg Mountain Range, is rewarding as many unspoiled natural areas and diverse habitats are crossed through along the roads. The habitats range from small patches of intensely cultivated agricultural areas, pristine shrub-covered hillsides, deep incised streams, some of them covered in dense indigenous vegetation, as well as unsurpassable majestic views onto the foothills and kloofs of the southern-facing slopes of the Grootswartberg Mountain Range.

Roads into the Rooiberg Mountain Range are discussed under the VanWyksdorp pin and Gamkaberg is also discussed as a stand-alone pin on this website.
Access into the area is mainly gained from the very popular Route R62 that runs from west to east through the Calitzdorp region. Calitzdorp is locally renowned for producing good quality wines especially for its fortified wines. The region also produces lots of fresh produce and fruits.

Description of the Matjiesvlei Road:
The entrance to the 10km long Matjiesvlei Road is located about 5,5km to the west of Calitzdorp at GPS -33.4975˚S, 21.6511˚E on Route R62 between Calitzdorp and Ladismith. The Matjiesvlei Road is a minor dead-ended gravel district road that traverses along the ridgelines of the foothills of the Grootswartberg Mountain Range up to the end of the road where the Gouritz River cuts through the Grootswartberg Mountain. Most of the vegetation along the route is undisturbed natural shrubs other than for small agricultural nodes along the riverbanks. A few guest cottages and guest farms are located along the route.

Birding along the Matjiesvlei Road:
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.

To date 151 bird species have been recorded in this area. Special bird species that can be observed in season include birds like Spotted Eagle-owl, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Brown-hooded-, Malachite-, Pied- & Giant Kingfishers, Cardinal- & Ground Woodpeckers, Red-chested-, Diederik- & Klaas’s Cuckoos, Southern Boubou, Olive Bushshrike, Bokmakierie, African Paradise-, Fairy-, Fiscal- & Spotted Flycatchers, European- & White-fronted Bee-eaters (out of range), Cape- & Pririt Batis, Cape White-eye, African Hoopoe, Olive Thrush, Cape Rock Thrush, Red-winged Starling, Speckled-, White-backed- & Red-faced Mousebirds, Karoo Scrub Robin, Neddicky, Levaillant’s- & Grey-backed Cisticolas, Long-billed Crombec, as well as Southern Doubled-collared-, Greater Double-collared-, Dusky- & Malachite Sunbirds.

Birding along the ridgeline traversed by the road is good, but the low-lying farming areas along the floodplains of the Gouritz River are exceptionally rewarding and many of the regional special birds can be observed in the thickets aligning the course of the river.

Description of the Groenfontein and Kruisrivier Loop Roads:
The start of the Groenfontein section of this loop road is located within Calitzdorp at GPS -33.5307˚S, 21.6898˚E on the R62 route through Calitzdorp. The 28,5km long Groenfontein Road is a good quality gravel district road that can be travelled in any type of vehicle. This winding and scenic road follows the course of the Nel’s River as it winds its way through the foothills of the Grootswartberg Mountain Range. The road affords good views onto the Nel’s River Dam. The road winds through unspoilt wilderness areas and small farms located in isolated pockets along the route. At the northern end of the Groenfontein section, at GPS -33.4413˚S, 21.8846˚E (Kruisrivier North) a decision can be made to return to Calitzdorp via the Kruisrivier Link Road through Buffelspoort and back to Calitzdorp via the R62 route or to continue driving further to the east towards the Swartberg Mountain Pass or to the world renowned Cango Caves.

The return loop to Calitzdorp through Buffelspoort via the 16,5km long gravel Kruisrivier Road is equally rewarding and ends at GPS -33.5439˚S, 21.8245˚E (Kruisrivier South). The road follows the route of the Kruisrivier as it cuts through Buffelspoort. Where the road exists the foothills of the Grootswartberg Mountain the remarkable and amazing geological structures of the Redstone Hills (Conglomerate of large rounded pebbles which are embedded in fossilised ochre red sands) are encountered. This Redstone Hills area is worth a visit of its own!

The return road to Calitzdorp is via the 13,5km main tarred R62 route.

Birding along the Groenfontein and Kruisrivier Loop Roads:
Birding in this area can be difficult in the heat of a summer’s day but early morning or late afternoon drives are very good in this area. To date 198 different bird species have been recorded in the area covered by the loop road.

Special bird species that can normally be encountered along the Groenfontein section of the drive is White-breasted- & Reed Cormorants, Little Egret, Black-headed- & Grey Herons, Booted- & Verreaux’s Eagles, African Fish Eagle, Rock Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, African Hoopoe, Spotted Eagle-owl, Western Barn Owl, Red-chested-, Diederik- & Klaas’s Cuckoos, African Paradise- & Dusky Flycatchers, Cape- & Pririt Batis, White-backed Mousebird, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape White-eye, as well as White-throated- & Yellow Canaries.

Along the Kruisrivier Road other special species that may be encountered in addition to the abovementioned bird species are the Yellow-billed- & Black-shouldered Kites, Black Harrier, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Namaqua Dove, Sombre Greenbul, Red-winged Starling, Red-faced- & Speckled Mousebirds, as well as Yellow- & Southern Red Bishops.

Along the return leg via the R62 route be on the lookout for Karoo Korhaan, Pale Chanting Goshawk, African Pipit, Capped Wheatear, African Stonechat, as well as Large-billed- & Red-capped Larks.

Description of the Huisrivier Pass Road:
The Huisrivier Pass is a section of the main tarred road between Calitzdorp and Ladismith (Route R62).

Birding along this quite steep and winding road section is quite difficult and should only be done from the layby sections along the road. A few layby areas were constructed and from these positions good views into the adjoining landscape are possible. These safe stopping areas provide the only places to safely stop and search for birds on the adjoining mountain slopes. The mountain slopes are all vegetated by natural shrubs and renosterveld interspersed with succulents.

Birding along the Huisrivier Pass Road:
As stated in the previous paragraph, birding is difficult due to the fast-flowing traffic along the road that make it difficult to hear the chatter or signing of birds on the mountain slopes. To date 193 different bird species have been recorded in the Huishoek Pass area.

Special bird species to be on the lookout for include amongst others Verreaux’s- & Booted Eagles, Rock Kestrel, Cape Eagle-owl in rock cervices, Grey-winged Francolin, Cape Rock Thrush, Sickle-winged Chat, Karoo Scrub Robin, Ground Woodpecker, Bokmakierie, Mountain Wheatear, Familiar Chat, Layard’s- & Namaqua Warblers, Black-headed Canary, as well as Cape Buntings.

Other Related Information

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

Recommended accommodation nearby:
There are several guesthouses offering farm stays on farms surrounding Calitzdorp or in the town itself as well as other accommodation types in the area which are available through the normal accommodation booking sites. The Retreat at Groenfontein (www.groenfontein.com) is the only Birder Friendly Establishment currently listed in this area.

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

Text prepared by:
Francois Furstenburg

Key species:

Rock Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, Booted-, Martial- & Verreaux’s Eagles, South African Shelduck, Cape Rock Thrush, Ground Woodpecker, Acacia Pied Barbet, Olive Bushshrike, Cape- & Pririt Batis, Chestnut-vented Warbler, as well as Cape Siskin.

Contact details:

The Retreat at Groenfontein 
Web: www.groenfontein.com
WhatsApp: +27 (0)73 026 8529

Calitzdorp Tourism Bureau
Web: www.visitcalitzdorp.co.za
Telephone: +27 (0)44 213 3775