Cape Interior – Ceres & Gydo Pass

  • Gydo Pass - Leon Marais1
  • Gydo Pass - Leon Marais2

About the Birding

Ceres is located 140 kms to the east of Cape Town. The town and name-sake valley are bounded on all sides by mountains which are crossed by a number of passes.
Mitchells Pass links Ceres with the Breede River Valley. The R46 road climbs through montane Fynbos and birding from either the Tollhouse (-33.3908, 19.2862) or other roadside stops will yield specials like Cape Sugarbird, Cape Siskin and possibly Protea Canary. Keep an eye out for soaring White-necked Ravens as you ascend the Pass.

The town itself is a hive of activity and a great place to refuel and freshen up before continuing onto Tankwa via Theronsberg Pass or north up Gydo Pass. While in town visit any of the quieter river crossings (-33.3657, 19.3040) or footbridges (-33.3670, 19.3075) and scan up the river for African Black Duck. At night, Freckled Nightjars and very rarely Cape Eagle Owl visit the edge of western edge town. Scan the lower slope near the Ceres Rugby Club (-33.3722, 19.2969) and the roof of the pavilion.

In summer, Lesser Kestrels fly in every afternoon to roost on the pylons running through Bella Vista. Stop along the R303, perpendicular to the main pylon (-33.3287, 19.3097) and scan the length of the lines. Good numbers also roost on the tall antenna (-33.3302, 19.3185), but be aware that you will likely draw a crowd of curious onlookers.

The Gydo Pass lies north of Prince Alfred Hamlet. The road cuts through areas with sometimes dense patches of Waboom Protea Protea nitida. This is the favoured habitat of Protea Canary. This highly sought-after species is best located by its typically sweet canary call. The two picnic spots along the Pass (-33.2336, 19.3329 & -33.2340, 19.3309) are traditional sites for the species. Another good spot is near the power substation on the Witzenberg Valley road (-33.2286, 19.3169). This habitat is also good for other Fynbos endemics like Cape Sugarbirds, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Siskin.

If you have time in hand, bird the Witzenberg Pass (-33.2351, 19.3027) for Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rockjumper, and both Cape and Sentinel Rock-thrushes. The neighbouring Witzenberg Valley is a fantastic maze of orchards, the innumerable irrigation dams which are good for waterfowl. Please ensure that you do not trespass on any private property while birding in this valley.

From Gydo Pass you continue north through Op-die-Berg and into the Tankwa by way of the Katbakkies Pass over the Swartruggens and down Skitterykloof. Alternatively continue to scan the irrigation dams along the R303 for a chance of spotting Black Stork, a rare provincial breeder.

About the Birding Site

The Ceres Valley while a famed fruit growing area, serves a good base for birding trips both into the Tankwa as well as to the nearby Gydo Pass and beyond.
Montane Fynbos, Renosterveld patches and a variety of urban and agricultural landscapes are all well represented and hold a good suite of species.

Other Related Information

Text prepared by:

Vincent Ward (Birding Africa)

Key species:

Protea Canary, African Black Duck, Freckled Nightjar, Ground Woodpecker, Lesser Kestrel, Whiskered Tern