Free State (Central) – Hagesdam/Tafelkop

About the Birding

A brief stop at the “Klein Kaalspruit” bridge (-29.293683, 25.963675) en route in summer provides views of South African Cliff Swallows, Little and White-rumped Swifts breeding under the bridge. Continue along the R706 and take the next turn to the right (S284) (-29.323603, 25.920836), signposted “Hagesdam/Steunmekaar”.

Just after a left-hand bend in the road a few hundred metres further on, stop and listen for the repetitive, jumbled song of Fawn-coloured Lark, with calling males often perching on roadside bushes. Cultivated lands on the right a little further on may produce flocks of both Chestnut-backed and Grey-backed Sparrow-lark in summer, while displaying Melodious Larks may also be encountered over areas of grassland in the vicinity. Small numbers of migrant Lesser Kestrels and Amur Falcons often perch on roadside poles and power lines in between bouts of foraging over the grassland. Follow this gravel road until reaching the entrance to the farm Hagesdam on the left (signposted “Hagesdam – George Fourie”: -29.357778, 25.779914).

African Rock Pipit can be common on rocky hillsides and the distinctive phrases of calling males are most frequently heard in early mornings during summer, when birds may be seen perched on a prominent rock or bush. During winter, birds are less vocal and thus more difficult to find. Other species found in the hilly areas include Layard’s Tit-babbler (Warbler), Short-toed Rock Thrush and Grey-backed Cisticola. Fairy Flycatcher, Namaqua Dove, Cape and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, as well as Ashy Tit are also common. Grey Tit has also been observed in the area, as has Eastern Long-billed Lark – listen for the characteristic descending whistled call of this species.

Grasslands and areas with low karroid shrubs and patches of bare soil search are good for Sickle-winged Chat (winter months), Spike-heeled, Red-capped and Large-billed Lark as well as Double-banded, Temminck’s and Burchell’s Courser (the last being the rarest). In some areas with sandy red soils, Fawn-coloured Lark and Kalahari Scrub-robin are common. Lark-like Bunting and Black-headed Canary are present from time to time, attracted mainly to water troughs and reservoirs with seeping water – if lucky White-throated Canary may also be seen at water points. Raptors such as Secretarybird (breeding), Jackal Buzzard and Black Harrier are also encountered. Rare sightings have been obtained of Verreaux’s and Martial Eagle and Black-chested Snake Eagle.

Birding along the gravel S581 en route to Tafelkop is highly recommended, as most of the pipits, larks and other species of interest may be observed from the roadside. A stop at a slight bend in the stretch of road (-29.327042, 25.649292) directly opposite Tafelkop often produces a pair of Blue Crane in short grassland just to the east of the road, while Blue and Northern Black Korhaan are resident here. Temminck’s and Burchell’s Courser are usually encountered. Pink-billed Lark is also frequently seen and heard along this stretch, with birds often taking off from the road only to land a short distance further along. Yellow-bellied Eremomela may be found foraging in small roadside bushes, where this species has also been found breeding.

Key species:

Fawn-coloured Lark, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Melodious Lark, African Rock Pipit, Layard’s Tit-babbler (Warbler), Short-toed Rock Thrush, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ashy Tit, Double-banded Courser and Secretarybird

About the Birding Site

In the Hagesdam and Tafelkop areas, situated 60-70 km south-west of Bloemfontein, mainly cattle and sheep farming are practiced, with limited areas under cultivation. Accessed from Bloemfontein by taking the R706 towards Jagersfontein, the area is the centre of several roadside birding routes.

The main habitats are isolated bush-covered hills, or series of such hills, dominated by wild olive (Olea sp.) and sagewood (Buddleja sp.) trees, in otherwise grassland areas. Low, Karoo-scrub bush areas with extensive bare patches of ground are also found in the area. A number of dams, which may hold water for varying periods of time (depending on seasonal rainfall), provide suitable habitat for numerous waterfowl and wader species.

Key species:

Fawn-coloured Lark, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Melodious Lark, African Rock Pipit, Layard’s Tit-babbler (Warbler), Short-toed Rock Thrush, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ashy Tit, Double-banded Courser and Secretarybird

Other Related Information

Directions:
The Hagesdam and Tafelkop areas can be reached from Bloemfontein traveling on the Jagersfontein road (R706) in a south westerly direction. To reach Tafelkop, proceed from Hagesdam Farm along the gravel S284, taking the first turn to the right, onto the S581 (29°24’13.71″S, 25°38’49.22″E). Continue north and after cresting a rise, the distinctive flat-topped landmark of Tafelkop can be seen in the distance to the north-west.

Other related information:

GPS Coordinates:
Turn-off to “Hagesdam/Steunmekaar” gravel road: -29.323603, 25.920836
Entrance to Hagesdam Farm: -29.357778, 25.779914
Tafelkop Mountain: -29.334431, 25.629914

Access and facilities:
Birding along gravel roads (which however may be slippery following rain) is productive, convenient and safe; a local farmer may stop, asking about your presence and may offer birders the opportunity to visit other farms in the area.
No public facilities are available. The entire area is private farmland and if birders wish to leave the public roads, access to private property must be pre-arranged to do so, contact Mr George Fourie (Hagesdam; +27(0)51 575 0692) or Mr Schalk van der Merwe (Tafelkop; +27(0)82 577 1939).

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No Birder Friendly Establishments are currently available in the area. However, a diverse array of accommodation options are available in Bloemfontein to suit all budgets and requirements.
Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available in the area.

Text prepared by:
Martin Benadie | Specialist Birding Guide
Rick Nuttall

Key species:

Fawn-coloured Lark, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, Melodious Lark, African Rock Pipit, Layard’s Tit-babbler (Warbler), Short-toed Rock Thrush, Grey-backed Cisticola, Ashy Tit, Double-banded Courser and Secretarybird

Contact details:

Access to private property must be pre-arranged to do so, contact:

Mr George Fourie (Hagesdam)
Tel: +27(0)51 575 0692

Mr Schalk van der Merwe
+27(0)82 577 1939 (Tafelkop)

Download Checklist