Greater Karoo – Meiringspoort

About the Birding

Meiringspoort is situated on the N12 route between Beaufort West and De Rust where the road goes through the Swartberg Mountains. It is a mountainous area with the Groot River that winds through the poort with the road. It has several picnic sites and turn off places where you can stop to bird for a good diversity of Fynbos, Karoo and other arid specials.

About 3 km from the R407 / N12 intersection you will find some dams on the southern side of the road. Most often one finds lots of waterbirds like SA Shelduck, Cape Shoveller, Spur-winged Goose, Grey Heron, African Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Goose and Cape Teal. Reed Cormorants, Cattle Egrets and Grey Herons nest in the huge blue-gum trees. Check the area for waders such as Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Little Stint in summer.

On entering Meiringspoort, be on the lookout for Giant and Malachite Kingfishers where the road crosses the river. Mountain Wheatear and Cape Bunting are common, while Ground Woodpecker are often found sitting at the rock edges.

Five km beyond the entrance to the poort, there is a picnic spot on the southern side of the road and a few hundred metres further another one on the northern side. Both are excellent places to stop for birding with species like Southern Boubou, Pririt Batis, Southern Tchagra, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Red-faced Mousebird and Long-billed Crombec. Good place to look for Common Scimitarbill. Scan the sky for Verreauxs’ Eagle and Alpine Swift. The pools in the river are a good feeding ground for Hamerkop and Black Stork.

Just before you get to the Waterfall, there is a roosting site of African Black Swifts in the cliffs on the western side of the road. Alpine and White-rumped Swifts often accompany them.

At the Waterfall, there is a small information centre and the waterfall itself is splendid. It plunges 30 metres down into a 9 metre deep pool. Here you can find Malachite and Southern Double-banded Sunbird, Sombre Bulbul and Pale-winged Starling. Cape Wagtail, Cape Rock Thrush and Familiar Chat clean the parking area from food scraps. In the thicker vegetation you will find Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Batis and Cardinal Woodpecker.

One kilometre south of the waterfall, there is another roosting site of African Black Swifts. Southern Boubou and Cape Rock Thrush are quite tame at the picnic sites, while you will hear the hooting call of the Speckled Pigeon. Laughing, Cape Turtle- and Red-eyed Doves are common. Watch at the isolated pools in the river for African Black Duck. All along the river Giant and Malachite Kingfishers dive from the little culverts.

When you reach the farms at the southern end of the poort, stop at one of the picnic sites and listen for the call of the Tambourine Dove which feeds on the seeds of the “oliebome” (Datura stramonium). Look out for African Olive-Pigeons, because they often wander into the southern half of the poort. Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Acacia Pied Barbet, Diderick and Klaas’s Cuckoo (summer), Cape Batis, Cape Canary, Cape Siskin and African Dusky Flycatcher are common in the thorn trees and the fields.

About the Birding Site

Meiringspoort is the gateway between the Little and Great Karoo. It was built between 1856 and 1858 by the famous Andrew Geddes Bain. Since then the road has been washed away several times. The Groot River flows through this poort and the road crosses the river 26 times. It was named after Petrus Meiring who farmed on the southern entrance of the poort and who drew Bain’s attention to the great ravine cutting through the mountain. Meiringspoort has some of the most amazing folded mountain examples in the Karoo and you are advised to stop frequently to enjoy the mountains, vegetation and birds.

Other Related Information

Text prepared by:

Japie Claassen

Key species:

Verreauxs’ Eagle, Southern Boubou, Black Stork, Tambourine Dove, Fairy Flycatcher, Cape Siskin, Common Scimitarbill, African Black Duck, Giant Kingfisher, Southern Tchagra