After passing the R355/356 split (-33.2071, 19.7289), the vegetation slowly starts to become lower and sparser, and the patches of open gravel start to appear. The first few kilometres of the road are good for Layard’s Warbler, Karoo Scrub-robin and Karoo Lark. Pale Chanting Goshawk is the most common rock raptor although occasionally Greater Kestrel or Black-chested Snake Eagle are recorded.
Briefly stop and scan the prominent drainage line (-33.1312, 19.7639) roughly 9km from the split. Cape Sparrow, Pririt Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler and Cape Penduline-Tit are typical of this type of habitat.
Continuously watch the roadside fences and bushes for perching birds. Rufous-eared Warblers, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Karoo Scrub-robin, Yellow Canary and both Karoo Chat and Sickle-winged Chats are all found along this stretch of road. After good rains, flocks of Lark-like Buntings and Black-headed Canaries can be conspicuous. An early outing is the best time to listen out for the carrying calls of both Karoo, and Southern Black Korhaans.
The road enters an area of unmistakable orange-red sand dunes. Stop at the roadside picnic spot (-33.0935, 19.7711) walking towards the fence and scanning the dunes for Ant-eating Chats.
Shortly after returning to the main road you pass the first of the hills on your left, which is completely fenced and not open to the public. The second more northerly hill is reached by taking the unmarked dirt road leading off the R355 (-33.0807, 19.7737).
The vegetation around this hill is home to a good variety of specials including Karoo Eremomela, Rufous-eared Warbler and Karoo Chat. Other species regularly encountered include Grey-backed Cisticola, Grey Tit, White-throated Canary and Karoo Lark, with Black-headed Canary and Lark-like Bunting present in wet years. On the hill itself, there are usually Familiar Chats and Cape Bunting, The occasional flock of Pale-winged Starlings may also roost here.
As the R355 continues north, the vegetation continues becoming sparser, and gravel plains become more common. Here you are likely to encounter the first Tractrac Chats, with increased chances to spot Spike-heeled Lark, and possibly Double-banded Coursers.
Continue your roadside birding for the next 20km until you reach the junction where you can turn off for Skitterykloof (-32.8912, 19.7694), or you can continue an extra 2.5 kms to reach the eclectic Tankwa Padstal.
THE ROADS IN THE TANKWA ARE NOTORIOUS FOR PUNCTURES. PLEASE HAVE A WELL-SERVICED SPARE TYRE, AND REMEMBER TO DRIVE SLOWLY AND MINDFULLY WHILE BIRDING THIS AREA.