Tankwa – Karoopoort

  • Karoopoort farmhouse - Vince Ward

About the Birding

Despite being lush in comparison to the rest of the Tankwa, the birdlife in this area is still strongly dictated by rainfall, with certain species only arriving after good rains.

The Tankwa is best approached from Ceres on the R46. The road climbs the Theronsberg Pass and across a landscape of orchards and remnant patches of Renosterveld. On a short birding detour along the Driehoek Road (-33.2596, 19.5346) Cape Clapper, Red-capped, and Large-billed Larks, Yellow Canary, Bokmakerie, Karoo Scrub-robins, and Blue Cranes are all possible. Black-headed Canary, Lark-like Bunting and Ludwig’s Bustard are present in wet years. Black Stork a rare provincial breeder has been seen at some of the farm dams.

The R46 descends to the Touws River junction (-33.2311, 19.6769), and becomes the R355 as it transitions to a dirt road.

Make frequent stops along the first few hundred metres of this road, scanning the reed lined dry river courses for Namaqua Warblers. This small warbler has a distinctive spinning call and are common in the area. They are joined by African Reed Warblers in summer, while the adjacent vegetation is good for Yellow-bellied Eremomelas. Check the mountain slope on the opposite of the road for flocks of Pale-winged Starlings, and pairs of Mountain Wheatears.

The historic Karoopoort farm and tollhouse is a short distance further along this road (-33.2185, 19.7028).

Park at the near the poplar trees, and bird along the length of tarred road. Don’t open any farm gates, or cross any fields without permission from the residents. Allow yourself plenty of time to bird this area before continuing into the Tankwa.

The areas around the homestead and farmyard hold the most birds. Pied Starlings, Cape Weavers, Cape and House Sparrows, Acacia Pied Barbet and Familiar Chat are all common. The area is a known hybrid zone for Olive and Karoo Thrush, so look at any thrush very carefully.

The dense drainage lines are excellent for Pririt Batis, Fairy Flycatcher, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler and Namaqua Warblers. Flocks of White-backed Mousebirds can also be common. In some very wet years, Dusky Sunbird is possible as well.

The mountains slopes are home to flocks of both Pale-winged and Red-winged Starlings. Scan the power lines that cross these slopes for raptors, as Pale Chanting Goshawk, Greater, and Rock Kestrel, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Booted and Martial Eagles have all been recorded.

The open fields and flanking scrub are home to Yellow Canary, Cape Bunting, Cape Sparrow, Namaqua Dove, White-throated Canary and Karoo Scrub-robins. Black-headed Canary and Lark-like Bunting can be common in wet years. Patches of Euphorbia veld are worth checking for Layard’s Tit-babbler.

Shortly after leaving Karoopoort, stop and scan the vertical rock slabs immediately next to the road (-33.2157, 19.7184) for Cinnamon-breasted Warblers. The area around the picnic site (-33.2026, 19.7316) is another possible locality for this elusive skulker.

At the split in the road (-33.2059, 19.7295), you can continuing north along the R355 towards other birding sites like Eierkop and Skitterykloof. The R356 passes the Inverdoorn Game Reserve. Both roads offer similar opportunities for species typical of the Tankwa plains especially Karoo Eremomela and Rufous-eared Warblers.


About the Birding Site

Karoopoort is the gateway to the arid landscapes of southern Tankwa Plains a productive birding site. The areas mountain slopes, thickly vegetated drainage lines, farm fields, orchards and homestead attract both good numbers and a wide variety of birds including several dryland specials.

Other Related Information

Karoopoort farmhouse: -33.2185, 19.7028
No admission costs.
Not disabled friendly, but most of the birding can be down from a vehicle or the roadside.

Text prepared by:
Vincent Ward (Birding Africa Tours)

Key species:

Namaqua Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Mountain Wheatear, Sickle-winged Chat, Layard’s Titbabbler, Pale-winged Starling, Karoo Eremomela, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Pririt Batis