Waterberg – Zaagkuilsdrift
About the Birding
This account is written as approaching from the east via the N1, turning off at Pienaarsrivier and joining the Zaagkuilsdrift Road at -25.196, 28.295. As you pass through Pienaarsrivier in the east, look for parties of the social Magpie Shrike perched on the telephone lines. This is also a good area to watch for the scarce Purple Roller. Grassland on the outskirts of the town supports Northern Black Korhaan and Desert Cisticola; and, while both species are resident, they are easiest to find in the summer months when their calls resonate. Rufous-naped Lark is regularly seen perched on fence posts uttering its distinctive call. Between December and March, one can also see Southern Carmine Bee-eater in this area. Other summer migrants to look for include the Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, both Amur and Red-footed Falcons, and European Roller.
About the Birding Site
The 20km stretch of road spanning from the town of Pienaarsrivier to the village of Kgomo-Kgomo – known as the Zaagkuilsdrift road – is rightly considered one of the country’s top bushveld birding destinations and is a regular rarity hotspot. This is also arguably the best site in the country for the complete assemblage of Palearctic migrant warblers including the rare and highly sought-after River Warbler. These species are best seen in the latter part of summer (March-April) but one could expect a list of well over 150 species on a given day’s birding at any time of year.
Other Related Information
To reach the Zaagkuilsdrift road from Pretoria, follow the N1 north and take the Rust de Winter/Pienaarsrivier off-ramp. Turn to the west. At the first T-junction, turn to the right. After 1km, turn left onto an unpaved road; the start of the Zaagkuilsdrift Road. The Kgomo Kgomo floodplain is reached a further 20km along this road.
From Kgomo Kgomo, take the tarred road that leads to the south through Makapanstad and ultimately to the Hammanskraal Road approximately 35km further along. Turn left and continue for approximately 4km until you get to Hammanskraal and the R101. Turn right onto the R101 and, after 400m, turn left onto the R101. This road leads directly back to the N1.
Birders should be mindful that several areas of this road become virtually impassable in wet years, necessitating 4×4 vehicles with sufficient clearance.
Text prepared by:
Daniel Danckwerts (Rockjumper Birding Tours)