Wheatbelt Circle Route 2: The Oudekraal Road

The Oudekraal road is another excellent option for bird-watchers wanting to savour the birding delights of the Overberg Wheatbelt. This road is not in the Overstrand municipal region as such, but can easily be investigated on an outing from Hermanus or Stanford. It is best to travel along this quite gravel road in the early morning and doing so from east to west. Target species here include the Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, Lanner and Peregrine Falcons, Black Harrier, Karoo and Southern Black Korhaans, Agulhas Long-billed and Cape Clapper Larks, African Marsh Harrier and Secretarybird.

The turn-off to this road (34°22’15”S 19°38’54”E) is from the R326 between Stanford and Riviersonderend just south of the intersection with the R316. The description of species abundance is based on findings in SABAP2 (the bird atlasing project) report cards throughout the region. 

A group of Blue Cranes stand together in a field in the Overberg Wheatbelt.
Blue Cranes (Steve Peck)
A female Southern Black Korhaan scans the fields of the Overberg Wheatbelt.
Southern Black Korhaan female (Steve Peck)
An African Marsh Harrier flies over a wetland clutching prey.
African Marsh Harrier (Graeme Hatley)
A Blakc-Harrier soars overhead in its fynbos habitat of the Overberg.
Black Harrier (Steve Peck)

The quest to find some of the region’s many LBJs starts immediately as all of the region’s cisticolas, larks and pipits are available. The Large-Billed and Red-Capped Larks are particularly numerous, but most bird-watchers are usually searching for Agulhas Long-Billed and Cape Clapper Larks. After a short distance there is a fork in the road at 34°21’53”S 19°38’24”E – keep left.

A Yellow Canary sings from a fence post in the fields of Overberg Wheatbelt
Yellow Canary (Steve Peck)
A Large-billed Lark scans the fields of the Overberg Wheatbelt.
Large-billed Lark (Steve Peck)
An African Pipit soaks up the morning sun in the Overberg.
African Pipit (Steve Peck)
An Agulhas Long-billed Lark looks over its Overberg habitat from a fence post.
Agulhas Long-biiled Lark (Steve Peck)

A bridge without a railing is then reached at 34°21’54”S 19°38’16’E. Be cautious here and parking off the bridge is advised. There is usually a large body of water to the north of the bridge and extensive reed beds to the south. This makes for a huge species diversity to be found on any given day. The Red-knobbed Coot, Reed Cormorant, Yellow-billed Duck, both geese, Little Grebe and Three-banded Plover are usually on offer, with the African Black Duck, Hamerkop, Cape Longclaw and African Marsh Harrier far less common. The Brown-throated and Rock Martins are abundant and expect to find large numbers of other martins, swallows and swifts in summer. The Barn, Greater Striped and White-throated Swallows are very numerous, but also look for Pearl-breasted Swallow that can be present in smaller numbers. The Alpine, Little and White-rumped Swifts are very common, with the African Black and Common Swifts less so. The latter is only present in the region in summers after above average rainfalls during winter months.

Endemic or near-endemic species that are very common in this general area include the Bokmakierie, Cape Canary, Cape Crow, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Spurfowl, Pied Starling and Cape Weaver. Other species available in abundance are the Southern Red Bishop, Yellow Canary, Black-Headed Heron, African Stonechat, Capped Wheatear and Pin-Tailed Whydah. The Black-Winged Kite is found regularly, as are Common Buzzard and Yellow-billed Kite in summer. The Black Harrier is recorded fairly often and this road represents an ideal area to look for this sought-after endemic and threatened species.

The Klipdrift Farm at 34°22’00”S 19°37’42”E is also worth a visit. It is situated on the banks of the Klein River and a recent visit there produced a variety of garden birds such as the Yellow Bishop, Brimstone Canary, Namaqua Dove, Karoo Prinia, Cape Robin-Chat, Common Waxbill and Cape White-eye. This is an ideal stop-over point for bird-watchers. Ensure that ample time is spent at the large dam at Jacobsdal (34°20’36″S 19°33’37”E) where vast numbers of waterfowl are often present. The common waterbirds occur in large numbers and look for the African Darter, Grey and Purple Herons and Giant, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers. Ducks recorded regularly are the Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler, and Cape and Red-billed Teals. The calls of the Little Rush Warbler, Lesser Swamp Warbler and African Reed-Warbler (summer) can be heard from the reed beds and Black Crake can often be seen darting in and out of visibility. The African Snipe is often seen in the short, damp grassy vegetation along the water’s edge and in summer listen for the distinctive call of Common Quail in the same area. It is believed that there is a resident pair of Secretarybird in this general area as these birds are seen often.

A Pied Kingfisher with its morning catch.
Pied Kingfisher (Anton Odendal)
A Purple Heron flies towards the sunrise.
Purple Heron (Graeme Hatley)
A pair of Cape Shovelers call from from rocks.
Cape Shovelers (Graeme Hatley)
A Malachite Kingfisher sits patiently on a pier.
Malachite Kingfisher (Carin Malan)

The turn-off to the village of Tesselaarsdal is reached at 34°20’06”S 19°32’23”E. A visit to this historical enclave is recommended as the hilly and rocky landscape brings another suite of birds into play. Look for endemic species such as the Acacia Pied Barbet, Cape Bunting, Grey-winged Francolin, Cape Rock Thrush and Ground Woodpecker. Also expect to find endemics associated with fynbos habitats such as the Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird. Birds of prey that are recorded fairly commonly include the Jackal Buzzard, Booted Eagle and Rock Kestrel. The possibility of finding the Martial and Verreaux’s Eagles and Black-chested Snake Eagle is remote, even though these species have been recorded here.

A long, single-lane bridge within a plantation of bluegum trees is reached at 34°20’00”S 19°31’55”E. The thickets along here host the Fork-Tailed Drongo, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cardinal and Olive Woodpeckers, African Olive Pigeon and Karoo Scrub Robin. In summer look for the European Bee-eater, Spotted Flycatcher and African Paradise Flycatcher, as well as all the cuckoos that occur in the area. Birds of prey to look out for include the Forest Buzzard, African Fish Eagle, African Harrier Hawk and Black and Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawks. The dam at the SAB barley farm (34°18’50”S 19°30’51″E) is also worth inspecting, although spotting scopes are needed at this site. Large numbers of waterbirds are often present with roughly the same species composition as the dam at Jacobsdal described above.

The Oudekraal road ends at a T-junction (34°16’08.06”S 19°26’15.83”E) just outside Caledon. The brief description of species to look for along this road speaks for itself. Discerning bird-watchers wanting to investigate the birding treasures of the Overberg Wheatbelt IBA in relatively close proximity of Cape Town should seriously consider travelling along here.

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