Guilty of often missing the great spring birding in August each year, I decided to drive the Darling Hills road a few Sundays ago to see if there was any early activity. For those not familiar with the area, the Darling Hills road is a gravel road that runs from the R27 through the wheatlands south of Darling, joining up with the Old Darling road (R307) south-east of the town.
I jumped the gun a bit in terms of my timing. The birding was good and birds were vocal, but it was nothing like a sunny spring day when just about every field has either a Zitting or Cloud Cisticola competing for air space with a displaying African Pipit or Red-capped Lark.
My first stop (at 1 on the map) turned up a pair of Grey-winged Francolin and a vocal, but distant male Southern Black Korhaan. Common Fiscal, Cape Sparrow, Speckled Mousebird, Karoo Scrub-robin, Grey-backed Cisticola and Bokmakierie can be found here as well and this occasion was no different.
Point 2 on the map is a small farm dam where you can find South African Shelduck and Blacksmith Plover around the water’s edge and Capped Wheatear, Red-capped Lark and Pied or Wattled Starling in the surrounding fields. In spring and summer this is also a good spot to check the phone lines for Hirundines as Barn and Greater Striped Swallow, Brown-throated and Banded Martin and occasionally Pearl-breasted Swallow can be seen. A little further along, in the vicinity of the farm buildings, an African Hoopoe was rather uncooperative as it gave me the run-around. Next time…
In a bit of a rush I skipped out the last section, but for those with more time points 3 and 4 are good areas for Karoo and Cape Clapper Lark respectively. Karoo Lark is probably more easily seen in the West Coast National Park, but any stretch of decent-sized strandveld in this area should turn up a Cape Clapper, given that you’re early enough to hear them clapping, of course.
Enjoy and please check with the farmer before venturing onto any land, all of it is private.
Milnerton Lagoon area: Pied Crow, Hartlaub’s Gull, Yellow-billed Duck, Egyptian Goose, Cape Longclaw, Blacksmith Plover, Grey Heron, Hadeda Ibis, Cape Wagtail, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Cape Weaver, Cape Shovellor, Helmeted Guineafowl, Mallard, Cape Francolin, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Common Starling, Kelp Gull, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Cape Sparrow, Common Moorhen, White-backed Duck, Black Crake, Red-eyed Dove, African Goshawk.
Darling Hills Road: Karoo Prinia, Speckled Mousebird, Southern Black Korhaan, Grey-backed Cisticola, Common Fiscal, Bokmakierie, Black-shouldered Kite, Karoo Scrub-robin, White-backed Mousebird, Pied Starling, African Pipit, South African Shelduck, Red-capped Lark, Crowned Plover, Wattled Starling, African Hoopoe, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Canary, Cape Turtle Dove, Fiscal Flycatcher, Brimstone Canary, Common Waxbill, Cape Batis, Cape Robin-chat, Malachite Sunbird, Common Titbabbler, Cattle Egret, Cloud Cisticola, Rock Martin, Yellow Bishop, African Stonechat, Cape Bulbul, Cape Clapper Lark, Jackal Buzzard, Rock Kestrel.