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The farm Hagesdam is approximately 60 kilometres south-west of Bloemfontein in the central Free State and affords the opportunity of typical southern Free State birding. The best birding is recommended during the summer months when around 70 species can be recorded on a morning or day visit. A total of 155 species have been recorded in the area. Hagesdam is located along one of Free State’s CAR routes (Co-ordinated Avifanual Road count), and further roadside birding can be done in the direction of Tafelkop, 20km distant.

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Habitats

The Hagesdam locality consists of a large hill (highest point 1576 metres) with a series of lower koppies extended in a westward direction, forming an archipelago of hilly “islands” in the surrounding grassland. The rocky hills are dominated by Olea and Buddleja species bushes, and low scrub. The surrounding grasslands include eroded areas with karoo-type bushes.

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Birding

Special birds of the hilly areas include African Rock Pipit, Layard's Tit-Babbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Grey-backed Cisticola, Grey Tit and Short-toed Rock-Thrush. Several African Rock Pipit territories are known in the area, and they can often be located when calling from the top of a bush on the slopes, rather than higher up around the large rock boulders. Other species recorded in the hilly areas are Long-billed Pipit, Plain-backed Pipit, Eastern Long-billed Lark which are heard occasionally, and Rufous-cheeked Nightjar roosting in the shade on the lower hill slopes. Raptors in the area include Jackal Buzzard, Black Harrier, Lanner Falcon, Martial Eagle, Booted Eagle and Verreaux's Eagle. During July 2005, a solitary Brown Snake-Eagle was observed. Secretarybirds are well represented in the area, and successful breeding attempts have been observed during a number of seasons. Grey-winged Francolin have been recorded on the lower foothills.

In the surrounding grassland notable species include Spike-heeled Lark, Red-capped Lark, Large-billed Lark and Grey-backed Sparrowlark. Long-tailed Pipit has been recorded in open karoo patches, while Cape Longclaw and Northern Black Korhaan are abundant. During winter, Sickle-winged Chat are present in the grassland areas with low bushes. A colony of White-browed Sparrow-Weaver breed in an old oak tree near the reservoir. The reservoir is a watering point for several seed-eating species, including Black-headed Canary on occasion. Fawn-coloured Lark have been observed in sandy soil areas near the hills, especially near cultivated fields.

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General

Access to Hagesdam farm is from Bloemfontein along the Jagersfontein road (R706), turning off after 40 km at the Hagesdam / Steunmekaar off-ramp. Continue along the gravel road for 15 km to the farm, signposted on the left "George Fourie, Hagesdam". The farm road leading to the birding area around the hills is opposite the entrance to the farmhouse. The birding area is a further 3 km down this road and passes through karoo veld, providing further opportunity for birding. The farm road can be quite slippery in summer, especially after rains, and it is advisable to inquire about the condition of the road before planning to visit the area.

Please arrange your visit beforehand by contacting the owner of Hagesdam, Mr. Fourie, on 051- 5750692 or 082 4162559, for permission to access the farm, or contact Dawie de Swardt on 0836381604 for a guided tour.

Dawie de Swardt 2007



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