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Tussen-die-Riviere Gamee Reserve is situated at the confluence of the Caledon and Orange Rivers and forms the upper limit of the Gariep Dam. Situated near Bethulie in the southern Free State, this easily accessible yet relatively unknown area has a bird list of about 222 species.

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Habitats

Habitats include riverine bush with exposed sandbanks along the two rivers, grassy-karoo veld areas, and mountain hillsides with rocky substrates which are dominated by Olea bushes and several Rhus species. Along the shores of the rivers and near streams large stands of reedbeds are common. Willow and Buffalo Thorn trees are found around the office complex and below the chalets.

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Specials

Verreaux's Eagle, Martial Eagle, Ludwig's Bustard, Grey-winged Francolin, Eastern Clapper Lark, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Grey Tit, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Sickle-winged Chat, Karoo Chat, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Layard's Tit-Babbler, Grey-backed Cisticola, Karoo Prinia, Rufous-eared Warbler, Namaqua Warbler, African Rock Pipit, Kimberley Pipit, White-throated Canary, and rarely Black-headed Canary. Waterbirds include South African Shelduck, Caspian Tern, African Black Duck, Giant Kingfisher.

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Birding

Typical species of the grassland areas include Eastern Clapper Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Red-capped Lark and Large-billed Lark. In the "invasive" karoo shrub vegetation, Double-banded Courser, Sickle-winged Chat and Karoo Chat, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and Rufous-eared Warbler are common. Other specials of this habitat are Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Grey-winged Francolin and Orange River Francolin, Ludwig's Bustard, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Karoo Prinia, Buffy Pipit and Long-billed Pipit. The recently described Kimberley Pipit is also likely in the reserve, as they have been found breeding at a nearby farm, Cypherfontein in the Springfontein district.

In the rocky hillsides and more mountainous areas, southern Free State specials such as Karoo Scrub-Robin, Layard's Tit-Babbler, Grey-backed Cisticola and African Rock Pipit are easily detected by their calls. Other species are Grey Tit (common at "Klipstapel Rotse"), Short-toed Rock-Thrush (easily observed where they perch on telegraph poles along reserve roads), White-throated Canary and Lark-like Bunting. In the dense bush African Olive-Pigeons have been also observed. At Middelpunt, near the offices, a windmill-fed dam attracts several birds that come to drink. Species like Black-headed Canary and Cinnamon-breasted Buntings, amongst others have been observed at the water point.

Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk and Speckled Mousebird have been observed in the riverine bush and in the hilly areas of the reserve. Verreaux's Eagle, Martial Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Alpine Swift and Pied Crow also occur in the skies above the grassland and mountainous areas.

Along the Orange and Caledon Rivers water-associated species include South African Shelduck, Yellow-billed Duck, and Pied Avocet. Caspian Tern and Grey-headed Gull are found at the confluence of the rivers. Along the open sandy shores of the rivers Kittlitz's Plover and Three-banded Plover are characteristic species, together with African Pied Wagtail, African Black Duck, Pied Kingfisher and Giant Kingfisher. The typical trilling call of the Namaqua Warbler can be heard from the reedbed clumps along the river and smaller streams, as well as those of African Reed-Warbler and Lesser Swamp-Warbler.

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General

The reserve is easily accessible from either Bloemfontein, the Eastern Cape (via Aliwal North), and the Southwestern Cape (via the N1 over Springfontein).

The reserve has three hiking trails for exploring the area. Accommodation includes camping and fully equipped two-bedded chalets. Contact the reserve on 051762 (ask for 2808) for reservations. Note that the reserved may be closed for hunting during the winter.

For Kimberley Pipit, the farm Cypherfontein in the Springfontein district can be contacted on (051) 7830203 or 0829009888. The farm is approximately 20 km from Springfontein.

Dawie de Swardt 2007



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