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Prince Albert lies amongst the foothills of the majestic Swartberg Mountains. The town was founded in 1842 as a church centre and in 1845 named Prince Albert in honour of the infant British prince. Due to it's friendly, country atmosphere it has been become a well-known tourist destination with very good facilities.

Prince Albert is ideally situated as a birding spot particularly for Karoo endemics and Karoo birds in general. The area is typical Karoo with a mean rainfall of 200 mm per year which occurs mainly in the form of thunderstorms from February to April. In summer it is very hot, and in winter very cold with frost in the mornings. The nearby Swartberg Mountains often get some snow in winter.

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Specials

Verreaux's Eagle, Double-banded Courser, Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig's Bustard (late autumn to spring), Karoo Eremomela, Chat Flycatcher, Cape Rock-jumper, Cape Siskin, Cape Grassbird, Ground Woodpecker, Victorin's Warbler, Black-headed Canary, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Cape Penduline-Tit, Namaqua Dove, Protea Canary, Namaqua Warbler, Southern Tchagra, Rufous-eared Warbler, Grey-backed Sparrowlark and Black-eared Sparrowlark.

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Habitat

To the East, North and West of the town the habitat is arid, flat Karooveld with low bushes. The dry riverbeds are lined with sweet'thorn trees (Acacia karroo) and karee (Rhus lancea). In the South the area is bordered by the Swartberg Mountains which support fynbos and proteas.

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Facilities

A good road network allows access to the area. Tar roads link the town to the main routes (N1 & N12). Most surrounding roads are gravel, which are in a fair to good condition. The town has a good historical hotel, a camping site and a lot of B&B's to choose from. Bird lists are available at the tourism bureau.

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Birding

1. In Town - On the western side of town Klip Street is good for Mountain Wheatear, Long-billed Pipit, White-throated Canary and Black-headed Canary. A lot of houses have planted Aloes and Malachite Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and even Dusky Sunbird occur. De Beer Street and Hoop Street on the eastern side of town are some of the best birding places. The erven have large fields with lucerne, and species like African Hoopoe, Hadeda Ibis, Red-billed Quelea, Cape Weaver and Masked Weaver, Red Bishop, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Karoo Thrush and Cape Bulbul occur. The thorn trees host Fork-tailed Drongo, Acacia Pied Barbet, Cardinal Woodpecker, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, and White-backed Mousebird, Red-faced Mousebird and Speckled Mousebird.

2. Prince Albert to Kruidfontein Road (R353) 45 km. This is a very good road for most of the Karoo species, especially after rain. You may see Martial Eagle, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Karoo Korhaan, Ludwig's Bustard and Kori Bustard, all the larks, Chat Flycatcher, Karoo & Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Rufous-eared Warbler and Grey Tit. Where the road runs along the Gamka River, look for waders alongside the pools (summer), Black Stork and ducks.

3. Prince Albert - Gamkapoort Dam - 35 km. This is a very good birding area with a lot of the Karoo species, including Rufous-eared Warbler, Karoo Chat, Chat Flycatcher, Karoo Korhaan, Karoo Eremomela, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Cape Penduline-Tit, Karoo Long-billed Lark, Spikeheeled Lark and Large-billed Lark, Yellow Canary, White-throated Canary and Black-headed Canary and White-backed Mousebird. Look for Steppe Buzzard (summer) and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk on the poles, and Booted Eagle (summer) in the air.

At Gamkapoort Dam, waterbirds include Egyptian Geese, African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Duck and South African Shelduck, Red-billed Teal, Cape Shoveller, numerous Reed Cormorant and White-breasted Cormorant nesting in the dry trees, together with African Darter and Grey Heron. A few pairs of African Fish-Eagle occupy the shores of the dam. Along the shores there might be waders such as Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Little Stint, Three-banded Plover and Blacksmith Plover, Pied Avocet and Black-winged Stilt. A good population of Little Grebe and Black-necked Grebe as well as some Great Crested Grebe occur. Black Stork and Little Egret are often seen patrolling the shores, while vagrant Goliath Heron and Great Egret may appear.

4. Swartberg Pass - 30 km. The thorn thickets next to the road host a variety of birds like Greater and Lesser Honeyguide, Cardinal Woodpecker, Acacia Pied Barbet, Fiscal Flycatcher, Pririt Batis, Southern Boubou, Southern Tchagra, Red-faced Mousebird, Speckled Mousebird and White-backed Mousebird, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Red-billed Firefinch and in summer Jacobin Cuckoo, Klaas's Cuckoo and Diderick Cuckoo. At the Ou Tolhuis (Old Toll House), a pair of Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk are resident. The last section to the top of the pass is good for Jackal Buzzard, Cape Sugarbird, White-necked Raven, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker, African Rock Pipit and near the top, Sentinel Rock-Thrush.

5. Gamkaskloof (Die Hel) is 60 km from top of Swartberg Pass and will take a whole day. En route to Gamkaskloof Yellow Bishop, Neddicky, Long-billed Pipit, Cape Canary, Cape Siskin and African Stonechat are found in the fynbos, while in the dense kloofs Victorin's Warbler, Cape Grassbird and Common Waxbill occur. Jackal Buzzards pose on the telephone poles while Protea Seedeater are not uncommon on Proteas. Further down the road where the climate is much drier you will find Karoo Scrub-Robin, Fiscal Flycatcher and Bokmakierie. In summer there are a lot of swallows like Greater Striped Swallow, Barn Swallow and Rock Martin.

In Gamkaskloof itself Fork-tailed Drongo, Cardinal Woodpecker, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler Titbabbler, Familiar Chat and even White-throated Canary occur. Cape Spurfowl are very tame, while Egytian Goose, Reed Cormorant, Blacksmith Lapwing, Hamerkop, Grey Heron and Little Egret are found along the Gamka River. In summer waders like Ruff, Common Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper can be found, while Three-banded Plover and Cape Wagtail can be seen year round. Scan the sky for Brown-throated Martin, Alpine Swift, Rock Martin, African Black Swift and raptors like Verreaux's Eagle and Booted Eagle (summer). Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher and Malachite Kingfisher are often seen fishing over the pools. Black Stork is a resident, nesting on the huge cliffs. The patches of reeds will produce Lesser Swamp-Warbler, African Reed-Warbler (summer), Levaillant's Cisticola, Little Bittern and Black-crowned Night-Heron.

6. Meiringspoort - 75 km. Waterbirds like South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveller, Spur-winged Goose, Grey Heron, African Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Goose and Cape Teal are seen at the dams along the way. At Meiringspoort. Reed Cormorant, Cattle Egret and Grey Heronnest in the huge blue-gum trees. Check the area for waders such as Common Greenshank, Marsh Sandpiper and Little Stint in summer.

The thorn thickets along the river host Southern Boubou, Pririt Batis, Southern Tchagra, Karoo Scrub-Robin, Redfaced Mousebird and Longbilled Crombec. Scan the sky for Verreaux's Eagle and Alpine Swift. At the southern end of the poort, stop at one of the picnic sites and listen for the call of the Tambourine Dove which feeds on the seeds of the 'oliebome'. Look out for Rameron Pigeon as they often wander into the southern half of the poort. Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Acacia Pied Barbet, Diderick Cuckoo and Klaas's Cuckoo (summer), Cape Batis, Cape Canary, Cape Siskin and Dusky Flycatcher are common.

7. Prince Albert - N12 via Tierberg - 60 km. At the outskirts of town are lots of thorn trees. Look here for Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Cape Penduline-Tit, Karoo Prinia, Pririt Batis, Fiscal Flycatcher and Whitet-hroated Canary. The Karoo veld with small bushes further down the road is often crossed by dry streams. Keep watching for Karoo Korhaan, Double-banded Courser, Karoo Chat, Chat Flycatcher, Karoo Lark, Spike-heeled Lark and Karoo Long-billed Lark. Near the dry streams be on the look out for Kori Bustard, while after rains Ludwig's Bustard are common. Look for Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Greater Kestrel and Black Crow on the telephone poles. Stop at the windmills along the road because a lot of birds come here to drink. Birds you can possibly tick are Lark-like Bunting, Yellow Canary, Black-headed Canary and Whitet-hroated Canary, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Namaqua Dove and Cape Bunting. Tierberg is prime birding area with Ground Woodpecker, Layard's Titbabbler, Alpine Swift and White-rumped Swift, Pale-winged Starling, Karoo Scrub-Robin and White-necked Raven. The river vegetation hosts Cardinal Woodpecker, Lesser Honeyguide, Cape Robin-Chat, Acacia Pied Barbet, Fairy Flycatcher and Southern Double-collared Sunbird.

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General

A wide variety of accommodation is available in Prince Albert. For full details contact Prince Albert Tourism Bureau (tel 023'5411366 ; Prince Albert Tourism Website ) who can provide you with a list of about 50 B&B's. The historical Swartberg Hotel also offers good facilities (tel 023'5411332). There are also some guest farms in the area where birding is very good. For info contact Prince Albert Tourism Bureau.

The town has a lot of historical buildings of which most are National Monuments.

Bird Guides
No registered guides, but if you contact the tourism bureau, they can provide you with names and tel. no's of members of the local bird club who can help you with birding. You can also contact Japie Claassen at tel 023'4142980 or 083 7247916 ; e-mail for info about birding in the area and contact persons who will be willing to help you with birding.

Japie Claassen 2007.



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