It goes without saying that CapeNature’s reserves are a mecca for birds of all types and sizes. Here’s an overview to help you plan a birdwatching holiday.
Kick off your birding excursion at the Boosmansbos Wilderness Areain the Langeberg mountains, a birder’s paradise with nearly 200 species regularly spotted – including forest birds and birds of prey. Keep an eye out for the double-collared sunbird, the rare striped flufftail, and other unusual species such as the black and martial eagle and Knysna woodpecker.
The crowned and booted eagle, red-winged and red-necked francolin, Layard’s titbabbler and black-rumped button quail are also found here.
On your next visit to De Hoop Nature Reserve, bring along your binoculars to spot some of the 260 resident bird species – including the only remaining Western Cape breeding colony of the rare Cape vulture in Potberg.
Also on the coast, De Mond Nature Reserve is home to a variety of seabirds, including the African black oystercatcher, the damara and Caspian tern and the majestic but vulnerable blue crane.
Not too far from Knysna, the Goukamma Nature Reserveis another popular birder’s destination, with more than 220 species recorded. Among them are the rare African black oystercatcher and the endangered African penguin. More common species include the African fish eagle, African marsh harrier and elegant Knysna loerie.
If you’re excited by the idea of seeing black, crowned and booted eagles, head to the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, where nearly 200 bird species are regularly spotted. Other splendid sights include the rare striped flufftail, the narina trogon and beautiful sunbirds and sugarbirds.
The forest area features two bird hides that are easily accessible, offering great vantage points or bird watching. The first hide is about 500m from the reserve road along the Melkhoutpad, with a wonderful view over the forest canopy; the second is a few hundred metres from the reserve road along Bosbokrand.
The lush Garden Route is home to many birds, and the Keurbooms River Nature Reserve is no exception: it’s home to a wide variety of river and forest birds. Look out for the Knysna loerie, giant kingfisher, Knysna woodpecker, sunbirds, yellow-billed ducks and fish eagles, as well as narina trogon, little grebe, sunbirds and the black-headed oriole.
The Kogelberg Nature Reserveis a haven for numerous species of birds – check out the bird hide on Rooisand Ramble. A definite highlight to this area is a visit to Stony Point near Betty’s Bay, which is home to one of the largest successful breeding colonies of African penguins in the world.
You’ll get the chance to see these cute flightless birds up close, via the boardwalk through the colony, without disturbing them.
Also present in the colony are three species of cormorant: the crowned cormorant, the Cape cormorant and the bank cormorant, all of which breed on the outer rocks.
You’ll find another bird-lover’s paradise at Lambert’s Bay Bird Island Nature Reserve. Here, you’ll get the rare opportunity to see the blue-eyed Cape gannet up close – Bird Island is one of only six sites world-wide where Cape gannets breed, and it is the only on one that is easily accessible. The three-hectare island’s hide is perfectly situated to observe the gannets’ activities first-hand and learn more about their breeding habits.
Connected to the mainland via a breakwater, the island is also an important breeding and roosting site for cormorants. Other birds include the African penguin and the kelp gull.
If you want to head to one place to tick the African fish eagle, black eagle and wood owl off your list, hit the road to Marloth Nature Reserve near Swellendam. But there’s way more to see – the 114 species in the reserve also include the red-winged francolin, tambourine dove, four different species of woodpecker, and many more.
From black eagles to tiny fynbos birds like the Cape sugarbird – you can see them all at the Outeniqua Nature Reserve. Bring binoculars and a bird identification book.
Near Plettenberg Bay, the Robberg Nature Reserve does not only offer breathtaking scenery, it also has a successful “seagull nursery” of kelp gulls. Take care that you don’t disturb these precious birds on walks around the peninsula.
More wonderful water birds are waiting for you at Rocherpan Nature Reserve, where a combination of land, vlei and sea support a variety of birds. Of the 183 species here, about 70 are water birds, including endangered white pelicans and greater and lesser flamingos.
There are three bird hides at Rocherpan, two on the south-western side of the vlei and one on the north-western side.
This area is one of the Cape shoveller’s most important breeding and moulting sites, and it’s a sanctuary for Southern Africa’s second-rarest coastal bird, the African black oystercatcher.
Fun fact: ostriches also live in the area around the vlei.
Moving back inland, the tranquil Swartberg Nature Reservehas more than 180 bird species, including Cape and pririt batises and Karoo and olive thrushes. Also look out for the green-backed cameroptera, sombre greenbul and southern tchagra.
A wheelchair-friendly boardwalk and bird hides are among the welcoming features of the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve near Robertson, where you can try to spot as many as possible of the reserve’s 175 species, including the pale chanting goshawk and the African fish eagle.
Finally, if you want to spot the striking African black oystercatcher, sadly threatened by coastal recreational activities, because it breeds on the beach, Walker Bay Nature Reserveis the place to go. Your best chance to see this bird is in summer, but there are also many other sea birds in the reserve.