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Birding in Hessequa

In looking for birding hotspots one tends to overlook the very good birding that can be done on the many kilometres of quiet gravel and farm roads that crisscross the countryside. Between the N2 and the Langeberg and Riversdale and the Gourits River, birding can be very productive with anything between 60 and 80 species for a four hour drive not uncommon. Some 170 species have already been recorded in this area for the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2 (SABAP2). A nice variety of raptors are present with Jackal, Forest and Steppe Buzzard; Lanner Falcon; Martial, Verreaux’s and African Fish Eagle; Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk; Black Harrier; African Harrier-Hawk; Rock Kestrel; Black-shouldered and Yellow-billed Kite; African Marsh-Harrier; and Secretarybird already recorded in SABAP2. Apart from spotting an array of bird species while driving along the quiet farm roads, several birding hotspots exists in Hessequa.

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One would be Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve where 160 bird species have been recorded in SABAP2. The primary habitat here is Afromontaine forest (which includes a small stand of introduced Californian redwood trees). Additional habitats include disturbed forest edges, bracken covered slopes, plantations of exotic trees and moist mountain Fynbos. Special birds include Red-necked Spurfowl, Narina Trogon, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Grey Cuckooshrike, Victorin’s Warbler, Knysna Warbler, African Crowned Eagle, Knysna and Olive Woodpecker, Forest and Brimstone Canary, Cape Siskin, five sunbirds and the Cape Sugerbird, Forest Buzzard, African Wood-Owl, Black Sparrowhawk, Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Martial Eagle (not in SABAP2), Terrestrial Brownbul, Denham’s Bustard, Greater and Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird (not in SABAP2). Regionally rare birds which have been recorded in recent years include European Roller, Little Sparrowhawk and African Cuckoo Hawk (not in SABAP2).

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Slangrivier and Witsand

Not far from Grootvadersbosch you’ll find the Jonique Johannes Nature Park in Slangriver, where Louis Fielies will keep you amazed with his extensive field ranging experience. Continue further along to the coastal village of Witsand at the mouth of the Breede River, which is the widest river estuary in South Africa. 180 species have been recorded in SABAP2 with Fish Eagles, Ospreys, (not recorded in SABAP1 or 2) and kingfishers.

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Stilbaai and the Goukou River

In the Stilbaai area an amazing 200 bird species have already been recorded in SABAP2. The estuary of the Goukou River and the bird hide at Skulpiesbaai Nature Reserve offer the bird watcher a perfect environment to enjoy our feathery friends. To reach the western shores of the Goukou River turning onto a gravel road that is signposted as ‘Melkhoutkraal/ Klipfontein’ about halfway between the N2 turnoff for and the actual town of Stilbaai. The road initially runs through typical wheatfield farms and fynbos where Blue Cranes are found. Birders have been interested in finding Cape Spurfowls foraging together here. Many martins and swallows were present at the low water bridge over Goukou. A narrow road then snakes along the river through hilly terrain where various fynbos habitats are interspersed with good patches of coastal forest. People often comment on the sheer beauty of this drive and it comes highly recommended for the birding visitor to Stilbaai. Specials along here included Olive Bush-Shrike, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Tambourine Dove, African Fish-Eagle, Black-headed Oriole, Osprey, Amethyst and the two double-collared sunbirds, Knysna Warbler and Knysna Woodpecker, Giant, Malachite, Brown-hooded and Pied Kingfishers. Stilbaai is a great destination in Hessequa for a brilliant day’s birding combined with fascinating non-birding activities.

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Best time to view

From early August the breeding activity starts in this area and this makes for exciting birding with the migrants returning in October and November. There is never a bad time to go birding and it depends on what you would like to see. For example early morning and the last two hours before sunrise is more popular for feeding, while sunning is more a mid-afternoon affair when the sun is at it highest. Birds are also more likely to sing in the early morning when sounds carry further and there may be less ambient background noise.

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Related Links

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Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2

www.sabap2.adu.org.za

Cape Nature

www.capenature.co.za

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Europcar

www.europcar.co.za

Avis

www.avis.co.za

Hertz

www.hertz.com

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Western Cape Birding Route

www.westerncapebirding.co.za

Around About Cars

www.aroundaboutcars.com

Budget

www.budget.co.za[/fusion_text]

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