Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and Kleinmond

There are several interesting birding opportunities when travelling along the R44 from Betty’s Bay to Kleinmond. The Kleinmond Sewage Works (34°19’55.10″S 19°01’08.40″E) is often well worth a visit. Several of the common waterbirds of the region are on offer and expect to find species such as the African Black and Yellow-billed Ducks, the ever present Egyptian Goose and Three-banded Plover. The Black Crake can often be seen darting between the reed beds below the ponds and a small group of the Water Thick-knee is available regularly. This site is however best known for the sighting of a vagrant Citrine Wagtail found some years ago – this caused a sensation in South African birding circles.

Shortly thereafter and to the left at 34°19’56.62”S 18°59’17.00”E is the entrance to the Oudebosch core conservation base of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. This is managed by CapeNature and very comfortable chalets are available here. A beautiful and fairly strenuous hiking trail can be taken from this core area to the Harold Porter Botanical Garden and birding can be exceptional.

“The Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve covers more than 100 000 hectares of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and extends from below sea level to the mountain tops, the highest point being the Kogelberg Peak (1268 metres). Vast tracts of fynbos, major wetland systems, five towns and various settlements, agricultural lands, commercial forestry plantations and recreational resorts lie within the reserve. The Kogelberg Mountains and adjoining coastal lowlands are regarded as the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, home to 1,650 plant species. These mountains, which make up most of the core of the reserve, cover some 30 000 hectares. To the east and north lie the Houwhoek and Groenlandberg mountain core zones. Together they encircle the largest town in the reserve, Grabouw, and the orchards and vineyards of the Elgin basin.” 

Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve: Heart of the Cape Flora by Amida & Mark Johns. Struik, 2001

This core area of the reserve supports seven bird species endemic to fynbos habitats and visiting birders are always in search of the Fynbos Buttonquail, Cape Rockjumper, Protea Seedeater, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Victorin’s Warbler.

Several other sought-after species, not exclusively confined to fynbos habitats, are most often seen in this mountainous section of the reserve. These include the Cape Bunting, Verreaux’s Eagle, Grey-winged Francolin, Cape Grassbird, Neddicky, Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrushes and Ground Woodpecker. Birds of prey are well-represented. The Martial Eagle is recorded occasionally and the Booted and Verreaux’s Eagles, Peregrine and Lanner Falcons, and Rock Kestrel all breed on the cliffs and rocky outcrops of the reserve. More difficult species to observe include the Forest Buzzard, African Goshawk, African Harrier-Hawk and Black and Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawks. Summer migrants include the Spotted Flycatcher, European Honey Buzzard, Common House Martin, as well as most of the martins, swallows and swifts to be expected in the region. This section of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve is probably one of the most underrated bird-watching destinations along the entire Cape Whale Coast.

There is a parking area to the left a short distance further along the R44 just as the bridge over the Palmiet River has been crossed. A short hiking trail leads from this spot back towards the river and the reserve. This trail is not too strenuous and offers great birding. The first ridge after the trail starts (some three hundred meters) is regarded by many as one of the most reliable spots in the region for the highly sought-after, but elusive Victorin’s Warbler. Two other target species here are the Cape Rockjumper and Ground Woodpecker.

There are several interesting hiking trails available around Kleinmond from which birding can often be spectacular. A publication entitled “Where to walk in Kleinmond” is available at the entrance gate of the Harold Porter Botanical Garden or the Kleinmond Tourism Bureau in the main road. The coastal trail is of particular interest and features birding opportunities very similar to those described under the Vermont, Onrus and Sandbaai Coastal Path and the Hermanus Cliff Path. The Kleinmond Golf Course (34°19’50.63”S 19°02’01.46”E) is also of interest as a diversity of species occurs here. Also consider investigating the large patch of eucalyptus trees to the south of the golf course, as well as a pristine patch of Fynbos further south of that. The mouth of the Kleinmond Estuary regularly hosts a diversity of waterbirds, as well as coastal species and can be of interest. The picnic area surrounding it can unfortunately be very busy, particularly over weekends and holiday periods making bird-watching almost impossible. The Lamloch Swamp towards the eastern side of the mouth also holds great potential, but is mostly inaccessible due to a variety of reasons.

There are two pedestrian bridges crossing the estuary from which birding can be very rewarding, particularly as far as waterbirds are concerned. The one bridge takes one to the beach and is reached from the bottom end of 5th Avenue at 34°20’25.9″S 19°02’12.6″E. The other one is at Meerschaum at 34°20’20.8″S 19°02’24.9″E. Most experienced birders in the region do however believe that the best spot along the Cape Whale Coast to look for waterbirds and waders is the Rooisand Nature Reserve.

This stretch of coastline represents one of the important sites along the Cape Whale Coast shoreline where the adverse impact of plastics, fishing line and other pollutants on our environment in general and our coastal birds in particular often seem obvious. Birds are regularly severely injured through entanglement with various forms of ocean litter and the negative visual impact of the litter has detrimental impacts on tourism to the region. 

The members of BirdLife Overberg recently launched the CleanMarine campaign that features various projects such as regular monthly coastal clean-ups, the erection of bins to collect discarded fishing line and warning placards to inform the public about the presence of African Black Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plovers breeding, or raising their chicks along our beaches and rocky shores. Find out more about these projects at one of the links in the dropdown menu below and assist us by cooperating, thus contributing to the conservation of our beautiful coastline for future generations. 

Please report all injured or oiled coastal birds and animals to the Cape Whale Coast stranding network at 072 598 7117 immediately. This dedicated service is provided by the African Penguin and Seabirds Sanctuary (APSS) of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust in Kleinbaai.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *