We presented the third regional Flight for Birders course during February for CapeNature employees at Algeria in the beautiful Cederberg Wilderness. We express our sincere appreciation to Rika du Plessis, the manager of the reserve, for facilitating this process and hosting us. The course was adapted for these three courses to place greater emphasis on conservation and birding tourism issues. Many of these issues will be included in the “Flight Higher” specialist course which is now being developed – details to be released soon.
The participants in the Algeria course were very enthusiastic and motivated with several of them contributing to SABAP 2 regularly. There were many interesting discussions about the distribution of species in the Cederberg Wilderness and we found some of these fascinating as it often came as surprises to us. Most of the “surprising species” do not occur along the West Coast coastline to the west, in the Karoo to the east and in the Knersvlakte to the north. I then decided to work through my Roberts on the first evening and to see which species are reported in the peculiar distribution point that stretches north-east from Cape Town through the Ceres region to the Cederberg. This was checked with the participants the next morning with compelling outcomes.
All eight of the very popular and hugely sought-after “Fynbos endemics” are present in the Cederberg Wilderness. These are the Hottentot Buttonquail, Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Rock-jumper, Protea Seedeater, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Victorin’s Warbler. This is already enough reason to visit the area. To this however should be added other regional specials that are recorded regularly in the various habitat types of the reserve. These include species such as the Blue Crane, Peregrine Falcon, Cape Grassbird, Cape Longclaw, Plain-backed Pipit, both Cape and Sentinel Rock-Thrushes, Whiskered Tern and Mountain Wheatear.
It should further be noted that a variety of species that one would normally associate with more well-wooded habitats are available. Think of the Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Red-Chested Cuckoo, African Olive Dove, African Dusky Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Lesser Honeyguide, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, both Karoo and Olive Thrushes and Cardinal Woodpecker. Just a few species with a wider distribution range found here are mentioned – African Black Duck, Booted and Verreaux’s Eagles, Cape Eagle- Owl, Cape Clapper Lark and Karoo Scrub-Robin.
This certainly reads like a “who’s who” of many of the sought-after Western Cape birds and clearly illustrates that the Cederberg Wilderness area should be regarded as one of the top bird-watching destinations in the province. To this should be added that Algeria could be used as an ideal base from which to explore some of the top birding spots in the Cederberg municipal region. Consider places such as Pakhuis Pass, Bird Island at Lambert’s Bay, Verlorenvlei and the Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve. The scenery is stupendous and the Wolfberg Arch, Wolfberg Cracks, Stadsaal Caves and Maltese Cross should be investigated. It is evident that this region has huge birding potential and that the possibility of the development of a birdfinder web page for this municipal region should be considered seriously. Such web pages have been shown to be very effective in attracting birders to areas such as the Witzenberg, Cape Whale Coast and Plettenberg Bay regions.
The chalets are very well appointed and equipped for self catering visitors and the camping area nestles beautifully under huge trees along the river. We did not have much time for birding as we were fairly busy and some welcome rains fell on the first day. Very confiding species around our chalet did however include Fiscal Flycatchers, Cape Rock-Thrushes (!), Karoo Scrub-Robins and vast numbers of Southern Double-collared Sunbirds working the flowers of the blue-gum trees, together with most of the usual “garden birds” to be expected in the region. The calls of Southern Boubous, African Black Ducks and Little Rush-Warblers could be heard from the river and the mountain slopes produced the calls of Bokmakierie, Cape Grassbird, Cape Longclaw and Ground Woodpecker. Algeria will also serve as an ideal venue for bird club weekend outings and it seems as if Elaine will take such a suggestion to the BirdLife Overberg committee.
Algeria in the Cederberg Wilderness is hugely underrated as a top bird-watching destination and should be investigated seriously by discerning birders.
Text and images (taken earlier) by Anton
28 February 2019.