Trip report: Marloth Nature Reserve and Bontebok National Park

Posted on the 29th August 2021

Last week, Lee and I took our first break away since the start of the pandemic and headed out to the Swellendam area, staying at Marloth Nature Reserve.

This was our first visit to the reserve and we were looking forward to getting to grips with some of the 186 bird species it boasts of on its website. Unfortunately, we found it very hard going as far as bird sightings were concerned, recording only 40 species. Most of the reserve is given to fynbos and contrasting pine wood forest, limiting the type of birds you would expect to find in this environment.

We recorded good sightings of the Cape Grassbird, Cape Sugarbird, Karoo Prinia and Yellow Bishop, and were happy to record all five species of sunbird in this region, - Malachite, Southern Double-Collared, Greater Double-Collared, Amethyst and Orange- Breasted; but the fynbos didn’t reveal much else.

We did spot the Southern Boubou, Cape Weaver, Neddicky, African Stonechat, Bar-Throated Apalis and Olive Thrush, Laughing and Ring-Necked Dove, Fiscal Shrike and Flycatcher, and Cape White-eye, in the area around our cottage, but others such as the Alpine Swift, Saw-wing, Hadeda, White-Necked Raven, Brown-Throated Martin and White-Throated Swallow were fly-bys.

A few raptors made an appearance – the Booted Eagle, Yellow-Billed Kite, Lanner Falcon and Jackal Buzzard were spotted.
We hiked up to the Duiwelsbos Waterfall and, although it was spectacular and had all the features of thick damp vegetation and trees around it, the birds were non-existent apart from a solitary Cape Batis. The hike back through the forest area did not produce any bird sightings, but we did have a lovely close encounter with a pair of Bushbucks!

By far, the best experience we had at Marloth was the abundance of Fiery-Necked Nightjars that were heard calling all over the reserve. Some were heard only a few metres from the cottage, so we took the big torch outside and watched them flying around in search of food – a great sighting.

On our last day we decided to pop across to Bontebok National Park for a drive. (This, of course, had nothing to do with our tired, aching legs from the hike the day before!) We had great sightings of a Booted Eagle with prey, African Fish Eagle, and the usual renosterveld birds but, as we drove around the loop roads, we were delighted to see, hear and watch many Cape Clapper Larks displaying, some just a few metres from the car.

By far, the most encouraging sightings were the Black Harriers. They were very active and we spotted at least three different pairs. We also had a very special few minutes watching one on the ground tucked under a bush in the shade, resting.
To sum up, from a birding point of view, Marloth was disappointing, although Lee loved hearing so many Fiery-Necked Nightjars. The views of the mountains, however, were stunning.

Bontebok never disappoints and seeing the Harriers, alone, made it worth the trip!

Text and images by Steve and Lee Peck

Displaying Cape Clapper Lark
Bar-throated Apalis











Black Harrier










Orange-breasted Sunbird
Greater Double-collared Sunbird












Cape Sugarbird













Booted Eagle with prey





Fiery-necked Nightjar






Marloth Nature Reserve landscape





Marloth Nature Reserve sunset










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