(Tertia Knaap highlights another of the Western Cape's top birding destinations).
In between raging storms, Saturday's weather was simply idyllic, moderate, windstill and perfect for birding. The Helderberg Nature Reserve was proclaimed in 1960 primarily for the conservation of Somerset West's water supply. The hard sandstone and quartzite soils are conducive to Mountain Fynbos and funds were raised to establish a wild flower garden. Of the four remaining stands of Silver trees in the country, one thrives in this reserve. The 367 hectares reaches an elevation of 1003 meters and is richly supplied with trails for gentle ambling or a strenuous hike. 169 Species of birds have been recorded here. A small herd of Bontebok grazes in the open grassland and the lucky might come across Grey Duiker, Grysbok and Steenbok, tortoises, Genet, Polecat and at least six species of snakes. An Information Centre and Gift Shop, indigenous nursery, public toilets and a privately run restaurant enhance one's visit – open from 10h00 to 16h30. Ample picnic spots are available under enormous oaks, where a Spur-winged Goose checks out your basket for take-away morsels.
On arrival we were treated by an European Honey Buzzard flying overhead. The pond close to the restaurant supplied lots of
Chuffed Yellow-billed Duck
early excitement. Realising that love was in the air – two Yellow-billed Ducks, heads bobbing in mutual consent – Anton aimed his Canon at the action. The result was a stunning photographic sequence of Yellow-billed-aqua-mating. He was chuffed, but not as much as the drake. Around the corner two Cape Sugarbirds were kissing. The day started off on a lusty note.
Altogether more than 40 species of birds were seen in about 2 hours. Malachite Sunbirds were in abundance, as were Fiscal Flycatchers. Amethyst (Black), Lesser Double-collared and Orange-breasted Sunbirds were also spotted. While we were having coffee a Jackal Buzzard circled overhead, displaying his masterly aerodynamics. Black Sawwings (Swallows) shared his space. Grassbirds were seen on the verges of the pond together with several Cisticolas, Malachite Kingfisher and Yellow Bishop (Yellow-rumped Widow). Near the nursery a secluded garden was filled with Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Bulbuls, Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, a shy Cape Robin-chat, Swee Waxbill and many more. This place is certainly a birder's delight!
Anyone in need of partaking in the wonder of nature should stop over at this easily accessed reserve.