News

TRIP REPORT: VROLIJKHEID NATURE RESERVE & McGREGOR

Posted on the 19th August 2011

Elaine and myself are checking out a number of lesser known birding destinations for the development of the 'birdfinder brochure' for the Cape Winelands District Municipal region. This week we visited the Langeberg local municipal area that includes the towns of Montagu, Bonnievale, Robertson and McGregor. We used the delightful Tanagra Wine and Guest Farm outside McGregor as our base, a visit sponsored by the Friend of Vrolijkheid Association and the Robertson Bird Club. We were shown around the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve by Tineke Malan and Gillie Schütte of the Friends of Vrolijkheid and came away convinced that this is one of the most underrated birding destinations in the Western Cape Province. There are three bird hides in the reserve and one is wheelchair friendly. An impressive variety of waterbirds can be found here and these include all three grebes, Purple Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, African Fish-Eagle (breeding close to one of the hides) and most of the ducks that occur in the region. There were many martins and swifts around and interestingly some very early arriving migratory White-throated Swallows.

The hide that one reaches from the main gate is about a 30 minutes stroll away, but is very interesting in that Braille placards have been positioned along the hike explaining interesting natural history features of the reserve. This is a great bonus and should attract many blind people. The weather was brilliant and very hot and the birds fantastic. Klaas's Cuckoos were very active and frenetic and we had good sightings of Swee Waxbill, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler , Neddicky, Southern Tchagra, several cisticolas, Fairy Flycatcher, Karoo Scrub-Robin and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk.
 

The new wheelchair friendly hide

The area further hosts a diversity of species that one would normally associate with both the Cape Floral Kingdom and the Succulent Karoo. Therefore expect to find species such as Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted and Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Victorin's Warbler, as well as arid habitats specialists such Karoo Lark, Karoo-Long-billed Lark, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Double-banded Courser, Namaqua Sandgrouse and Namaqua and Rufous-eared Warblers.

Tineke and Gillie were great fun to bird with and gave us a wealth of information on birding in the Langeberg region. It is always best to ask locals about birding hotspots and conditions and we will draft a summary of top places between Montagu and Robertson in a later article. Tineke is a member of BLO and have participated in some of our morning outings and Gillie had a long and full career with the old Natal Parks Board. You can just imagine how these two ex-Natalians bantered and shared memories with Gillie. What a delightful afternoon's birding!

Early on Thursday morning I took the Steenbokvlakte road driving east along the border of Vrolijkheid. This dirt road eventually ends up in Bonnievale and comes highly recommended. I drove as hard as I could to return with the sun behind me once it's rays had clear the mountains. Displaying Cape Clapper Larks (are they red, rufous or orange? The jury is out), Ground Woodpeckers, Cape Buntings, Black Sparrowhawk and Karoo Lark – one could do birding name-dropping forever. And later on Elaine and myself got both Denham's Bustard and Southern Black Korhaan in the same pentad. We recorded 80 species in six hours of atlasing in August. Need we say anything more?
 

A view of the village

On Thursday afternoon Alison Downie and Frances Douring showed us around the village of McGregor. The Krans dam and nature reserve is under municipal control and again there is a huge variety of birds available. Mostly though they have just completed a birding trail around the village that could either be hiked or driven. It goes through different habitats, follows a river course and allows the opportunity to see birds aplenty. Read more about this trail at the following link:

http://westerncapebirding.co.za/news.php?article=708

Alison and Frances then took us for tea at Temenos and what a lovely garden. It has to be experienced to be believed. Elaine and myself decided immediately that BirdLife Overberg will do a weekend outing to McGregor and Vrolijkheid soon. Watch this space.
 

It is just so wonderful to go to (birding) places relatively unknown and to have a total blast! We would like to thank and express our sincere appreciation to Tineke and Alison for facilitating this visit and to Gillie and Frances for their great company. And ultimately to Robert and Anette of Tenagra for setting us up for these two evenings our sincere appreciation.

Anton & Elaine
 

Jill Mortimer & friends at Vrolijkheid picnic spot

 

View of hide
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cape Weaver at hide

 

Our first YBK of the season - seen on 19 August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMENTS

1400
FRANCES DOERING (posted: 2011-08-23)
What a super report. Thank you. Best wishes. Frances
CARIN MALAN (posted: 2011-08-22)
Just need to find a long weekend and make a decision between The Loft of Hill side accomodation - looks wonderful !
JILL MORTIMER (posted: 2011-08-21)
We certainly had a great morning's birding at Vroelijkheid and the Klaas's Cuckoo displaying for about 20 miniutes was a highlight. We also had a great low flying dark-phased Fish Eagle.
Want to do the other birding spots mentioned next time.
MIKE GRAHAM (posted: 2011-08-20)
This could be a nice day outing as only a couple of hours away.