Posted on the 31st August 2012

Elaine and me had visited Stilbaai twice in recent months, once to present a Flight for Birders course and once to do the fieldwork and site visits in preparation of the Garden Route and Little Karoo birding brochure. We were very impressed with birding in and around the town and this resulted in BLO putting together a midweek camp at the Botterkloof Holiday Resort. It has become a custom for the members to meet for lunch at the start of these outings and on Tuesday our rendezvous was the Lappiesbaai Restaurant along the seashore in Stilbaai East. This venue allows for lovely views of whales in the bay and the prawn special was enjoyed by many in the group. The afternoon was spent settling into our cottages at Botterkloof and watching the antics of breeding Grey and Black-headed Herons and Black-crowned Knight-Herons in the gum trees. Botterkloof features a marvelous communal braai area and dining room, (one can choose to dine either indoors, or outdoors) and all three nights were spent at the fires.









Wednesday's activities were started with a birding hike from the information centre to the estuary. The little stream runs from Palinggat through a beautiful patch of coastal forest that is being restored to its original indigenous splendor by local conservation groups. Red Bishops and Cape Weavers were very active at their nests and members were able to get good views of species such as Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Boubou, Sombre Greenbul, Streaky-headed and Protea Seedeaters, Cape Sugarbird and Southern Tchagra. The estuary area featured the usual cormorants and gulls, together with Greater Flamingo, Common Greenshank, Great White Pelican and Common Whimbrel – great start to a day's birding!









The tourism office doubles up as the Blombos Museum of Archaeology and the eels are fed by hand at Palinggat at 11h00 each day. The group was very impressed with the museum and the feeding of the eels – fascinating experiences. From here we went for a picnic at a farm along the Goukou River where Martie Ramsey, a registered tour guide, gave us a compelling PowerPoint presentation on the significance of the Blombos archaeological site. We always try to work in a talk on a non-birding topic during these outings and this is proving to be very popular. Martie's talk was very well received by the group and we thank her for hosting us and going through the trouble of preparing the talk.

Longfin Eel - anguilla mossambica







From here we returned to Stilbaai along the western shores of the Goukou River. This road is reached by turning onto a gravel road that is signposted as 'Melkhoutkraal/ Klipfontein' about halfway between Riversdale and Stilbaai. The road initially runs through typical wheatfield farms and fynbos where Blue Cranes were found several times. I was very interested in finding Cape and Red-necked Spurfowls foraging together. Many martins and swallows were present at the low water bridge over Goukou. A narrow road then snakes along the river through hilly terrain where various fynbos habitats are interspersed with good patches of coastal forest. Most participants commented on the sheer beauty of this drive and it comes highly recommended for the birding visitor to Stilbaai. Specials along here included Olive Bush-Shrike, Klaas's Cuckoo, Tambourine Dove, African Fish-Eagle, Black-headed Oriole, an Osprey with prey, Amethyst and the two double-collared sunbirds, Knysna Warbler and Knysna Woodpecker. A truly brilliant day's birding combined with fascinating non-birding activities.







On Thursday we spent a lot of time in the Skulpiesbaai Nature Reserve that runs along the coastal dunes from the harbor to Jongensfontein. We went to the bird hide at the local sewage treatment works and had major debates about the possible identity of a strange heron that unfortunately foraged a huge distance from the hide. In the end I forwarded a very poor image of the bird to Trevor Hardaker and his opinion was that it is a hybrid Grey x Black-headed Heron. The mind boggles. Very good examples of the traditional tidal fish traps are a short distance away and here, once again, we were very impressed by the quality of the information boards and placards.

The hybrid heron. (Image: Estelle van Rooyen)

Tidal fish traps











Stilbaai is generally very clean and the amount and extent of conserved areas and nature reserves in and around the village, together with its marine protected area, makes this a top venue for visiting eco-tourists. Later on we hiked a short distance along one of the many available trails in the Skulpiesbaai Nature Reserve and were able to enjoy magnificent views of breaching whales in the bay. We further had good sightings of Cape Cormorant, African Black Oystercatcher, Karoo Prinia and Swift Tern.







Two days are in actual fact not enough to take in the many birding delights of Stilbaai, particularly given the fact that we did not even visit nearby birding hotspots such as Voëlvlei and Langvlei at Vleesbaai. In total we were able to see 126 species and added 19 species to the Botterkloof bird list. It is the quality of birding, however, that impressed us most: to be able to find so many of the region's fynbos and forest specials and endemics, together with exciting waterfowl in such a small area is hard to believe.









The Botterkloof Holiday Resort is recommended highly as base when birding in the area: it is affordable, the chalets are fully equipped and practical and the communal facilities make it an ideal destination for larger groups such as bird clubs. The farm animals are a constant treat and the heronry gives lots of entertainment at this time of year. There are several dams and ponds on the property featuring great birding. Interesting species seen on the property included Cape Batis, Brimstone, Cape, White-throated and Yellow Canaries, African Goshawk, Peregrine Falcon, African Dusky Flycatcher, Brown-hooded and Pied Kingfishers, vast numbers of Common Waxbills and Cardinal and Knysna Woodpeckers. Botterkloof and Stilbaai are highly underrated as top birding destinations. Visit


31 August 2012.













MARGARET MACIVER (posted: 2012-09-03)
Wonderful Report, makes me want to go and do your exact route - I'm surprised at seeing that Protea Seedeaters were seen, but its good to have another spot for them.
JOHAN VAN ROOYEN (posted: 2012-09-02)
Beste Anton
Ek het nou net via John Willemse van Stilbaai julle artikel oor die besoek aan Stilbaai op die internet gelees. Ek en my vrou Estelle het so pas twee weke in Stilbaai deurgebring en ook n bietjie atlaswerk vir SABAP2 gedoen. Ons het onder andere ook die reier naby die brug oor die strandmeer gesien wat ons ook baie laat kopkrap het. Ons het later besluit dat dit n Bloureier is, maar n kruising met n Swartkopreier sal sy voorkoms seker baie beter verklaar. Ons het ook jou artikel oor Stilbaai se potensiaal baie geniet en stem met jou saam dat dit n goeie bestemming is om vols te kyk. Ons het al baie plesier gehad met atlaswerk in en om Stilbaai en moes ook al etlike kere die Full out of range vorms invul vir vols wat nie in SABAP1 daar aangeteken is nie.
Johan van Rooyen
JOS SIMSON (posted: 2012-09-01)
Hi Anton and Elaine
As I missed out saying goodbye to you, John and I would like to thank you both for your warm hospitality at Stilbaai/Botterkloof as well as for making this outing a most interesting and memorable one. Stilbaai is definitely a winner and there is so much more to explore. Do hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
For me personally the highights were the herons flying backward and forth into the bluegums while we were having sundowners at Lee's chalet, the stunning scarlet of the Red Bishops in the reeds down at the river and the baby piglets in the farmyard! Of course there was much much more ...
Thanks so much for this most pleasant interlude and for all the hard work you put in to make the bird club so successful.
With love and thanks
JOHAN SLABBERT (posted: 2012-09-01)
Great report & excellent info on the destination for a birding trip Anton.
Kind regards,
LESLEY (posted: 2012-08-30)
Wonderful overview of a great place. It really was an amazing weekend. Thank you both Anton and Elaine for organising this outing. Looking forward to the next one.