WEEKLY FEATURE 7: THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE NATURE RESERVEPosted on the 17th February 2015
THE CAPE POINT SECTION OF THE TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
Cape Point, the westernmost tip of Africa, offers magnificent landscapes covered with endemic fynbos, and features beautiful bays, beaches, hills and valleys. It is just 60 km from Cape Town, and is the most southerly point within the Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park. There is much to do for the nature enthusiast. Several picnic sites are available and hikers and mountain bikers have many options to choose from. Alternatively lunch can be enjoyed at the Two Oceans Restaurant or the Flying Dutchman funicular can be taken to see the superb views over the Atlantic Ocean or the Hottentots Holland mountain range across False Bay. The Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre features the plants and animals to look out for and offers lots of other useful information. The reserve is known for its spectacular beauty and rich biodiversity. Well over 250 species of birds have been recorded despite the fact that low-lying vegetation does not provide the most suitable habitat for bush birds.
A comprehensive overview of the birding potential of the reserve cannot be provided here and only a select few birding opportunities are highlighted. The Olifantsbos Point area certainly needs investigation by birders and the first turn-off to the right after the entrance gate leads to this area. Rocky areas along this road support some stands of protea and these should be scanned for CAPE SUGARBIRD and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD. Wild dagga blooms in December and March and attracts MALACHITE and SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRDS, as well as COMMON WAXBILL, CAPE WEAVER and CAPE WHITE-EYE. The hilly outcrops when Olifantbos is approached produce raptors such as JACKAL BUZZARD, VERREAUX'S EAGLE, PEREGRINE FALCON and ROCK KESTREL. The thickets and stands of Milkwood trees close to Olifantsbos hold BOKMAKIERIE, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, CAPE BULBUL and mousebirds.
Olifantsbos Bay can produce waders in summer and look out for COMMON GREENSHANK, COMMON RINGED PLOVER, SANDERLING, CURLEW SANDPIPER, RUDDY TURNSTONE and COMMON WHIMBREL. Other migrants at this time of year include ARCTIC, COMMON and SANDWICH TERNS and look out for ANTARCTIC and SWIFT TERNS in winter. Resident birds may include KELP and HARTLAUB'S GULLS, WHITE-FRONTED and KITTLITZ'S PLOVERS and AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER. Vagrant sightings in the past included TEMMINCK'S COURSER and PECTORAL SANDPIPER.
Return to the main road leading to the lighthouse and then try the well-marked circular drive. This drive is well known for a variety of antelopes. Pincushions are in bloom along the western section between August and November and sugarbirds and most of the region's sunbirds are prominent then. CLOUD and GREY-BACKED CISTICOLAS, CAPE CLAPPER LARK and PLAIN-BACKED PIPIT are often found after fires and look out for GROUND WOODPECKER and both CAPE and SENTINEL ROCK-THRUSHES in the rocky areas. CAPE BUNTING and CAPE GRASSBIRD are often present at the Gifkommetjie lookout area. The information centre at Buffelsfontein is worth a visit and many of the common bird species of the Western Cape are on view here. Beyond this the picnic site along the False Bay coast is often good for sightings of GIANT and PIED KINGFISHERS and most of the common coastal species.
The boardwalk trail starting at the main parking area at the Two Oceans restaurant and the Flying Dutchman funicular and leading to the Cape of Good Hope viewpoint deserves attention. GROUND WOODPECKER can often be found above Diaz Beach and the surrounding coastal thicket provides excellent habitat for species such as BOKMAKIERIE, CAPE BULBUL, SOUTHERN BOUBOU and KAROO PRINIA. The trail leading to the lighthouse is good for CAPE BUNTING, FAMILIAR CHAT, GREY-BACKED CISTICOLA and CAPE GRASSBIRD and always be on the lookout for CAPE SISKIN. The general area between 'the two points' also supports birds of prey such as JACKAL BUZZARD, PEREGRINE FALCON and ROCK KESTREL.
A slow drive past Maclear Beach to the Cape of Good Hope viewpoint is also recommended. This is the best section of coastline for coastal birds such as CAPE, CROWNED and WHITE-BREASTED CORMORANTS, AFRICAN BLACK OYSTERCATCHER and COMMON, SANDWICH and SWIFT TERNS. In winter an onshore gale provides the opportunity for good land-based sea birding from the adjacent headland with pelagic species such as ATLANTIC YELLOW-NOSED, BLACK-BROWED and SHY ALBATROSSES, ATLANTIC, GIANT and WHITE-CHINNED PETRELS and LITTLE and SOOTY SHEARWATERS having been recorded. WANDERING and SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSSES have also caused great excitement in the past. It stands to reason that spotting scopes are essential for sea birding.
|African Black Oystercatcher|
The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve has developed a reputation over the years for producing records of many species that are vagrant to the Cape Town region. EUROPEAN BEE-EATER, CINNAMON-BREASTED BUNTING, EUROPEAN ROLLER, BROWN SCRUB-ROBIN, LESSER GREY SHRIKE, GREY-BACKED SPARROWLARK and GREY and YELLOW WAGTAILS serve as just a few examples. Vagrant waders include AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER and BAIRD'S, PECTORAL and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS. RED-TAILED TROPICBIRD and NORTHERN ROCKHOPPER PENGUIN should be added to this.
|Vagrant European Roller|
|Vagrant Northern Rockhopper Penguin|
A visit to the Cape Of Good Hope Nature Reserve should be on any visitor's itinerary even if it is just to experience the spectacular mountain- and seascapes and the magnificent indigenous fynbos. The diversity of bird species to be found in such close proximity to the urban sprawl of Cape Town is certainly an added bonus.
From Cape Town take the M3 to where it ends before the West Lake golf course. Here you can either go left to the Main Road (M4), which will take you through Fish Hoek and Simon's Town to the reserve, or turn right over Ou Kaapse Weg (M64) and follow the signs through Kommetjie and Scarborough along the (M65) to the reserve entrance.
TABLE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK: +27 (0)21 713 0260
TMNP – BUFFELSFONTEIN VISITOR CENTRE: +27 (0)21 780 9204
RESTAURANT, SHOPS AND FUNICULAR: +27 (0) 21 780 9010 or +27 (0)21 780 9200
Kindly note that the Cape of Good Hope is one of Table Mountain National Park's pay points where a daily conservation fee is payable. Tickets cost R105 per adult and R50 per child. It is not necessary to book in advance.
(All images by Anton Odendal and Carin Malan of BirdLife Overberg)
|Crowned and Cape Cormorants|
|Sandwich and Common Terns|