Posted on the 17th March 2015

Chris and Charles, accompanied by wives and family, and Richard met at the comfortable Honeywood Farm for a Friday evening braai and kuier in preparation for an early 7 o’clock start for the BIRP count at Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve the next day. Chris and Charles had a preview on the Friday afternoon, but apart from some unidentifiable raptors, they had already discovered that forest birding is never easy!

On Saturday morning we were met by Llewellyn Michaels of Cape Nature who has been at Grootvadersbosch for 18 years and is a keen and accomplished birdwatcher. He proved to be an excellent guide.

Chris had woken to the call of Fiery-necked Nightjar outside their window. When we arrived at the reserve offices there was high overhead cloud and mist. There was not much bird activity until the sun broke through, and thereafter our knowledge of bird calls was put to the test.

Grootvadersbosch is a beautiful forest and even the alien Californian Redwoods are breathtaking. We descended first down the forest path which takes you to the elevated hide within the forest canopy. The walk for us pensioners was comfortable, and this is a good tip to remember. On my previous visit to Grootvadersbosch I had walked down the roadways first and had found the last climbs up the steep and often slippery path quite challenging.

Rainforest Brown Butterfly (Cassionympha Cassius)

We sat in the elevated hide for more than half an hour and at this stage there was little activity. Getting good views of birds in the forest is difficult and photography nigh impossible!  However, with Chris’s interest in frogs, butterflies and other “goggas” we were never short of subjects to hold our interest.

As we left the hide the sun broke through the forest canopy and the birds started calling. We were able to identify by call Knysna Warbler, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler (of which we had fleeting views), Olive Bush-Shrike and Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher. Cape Batis, Sombre Greenbul and Bar-throated Apalis were common and we had good views of Olive Woodpecker, African Dusky Flycatcher and Forest Canary. Unfortunately, no sight of raptors or Narina Trogon. We spent half an hour in the Melkhoutpad Hide which overlooks the forest.


(l) Sombre Greenbul & (r) Forest Canary

The office garden and camp-site area was full of birds with Swee Waxbill, Brimstone Canary and African Olive-Pigeon noteable sightings. Robin-Chats, Olive Thrushes, sunbirds, doves, mousebirds, spurfowl, drongoes and starlings were everywhere.


(l) Swee Waxbill & (r) Speckled Mousebird

I think all three of us are novice BIRPers, and Grootvadersbosch had proved a challenging but enjoyable learning ground. Our BIRP list count was a respectable 51, and a PDF copy of the BIRP list is available from Anton, (, should you wish to see it. A second BIRP count is scheduled for later in the year to record sightings during a different season.

Thanks to Chris for organising, Cape Nature for facilitating and Llewellyn for guiding.

Richard Masson

All photos by Richard Masson

Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler


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