Only six BirdLife Overberg members could attend the outing to the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West on 19 March, 2015. The weather was beautiful with only a very slight breeze.
(l-r) Sue Kellerman, Anton & Elaine Odendal, Jeanne Grimbeeck & Riaan Jacobs. (Photo by Chris Cheetham)
We started off at the duck pond just beyond the restaurant and expected to find most of the common waterbirds of the region. We were however very disappointed that the pond, (and for that matter the little ponds higher up), had been taken over by reeds and we literally only found a pair of COMMON MOORHEN with teenage chicks and a single LITTLE GREBE.
imm. Common Moorhen. (Photo by Chris Cheetham)
BirdLife Overberg members looking for birdlife at the duck pond. (Photos by Chris Cheetham)
We then took the trail towards the other ponds and had a fantastic walk through the dense vegetation and thickets. Birds associated with such habitats that were seen included BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, SOMBRE GREENBUL, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED and MALACHITE SUNBIRDS.
(l) Cape Batis & (r) Jeanne, Elaine, Anton & Sue on the trail. (Photos by Riaan Jacobs)
Highlights included a SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL and a SWEE WAXBILL flying around with a ridiculously large feather in it's bill.
(l) Spotted Eagle-Owl & (r) Swee Waxbill with feather. (Photos by Riaan Jacobs)
A hike through the fynbos produced CAPE GRASSBIRD, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SUGARBIRD and ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD.
Disappointingly we spotted no birds of prey. A while ago we reported that sightings of raptors may become more unusual here with the progressive removal of the alien pine forests. We could clearly see where many pine trees had been removed from a ridge towards the west and maybe this explains the lack of raptors seen.
We then enjoyed a picnic under the oak trees before exploring the lower section of the reserve towards the entrance gate. Most of the usual garden birds to be expected here were found, together with good numbers of CAPE CANARIES, OLIVE THRUSHES, COMMON and SWEE WAXBILLS, CAPE WEAVERS, and CAPE WHITE-EYES.
Birds are not the only thing to enjoy at the Helderberg Nature Reserve. The flowers are wonderful too! (Photos by Anton Odendal)
We again completed and submitted a BIRP report card and recorded close to 50 species in the time that we spent in the reserve. (Members wanting to receive a copy of the report card can request it from Anton at email@example.com).
The Helderberg Nature Reserve represents one of the best opportunities for birding that the Western Cape has to offer in a relatively small area and is certainly worth visiting. The variety of habitats in the reserve is however the highlight of this reserve and hiking here is an absolute pleasure. Riaan reports that he now has the solution for those dreaded days when he has to take his wife to the Somerset Mall; he'll simply drop her off at the Mall and then take his camera equipment to the Helderberg Nature Reserve!
The duck pond just beyond the restaurant. (Photos by Anton Odendal)
For those who were unable to participate in this wonderful outing we include the directions and contact details:
The location is in Verster Avenue, Somerset West;
To get there from the N2 take the R44 turning towards Stellenbosch, then turn right into Main Road. At the fourth Traffic light turn left into Lourensford Road, then after about 2 km, left again into Hillcrest Road. At the 4-way stop (0,9 km) turn right and then left at the next 4-way stop into Verster Avenue. Follow Verster Avenue to the reserve gate.