WEEKLY FEATURE 15: THE PLATEAUS ABOVE NATURES VALLEY
Posted on the 13th April 2015
THE PLATEAUS ABOVE NATURE'S VALLEY
The turn-off to Nature's Valley along the N2 is at 33° 93' 81.5”S 23° 49' 03.6”E. Nature's Valley is renowned as one of the top birding spots to look for those often difficult to find forest species associated with the region's indigenous forests. Very few birders realise that a whole range of other exciting species are to be found only a few kilometers away on the plateaus above both sides of the Groot River Pass. The plateau on the Plettenberg Bay side of the pass is recommended. There is a picnic site at the top of the pass giving access to short hiking trails through stunning fynbos and forest habitats. (33° 58' 12.09”S 23° 32' 17.95”E).
Species that are common here include CAPE CANARY, CAPE GRASSBIRD, KAROO PRINIA, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, OLIVE THRUSH and CAPE WHITE-EYE. More difficult to find are NAMAQUA DOVE, AFRICAN QUAILFINCH and CAPE ROCK-THRUSH. In summer BLACK SAW-WING, BARN SWALLOW and GREATER STRIPED SWALLOW are abundant. LESSER STRIPED SWALLOW also occurs. Add to this the mature stands of fynbos that produce 'fynbos specials' such as CAPE SISKIN, CAPE SUGARBIRD, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD and VICTORIN'S WARBLER.
Another feature of birding in this general area is that the forest fringes at the top of the pass give access to fairly common species such BAR-THROATED APALIS, CAPE BATIS, OLIVE BUSH-SHRIKE, FOREST CANARY, COLLARED SUNBIRD and KNYSNA and OLIVE WOODPECKERS. Patient birders would be able to search for SCALY-THROATED HONEYGUIDE, BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER, WHITE-STARRED ROBIN and YELLOW-THROATED WOODLAND-WARBLER. It does not end here: a variety of species that are regarded as rare (or vagrant) in the Western Cape Province have been recorded on these plateaus in recent years. Think of BLACK-COLLARED BARBET, CINNAMON-BREASTED and GOLDEN-BREASTED BUNTINGS, LAZY and WAILING CISTICOLAS, AFRICAN FIREFINCH, WHITE-BROWED SCRUB-ROBIN, RED-BACKED SHRIKE and BLACK-EARED SPARROWLARK.
Birds of prey could include JACKAL and FOREST BUZZARDS, AFRICAN CUCKOO HAWK, AFRICAN CROWNED EAGLE, LANNER and PEREGRINE FALCONS, ROCK KESTREL and BLACK-SHOULDERED KITE. AMUR FALCON and EUROPEAN HONEY-BUZZARD are also often present in summer.
Dr Mark Brown of the Nature's Valley Trust and his collaborators do regular bi-weekly bird ringing exercises in the mature fynbos above the Groot River Pass at 33° 96' 54.8”S 23° 54' 40.5”E. It is certainly worth the trouble attending these exercises, not only to see the species being caught up close, but also learning more about the fantastic conservation work being done here. Find the contact details of the Nature's Valley Trust on their website at the link below. A birding excursion to the plateaus above the Groot River Pass should be included in any visit to the Garden Route region.