BIRDLIFE OVERBERG AT FERNKLOOF - WITH A DIFFERENCEPosted on the 20th November 2016
Twenty Birdlife Overberg members participated in a memorable outing at Fernkloof Nature Reserve on Saturday morning. Not much birding was done – some 50 species identified, as Billy Robertson of Walkerbay Tours guided us on a Fynbos discovery hike. The stories Billy had to tell about the Fynbos Biome was simply remarkable and many examples of individual plants and flower that he interpreted for us blew the group away. We all agreed that this should become a regular feature on our outings schedule and we will consider doing so again in winter next year when many of the proteas will be blooming and the Cape Sugarbirds will be breeding.
Herewith a photographic report of the outing, together with the text on the Fernkloof Nature Reserve from the Cape Whale Coast birdfinder web page to be released at the end of the month. This reserve deserves a serious visit. My thanks to Paula Combrink for the use of some of her images and to Billy for opening up the wonderful world of Fynbos for us.
|Billy starts charming the group|
The FERNKLOOF NATURE RESERVE in Hermanus (34˚23’56.22”S 19˚15’57.85”E) is certainly one of the brightest feathers in the Cape Whale Coast's bird-watching cap. The reserve's website provides an excellent description of its significance: “One of the most beautiful aspects of life in Hermanus is that even when you're in the centre of the village nature is just a few meters away. Fernkloof Nature Reserve covers 1800 ha in the Kleinrivier Mountains above Hermanus and ranges in altitude from sea level to 842 m. The reserve lies on the northern side of the town with a 60 km network of trails. These provide the opportunity for people of all fitness levels to go out and enjoy some exercise and fresh air. A display of some of the flowers that can be found in the veld is permanently maintained at the Fernkloof Visitors' Centre. The various trails offer magnificent and unequalled views of Walker Bay, the Hemel en Aarde Valley and Maanskynbaai.
In late 1957, the Reserve was proclaimed by the Provincial Council of the Cape. It protects coastal and fynbos habitats and a small patch of evergreen forest. Parts of the coastal area including the Cliff Path Nature Area (see detailed description elsewhere), the Mossel River valley and the area from De Mond to Kettle Point, including the mouth of the Vogelgat River and part of the Klein River lagoon have recently been incorporated in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve. This means that the coastal area with its unique fynbos - different from that on the mountain slopes - as well as the sensitive lagoon area, are now being included, and for the first time mountain and coastline will be linked.
|Billy in action|
|Image by Paula Combrink|
There is no other place on earth where so many different species can be seen growing in such close proximity. In Fernkloof 1474 species have thus far been collected and identified. The name of the principal vegetation type of this region is derived from the Dutch word 'fijn bosch' which is the collective name for a myriad of evergreen shrub-like plants with small firm leaves, often rolled - but also includes woody plants with hard leathery leaves, usually broad, often rolled. Grey rhebok, Cape grysbok, klipspringer, baboon, mongoose and dassie are present in small numbers. Others such as porcupine, genet and hare are nocturnal and these mammals are seldom seen. Fernkloof also has a nursery where you can buy indigenous plants and hosts a Wild Flower Show in September each year.”
|Koppie Foam Grasshopper - Paula Combrink|
|Cape Sugarbird - Paula Combrink|
Fernkloof is however another one of the Cape Whale Coast’s special bird-watching destinations. There are several casual and more strenuous hiking trails that allow sightings of fynbos, mountain and forest species. The lower garden around the Educational Centre is excellent for casual birding and endemic species that are present in abundance include the CAPE BULBUL, FISCAL FLYCATCHER, KAROO PRINIA, CAPE SPARROW, CAPE SPURFOWL, CAPE SUGARBIRD, SOUTHERN DOUBLE-COLLARED SUNBIRD, CAPE WEAVER and CAPE WHITE-EYE. Other species that occur commonly include the BAR-THROATED APALIS, BOKMAKIERIE, CAPE CANARY, FORK-TAILED DRONGO, STREAKY-HEADED SEEDEATER and OLIVE THRUSH. The well-wooded areas in the lower garden further hosts species such as the CAPE BATIS, SOUTHERN BOUBOU, SPOTTED EAGLE-OWL, AFRICAN DUSKY FLYCATCHER, SOMBRE GREENBUL, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK, AFRICAN OLIVE-PIGEON, BLACK SPARROWHAWK, SWEE WAXBILL and CARDINAL and OLIVE WOODPECKERS. The distinctive calls of the TAMBOURINE DOVE and the FIERY-NECKED NIGHTJAR can sometimes be heard in the early mornings. The AFRICAN PARADISE-FLYCATCHERS are very active during summer, while the calls of the DIDERICK and RED-CHESTED CUCKOOS can often be heard at this time of year.
|Immature Karoo Prinia|
|Immature Fiscal Flycatcher|
Another outstanding alternative is to hike from the Visitor Centre to the waterfall. Be on the lookout for the CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE ROCK-THRUSH, CAPE SISKIN, CAPE SUGARBIRD, ORANGE-BREASTED SUNBIRD and GROUND WOODPECKER. The hugely sought-after VICTORIN'S WARBLER is also present along the bracken-clad seeps below the trail, but knowledge of its call is essential to locate this difficult to spot species. The forested area at the waterfall is well-known for regular sightings of the popular BLUE-MANTLED CRESTED-FLYCATCHER.
Many visitors visiting Fernkloof for birding often enquire about the possible presence of the CAPE ROCK-JUMPER. These birds, together with CAPE BUNTING and GROUND WOODPECKER are present along the higher slopes of the mountain and this usually requires fairly strenuous hikes. These species are more readily available at the ROOIELS and ROTARY DRIVE SITES – see descriptions elsewhere. Birds of prey are also present in good numbers. Look for JACKAL BUZZARD, VERREAUX'S EAGLE, AFRICAN HARRIER-HAWK, ROCK KESTREL and AFRICAN GOSHAWK as these are regularly seen patrolling the skies. A few vagrant sightings during recent summers should also be taken note of. These include both BLACK CUCKOO-SHRIKE and BLACK and JACOBIN CUCKOOS. More recently in September 2016 a pair of CAPE VULTURES, most probably from the Postberg breeding colony at De Hoop Nature soared over the reserve. Also interesting that it seems as if the BROWN-BACKED HONEYBIRD is being recorded with increasing frequency.
|Immature Cape Grassbird|
The Fernkloof Nature in Hermanus is generally regarded as one one the top bird-watching destinations in the Western Cape Province. The sheer natural beauty of the mountains, together with the huge diversity of Fynbos species certainly places the reserve on the wish list of most visitors to the region interested in the natural environment.
|More on the trail|
|After trail picnic|