Baviaanskloof – Yellowwoods Nature Reserve

About the Birding

The ancient Yellowwood and White Stinkwood Forest within the Yellowwoods Nature Reserve is home to a variety of forest species. Most targets can be found within a few hours and visits to the Yellowwoods Nature Reserve are best combined with other sites nearby. The best approach to explore this small reserve is to park near the entrance and to follow the small stream through the picnic site towards the mountains as far as you can go.

Species to look for in the forested section of the nature reserve include the Tambourine Dove, African Firefinch, Green Woodhoopoe, Lesser Honeyguide, Grey Cuckooshrike, and Knysna Woodpecker. Both the Olive and Knysna Woodpeckers also occur – the latter, best located by its high-pitched shrill call. Other noteworthy species include the Burchell’s Coucal, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, African Dusky Flycatcher, Dark-backed Weaver and Lesser Swamp Warbler. In summer, African Paradise Flycatcher arrive in fair numbers along with various cuckoos.

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Turaco, African Firefinch, Tambourine Dove

About the Birding Site

The Kouga–Baviaanskloof Complex encompasses large areas of mountainous terrain in the western part of the Eastern Cape, covering approximately 172 000 hectares in total. The Kouga and Baviaanskloof ranges are about 120 km long and run parallel to one another from Uniondale in the west to Patensie in the east. The Baviaanskloof Valley, which separates the two ranges, lies about 40 km due north of the coastline. To the south, the Langkloof Valley and Tsitsikamma Mountains lie between these ranges and the coast.

Kouga, the larger and more extensive of the two ranges, contains many high peaks in its central and western sections, of which Smutsberg is the highest at 1 757 m a.s.l. At its eastern end, the range is less rugged consisting of plateaus and rolling hills below 900 m a.s.l. Relative to Kouga, the linear Baviaanskloof range is far narrower and much more uniform in shape, with Scholtzberg (1 625 m a.s.l.) as its highest peak. The north-facing slopes drop steeply to the Great Karoo.

Three main rivers drain the area: the Baviaans and Kouga rivers flow eastward into the Kouga Dam, while the Groot River flows through a spectacular gorge before joining the Gamtoos River, which runs to the coast. Quartz sandstone sediments of the Table Mountain Group dominate the area. To the north, the fynbos-covered sandstone gives way to sandstone slopes of arid fynbos, which in turn make contact with the Bokkeveld Shales of the Great Karoo plains. The temperature regime in these mountains is temperate, ranging from an annual average minimum of 5 °C to a maximum of 32 °C. Rain can fall at any time of year, brought mostly by cut-off lows. These systems are slow-moving pockets of cold air from the mid-latitude South Atlantic Ocean that are trapped in the south and east of the country by high-pressure cells. In the lower-lying areas (<350 m a.s.l.) rainfall averages less than 250 mm p.a., whereas the high-altitude areas (>800 m a.s.l.) generally receive more than 800 mm p.a. In the west there is no marked seasonal pattern; in the east rainfall tends to be higher in summer. The local topography has a dramatic influence on rainfall events.

The mainly leached and acid soils, derived from sandstones and quartzites of the Table Mountain Group, support mesic mountain fynbos dominated by a multitude of communities, although fynbos species are foremost among these. Afro-temperate forest patches dominated by trees are found in deep, secluded, mesic gorges. Arid veld occurs on the xeric northern slopes. Spekboomveld is found on the steepest slopes at the lowest altitudes, primarily due to grazing pressure on more gentle slopes, and is dominated by spekboom and other succulents. On the plains of the Great Karoo, karroid scrub appears. Local patches of renosterbos are found on the higher hills and ridges.

The Kouga–Baviaanskloof Complex, together with the surrounding plains, supports a remarkable number of avian habitats, making it home to approximately 300 bird species. All the Cape Fynbos restricted-range and biome-restricted assemblage species are found in the mountain ranges. Several South African Forest restricted-range species occur in the forest patches, and the Great Karoo plains in the northern foothills support several Namib-Karoo biome-restricted assemblage species. Several days are recommended to explore the area in sufficient detail.

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Turaco, African Firefinch, Tambourine Dove

Other Related Information

Take the R331 off-ramp from the N2 shortly after passing the Van Stadens Bridge and travel inland towards Loerie/Hankey/Patensie. About 25km from this intersection, turn to the right along the Klein River Road. After passing the Hankey Golf Course, the turn into the picnic area will be visible on the left.

The nearest towns are:
Humansdorp: 32Km
Jeffrey’s Bay: 41Km
Port Elizabeth: 74Km

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
A nominal charge is levied for entrance to the reserve. Several bush tails traverse the reserve providing access to all the main habitats. A picnic area, complete with braai facilities, are provided. Public ablutions are available at the main picnic site.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The only Birder Friendly Establishment within the wider area is the 4-star rated Oyster Bay Lodge, located within a 235 hectare coastal reserve. A variety of activities are on offer through the Oyster Bay Lodge including horse riding, several hiking trails, sand boarding, and guided birdwatching outings.

For more information or to make a reservation, contact:
Oyster Bay Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)42 297 0150
Fax: +27 (0)42 297 0150
Mobile: +27 (0)82 700 0553
A variety of alternate accommodation options are available in Humansdorp, St Francis and Jeffrey’s Bay to suit all requirements and budgets.

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available for the wider Humansdorp area.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Turaco, African Firefinch, Tambourine Dove

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Jeffrey’s Bay tourism

Tel: +27 (0)42 293 2923
Fax: +27 (0)42 293 2924