Cape Interior – Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve

  • Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve - Sharon Stanton2

About the Birding

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve best is accessed from Robertson. Take the road leading to MacGregor from Robertson, and turn left (-33.8237, 19.8634) onto Langverwagten Road. Follow this road for approximately 11km and the reserve entrance is on your left (-33.9167, 19.8781). Open the gate and sign it at the honesty box.

The reserve has a small network of roads leading to two dams, and towards the mountains, which can also easily be explored on foot along the Caracal Trail (-33.9166, 19.8785). The dry scrub to the north of the parking area holds Karoo Long-billed Lark, which are most vocal in the early morning. The succulent Karoo scrub along these roads holds Karoo Chat, Rufous-eared Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher and Grey Tit. Southern Black Korhaan may also be seen.

The thicker vegetation of the western side of Langverwagten Road, and along the dry watercourses and thickets in the reserve is good for Southern Tchagra. Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler is common throughout the reserve, whilst Layard’s Tit-babbler may be seen on rocky hillsides.

The Caracal trail leads up into the mountains, offering magnificent scenic vistas, with good birding along the way, where Cape Bunting, White-throated Canary and Long-billed Crombec are common. Black-headed Canary is a scarce nomad which may be seen in the reserve or along farm roads in the vicinity, but has local movements in response to food sources. Pale Chanting Goshawk, Black Harrier and African Fish Eagle are also present. Yellow-bellied Eremomela can also be found but is uncommon. The mountain slopes on the far side of the reserve hold small populations of African Rock Pipit and Ground Woodpecker, but are difficult to access without a lengthy hike along the 19km Caracal Trail.

From the entrance gate, there’s a short walk to the bird hides along the Heron Trail (-33.9168, 19.8788). The dam (-33.9255, 19.8864) holds a variety of waterfowl including South African Shelduck, Hamerkop and Little Grebe, and the surrounding reedbeds have traditionally been good for Namaqua Warbler. The dam and the main bird hide (-33.9252, 19.8853) are most easily accessed from a nearby parking lot (-33.9253, 19.8844). To reach this point, continue 350m south along the Langverwagten Road, turning left (-33.9198, 19.8768) and then continuing another 930m, before turning left into the parking area.

The Greater Robertson area is also a great area to bird in conjunction with a visit to Vrolijkheid. The Breede River supports both Brown-hooded and Giant Kingfishers, as well as Tambourine Dove, Olive and Cardinal Woodpeckers, and African Reed Warbler in the riverside thicket and vegetation. The bridge over the Breede River (-33.8231, 19.8646), on route to Vrolijkheid, is home to a pair of Western Barn Owls which may be seen at night.

The public dirt roads in the vicinity can offer productive birding. Look for Black-headed, Brimstone and Cape Canaries feeding in flocks of seedeaters, along with Streaky-headed Seedeater and locally uncommon Red-billed Quelea. Cinnamon-breasted Bunting may also be seen in this area, particularly on rocky slopes of hills, where Nicholson’s Pipit may also be found. Please do not venture onto private roads without the express permission of the landowner.

African Palm Swift has become more common in the Cape, but remains tricky to find for local lists. In town, park in the vicinity of the nursery (-33.8080, 19.8777) near the railway line and explore the area on foot. Check flocks of aerial feeders for this species, particularly near the tall palms along the railway line.
Nearby Dassieshoek Nature Reserve (-33.7505, 19.8959) also provides excellent birding. The area is easily accessed from Robertson. The reserve protects a patch of mixed alien and natural woodland along a stream, close to the car park, where Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird and Tambourine Dove may be seen. Cape Batis and Southern Tchagra skulk in the undergrowth, whilst Olive Woodpecker and Lesser Honeyguide are also possible. The fynbos slopes above the reserve parking area offer access to fynbos endemics Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Sugarbird and Cape Siskin. Protea Canary has also been recorded on the reserve.

About the Birding Site

The Robertson area and Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve offer a good selection of the Karoo and dry arid west specials, conveniently close to Cape Town, and accessible from the N1. This area is well placed as a jumping-off point for either a Tankwa or an Overberg birding trip. The quaint town of Robertson makes for a pleasant stop on a journey or as a destination in itself, and the surrounding farmlands and mountains clad with Karoo scrub provide a scenic backdrop to the productive birding. The area also offers access to a number of species that reach the edge of their southwestern distribution in the subregion. Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve is a 1852 ha reserve protecting an area of arid Robertson Karoo. In the flower season, between August and October, the reserve lights up spectacularly with wildflowers, attracting large numbers of insects and birds.

Other Related Information

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve is managed by Cape Nature, and an entry fee of R50 per adult and R30 per child is payable at the gate, using an honesty box system.
Wild Cards also provide free access.

Dassieshoek Nature Reserve is a free, open access reserve. The picnic site (close to the main entrance) has been recently upgraded, and is wheelchair friendly.

Contact details:
Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve:
Contact number: 087 087 8250
Website: https://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/vrolijkheid-nature-reserve/
A map and brochure can be downloaded at: https://www.capenature.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Vrolijkheid-map-and-brochure.pdf

Text prepared by:

Garret Skead

Key species:

Karoo Long-billed Lark, Namaqua Warbler, Southern Tchagra, Karoo Chat, Rufous-eared Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Cape Penduline-tit, Southern Black Korhaan

Contact details:

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve
Contact number: +27(0)87 087 8250
Website: https://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/vrolijkheid-nature-reserve/

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