East London Coastal Nature Reserve

About the Birding

The East London Coastal Nature Reserve stretches over an immense area between the Great Kei River to the north and Tylomnqa River to the South, with the city of East London situated centrally within the nature reserve. The reserve area covers an estimated 3000 hectares and is made up of ten coastal reserves and two inland state forests. Notable sites along this strip include Cape Morgan, Double Mouth, Cape Henderson, Cintsa West, Kwelera, Nahoon, Cove Rock/Gulu, Kidd’s Beach Nature Reserve, Kayser’s Beach and Chalumna.

The area is blanketed in rich coastal forest, valley thicket, eastern thorn bushveld, eastern dune thicket and coastal grassland and supports well over 300 species including several notable endemic and threatened species.

In the forests, search for both Knysna Woodpecker and Knysna Warbler. This region is perhaps the best place anywhere in South Africa to find these two endemic species. The Woodpecker favours mature forests with tall trees, while the warbler prefers thick scrub and thickets at forest edge. Knowledge of the calls of both of these species is essential to finding them. Narina Trogon is conspicuous in the summer months, when males call incessantly, though the birds remain here year-round. Other specials include both the Chorister and Red-capped Robin-chats, Brown Scrub-robin, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Knysna Turaco, Grey Cuckooshrike, Black-backed Puffback, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Barratt’s Warbler (mainly in winter), Dark-backed Weaver, Olive Bush-shrike, Black-bellied Starling, and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher. Green Twinspot and Magpie Mannikin are both recorded, though are scarce in the area.

Grassland areas support a high density of the nomadic Black-winged Lapwing. The species irrupts in impressive numbers at times, but small numbers are usually present at a few sites. Grey Crowned Crane is conspicuous. Other notable species include the Yellow-throated and Cape Longclaws, African and Plain-backed Pipits, and Levaillant’s Cisticola.

The estuaries and coastal environment are rich in species, supporting significant numbers of African Oystercatcher. Cape Gannet is regularly sighted foraging at sea. African Penguin are sometimes sighted, especially during the sardine migration when fair numbers follow sardine shoals up the coast from the nearby Bird Island and St Croix colonies. Lesser Black-backed Gull is an annual visitor to the Orient Beach besides the East London Yacht Club.

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Red-headed Quelea, Magpie Mannikin, Knysna Turaco, Red-capped Robin-chat

About the Birding Site

The city of East London is one of the most accessible ports of entry into the Eastern Cape, sandwiched between the Buffalo River to the east and the Gonubie River to the west. Its Settler ancestry is incredibly evident, and the city has a distinctive old-fashioned charm about it. Traffic congestion is the exception to the norm, the endless swathes of beaches imply year-round enjoyment without large crowds, and the natural history of the surrounding areas is truly something to behold; altogether providing a refreshingly and incredibly pleasant holiday experience for all.

‘Slummies’ – as the city is locally known – also serves as the gateway to the Amathole mountains as well as both the Wild and Sunshine coastlines.

East London’s climate is distinctly tropical, contrasting from Port Elizabeth and other regions to the south, implying that many bird species reach their southern distribution limit here. As such, it is one of the richest birding routes in the province with several notable hotspots and range-restricted species. Top among the birding sites are the East London Coastal Nature Reserve, Gonubie area, and the Nahoon Nature Reserve and Estuary. Specials to look for in the area include both the Knysna Woodpecker and Knysna Warbler, Red-headed Quelea, White-backed Night Heron, Magpie Mannikin, and Red-capped Robin-chat among others. Several days are recommended in the area, to cover all sites, though visits to East London are best combined with explorations into the nearby Amathole Mountains or the Wild Coast.

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Red-headed Quelea, Magpie Mannikin, Knysna Turaco, Red-capped Robin-chat

Other Related Information

Areas of forest and grassland can be explored from Cape Morgan, Double Mouth, Cape Henderson, Cintsa West, Kwelera, Nahoon, Cove Rock/Gulu, Kidd’s Beach Nature Reserve, Kayser’s Beach and Chalumna.

Recommended accommodation nearby:
No Birder Friendly Establishments are currently available in the wider East London area. However, a diverse array of accommodation options are available throughout East London to suit all budgets and requirements.

Other related information:

Recommended options include:
Nahoon Mouth Guest House
Tel: (+27) 079 072 4200
Email: nahoonmouth@mweb.co.za
Website: www.nahoonmouth.co.za

Ebenhaeser Guest House:
Tel: (+27) 043 748 4220
Email: bookings@ebgh.co.za
Website: www.ebenhaesergh.co.za

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators or local guides are currently available in the wider East London area.

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

Key species:

Knysna Woodpecker, Knysna Warbler, Red-headed Quelea, Magpie Mannikin, Knysna Turaco, Red-capped Robin-chat

Contact details:

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency

17-25 Oxford Street
East London CBD
Tel: (+27) 043 492 0081
Email: info@ecpta.co.za

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