Grahamstown and surrounds – Belmont Valley road & Grahamstown Golf Course

About the Birding

The Belmont Valley Road, including the New Grahamstown Gold Course, is perhaps the most productive birding hotspot in the Grahamstown area. Determined visitors could easily produce a list of 150+ species in a morning visit, though some specials require much effort and perseverance.

The Grahamstown Waste-Water Treatment Works at -33.3178, 26.5574 affords a birder the opportunity to explore patches of strip forest and lush grassland. A walk among the settling ponds will likely produce Purple Heron, African Rail, White-faced Whistling Duck, Red-billed Teal and Spur-winged Goose.

Red-chested Flufftail call frequently from reedbeds in the summer months, though require much effort and perseverance to see. Patches of forest here host both the Olive and Knysna Woodpeckers – the latter, best detected by its high-pitched call. Tambourine Dove are frequently seen in flight from the steel bridge, while Buff-spotted Flufftail skulk through the denser vegetation. Erithryna trees attract masses of sunbirds in spring, along with Cape Weaver and Black-headed Oriole. The nearby stands of blue gums support a resident pair of Black Sparrowhawks, which can regularly be seen hunting in the early mornings and late afternoons.

Sweet-thorn thickets along the Belmont Valley Road are rich, especially in summer. Look for both African and Red-billed Firefinches, Dusky Indigobird, Willow Warbler, and Southern Tchagra. River crossings should be scanned carefully for African Finfoot and Mountain Wagtail, while isolated forest patches support an interesting selection of forest specials. Key species in forest habitats include the Olive and Knysna Woodpeckers, Barratt’s Warbler, Narina Trogon, Chorister Robin-chat, Brown Scrub-robin, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Dark-backed Weaver. Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills are noticeable and regularly perch on exposed perches in the late afternoon. Crowned Eagle nest in the valley and can usually be seen soaring high, come the middle of the day.

The Belmont Valley Golf Course is well marked off the Belmont Valley Road. The shallow river here occasionally yields Mountain Wagtail, Half-collared Kingfisher and African Finfoot. Riverside thickets are home to the shy and reclusive Barratt’s Warbler, while Grey Cuckooshrike move quietly through the canopy. Both the Olive and Knynsa Woodpeckers are resident and are easily seen here. Crowned Hornbill regularly visit the Club House. Seedeaters are prevalent along the edges of the freeways, including the delightful Swee Waxbill.

Key species:

Knynsa Woodpecker, African Finfoot, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Grey Cuckooshrike, Barratt’s Warbler

About the Birding Site

The small settler town of Grahamstown, located just 130Km from Port Elizabeth and 158km from East London, has an incredibly rich cultural history and is primely situated at the ecotone between several key habitats in the Eastern Cape. The town itself serves as a fantastic base from which to access forest, grassland, karoo, and thicket habitats and well over 400 species have been recorded from the area.

Key species include the Knysna Woodpecker, Chorister Robin-chat, both Knysna and Barratt’s Warblers, Knysna Turaco, both Eastern and Cape Clapper Larks, Northern Black Korhaan, White-bellied Bustard and Hottentot Buttonquail. Several birding sites are recommended including the Mountain Drive, Botanical Gardens, Mayfield, Quarry and Belmont Valley routes. Two to three days are recommended in the general area and dedicated birders should easily produce a list of over 200 species including many of South Africa’s endemic species.

Key species:

Knynsa Woodpecker, African Finfoot, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Grey Cuckooshrike, Barratt’s Warbler

Other Related Information

Directions:
The Belmont Valley road leads eastwards out of Grahamstown, behind the Fort England Psychiatric Hospital, before finally joining the Port Alfred road roughly 20km from town.

Facilities and access:
Much of Belmont Valley is privately owned and birders should remain on the public road at all times, except when walking through the Belmont Valley Golf Course and Grahamstown Waste-Water Treatment Plant.

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
A variety of accommodation options are available in Grahamstown, to suit all needs and requirements.
Suggested accommodation in the Grahamstown area include:

A Stone’s Throw B&B: http://www.astonesthrow.co.za/
Acorn Cottage: http://acornbnb.co.za/wpacorn/
Ault House: https://auldhouse.co.za/

Local guide information:
No Birder Friendly Tour Operators are currently available for the wider-Grahamstown area. However, birding tours in the general area are available through:

Tim Cockcroft
Website: https://timwcroft.wixsite.com/timcockcroftbirding
Email: timwcroft@gmail.com
+27(0)72 314 0069

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

Key species:

Knynsa Woodpecker, African Finfoot, Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Grey Cuckooshrike, Barratt’s Warbler

Contact details:

The Belmont Valley Golf Club

Clubhouse: +27 (0)79 637 8153
Manager Deon Van Deventer: +27 (0)82 924 4797
Secretary Megan McCallum: +27 (0)82 807 3234
Website: https://thebelmont.co.za/
Email: info@thebelmont.co.za

Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency

17-25 Oxford Street
East London CBD
Tel: 043 492 0081
Email: info@ecpta.co.za
Website: www.sanparks.org

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