Overberg – Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

About the Birding

Start your birding just after leaving the N2 and turning north onto the R324 (-34.0417, 20.5627). Scan the roadside telephone poles for Brown-hooded Kingfisher, and Pearl-breasted Swallow (summer). African Quailfinch, a rare resident in the province favours wet seeps in this area, but a best found closer to Swellendam. This route initially traverses an agricultural landscape but quickly reaches the foot of the Langeberg Mountains. Just before the road turns sharply to the east, stop under the Eucalyptus trees and scan the reed-lined farm dam (-34.0072, 20.6254).

This dam can hold African Rail, White-backed Duck and Giant Kingfisher. As you pass through the town of Suurbraak, scan the town’s many coral trees for Amethyst, and Malachite Sunbirds.

The Tradouw Pass which links the Agulhas Plains with Barrydale offers a selection of Fynbos specials and is worth a quick detour (-34.0097, 20.7080) before you continue onto the R322 towards Grootvadersbosch.
A pair of Crowned Eagles regularly breed in the large trees on Grootvadersbosch Farm. The nest is visible from the road (-34.0127, 20.7808) and can be found with careful scanning.

Carefully follow the signs from the R322 (-34.0265, 20.8133) and continue towards the reserve. The stands of Eucalyptus near Honeywood Farm (-34.0041, 20.8317) can hold both Greater and Lesser Honeyguides, as well as Brown-backed Honeybird. African Wood Owl calling from this area at night.

Once in the reserve, park and get a permit at reception (-33.9859, 20.8232). Greater Double-collared Sunbird, African Dusky Flycatchers, and Fork-tailed Drongos are common around the reserve buildings and the adjacent campsite. Also keep an eye out for Swee Waxbill, Cape Siskin and Forest Canary. Black Cuckoo-shrikes, although uncommon, also occur in this area.

Follow the signs for the Bushbuck trail which will take you down the steep, bracken covered Bossbokrand and the forest edge (-33.9827, 20.8222). Situated in a valley, the forest flanks each side of the Duiwenhok River. The forest trail runs along both sides of the valley with several options to cross from one side to another, allowing hikes of differing lengths. It is however recommended that you allow yourself at least 3-4 hours to properly bird the forest.

The either leg of the trial quickly reaches one of two bird hides. The southern hide is easily good for raptors as it covers a large portion of the forest canopy. It also overlooks the skeletons of introduced Coastal Redwoods, which are favoured perches. Crowned Eagles and African Cuckoo Hawk are rare, with Forest Buzzard, African Goshawk and Black Sparrowhawks decidedly more common.

As with most forest birding, the best strategy is to search for mixed feeding flocks. Careful scanning of a passing group can reveal a wide variety of specials including Sombre Greenbul, Cape Batis, Olive Woodpecker, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Bar-throated Apalis, Olive Bush-shrike and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler. Both African Paradise and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatchers are also possible. Terrestrial Brownbuls also join these groups, but typically prefer foraging lower down. Grey Cuckooshrikes typically occur in the highest parts of the canopy making them tricky to spot.

Surprisingly common, Knysna Woodpecker rarely joins these feeding parties, and is best located by its distinctive “Skead” call. Another vocal resident is Narina Trogon and a typical visit is punctuated by the unmistakable loud hooting call of this very handsome forest special.

Amongst the top targets of any visit is Knysna Warbler. These secretive skulkers are most commonly heard calling from tangled undergrowth, especially along the Duiwenhok River and its side streams.

The reserve is also a well-known site for the sometimes elusive Victorin’s Warbler. These and other Fynbos specials can be found along the Grybok Hiking Trail, which starts at the same point as the Bushbuck Trail. Just continue along the main road and up onto the flanks of the Langeberg Mountains. Small coveys of Red-winged Francolin occur on these slopes but can be easily overlooked. Fynbos Buttonquail also occurs and an extremely lucky birder may see this impossible species scurrying across the trail.

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, Victorin’s Warbler, Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush-shrike, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler

About the Birding Site

Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve is nestled at the foot of the Langeberg Mountains, just east of Swellendam. This protected area preserves an important large remnant of Afromontane forest, flanked by Montane Fynbos. Consequently a visit will provide birders with a good mix of fynbos, riparian and forest birding. The reserve marks the western limit of many species and offers a good introduction to the birding further east into the Garden Route.

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, Victorin’s Warbler, Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush-shrike, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
Access point GPS: permit office: -33.9857, 20.8232
Admission costs: Adult R50
Children: R30
WildCard applicable: yes

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
Disabled access: forest dirt tracks not disabled friendly
An electronic maps can be downloaded at: https://www.capenature.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Grootvadersbosch-map-and-brochure.pdf

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The reserve offers a variety of accommodation from camping to cabins.
Honeywood Farm is another good nearby option https://www.honeywoodfarm.co.za/

Local guide information:
Absolute Birding: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527800486296-4d544ea0-b3b6
Birding Africa: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527800843201-e0dd8be5-1491
Birding Eco-tours: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527837069054-d73b5915-e2a1
Cape Eco-tours: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527837703508-e06f57e0-d098
Lawson’s Birding, Wildlife and custom Safaris: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527838131789-84d3b3f2-444d
Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Adventures: https://www.birdlife.org.za/go-birding/bird-friendly-tour-operators/#1527838131789-84d3b3f2-444d

Text prepared by:
Vincent Ward, Birding Africa Tours

Key species:

Knysna Warbler, Knysna Woodpecker, Olive Woodpecker, Narina Trogon, Victorin’s Warbler, Crowned Eagle, Forest Buzzard, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Olive Bush-shrike, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler

Contact details:

Cape Nature
Tel: +27 (0)28 492 0001
Website: https://www.capenature.co.za/reserves/grootvadersbosch-nature-reserve/

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