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St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis are popular with holiday-makers. The area lies in the eastern cape transition zone between the winter and summer rainfall regions where five plant biomes meet. This has led to a concentration of species in a wide variety of habitats where 80 of the 160 regularly occurring species can be expected within a couple of hours of birding. The possibility of finding vagrants and less common species provides constant interest and excitement.



African Fish-Eagle, African Marsh-Harrier, Osprey, Cape Gannet, African Black Oystercatcher, Goliath Heron, African Spoonbill, Black-winged Stilt, Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard, Olive Bush-Shrike, Southern Tchagra, Cape Longclaw, Cape Grassbird, 5 kingfisher, 3 sunbird and African Stonechat.



Among habitats are: riverside vegetation, riverine and coastal bush, the aquatic habitat of the river itself, mud and sand banks, salt marshes, coastal shrub, and fynbos. There is also open veld (grassland), agricultural land and a few freshwater vleis, pans and dams (most of these on private property). The marine species, or seabirds, occur just inshore or along the shoreline. Indigenous forest is found at Hankey, near Humansdorp.



The Kromme River Estuary is easily accessible off the N2 via Humansdorp. Walks along the coast link the two villages of St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis and pathways crisscross the Irma Booysen Floral Reserve. There are shops, restaurants, and accommodation establishments in both villages. Pelagic species such as albatrosses, petrels etc. occur mainly further out but boats are available to take birders out to sea to observe these species. Contact St Francis Tourism for details. Tel. No. +27 42 294 0076.



1. Sandbanks in Kromme Estuary between the two inlets to the canal system. This is a good spot, especially in summer for terns and waders. Watch out for African Black Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Ruff, Terek Sandpiper, and occasionally American Golden Plover, Lesser Sand Plover and Greater Sand Plover among the usual waders. A variety of terns can usually be seen including Caspian Tern, Swift Tern and Sandwich Tern.

2. Mudbanks below the Kromme Bridge. At high tide, or even at maximum low tide, waders visit this area and flocks of Ruff, Grey Plover, Common Whimbrel, Kittlitz's Plover and Common Greenshank are present. It is also good for Grey Heron, African Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbill, Little Egret and occasionally Goliath Heron.

3. Riverine and coastal bush. Most common eastern cape species are found in these patches of bush. Some of the less common species are Olive Bush-Shrike, Tambourine Dove, Olive Woodpecker, Knysna Woodpecker, Terrestrial Brownbul, African Paradise-Flycatcher and various cuckoos. Along the river and its surrounding areas one finds 5 species of kingfisher, African Fish-Eagle and Osprey. African Marsh-Harrier are often seen.

4. Community garden (Harbour Road). This is a good place for a beginner to start as many of the common Eastern Cape birds are found there. It’s easy to approach and walking in the garden is undemanding. It is fairly sheltered (with many indigenous plants) so is worth a visit in any sort of weather. To get there, drive in a southerly direction along St Francis Drive, turn left into Harbour Road towards the sea, and you’ll find the garden halfway down on the right-hand side.

5. Village roadside. Also within the village of St Francis Bay especially along St Francis Drive on the way to the Port St Francis, are grassy road borders. Look out for Red-necked Spurfowl, Cape Grassbird, Cape Longclaw and African Stonechat. Raptors often appear along this stretch, the most common being jackal and Steppe Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, and sometimes African Goshawk.

6. Cape St Francis and Seal Point Nature Reserves. Both have rocky promontories, which jut into the sea. From these you can see Cape Gannet and terns diving for fish. African Black Oystercatcher, gulls, and cormorants are always there, and often skuas and Ruddy Turnstone can be seen. Seal Point, where the lighthouse is situated, can be approached by road but Cape St Francis, can be reached only on foot, but is the more productive birding area.

7. Irma Booysen Floral Reserve (Cape St Francis village). There are two main approaches to this fynbos reserve and both are sign posted along Da Gama Road. The paths are clearly demarcated. Some of the bird species to be found here are Yellow Bishop, Cape Grassbird, and other fynbos species. Raptors such as Jackal Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, and even Harriers fly over the reserve.

8. Farmlands and Grassland. The Kromme river serves as a boundary for many species which usually only appear on the northern side of the river in a farming habitat. Between St Francis and Humansdorp, park alongside the road and look out for Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard, White Stork, Long-tailed Widowbird, larks, pipits, and cisticolas. There are also isolated populations of White-bellied Korhaan along roads in the district, and occasionally Temminck's Courser and Black-winged Lapwing.



. A full list of birds to be found in the area is obtainable from the St Francis Tourism Office (village Centre) or the St Francis Heritage (environmental) Centre in Harbour Road. The St Francis Bird Club operates on the first and third Fridays of the month departing from outside the St Francis Golf Club Car Park. Contact St Francis Tourism for details Tel: +27 42 294 0076, Fax: +27 42 294 0675 or email: , St Francis Tourism Website.

Yellowwoods Nature Reserve, Hankey.
The reserve adjoins the magnificent golf course in Hankey, about 25 km inland from Humansdorp. It has a good picnic area with braai facilities and toilets. The best time to visit this reserve is in the morning when it is cool and fresh. The reserve abounds with enormous yellowwoods and white stinkwood trees and is a favorite haunt of the Tambourine Dove, not a very common bird in other parts. It is best to park fairly near the entrance, then to walk upstream towards the mountains as far as you can go. On the way you should see Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Thick-billed Weaver, Village Weaver, Dark-backed Weaver, Cape Weaver, Southern Masked-Weaver, African Dusky Flycatcher, Terrestrial Brownbul, Burchell's Coucal, Amethyst Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird and Southern Double-collared Sunbird. In summer African Paradise-Flycatcher, and various cuckoos, put in an appearance. Away from the stream in bush habitat Black-backed Puffback, Southern Boubou, Lesser Honeyguide, African Firefinch, Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive Woodpecker, Green Wood-Hoopoe and Knysna Turaco are worth looking for.

Yvonne Craig 2001

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