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The Amatola Mountains near Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape are clad with lush indigenous forest and capped with flower-rich montane grassland. The Kologha and Kubusie Forests are fine examples of Afromontane forest, and are some of the most extensive tracts of indigenous forest outside of the Tsitsikama. The forest trails are a special experience and afford the birder an opportunity to observe species only encountered in this rare habitat. Nearby in the Great Kei River valley, one can experience birds of valley bushveld, riverine forest and cliffs.

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Habitats

Habitats include Afromontane forest and montane grassland. Further afield in the Great Kei River Valley, habitats include riverine forest, cliffs, and valley bushveld.

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Specials

Cape Parrot, Orange Ground-Thrush, White-starred Robin, Brown Scrub-Robin, Chorister Robin-Chat, Bush Blackcap, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Buff-streaked Chat, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Sugarbird, Gurney's Sugarbird, African Crowned Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Grey Crowned Crane, and Red-throated Wryneck

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Birding

1. Kologha forest. A series of trails are laid out from the picnic site at the entrance to the forest, approximately 7 kilometres from Stutterheim. Maps indicating the trails are displayed in the Kiosk. Most of the trails are easy going and have a duration of one to four hours. The picnic site situated at the car park has braai facilities. During the months of October to December you may hear the Orange Ground-Thrush calling from dense forest halfway up the mountain slope. This is one of the few places where this species can still be found. Robins to be seen include White-starred Robin, Brown Scrub-Robin and Chorister Robin-Chat. Bush Blackcap, although confined to set territories, can be seen. Knysna Turaco and Narina Trogon are always present. Olive Woodpecker, Knysna Woodpecker and Cardinal Woodpecker are common. Flycatchers include Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, African Paradise-Flycatcher and rarely the Ashy Flycatcher. Grey Cuckooshrike are often seen. Dark-backed Weaver, Lemon Dove, Terrestrial Brownbul and Sombre Greenbul are all here. Mountain Wagtail are found along the forest streams. There is at least one African Crowned Eagle’s nest in the vicinity. Around the forest periphery birds such as Long-crested Eagle, Grey Crowned Crane and Red-throated Wryneck, all of which breed here, can be seen. Many people come to the area to see Red-winged Francolin which are common. Cape Parrot roost and nest in this forest and can readily be seen at early morning or in the evenings returning to their roosting sites.

2. The Montane Grassland above the forest is worthwhile visiting for some of the species that haunt this habitat e.g. Buff-streaked Chat, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Sugarbird and Gurney's Sugarbird and various pipit and cisticola etc.

3. Gaikaford Farm. Excellent birding is also available at Gaikaford, situated on the Great Kei River, some 50 Km east of Stutterheim. Take the gravel road past Bolo village on the road to Tsomo. Gaikaford is the last farm before crossing the Kei River. A spectacular krantz and riverine forest on the banks of the Kei, easily reached on foot from the farm house, offers a wide variety of bushveld, krantz and water birds including Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, Trumpeter Hornbill, Southern Ground-Hornbill, African Black Duck, African Pied Wagtail and a variety of sunbirds, cuckoos, raptor, woodpeckers, and kingfishers.

4. The Kei-Bolo Trail is a difficult but spectacular one-day trail (9 -11km) through the gorge of the Bolo River at its confluence with the Kei. For those fit enough to undertake the trail it will be a never to be forgotten experience. In addition to the bushveld birds, Malachite Kingfisher and Half-collared Kingfisher can be seen. White-bellied Korhaan are a regular sighting on the road to the start of the trail. A pair of Verreaux's Eagle-Owl have been seen roosting on the cliffs above the gorge. Raptors that are regularly seen include Verreauxs' Eagle, Martial Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, African Goshawk, Rock Kestrel and Cape Vulture. African Green-Pigeon, Knysna Turaco, Tambourine Dove and other forest birds occur in the thickets in the gorge. Mocking Cliff-Chat and Ground Woodpecker are often seen on the krantz, while Violet-backed Starling are occasional visitors. This interminably winding gorge is exciting because one always comes upon the unexpected around the next bend.

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General

The forest is under the control of the east cape Department of Forestry and SAFCOL. Currently there are guards patrolling the area to discourage poachers. If visitors wish to deviate from the marked routes and roads, it would be advisable to contact the local SAFCOL office at the Kubusie forest Station for permission and a permit. (Tel 043-6831546).

For advice about the Great Kei River sites, contact Cameron McMaster (see below). Birders should get to both sites early as, especially in summer, it becomes very hot in middle of the day.

Accommodation is available in the area.

For those wishing to stay longer the following excellent accommodation is available near the forest. The following resorts can be reached by turning toward the mountain at the only set of traffic lights in Stutterheim on the N6. Drive out of town on the Keiskamahoek road and after two kilometres turn right toward the mountains. All the resorts are well signposted on this road, which enters the forest at the Kologha Picnic Site.

Bird Guide Bird lists and specialist advice about birding in the area, as well as further a field, can be obtained from Cameron McMaster at The Croft. Tel/Fax +27 43 683 2796. E-mail Cameron is also available to act as a guide to the forest and excellent birding sites elsewhere in the district.

Cameron McMaster 2001.






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