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For birders short of time, this 80 hectare reserve in the lower Baakens River Valley in the heart of Port Elizabeth is the ideal place to see a variety of garden and forest birds typical of the eastern cape. Allow two hours to cover the main areas and at least three hours to cover the whole area, when 50 of the 140 regularly occurring species can be expected.

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Specials

Peregrine Falcon, Knysna Turaco, 5 species of kingfisher including Half-collared Kingfisher, Knysna Woodpecker (once regular now rare), Southern Tchagra, 6 species of sunbird including Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird and Grey Sunbird, Swee Waxbill, Forest Canary.

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Habitats

A mixture of natural vegetation and indigenous material planted in an informal semi park-like setting. Habitats include pockets of forest in sheltered kloofs, scrub and thicket (valley bushveld) on the hillsides, small patches of fynbos on the hilltops and in semi-formal beds, isolated bush clumps in grassy areas, the Baakens River with pools and reeds, and rocky cliffs.

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Facilities

There are five access points to the reserve with car parks at three of them. Only pedestrians are allowed on the well made paths that traverse the reserve. At the main car park is a small ablution block and next to the Information/Flower house is a path to a look out point, suitable for the infirm or disabled.

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Birding

1. Start from the main car park off How Avenue and walk down the jeep track next to the Information/Flower house. Six species of sunbird are possible here, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Grey Sunbird and Collared Sunbird. Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Bulbul, Drakensberg Prinia and Fiscal Flycatcher are plentiful. Swee Waxbill and African Firefinch visit the seep beside the track. Look for Olive Woodpecker, Black-headed Oriole and African Goshawk in the tall trees on the left. Red-necked Spurfowl are not uncommon.

2. The bush thickets and forest around the nursery are good for Southern Boubou, Olive Bush-Shrike, Southern Tchagra and Terrestrial Brownbul while Forest Canary, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher and Knysna Woodpecker are sometimes seen.

3. Turn right and follow the path back to where the track crosses the Baakens River. Watch for Thick-billed Weaver, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher and possibly Half-collared Kingfisher. Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler and Levaillant's Cisticola may be heard.

4. Take the path to the right through the poplar wood along side the river and look for Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Olive Woodpecker (and if lucky Knysna Woodpecker) , Black-bellied Starling and Knysna Turaco.

5. Cross the Baakens on the stepping stones at the foot of the Holland Dam and continue up the valley. A Peregrine Falcon often frequents the cliffs below the Chelmsford Ave entrance. Other raptors such as buzzards, sparrowhawks, African Harrier-Hawk and African Crowned Eagle are occasionally spotted. African Black Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Common Moorhen and Black Crake may be seen along the river.

6. At the lower end of the Reserve near the Cudmore St entrance, the old quarry is often home to Spotted Eagle-Owl or White-necked Raven. Weavers and waxbills frequent the reeds and grasses alongside the river.

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General

The gate to the main car park, which is reached off Park Drive via How Avenue, next to St Georges Hospital, is open from 07h30 to 18h00. Pedestrians may enter and leave the park at any time and there is no entrance fee. The car parks at Fordyce Rd / Third Ave, Walmer and at the end of Chelmsford Ave, Essexvale, bottom of Target Kloof, are open all the time. Access may also be gained from Cudmore Street, off Brickmaker's Kloof, and Wellington Park, Fifth Avenue, Walmer.

Trail leaflets and further information may be obtained from the reserve Manager tel. +27 41 373 6794 or the Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism Tel. +27 41 581 7540 / +27 41 582 2575 Fax: +27 41 581 7544 / +27 41 582 2573 email:, Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism Website . Birdlife eastern cape organises bird walks from the Main Car Park on the 1st Saturday and 3rd Thursday of the month, starting 08h00 in summer and 08h30 in winter. Bird & Eco-Tours tel. +27 41 466 5698 email: offers a tour/guiding/free information service in the Port Elizabeth area.

Libby McGill 2001.



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