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The 250 ha Grootvadersbosch forest is situated in the Boosmansbos Wilderness Area in the southern foothills of the Langeberg. It is the Southwestern Cape’s largest indigenous forest and the region’s richest in terms of bird species diversity (196 spp. recorded). Sought-after endemic species can be found here together with a variety of traditionally eastern forest species.

With luck sightings may be obtained of bushbuck in the forest or cape Grysbok around the fringes. Signs of Leopard are occasionally found while Chacma Baboons and small mammals are common. After showers you may come across Plain Rain Frog (Breviceps fuscus) or Strawberry Rain Frog (Breviceps acutirostris) along the forest trails while certain boulder-strewn gorges are home to a subspecies of southern Ghost Frog (Heleophryne purcelli orientalis), which is endemic to Grootvadersbosch. giant earthworms, kite and orb spiders are common and a unique emperor butterfly is endemic to the forest. In addition to the birds and other wildlife, the beautiful forest trails and the attractive campsite provide for a great weekend get-away.

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Specials

Special birds include Red-necked Spurfowl, Narina Trogon, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Grey Cuckooshrike, Victorin's Warbler, Knysna Warbler, African Crowned Eagle, Knysna Woodpecker, Forest Canary, Brimstone Canary, Cape Siskin, Amethyst Sunbird, Black Harrier, Amethyst Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Forest Buzzard, African Wood-Owl, Black Sparrowhawk, Lemon Dove, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Martial Eagle, Terrestrial Brownbul, Denham's Bustard, Greater Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird. Regionally rare birds which have been recorded in recent years include European Roller, Little Sparrowhawk and African Cuckoo Hawk.

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Habitats

The primary habitat is Afromontaine forest (which includes a small stand of introduced Californian redwood trees). Additional habitats include disturbed forest edges, bracken covered slopes, plantations of exotic trees and moist mountain Fynbos.

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Facilities

Walking trails and campsite.

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Birding

Birding in under the closed forest canopy may be challenging with species like Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler and Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher silhouetted high up in the canopy. forest Birding is often more productive in clearings and around the forest fringes where birds are more plentiful and easier to see. Time of year is also important with forest birds being at their most active in spring (September – November). An important point to remember though is that October tends to be a very rainy month.

1. Good birds may already be seen once you turn off the N2 on the way to Grootvadersbosch. Pearl-breasted Swallow and African Stonechat are often seen perched on telephone lines along with the occasional European Roller. As you pass through Suurbraak you may want to pull over and scan flowering Coral Trees (Erythrina caffra) for Amethyst Sunbird. On the other side of Suurbraak you pass a farm dam on the left hand side of the road, which sometimes yields White-backed Duck and occasionally African Rail. Once you reach the rolling farmlands, you may see Black Harrier, Secretarybird, Blue Crane and Denham's Bustard. Check the groves of exotic trees along the way for Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk or African Goshawk. The last section of dirt road before you get to the reserve entrance may yield Red-necked Spurfowl.

2. While standing in the campsite look out over the forest for Forest Buzzard which often perches in emergent dead exotic trees. Then, make your way down a bracken-covered slope called Bosbokrand. Spend some time in this area since it is prime habitat for a variety of seed-eaters not found in the forest. Here you invariably come across Swee Waxbill, Forest Canary, Brimstone Canary and Cape Siskin. Listen and look out for Cape Grassbird on this slope. You should also see Black Saw-wing swooping low above the ground. Brown-backed Honeybird is sometimes found in this habitat.

At the bottom of Bosbokrand you have a number of options, some of these are listed below.

3. A good option is to walk to the right down a forest road clearly signposted ‘Melkhoutpad’. You should soon find Lemon Dove in the undergrowth. On the way to the canopy bird hide situated on this trail, look out for bird parties which may contain Olive Bush-Shrike, Blue Quail, Terrestrial Brownbul, Cape Batis and Bar-throated Apalis. Greater Double-collared Sunbird is often found in the immediate vicinity of the hide. The hide provides wonderful views of the forest canopy from above as well as the prospect of scanning for raptors including Forest Buzzard, African Crowned Eagle, Black Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk, all of which occasionally perch prominently in dead exotic trees.

4. A good early morning walk is down the clearly marked redwoods Road (which turns off to the right at the bottom of Bosbokrand). Proceed quietly since here you have a reasonable chance of seeing Red-necked Spurfowl in the dirt road. With patience you may encounter a bird-party containing Olive Woodpecker, Terrestrial Brownbul, African Paradise-Flycatcher and Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. Follow the road as it turns sharply to the left and crosses the Duiwenhoks river. Stop here, as the streamside undergrowth is excellent habitat for the shy Knysna Warbler. Call-up tapes are a useful way to lure this bird out of hiding for a brief view. This is also a good spot to look and listen for the often inconspicuous Knysna Woodpecker. Once you have walked 800m along this road, take a left turn along a footpath. A clearing a few hundred meters along this path is a particularly good site to look for Grey Cuckooshrike. You should however look out for the unobtrusive Grey Cuckooshrike in the canopy along the edge of any clearing or forest road. As you carry on walking you reach a junction where you turn left, this path leads you to a beautifully constructed hide situated high in foliage of the forest canopy. This hide is a good place to look for the exquisite Narina Trogon and other canopy species such as Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler. The Narina Trogon may however be found throughout the forest and is most often located by its characteristic call. After leaving the hide you cross the Duiwenhoks river for a second time and climb a sometimes slippery slope before emerging at the bottom of Bosbokrand.

5. If you keep walking straight (north) ignoring a forest road which turns to the left, you will find a patch of undergrowth on the left hand side of the road which is an excellent spot to look for Knysna Warbler.

6. You may however choose to walk down the forest road that turns off to the left at the bottom of Bosbokrand. The forest along this road is more open than on the eastern side and Knysna Woodpecker is often heard. After a few twists and turns you will come across a stream with associated undergrowth. This is another good spot to try for Knysna Warbler. Narina Trogon has also been sighted in the vicinity of the river. A little further you will find a clearing to the right of the road, this is a good location for Grey Cuckooshrike.

7. In the early evening you may want to look for African Wood-Owl (perhaps using call up tapes) on a short walk down one of the forest paths. Take care whilst walking since some of the paths can be very slippery, especially when wet. It is a good idea to take a decent flashlight along to spot the owls and to illuminate your path. However, it is not a good idea to stay out long after sunset since owls are for the most part crepuscular. If using call up tapes, judicious use is a must, so as not to unduly stress the birds. If you are lucky enough to find the owls, remember not to shine your torch directly into their sensitive eyes, rather illuminate their bodies.

6. If you walk down Bosbokrand along the gravel road, continuing in a northerly direction (and do not turn off into one of the forest trails), you will reach the start of the two-day Boosmansbos Hiking Trail. On this trail you may find Cape Grassbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Sugarbird and the locally common Victorin's Warbler. Victorin's Warbler prefers taller vegetation (often associated with streamsides) and responds well to “spishing” and call-up tapes. If you are fortunate, you may also spot the regionally scarce Red-winged Francolin. Martial Eagle is sometimes seen flying over the Langeberg and Booted Eagle is fairly common.

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General

There is an excellent network of tracks and trails snaking through the forest, the bushbuck Trail providing walks varying from 2 to 10km. Although it is unnecessary to book in advance for day visits, permits are required and can be obtained at the reserve. Groups are restricted to 12 persons.

Visitors to Grootvadersbosch also have access to the Boosmansbos Hiking Trail. This trail leads you along on a two-day hike amongst varied mountain Fynbos habitats and stupendous views. After approximately a five-hour walk you will reach a rustic overnight hut, which has a concrete floor and lacks ablutions. There are two watering points on the way up to the hut. Along this trail you will find striking and endemic fynbos plant species, especially near Loerklip. Examples include Disa cardinalis, which grows in the stream below the overnight hut (flowers in January), Disa gladioflora and Disa graminifolia. The latter two species can be found on the way down, just before Saagkuilkloof. The total number of persons per day in the wilderness area is restricted to 12. Importantly, these walks must be booked in advance.

An attractive campsite, which overlooks the forested valley and Langeberg Range, is situated at the reserve entrance. The campsite has large lawns, braai facilities, ablutions (with hot water) and a rustically furnished thatched lapa. The lapa has a refrigerator (in which campers may store perishables or refreshments). The campsite is popular and should be booked in advance to avoid disappointment. An information office is also situated at the reserve entrance where visitors may obtain brochures, bird lists and maps to the various trails and facilities.

If you are unable to get accommodation within Grootvadersbosch, you may try Honeywood Farm, which has guest cottages, or alternatively phone the Heidelberg Information Office. Contact details of these establishments are given below.

Directions: Grootvadersbosch is approximately 3 ½ hours drive east of cape Town, along the N2. At the settlement of Buffeljags, 11km beyond Swellendam, turn left off the N2 onto the R324 towards Suurbraak and Barrydale. Continue past the Tradouw Pass/Barrydale turnoff and drive through the rural town of Suurbraak. You then come to a fork in the road (about 26 km from the N2), take the left hand fork and follow the small signposts to Grootvadersbosch/Boosmansbos Wilderness Area.

Contact details: Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve, Telephone: +27 28 722 2412, Fax: +27 28 722 2838
Reservations can be made on Tel: Tel: (021) 659 3500 or email: .
Cape Nature Website

Gate opening times: Mon - Fri: 08h00 - 16h00 Sat-Sun: 08h00 - 18h00

Nearest town: Heidelberg

Honeywood Farm, Tel: +27 28 722 1823, Fax: +27 28 722 1839, email:
Honeywood Farm Website

Heidelberg Information Office, Tel: +27 28 722 2700 or Fax: +27 28 722 2758 email:
www.heidelberginfo.co.za

Charl Cilliers 2001.



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