In the early morning at De Hoop Nature Reserve, mist clears over the vlei as great white pelicans glide over the water, giants beside the common cormorants, ducks and coots. In the tall grasses and lowland fynbos spreading out in rolling plains and hills beyond the vlei jump sunbirds, robins and Boubous over the Cape Spur fowls darting between the underbrush. But still further reveals the Cape Vulture and Black Harrier souring high above… De Hoop is a birder’s paradise.
Only in June, De Hoop hosted a phenomenal birding workshop with renowned author Peter Ginn (of the Ultimate Companion for Birding in Southern Africa) that investigated ‘Birds in their habitats in De Hoop’… and while the workshop might be over for this year, the birding opportunities at De Hoop are never ending. Not only can one spot the Cape Vulture and Black Harrier, but the South African Shelduck, the Hottentot Buttonquail, the Damara Tern, the Southern Tchagra and the Large-billed Lark can all be spotted in the many landscapes of this vast reserve.
The reserve holds lowland fynbos, mountain fynbos, a wide shoreline, forests and an impressive vlei, each landscape home to its own native species of bird, making it the perfect place for those birders wanting to tick off a wide variety of birds from their list. De Hoop offers an amazing guided bird walk throughout the reserve, led by a qualified guide who focuses on the identification and behaviour of the many different species that you will come across. Depending on how much of a birder you are (and how fit you are), the walk can take anything from 1 to 3 hours.
If you aren’t one for guided walks and are more of the spontaneous birder who enjoys just what comes his or her way, then don’t fear. All you need to do is arrive and explore. As you enter the gates of the reserve and travel down the road spiralling down to the open plains, Cape Grassbirds and Southern Boubous can be found in the surrounding fynbos. Levelling out into the wide plains of the reserve reveal the high soaring Black Harrier searching for food, or Francolin scurrying along the ground. The Potberg Mountain even claims a colony of Cape Vultures for residents, amongst the Hottentot Buttontail and the Striped Flufftail. Without doubt, though, the vlei is the greatest birding opportunity in De Hoop, allowing sightings of the Cape Shoveler, Cape Teal, Southern Pochard, Great Crested Grebe and the enchanting African Fish Eagle!