The second birding spot in this series, is the town of Grootbrak River, which I will also discuss in two parts. The section below the N2 highway and then the section above the N2. The town is more famous for its famous South African shoe brand factory than anything else, whilst a few people might argue that the Total garage and “De Dekke” Pub right off the N2 highway is what makes this little town famous. It is also said that the town is home to the biggest Pepper tree in the country. It is also an excellent area to do whale watching from during the cooler months, with Southern Right Whales being the most prominent.
It lays smack bang in the middle of Mosselbay and George and is a mere 11min drive from George airport. The local railway bridge has a sad history as this is where a train crashed into the river below soon after the construction of the bridge. It is also here where the Outeniqua Choo-tjoe train runs through nowadays on its way to Mosselbay and back to George. The old route to Knysna had to be changed after the rock slide in 2007 which destroyed the scenic Kaaiman’s Pass railway section.
The town’s name is derived from the Grootbrak (Great brak) River which flows through town and creates a sizeable mouth out into the sea. And then of course the breathtaking Outeniqua mountains a.k.a “die Blouberge” (the Blue mountains) lays in the background towards George.
The first promising birding spot here is the beach. This is one of the best places to see African Black Oystercatcher, a near threatened species. I once counted 18 of these birds sunning themselves on a sandbank in the river mouth. Scanning the beach carefully usually reveals the well camouflaged White-fronted Plover. Overhead Cape Gull, Swift Tern and Sandwich Tern flies in and out towards the sand banks in the mouth where they congregate in sometimes huge numbers!
The shrubs in the parking area hosts Streaky-headed Seed-Eater, Bokmakierie and Karoo Prinia. Common Starlings can be seen on most power lines along the road leading to the beach and together with Cape Gulls they rule the roost in the picnic area adjacent to the river, where they scan for morsels of food.
From here work your way up the river along the road and scan the mudflats for Common Greenshank, Grey Plover, Little Egret, Common Wimbrel and Black-winged Stilt. The open water is occupied by Yellow-billed Ducks, Cape Shoveler and White-breasted Cormorants whilst the feral Mallard is present in good numbers. Pied Kingfishers hover over the water in spectacular fashion.
The hillside next to the road is home to Sombre Greenbul, Bar-throated Apalis and various doves. Two of Southern Africa’s most secretive species occur in these thickets. The vulnerable Knysna Warbler can be heard calling from the thickets. It is also from these thickets where the Buff-spotted Flufftail can be heard calling at night and during misty mornings. Southern Double-collared Sunbirds are common in the gardens when the aloes are in bloom.
The houses with beautiful gardens are well worth a visit as it attracts Diderick Cuckoo (summer), Cape Weaver, Common Waxbill, Red Bishop, Olive Thrush, Rock Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Cape Francolin, Fiscal Flycatcher, Common Fiscal (often leaving the odd unattended pet canary decapitated), Southern Boubou and Cape Wagtail which often ventures right into the kitchen to feed. Knysna Warbler can be heard calling from the railway tracks and I have had splendid views of it by luring it out with playback! But please use playback sparingly.
A visit to the train bridge might reveal Spur-winged Geese and Sacred Ibis flying over, Jackal Buzzard and Pied Mannikin. It is also here where I witnessed Osprey quite often carrying off its freshly caught prey, turning it lengthwise to streamline it for easy transport. From here move northwards under through the N2 highway bridge towards the second part of Grootbrak river birding paradise…
» 6 Comments
at Monday, 25 May 2009 10:18
LOL@ the poor canaries!
seems like another awesome birding spot!...maybe I should go there to FINALLY spot an Osprey :-/
at Monday, 25 May 2009 10:26
The Osprey was not present last summer. I will keep you posted if it shows up at this location again, Jay. Another good spot to look for it is the Umgeni river mouth in Durban.
at Monday, 25 May 2009 15:04
at Monday, 25 May 2009 18:32
Well written once again! Thanks for a great read!
at Sunday, 31 May 2009 10:42
Gosh, you made me want to pack everything and go for some birding there.
Thanx once again for this great read. A shame that I passed through this area during previous trips without knowing all those birding spots...
at Monday, 01 June 2009 11:26
Next time let us know when you in the area Katja!!
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