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Constantia Greenbelts:

The forest patches which cloak much of the eastern slopes of Table Mountain extend down into the exclusive residential suburb of Constantia, south of Kirstenbosch (see regional map, p.14), where interlinked ‘greenbelts’ have been set aside to preserve the area’s natural character. The forest and thickets along these greenbelts are the Peninsula’s best sites to see the elusive Knysna Warbler (p.32*), Buff-spotted Flufftail, Wood Owl, and a host of other forest specials.

The largest section of the greenbelts is known as De Hel (1 on site map, below). Park in the small area next to the ‘Greenbelt’ signboard and walk to the right on the broad, descending path which meanders down about 200 m to a small, vegetated stream at 2. The upper reaches of this stream can also be reached 100 m further along the path that leads from the left of the parking area (3). The secretive Knysna Warbler is found in the streamside thickets, where it creeps around low in the vegetation, often walking on the ground. This sombre skulker’s strikingly beautiful song is the key to pinpointing its position, and tape playback often entices it closer. Excessive playback, however, can cause disturbance to the birds and we urge birders to act considerately — please don’t use calls unnecessarily. Look out for Cinnamon Dove walking noisily on the forest floor in this area. Other birds seen regularly between here and the parking area include Cape Siskin (p.33*), Forest Canary, Cape Batis, Sombre Bulbul, Dusky and Paradise Flycatchers, Rameron Pigeon, Redchested Cuckoo (vocal from September to December), Lesser Double-collared Sunbird and the introduced Chaffinch (see box, p.31). This is also one of the few sites on the Peninsula where Bar-throated Apalis and Swee Waxbill occur, although they are scarce here.

Another good part of the greenbelts for Knysna Warbler is at 4 (again, park at the ‘Greenbelt’ signboard). A footpath leads down the densely vegetated stream along which the birds lurk.

Buff-spotted Flufftail, a relatively recent discovery on the Cape Peninsula, is another star bird of the Constantia Greenbelt. This is a legendary skulker, and is among Africa’s hardest birds to see. Males are best searched for on summer nights when their ventriloquial, hooting call emanates from dense tangles of vegetation, often from a position up to 3 m above the ground. Park at the point where the greenbelt crosses Brommersvlei Road (5) and walk west for 300 m to a wooden bridge over a small wetland (6). In the evenings, a number of Buff-spotted Flufftails can be heard calling along a stretch from here up to the tar road that crosses the greenbelt (7). Wood Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl and the occasional Fiery-necked Nightjar can be heard at night.

Both Red-breasted Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk are common throughout this area. This is an excellent spot to get clear views of African Sedge Warbler, Burchell’s Coucal (listen for its bubbling call) and Common Waxbill.

Cecilia Forest (main entrance at 8), a walking spot popular among Capetonians, consists predominantly of timber plantations with small patches of indigenous forest holding out along the streams. Chaffinch and Cape Siskin (p.33*) are particularly common in the plantations, and the open patches with a clear view of the skies are the best places to look overhead for soaring Red-breasted Sparrowhawk and the rare Honey Buzzard, interspersed among the much more common Steppe Buzzard and the occasional Forest Buzzard.

Raptorphiles may enjoy the identification challenge posed by the resident and migrant buzzards. Forest Buzzard is a rare resident of the Peninsula’s forests, and is best seen at Tokai Plantation (take the Tokai off-ramp from the M3 and continue all the way to the mountain, turning left, at the Cape Dutch manor house T-junction, towards the Arboretum). The migrant Steppe Buzzard far outnumbers it during summer, and considerable skill is required to distinguish the two species. It is also always worth keeping an eye out for the scarce Honey Buzzard, whose presence in the Cape was revealed only in the mid-1980s, when it was discovered by John Graham at Tokai. Small numbers of this species can be found anywhere in forests on the Peninsula, although Tokai and Cecilia Forest are the places where they are seen most frequently.

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4 Crassula Way, Pinelands, 7405, Cape Town, South Africa

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