Birdwatching in Gansbaai
Love is in the AIR... what mom did NOT tell you about the birds and the bees...
The birds and the bees in Gansbaai have a BALL in the bedroom. The wide variety of wildflowers, animals and diverse habitats make this area one of the best plant and animal brothels in the world for, well, literally recreational fun in the sun!
Birding opens one’s eyes to the mastery of nature in creating each plant and animal species with a perfect build and dress code aimed at procreation. The iridescent plumage of the male Malachite Sunbird, the curved beak and excessively long tail of the Cape Sugarbird and the brilliant colours and fragrances of the different flower species are all distinctive features tailor-made to fit into a pollination and procreation puzzle.
The beauty of birdwatching in the greater Gansbaai area is that you do not have to be an expert or even have a keen birder's eye to spot them - they are everywhere and you cannot miss the variation in shape, size, colour and manoeuvres. Surrounded by sea and fynbos-clad mountains, the greater Gansbaai area have myriads fish for the African Fish Eagle, African Penguin, Cape Cormorant and pelagic birds such as the Shy Albatross, Sooty Shearwater and Giant Petrels. A zillion crawling and creeping mammals, reptiles and insects serve as gourmet meals for raptors such as the majestic Black Harrier, Jackal Buzzard and Forest Buzzard.
The sweet nectar of 8 000 species of flowering fynbos plants provides endemic birds such as the Cape and Orange breasted sunbird, Cape Sugarbird, Protea canary and Victorin's warbler with a permanent shebeen stocked with thousands of flavours and fashions to pick and choose from. But even in nature, freebies are literally (not) for the birds and even a bird's brain has instinctive understanding of the intricate bartering system: access to the sweet stuff hidden in the alluring flower petals is in exchange for a sexual favour - to carry their pollen to other flowers and to successfully impregnate them!
With so many incentives, it is small wonder that an estimated 350 of South Africa's 1 000 bird species flourish in the Overberg whilst many of them are endemic to the Cape's fynbos biome.
In Springtime, love is literally in the air when the weird and wonderful courting rituals precede the breeding season (September to April). A bird without a partner is a bird without offspring and males shamelessly strut their brilliant plumage and other goodies to impress a potential partner. The Knysna woodpecker's racketing rat-tat-tat on roofs and gutters and the repertoire of songs of singing birds are all aimed at winning the courtship contest - the more noise and songs, the better! Seabirds and waterfowl bob their heads, bow and flutter their wings to attract their mates, while cranes and peacocks are known for their enchanting dancing and strutting shows as they begin their courtship.
The Overberg country fields and wetlands are also home to the Agulhas Long-billed Lark, the Denham’s Bustard and South Africa’s national bird, the elegant Blue Crane, which is depicted on the 5c coin. The Blue Crane used to play an important role in Zulu and Xhosa tradition. Zulu royalty and Xhosa warriors often wore the blue feathers to signify certain cultural rituals.
The Blue Crane also has an impressive courtship ritual of dancing and complex coordinated calling in unison. The dancing manoeuvres include bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing and wing flapping. These birds pair for life from the age 3 to 4 years old.
Apart from Dyer Island and the Uilenkraalsmond Estuary where endangered species such as the African Black Oystercatcher, Hartlaub’s Gull and the Cape Gannet date and mate, Gansbaai is also close to other acclaimed birding sites such as the Agulhas National Park, Bot River Estuary, Caledon Botanical Gardens and the Klein River Estuary.
A better place to get a birds-eye view of the birds and the bees than the Overberg’s fertile landscapes will be hard to find! Our information centres are stocked with a wide variety of the latest birding literature and multimedia.