STRUISBAAI-ELIM BIRDING ROUTE
The Struisbaai-Elim road was identified as an exciting birding route by Agulhas National Park. It meanders for 35km along the very important Nuwejaars River wetland system between the gravel road turn-off to Elim from the tar road between Struisbaai and Bredasdorp to Elim village itself.
Wetlands are identified as the most important life support system on earth.
It has been estimated that over half of our wetlands have been destroyed and lost mainly through human activities. Those that remain are therefore regarded as some of the most threatened natural habitats.
Wetlands describe a variety of ecosystems including rivers, springs, seeps and mires in the upper-catchment head-waters, to midlands marshes, pans and floodplains, to coastal lakes, mangrove swamps and estuaries at the bottom of the basin. Any part of the landscape where water accumulates for long enough and often enough to influence the plants, animals and soils occurring in that area, is thus regarded as a wetland.
The very low gradients in the south-eastern Agulhas Plain result in significant wetland development, and created the second largest lacustrine wetland in South Africa, Soetendalsvlei. The Agulhas region is unique in terms of the wide variety of wetlands (freshwater springs, rivers, estuaries, lakes, vleis and endorheic pans) that occur within a relatively small area. Twelve types of wetlands were identified on the Agulhas Plain.
The Agulhas Plain constitutes one of the largest lowland fynbos and Renosterveld habitats in the world. The diversity of habitat types, wetland ecosystems, red data plant species and local endemics is unmatched in the Cape Floristic Region . The Cape Floristic Region (CFR) biodiversity hotspot is a globally significant repository of biodiversity, recognized for its high vulnerability.
The mission of the Agulhas NP Working on Wetlands project is to secure the Agulhas water resources by rehabilitating the wetlands to its original state and thereby improve the rich biodiversity and associated patterns and processes of the Agulhas wetlands and secure a water source for human consumption. The project started in 2006 and since then the return of all different species of birds to the wetlands bordering this new birding route is phenomenal.
The agricultural landscape of the Agulhas Plain during ploughing season and after harvesting, offers exceptional bird viewing opportunities.
All this contributes to a very good birding area with a variety of birds at different times of the year.
Birds to watch out for:
Blue Cranes, Egyptian Geese, Sacred Ibis, Hadeda Ibis, Spur-winged Geese, African Spoonbill, Herons, Egrets, Flamingos, Cape Francolins, Helmeted Guineafowl, Denham Bustards, Raptors: Jackal Buzzard, Fish Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Yellow-billed Kite, Black Harrier, African Marsh-Harrier, etc.
Pelicans might be seen flying from one vlei to another, and look out for the elusive Secretary Bird around the Soutbosch saltpans and Bosheuwel at certain times of the year.