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“We spent two days at Summerplace and it was an unexpected surprise!” That’s what Waterberg expert, Warwick Tarboton, said following his first visit to Summerplace Game Reserve during October 2023. He and his group recorded high numbers of tree and bird species, both of which are expected to increase. Here’s what they discovered.

Tarboton is retired, but keeps busy by managing a website called Waterberg Bio-Quest, a veritable treasure in terms of information on the Waterberg Biosphere. The website  is a meticulous record of almost everything natural in the Waterberg Biosphere, including mammals, insects, birds, reptiles, trees, wildflowers and grasses. It also contains every kind of map that’s relevant to the region, including topography, geology, drainage and many more. All content on the Waterberg Bio-Quest is English but most of it has also been translated into Afrikaans.

“We have visited well over 100 properties in the Waterberg and haven’t seen anything quite like Summerplace,” said Tarboton. “Five couples with deep interests and experience in nature and conservation were in my group and we thoroughly enjoyed our first visit.

“When you drive up the Melkrivier Road, everything looks rather homogenous. But driving into the Summerplace property with its hills and valleys delivered some very interesting sightings for us,” he added.

Until mid-2021, Summerplace was a farm, but the conversion to a game reserve has seen the introduction of a range of mammals, all of which occur naturally (or used to) in the Waterberg. Among other species, Roan Antelope, Sable Antelope, Tsessebe, Common Reedbuck, Mountain Reedbuck and Giraffe have all been added to the reserve in the past 26 months.

“I am most encouraged that Summerplace is keeping its species introductions to animals that originally occur there. The Tsessebe and Roan Antelope in particular aren’t found elsewhere in the Waterberg these days, so it was really good to see them at Summerplace,” said Tarboton.

“In our short visit we identified 94 species of trees. I would estimate that there are probably 130-140 in total. That’s a very good list! We spotted 107 different bird species, which is very good for the Waterberg this time of the year because the migrants haven’t returned yet. Combined with others who have recorded bird sightings at Summerplace, the list numbers 140 currently. That is a good score, especially for a place with limited water,” he added.

For Tarboton and his group, the sighting of a baby African Hawk Eagle was a highlight.

“I asked David Baber, who was our guide, about any raptors and he took us to a nest that has been there for years. We identified it as the nest of an African Hawk Eagle because it contained a big chick that’s almost ready to fly. Assuming they feel safe, they keep the same nest for years. This is the 28th African Hawk Eagle nest that we are aware of in the Waterberg.

As one of the authors of the book Wildflowers of the Waterberg (digital sample here), Tarboton obviously has a keen interest in this category of flora.

“We did see some wildflowers, but once the rains have begun, that’s when we’re likely to see a lot more at Summerplace. We are looking forward to returning after some rain,” said Tarboton.

The group was also impressed with the Aloe (Marlothii) at Summerplace.

“David took us to the Aloe forest and that is very unique. He also showed us the giant Aloe on the high ground. It’s very rare for an Aloe to grow that tall. We estimate it to be 12-14 metres tall, which is immense and at least double the size they normally grow,” remarked Tarboton, who will return regularly to continue recording flora, fauna and other data for his website.

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