|Location||South Africa, Mpumalanga|
|Central coordinates||30o 45.00' East 25o 30.00' South|
|IBA criteria||A1, A2, A3|
|Altitude||1,400 - 1,740m|
|Year of IBA assessment||2001|
Ornithological information See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This small site holds the third-largest breeding population of Hirundo atrocaerulea in South Africa. The swallows are concentrated in the remaining 461 ha of grassland lying south of Kaapse Hoop village; all the nests are restricted to this primary grassland. Turnix hottentotta, Vanellus melanopterus and other grassland species, such as Saxicola bifasciata, also occur at Kaapse Hoop. The proteoid woodland holds Promerops gurneyi. The forest patches are home to Lioptilus nigricapillus, Tauraco corythaix and Buteo oreophilus.
Site description Lying c.30 km south-west of Nelspruit, this site consists of gently undulating sour grassland. Narrow drainage lines dissect the grassland, which holds several ponds and small water-bodies. Patches of fynbos (Erica, Protea) also occur, and other scrubby forest-edge species form thickets along the rivers and in the valleys. Forest occurs in the more mesic valleys, dominated by trees of Rapanea, Xymalos, Podocarpus, Pterocelastrus and Syzygium. Other habitats include rocky outcrops and open rock cliffs. Exotic trees, primarily wattle Acacia, have invaded much of the remaining grassland.
|Species||Season||Period||Population estimate||Quality of estimate||IBA Criteria||IUCN Category|
|Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Vulnerable|
|Mountain Buzzard Buteo oreophilus||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A2, A3||Least Concern|
|Olive Bush-shrike Telophorus olivaceus||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Grey Cuckooshrike Coracina caesia||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea||breeding||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Vulnerable|
|African Scrub-warbler Bradypterus barratti||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus ruficapilla||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A2, A3||Near Threatened|
|Black-bellied Glossy-starling Lamprotornis corruscus||resident||1998||-||-||Least Concern|
|Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus||resident||1998||-||-||Least Concern|
|White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Chorister Robin-chat Cossypha dichroa||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A2, A3||Least Concern|
|Brown Scrub-robin Erythropygia signata||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A2||Least Concern|
|Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A1, A3||Least Concern|
|Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A3||Least Concern|
|Forest Canary Serinus scotops||resident||1998||present [units unknown]||-||A2, A3||Least Concern|
|Protected area||Designation||Area (ha)||Relationship with IBA||Overlap with IBA (ha)|
|Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site||Sanctuary||0||is identical to site||1,500|
|IUCN habitat||Habitat detail||Extent (% of site)|
|Grassland||Grassland - highveld||25%|
|Wetlands (inland)||Montane bogs, swamps and mires||-|
|Land-use||Extent (% of site)|
|nature conservation and research||100%|
|nature conservation and research||3%|
Other biodiversity None known to BirdLife International.
Management considerations This is a patch of state-owned land that has been leased to the South African Forestry Company (SAFCOL). A proposal by the ironically named Blue Swallow Exploration and Mining Company to reopen an underground mine threatens the entire population of Hirundo atrocaerulea at this site. The plans include highly destructive alluvial or opencast mining, which would destroy a minimum of six nest-sites. Although this land is currently used for nature conservation and water management, the continuation of this practice is unlikely given the mineral claims. Efforts to maintain the area’s status quo as a nature reserve and prevent mining should be maximized. A management plan has been proposed to meet the needs of exotic vegetation clearance and grassland. Uncontrolled use of the environment by ecotourists also poses a potential threat. Artificial manipulation of ant-bear holes has been shown to elevate the breeding success of Hirundo atrocaerulea, and should be further investigated.The Blue Swallow Working Group (BSWG) of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) aims to preserve the integrity of the Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site through research and conservation management. The BSWG are also involved in liaison and cooperation with SAFCOL, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), and other interested parties.
References Allan (1988), Allan et al. (1987), Evans (1996, 1997, 1998), Huggett (1995, 1996), Maclean (1993), Morgan (1995), Snell (1963, 1969, 1970, 1979), Tarboton (1988, 1994, 1997b,c).
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Recommended citation BirdLife International (2013) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/05/2013
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