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.
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.
Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
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.