Limpopo Birding Routes

Waterberg Nylsvley Birding Hotspots

Waterberg Plateau

Marakele - Marianne McKenzie

This area is defined by the Waterberg Mountains, habitats include montane grassland up to 2000masl (metres above sea level), bushveld areas, rocky hills, wooded valleys along permanent rivers; and the dominant vegetation of deciduous broadleaved woodland. This results in a diversity of birds with montane species such as Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Rock-Thrush and Gurney's Sugarbird at the top of Marakele; Blue Crane, Denham's Bustard and various cisticolas in the high grassland; bushveld bird species in the lower areas; African Finfoot, White-backed Duck and African Black Duck along the rivers of the Waterberg. Southern Black Flycatcher, Grey Penduline-Tit, White-crested Helmet-Shrike and Yellow-bellied Greenbul can also be seen in this habitat.

Cape Vulture – Derek Engelbrecht
Marakele National Park

This National Park covers 45,000 hectares of the Southern Waterberg; the entrance is 30km north-east of Thabazimbi. Only parts of this huge area are accessible to the public, but these areas are home to a great variety of birds. South Africa’s largest Cape Vulture breeding colony is found on the cliffs at Kransberg, the highest peak in the Park. Gurney's Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Buff-streaked Chat, Striped Pipit and other high-altitude specialists can also be seen in this area, which is accessible to sedan vehicles via a concrete road. The rest of the park is dominated by bushveld and patches of broadleaved woodland and riverine habitats. Many raptors are found in the Park, including Booted Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Cuckoo Hawk. Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Red-crested Korhaan, Kori Bustard and Secretary Bird can be seen at Kwagga’s Vlakte - a separate portion of the park where the tented camp and campsite are situated. The banks of the Matlabas and Sterkstroom Rivers and the dams in the park have a variety of waterbirds; Half-collared Kingfisher, African Darter and Red-faced Cisticola can be seen in these habitats. There are elephant, black and white rhino and other general game in the park, so walking is not permitted without an armed guide. The park has a variety of accommodation options, from camping to tented and bush camps. Detailed maps, general information and information about accommodation options can be found at the park gate and on the SANParks website.

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Buff-streaked Chat – Joe Grosel
Rankin Pass / Alma / Bokpoort area

This area is mainly montane grassland and is the over-wintering area of 40 - 60 Blue Cranes which gather on private farms and are monitored by provincial officials.  Denham’s Bustard, White-bellied Korhaan, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat and Wailing Cisticola can also be seen. You can travel through the area on the public dirt roads and enjoy great roadside birding. Please note that these roads are not always well-maintained, so a high-clearance vehicle is recommended; 4x4 may be needed after heavy rain. Joseph Heymans, the District Biodiversity Monitor, can tell you where the Blue Cranes are between May and August; he may also be able to organise an outing to the private farms lands where the cranes are gathered. Phone him on 082 807 6741.

Directions: The recommended route is to travel on the R33 from Modimolle to Vaalwater; and turn left at the second Alma turn-off, just after a small school. Follow this road for around 10km to a T junction, turn left to Alma and continue through Alma to Rankin’s Pass. Just before the Police Station in Rankin’s Pass turn right towards the mountain, this road will take you back to Alma through some good birding spots. Around 7km along this road is the farm of Jan de Beer, who will allow access onto his property with prior arrangement.

| 014 721 0833 | 082 903 2483 |

Water Thick-knee – Derek Engelbrecht
Palala River Bridge

The Palala River has well-vegetated banks, and is fringed by spectacular sandstone cliffs in some parts of the Palala Valley. The river is dammed by a weir to the west of the bridge and is home to a resident pod of hippos. Please note that hippos can be very dangerous and you should only walk around if accompanied by an experienced guide. Sunrise and early morning is the best time to bird in this area, especially if looking for African Finfoot and Little Bittern. The rare African Pygmy Goose has also been recorded at this site. Scanning the sandbanks should reveal a resident group of Water Thick-knee and African Wattled Lapwing; Green-backed Heron might be found within the adjoining reed beds. Look out for Black Crake as they dash across the sandbanks from one side of the river to the other. This is also a good place to see African Fish Eagle and Giant Kingfisher. The adjacent woodland towards the south of the bridge is home to a variety of typical bushveld species; walk back along the road to look for African Pygmy Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, African Firefinch and Little Sparrowhawk. During the summer months look for Long-tailed Paradise and Pin-tailed Whydah as well as Purple Indigobird. Scanning the wooded bank to the east of the bridge might produce Black Sparrowhawk, especially in the late afternoon.

Directions: Travel from Vaalwater towards Melkrivier and follow the road for 40 km; turn left onto a dirt road at the Melkrivier School and Rhino Museum signboards. Follow this road for 5.9 km then turn right, still following the Rhino Museum signs. Continue for 5.7 km beyond the Rhino Museum until you reach the bridge.

Long-billed Pipit – Lex van Vught
Waterberg Montane Grasslands

This private cattle farm, mainly covered by tall montane grassland, is the breeding site of a pair of Blue Cranes, which are on the property from September to March. Other birds to see include Denham’s Bustard, White-bellied Korhaan, Common Quail, 3 species of Pipit and 5 species of Cisticola. The farm owner, John Malovich, allows birders on his farm with prior arrangement; he will either give directions or send someone to show you around. There are two strict rules on the farm: “no smoking”, because of the fire danger; and “if a gate is closed, close it behind you; if it is open, leave it open”.

Directions: The farm is at the top of the Bokpoort pass near the source of the Palala River, John will provide detailed directions.

| 083 661 8823 |

Rufous-naped Lark – San3 de Wet
Bateleur Nature Reserve

This 3,000 hectare reserve has a wide range of habitats: most of the area is covered with broadleaved woodland and there are a number of small streams and two perennial rivers with wetland areas that attract Blue Crane and Secretarybird, as well as Common Quail and a host of other grassland birds. The raptors are well represented with Lizard Buzzard, Little Sparrowhawk, Spotted Eagle Owl and Cape Vulture frequently seen. There is a hide at one of the small dams where Black Crake, Yellow-billed Duck and Moorhen are found. The reserve is also home to the rare Waterberg Copper butterfly. There are over 70 km of hiking trails on the farm as well as a variety of self-catering cottages.

 | 014 013 0099 | 083 677 6999 | | |