Subtropical South Africa Trip Report, October 2023


14 – 31 October 2023
By Dylan Vasapolli

Subtropical South Africa trip report

A quintessential sight in the African bushveld – this Leopard lazing about in the final hours of the day, was one of the standout group sightings on this eastern South Africa tour.


South Africa has for a long while been arguably the best and most accessible African country to visit – due to its superb infrastructure, high diversity, and incredible value-for-money. This subtropical South Africa set departure tour is focused on an 18-day route taking in almost all of eastern South Africa’s premier birding (and wildlife) reserves and sites.

Starting in the coastal town of Durban, we headed to the fabulous Drakensberg Mountains and took a trip up the birdy Sani Pass into the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, before venturing through the myriad of coastal forests and Zululand bushveld nature reserves and sites. Meccas we stopped at included the world-famous Isimangaliso Wetland Park, and Mkhuze Game Reserve, amongst others. We then headed inland, and made a trip to the highlands of Wakkerstroom, where we focused on the many grassland endemics of South Africa, before calling in at the excellent Kruger National Park, where we enjoyed some of Africa’s megafauna, along with its supreme birding. The tour then ended in the diverse mixed acacia thornveld north of Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

This tour yielded a high number of birds, including many localized specials, and many endemics and near-endemics. This localized Rudd’s Apalis showed well during our time in Zululand.

We had challenging weather during our 2023 set departure tour, with rain and other adverse weather conditions affecting most days of this trip. Remarkably, despite all the inclement weather, this tour was still supremely successful, with a high count of species (more than 450 recorded, and just under this total being seen), and virtually all of the possible specials and endemics being seen (and generally seen very well)! There were too many highlights to list them all, but our day up a cold, windy, rainy and snowy Sani Pass was superb as, despite everything the weather gods threw down on us, the birds carried on obliging. A somewhat similar day at Mkhuze Game Reserve was equally superb due to the excellent birds we found, despite the atrocious conditions. Our Kruger drives were well enjoyed, with some superb birds intermingled with far too many Leopards (amongst other great wildlife, like African Wild Dog), while our trend continued with a cold, wet and generally miserable day on the Zaagkuilsdrift Road being wonderfully productive, netting us virtually every special possible at this time of the year.

A detailed daily account can be read below, and the full bird and mammal lists are located at the end of the report.

Detailed Report

Day 1, 14th October 2023. Arrival in Durban, local birding and transfer to Pennington

Our eastern South Africa subtropical tour began in a comfortable Durban guesthouse with several of the group having arrived early the previous day. With more guests arriving only later in the day, we spent the morning birding a few local sites in the wider Durban north area, including the KwaDukuza Wetlands near Stanger. Water birds formed the center stage during the morning birding, and we acquainted ourselves with the more widespread species like Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, African Swamphen, Black Crake, Three-banded Plover, Blacksmith Lapwing, African Jacana, African Darter, Reed Cormorant, Grey Heron, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, Lesser Swamp Warbler and a plethora of weavers including Thick-billed, Village and Eastern Golden (Yellow) Weavers and Southern Red Bishops. Our hoped for Red-headed Queleas were nowhere to be seen, but we did well to find a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes along with shy Black and Purple Herons. Our acquaintances continued with the likes of Lesser Striped Swallow, Black Saw-wing, Red-winged Starling, Pin-tailed Whydah, African Pied Wagtail and Yellow-fronted Canary.

We headed to the airport, where we met up with a few more guests who had just arrived from our Best of Cape Town & Beyond Tour, before settling in for lunch and transferring down the south coast to the sleepy village of Pennington. Here we met our final guests (who had been staying for a few days prior to the tour beginning) and checked into our comfortable and luxurious seaside accommodations. The wind had picked up to an extraordinarily high level and our afternoon walk around the fabulous Umdoni Park was extremely quiet, with little moving about in the gale-force winds. A fruiting tree proved our saving grace and here we enjoyed the likes of African Green Pigeon, White-eared Barbet and Violet-backed and Black-bellied Starlings, all cavorting around the tree. Nearby we enjoyed a small group of Little Bee-eaters, dainty Southern Black Flycatchers and we eked out an Olive Sunbirds in the forest. We settled in for the evening and enjoyed a lovely meal together.

Day 2, 15th October 2023. Birding Umdoni Park, and transfer to Underberg, via Weza Forest

Our early morning coffee and rusks kickstarted our day, and we headed off into the neighboring Umdoni Park where we would spend the morning birding the various forest trails running through it. With the wind having died down substantially, the birds were out and about and we had a superb morning. A pair of confiding Cape Batis’ gave us good looks, before being replaced by a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, then a Black-backed Puffback and lastly a Square-tailed Drongo. A calling Narina Trogon gave us only the briefest of glimpses, while a bright Tambourine Dove gave us better views. We also did well to find a foraging Brown Scrub Robin, one of the main specials for the area (well spotted, Ohad!). We then struck gold and found a party of Knysna Turacos which came out into an open tree and put on a fine show for us! After having had our fill, we continued onwards and were drawn to a vocal Gorgeous Bushshrike. Rather unlike this usually extremely elusive bird, we had excellent views almost immediately, and enjoyed this brightly colored species calling from the top of a tree at length. Displaying African Goshawks were seen, along with Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Black-headed Oriole, Southern Boubou, nesting Southern Black Tits, Green-backed Camaroptera, Ashy Flycatcher and Grey Sunbird. We headed back for breakfast after a few hours out walking, finding a Purple-crested Turaco en route. We kept getting repeatedly distracted during breakfast with the beautiful gardens bringing in excellent birds, like the scarce Southern Tchagra, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Crested Barbet, Spectacled Weaver and Red-backed Mannikin.

After eventually getting through breakfast, we gathered up our things and hit the road. We were ultimately bound for Underberg, but would take the bulk of the day getting there with various planned stops along the way. Our first stop at Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve was good, albeit brief. Here we tried hard in a known Knysna Woodpecker territory, but came up empty handed. A vocal Black Cuckoo gave us a few good flyby views, and we also added an excellent Olive Woodpecker and dainty Bar-throated Apalis. Narina Trogon finally relented and we found a showy male that refused to budge, giving us all excellent views (thanks again, Ohad!). With inclement and colder weather brewing, our lunch stop at Ingeli was much welcomed, and allowed us to have some coffee and tea to warm up, along with a fine Sunday roast.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

We had sublime views of a male Narina Trogon whilst at Oribi Gorge.

The gardens here held the likes of Amethyst and Greater Double-collared Sunbirds, Cape Weaver, Cape Robin-Chat and Greater Striped Swallow. After having suitably warmed up again, we ventured off birding to the nearby Weza Forest. A Red-chested Cuckoo showed well on the forest edge, and almost as soon as we stepped out the car, we found a Bush Blackcap – one of the targets here. The bird kept slightly distant, but showed well. Olive Woodpecker and Cape Batis kept us entertained before we found a lively Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler. Our first try for the shy White-starred Robin produced the goods, and we then refocused on finding Orange Ground Thrush. We heard several birds calling as we went along, but try as we might, we simply couldn’t see any of them, despite the birds being extremely close at times. An Olive Bushshrike put in an appearance right at the end, before we headed down to a vlei. Here, we enjoyed excellent looks at several confiding Barratt’s Warblers that were working the rank vegetation along the edges, along with a vocal African Yellow Warbler. A fine Long-crested Eagle was seen on our way out. We spent the remaining part of the now rainy afternoon driving to Underberg, where we checked into our stunning lodge in the early evening.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

Drakensberg Rockjumper is one the main specials of the Sani Pass – here a young bird.

Day 3, 16th October 2023. Endemic birding on Sani Pass, and into Lesotho

We awoke to the same continuous rain as had been ongoing from the previous day, and braced for a cool day as we transited up the famous Sani Pass, and into Lesotho. We made use of several 4×4 vehicles to traverse the rugged road up the mighty Drakensberg Mountains. After meeting our drivers and ace local guide, Stuart, we climbed into the cars and set off. Early stops still in our lodge grounds produced a fine male Buff-streaked Chat, along with Wailing Cisticola and Nicholson’s Pipit. A calling Red-winged Francolin took some careful watching to locate, but we enjoyed good scope views of this secretive species. The large dam on the lodge grounds also held nesting Hamerkop, distant Grey Crowned Cranes, flyby Black-crowned Night Herons and a Giant Kingfisher for a lucky few. The lower reaches of the pass were extremely wet and pretty miserable, but we somehow managed to better our views of Bush Blackcap, enjoyed several showy Drakensberg Prinias and found numerous Malachite Sunbirds and a single Gurney’s Sugarbird on some of the flowering plants. While having breakfast in a short gap in the weather, we also eked out a few new birds like Bokmakierie, African Dusky Flycatcher and Cape Canary, while Half-collared Kingfisher frustratingly only showed itself to a lucky few. Once we were past the South African border post, we managed to get our first Ground Woodpeckers, along with Cape Buntings and Cape Rock Thrushes, while the surprise of the day went to a Levaillant’s Cuckoo – a rare bird in the province. The higher reaches of the pass were blanketed in thick mist, and a quick stop at the Sani Top area, once we crossed into Lesotho, gave us a confiding Drakensberg Rockjumper and numerous Drakensberg Siskins.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

Mountain Pipit is a highly localized breeding endemic, only really possible within the high Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho.

The mist cleared and rain stopped as we went deeper into Lesotho, but it miraculously started snowing and was bitterly cold (unusual for this time of year). Despite conditions, the birding was excellent and we roped in all of our targets. One of the first Mountain Pipits of the season showed well to us, while we also netted Grey Tit, Fairy Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Sickle-winged Chat and both Large-billed and Red-capped Larks. Comical parties of Ground Woodpeckers were seen at several places and we also did well to find a covey of Grey-winged Francolins feeding in the open. We eventually arrived at our Bearded Vulture nest site, and enjoyed good views of the adults on the nest and changing, along with seeing the now large chick on the nest, albeit distantly. We enjoyed much more satisfactory views of them flying overhead. Numerous Cape Vultures were also present, along with a few Southern Bald Ibis, and a Black Stork was a lucky sighting. Birding some of the surrounding areas here gave us our few missing Karoo species like Layard’s Warbler and Karoo Scrub Robin, while we also added a large party of Yellow Canaries. African Rock Pipit took a herculean effort to find, after spending much of our time in Lesotho listening to various birds calling, and we did well to add a Mountain Wheatear. We enjoyed repeat views of Drakensberg Rockjumpers here, along with some of the other Karoo species seen earlier in the day, like Fairy Flycatcher and Grey Tit.

Content and satisfied, and with all our target birds under our belt despite the most inclement of weather conditions, we made our way down the pass and into the Underberg farmlands. Here, heavy rain resumed and we made the most of our search for cranes. A large flock of Grey Crowned Cranes were seen in the farmlands, while a pair of Blue Cranes were sighted close to the road, and eventually we arrived at an active Wattled Crane nest. Here, the adults were seen on and around the nest respectively, and we counted ourselves lucky to see this locally rare and Critically Endangered (in South Africa) species. Opportunistic stops in the farmlands also gave us Cape Crow, South African Cliff Swallows, Pied Starlings, Long-tailed Widowbirds and our first Cape Longclaws. We retired for the remainder of the day, and warmed ourselves up in front of our fires.

Day 4, 17th October 2023. Blue Swallows and transfer to Mtunzini

We had an early start, as we checked out of our lodge and began the long journey to the coastal village of Mtunzini, where we would spend the night. As most of our travel days go, we would make several birding stops along the route, the first of which was at the Marutswa Forest in Bulwer. This is a usually reliable stakeout for Cape Parrot, but the weather gods were still angry with us, as we had much rain and inclement weather to deal with. As we waited it out, the likes of Black-headed Oriole, Southern Boubou, White-necked Raven, Drakenberg Prinia, African Dusky Flycatcher, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Red-collared Widowbird kept us company. Some hard work paid off and we enjoyed a fine Orange Ground Thrush that remained perched, for all to admire, on the forest edge, while Narina Trogon offered some brief views and a vocal White-starred Robin offered no views. The rhythmic booming of Southern Ground Hornbills was heard out over the valley and Black-winged Lapwings were seen in flight above the forest. The parrots were unfortunately a no show, and we eventually had to throw in the towel and move on.

Our next stop was the Roselands Farm near Richmond, where we had a date with the sought-after Blue Swallow. Our journey took us through some farmlands, where some opportunistic birding stops in between bouts of rain produced some fine birds, such as Jackal Buzzard, Cape Grassbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola, African Yellow Warbler, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Common Waxbill and Brimstone Canary. We also had to navigate our way down and up the Hela Hela Pass, and more opportunistic birding here gave us Southern Tchagra, Black Cuckooshrike, Lazy Cisticola and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. We also picked up Cape Vultures overhead, along with a mixed flock of Alpine and African Black Swifts. Lower down the pass, we added Emerald-spotted Wood Dove and Natal Spurfowl before rain intervened once more and forced us onwards. We had done well and were nearly up the pass when a nasty churned up piece of mud ground us to a halt. Here we reassessed, thankful for a brief interlude from the rain and actioned a plan that got us through the mud patch with minimal hassle (though we must thank the local villagers for helping us carry bags up the hill through the mud).

We were on the road soon enough and found ourselves at Roselands Farm in no time. Here we met up with local guide, Craig, and he took us off to a nearby patch of remnant grasslands for our date with this rare bird. We almost immediately got our first, distant, views of the pair of Blue Swallows that come to this patch annually to nest, but it took a short wait before we were treated to our second views, which were much better and closer! We reveled in our amazing sighting of these rare birds, as they flitted about us and even perched for a short while. Forest Canaries were also obvious in the area. Thankfully the rain abated for the duration of our time with the swallows. After having had our fill, and with the skies darkening and looking ever more ominous, we retreated to the main farm where we settled in for a cup of coffee and our lunch, after a successful outing. The rest of our afternoon was mostly filled with driving, as we made our way back to Durban and up the north coast to Mtunzini. We briefly called in at the Umdloti area to try for Buff-spotted Flufftail at a local stakeout outside my parents’ house. Despite the continuous drizzle and inclement weather, a lovely male Buff-spotted Flufftail came in to view repeatedly, sadly, the dark and gloomy understory it frequented meant that not everyone in the group was able to see the bird. We also bid farewell to Ohad, who had only joined for the first few days of the trip and was departing from the Durban airport, before resuming our journey up to Mtunzini. Here, we would spend the next two nights, and we settled in for a lovely evening meal following a good and exciting day in the field.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

A male Blue Swallow drifts over its mistbelt grasslands – now a rare species in South Africa, with a tiny, fragmented population.

Day 5, 18th October 2023. Birding Ongoye and Dlinza Forests

After having our religious early coffee and rusks to kick start our first sunny day, we met up with local guide Sakhamuzi and immediately set off on our morning birding. We started our day off in the Ongoye Forest, where the highly localized endemic population of Green Barbet occurs, and this would be our main target. The barbets were fairly vocal and we heard several birds calling regularly throughout the morning, but they proved difficult to find and we were frustrated for some time. While we went about our search, we picked up a slew of other birds, including the likes of Striped Pipit and Yellow-throated Longclaw on the grassy edges to the forest, and the likes of Trumpeter Hornbill, Grey Cuckooshrike, Southern Boubou, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Ashy Flycatcher, Collared Sunbird, Dark-backed Weaver and Red-backed Mannikin in the forest interior. At our last scanning point, after a hike through the steep forest, atop a grassy hill looking over the forest, we finally found a fruiting tree and right on cue, picked up a feeding Green Barbet. We enjoyed some excellent scope views before the bird melted back into the forest. We enjoyed our breakfast after our efforts, and were aptly rewarded with a stunning male African Emerald Cuckoo that showed well.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

A close-up Grey Cuckooshrike watching over us in Ongoye Forest.

We then transferred to the Dlinza Forest, in Eshowe, where we would spend a few hours seeking out other species. We made our way up to the canopy tower, but as it was late morning now, bird activity was a bit slow and Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeons were conspicuous only by their absence. We got wind of a Spotted Ground Thrush nest, and duly headed off towards this, finding a lovely Chorister Robin-Chat en route. We soon found the nest, and as if right on cue, an adult flew in and sat on the nest. It took a while for everyone in the group to see the bird, and we had to be content with partially-obstructed views as the bird sat hunkered down on its nest. A calling Scaly-throated Honeyguide showed well, and we also picked up our first African Woolly-necked Stork, amongst other more common species of birds seen. We picked up a few pizzas in Mtunzini and headed off to the Umlalazi Nature Reserve to eat them for lunch, and try for a few more birds. A lovely Green Malkoha showed right on cue, and gave us all incredible views – unusual for this normally ultra-shy bird. We also enjoyed a plethora of kingfishers here, with Malachite, Giant and African Pygmy Kingfishers all showing well. A late-staying Mangrove Kingfisher also played hide and seek, needing a few attempts to find, but we all finally got onto the bird and enjoyed good looks at this scarce species. The resident Palm-nut Vultures also found their way onto our list. Following lunch, and our quick-fire birding here, we retreated to our lodge, where we had an afternoon break. A late evening walk around the grounds of the lodge rewarded us with Purple-banded Sunbird along with showy White-eared Barbets and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds.

Day 6, 19th October 2023. Transfer to St Lucia, and estuarine birding

An unfortunate windy, drizzly and generally gloomy morning greeted us, as we set off to spend the morning in the Umlalazi Nature Reserve. Predictably, things were slow and we had to work hard to eke out new birds. Multiple feeding Purple-crested Turacos were an early highlight, as was a large flock of White-faced Whistling Ducks flying along the river. Here, we also added a hulking Goliath Heron, along with Purple Heron, African Spoonbill, Little Egret and several African Woolly-necked Storks. A pair of Rufous-winged Cisticolas were found flitting about in a reedbed, as were Lesser Swamp and Common Reed Warblers. Wooded patches held Cardinal Woodpecker, Southern Black Flycatcher and a bright Yellow-bellied Greenbul. We also tried our luck with Red-chested Flufftail and, while we got close with a bird calling from only a few feet away, we had to be content with only hearing this species. Natal Red Duikers were numerous.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

A male Southern Brown-throated Weaver busily constructing its intricate nest.

We had a short drive up the coast further to St Lucia, where we would spend another two nights. We paused at the iMfolozi River bridge, where we fortuitously had a short break in the rain. We easily picked up the resident Southern Brown-throated Weavers here, and enjoyed the antics of the displaying males, along with the bustling colony of Eastern Golden (Yellow) Weavers. With the rain coming down again, we retreated to our comfortable guesthouse for lunch and a short break. The stars aligned for our planned afternoon walk on the beach, down to the river estuary for some coastal birds, with the weather clearing up. We had a good birding walk, with high numbers of waders and terns present. Comical White-fronted Plovers ran around on the beach, while the estuarine area held the likes of Grey Plover, Eurasian Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Greenshank, Ruddy Turnstone, Curlew Sandpiper and Sanderling. Some careful scanning also revealed a few of the sought-after Terek Sandpipers, and a small flock of African Oystercatchers flew in as well. A small tern roost was also present here, and consisted of large numbers of Common and Greater Crested Terns, with smaller numbers of Caspian and Little Terns. A vagrant Saunders’s Tern had been seen on and off recently, and we scanned carefully in the hope of picking it up, but alas, it was not present in the roost during our time here. Remarkably, we also found a flock of Yellow-billed Storks congregated on the beach, and it was a strange sight, seeing this normally freshwater species standing in the surf! Returning back to our guesthouse, we picked up a fine male Klaas’s Cuckoo, Little Bee-eaters and a few Southern Crested Guineafowls around the town. We headed out to try for some nightjars and owls around the town, but things were remarkably quiet and only several calling Buff-spotted Flufftails and the resident Hippopotamuses were about.

Day 7, 20th October 2023. Birding the Eastern Shores of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park

Armed with packed breakfasts and lunches, we set off into the Eastern Shores section of the Isimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site. We would spend the bulk of the day birding and exploring the park, going as far up as Cape Vidal. A spot of birding at the gate gave us a few new birds like Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Red-capped Robin-Chat and a gorgeous Scarlet-chested Sunbird, along with favorites like Purple-crested Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill and African Green Pigeon. We started off at some wetlands, which were absolutely packed with birds. A small flock of White-backed Ducks showed well early on, followed by two pairs of African Pygmy Goose, before we struck gold and found several of the rare Rufous-bellied Herons. The continuing high water in the park had resulted in several of these (normally rare South African birds) to come down from Mozambique, where they are more numerous. We did incredibly well, finding five separate individuals, and enjoyed superb looks at several birds. African Jacanas were commonly seen and we picked up on a long-staying Lesser Moorhen in addition. A range of more widespread ducks, herons and waterbirds were seen as well. Some of the open grassy regions gave us the likes of Brown Snake-Eagle, Collared Pratincole, Little Bee-eater, Rufous-naped Lark, Grey-rumped and Red-breasted Swallows, African Pipit and Yellow-throated Longclaw. Here, we also picked up the first large mammals in the park, with several White Rhinos and African Buffalos slowly striding through the coastal grasslands, with Red-billed Oxpeckers in tow. We called in at the Mission Rocks picnic site, where we had our well-deserved breakfast. The picnic site is situated in a spot of excellent coastal dune forest, and we did well to find several of the specials of the park here, with Livingstone’s Turaco and Rudd’s Apalis both showing well. Woodward’s Batis showed to only some in the group, while many other birds were out and about and included African Harrier-Hawk, Striped Kingfisher, Broad-billed Roller, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Terrestrial Brownbul, Grey and Purple-banded Sunbirds and Spectacled and Dark-backed Weavers.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

Rufous-bellied Heron is a rare bird in South Africa – to find five in one area was almost unbelievable!

We gradually made our way up to Cape Vidal, where we took a walk around the expansive grounds looking for two special birds – Green Twinspot and Grey Waxbill. We found both fairly quickly, but our views of Grey Waxbill left us wanting more. It took lots of effort and patience, but we were well rewarded with excellent views of the prized Green Twinspot. Brown Scrub Robins were evident as well. With the wind having picked up dramatically, we opted to make our way back out the park, calling in at Mission Rocks picnic site again for lunch. A fine Southern Banded Snake Eagle that we found quietly perched next to the road was much welcomed, while we had some back and forth with a boisterous male African Elephant. Eventually, we found our way through, and enjoyed an afternoon break. Some of the other mammals we found in the park included Plains Zebra, Common Warthog, Hippopotamus, Waterbuck, Southern Reedbuck, Greater Kudu and Blue (Samango) Monkey.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

The Critically Endangered (in South Africa) Southern Banded Snake Eagle perched in the open next to the road and gave us all excellent views!

Day 8, 21st October 2023. Birding St Lucia and the Nibela floodplains

Our morning began by exploring the excellent iGwalagwala Trail running through the coastal forest around the town. With the heavy winds continuing from the previous day, the birding was difficult, but we had a remarkable morning nonetheless. Comical Southern Crested Guineafowls greeted us at the trail head, and we also enjoyed excellent views of Rudd’s Apalis once more. A productive alley gave us fidgety Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, along with a cooperative pair of Woodward’s Batis that showed well to all. Buff-spotted Flufftails were heard in several places, and eventually we were rewarded with brief views as a male popped into the open right in front of us. We had repeat views of other specials like Livingstone’s Turaco, while also adding the scarce Black-throated Wattle-eye and Crowned Hornbill to our growing list. After a good breakfast, we gathered our things and made the short transfer to our next lodge in the Hluhluwe district.

We arrived in good time, had our lunch and a short midday break, before resuming in the afternoon. The wind had begun to die down, and despite the high temperatures, the birds were out and about and we struggled to even get into the car. Firstly, a pair of bright Southern Yellow White-eyes entertained us, before delightful Grey Waxbills joined the party and gave us all excellent views! Things weren’t done yet, when a Red-fronted Tinkerbird popped into view and showed itself off. We were eventually able to tear ourselves away and get going, bound for the vast Nibela floodplains region. We tried to access the first pan, but the high water levels effectively thwarted our access to get further into good habitat for the likes of Rosy-throated Longclaw. We made do with birding the edges, which were dripping with birds themselves. Vast flocks of both Fulvous and White-faced Whistling Ducks lined the shallows, numbering into the thousands, and we also picked up both Blue-billed and Red-billed Teals as well. Many other waterbirds were present, and we enjoyed numbers of Yellow-billed Storks, along with multiple Squacco Herons and other herons, egrets and ibises. Various shorebirds, consisting mainly of Wood Sandpipers and Little Stints, were present, and there were also several Collared Pratincoles. Whiskered Terns and Pied Kingfishers were seen dancing about above the water. The wooded edges produced a fine pair of Crested Francolins, along with more excellent views of Red-breasted Swallows and Violet-backed Starlings. Mpempe Pan followed, and here we spent a while working the dry grasslands on the edges for waders and were aptly rewarded with two of the rare Caspian Plovers. We enjoyed some superb views of this scarce species, along with the similar Kittlitz’s Plovers, but some of the other usual suspects like Black-winged and Senegal Lapwings were completely absent. The pan itself held another family of African Pygmy Goose, along with Goliath and Black Herons and Knob-billed Duck, amongst many others. We spent a long while searching for Lemon-breasted Canary in the palm-dotted edges, and while we had several birds fly over us at break-neck speed, we couldn’t find any individuals perched nicely and had to make do without them.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

The delightful African Pygmy Goose was always a highlight when we saw it.

Day 9, 22nd October 2023. Birding Muzi Pan and Mkhuze Game Reserve

This is always hotly anticipated as one of the best days of the trip, with not only a high species list possible, but lots of quality species possible as well. Unfortunately, the gloomy weather from earlier on the trip had rejoined us again, and we had to contend with inclement (and cold) weather throughout the day. We started off at the large Muzi Pan, just outside Mkhuze, and spent a while birding the wetland edges and the surrounding fever tree forest. It was amazingly productive and we quickly raced up to 80 species in the space of 30 minutes. A wide range of waterbirds were present here, though only the likes of Common Ringed Plover and Great Egret were new to our list, but many other ducks, herons, egrets and shorebirds were evident. The forested edges gave us a wonderfully cooperative Grey Penduline Tit, along with a showy Diderick Cuckoo, Burchell’s Coucal, Lesser Honeyguide, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Kurrichane Thrush, Pale Flycatcher, Lesser Masked Weaver and a pair of bright White-browed Robin-Chats. We eventually tore ourselves away and pressed on into Mkhuze Game Reserve proper, where we headed straight for Kumasinga Hide.

The inclement weather finally had its say (as we had done remarkably well on the tour, despite the adverse weather on many previous days), and we battled for birds here. Rain was on and off, and bird activity generally low. Pink-throated Twinspot took a herculean effort, but we were finally rewarded with a stunning male that showed beautifully to all. Several Acacia Pied Barbets were picked up and we also found the likes of Common Scimitarbill, Black-headed Oriole, Black Cuckooshrike, Chinspot Batis, Southern Black Tit, White-browed Scrub Robin, White-bellied Sunbird and Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow, amongst others. Brief interludes in the rain also gave us some raptors such as White-backed Vulture, Bateleur, Martial and Wahlberg’s Eagles and the regionally rare Dark Chanting Goshawk. We explored the reserve a bit, adding birds here and there slowly, with the likes of African Openbill, European Bee-eater, Peregrine Falcon, White-crested Helmetshrike and White-throated Robin-Chat. Eventually though, the cold and rain had worn through and we called it a day in the early afternoon, and headed back to our comfortable (and warm) lodge, where we had the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Despite the inclement weather on the day, we still managed to record over 130 species!

Subtropical South Africa trip report

Neergaard’s Sunbird is a Zululand special, occurring only marginally in the Hluhluwe/Mkuze areas we get to on this tour – it took some searching, but we eventually enjoyed some good views.

Day 10, 23rd October 2023. Birding Hluhluwe and transfer to Wakkerstroom

We had the morning available for birding the small private reserve our lodge was based on, searching for some of our outstanding species. A pair of delightful Bearded Scrub Robins showed well early on, and we enjoyed repeat views of the localized Rudd’s Apalis. A Broad-billed Roller showed well, perched atop some dead trees, and we added a few more birds like Brown-crowned Tchagra, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Willow Warbler, Grey Tit-flycatcher and Bronze Mannikin. Pink-throated Twinspot and Gorgeous Bushshrikes were ultra secretive today, and both remained as heard only. It also took a few attempts, but we finally managed to get some good and prolonged views of an Eastern Nicator, and just as we were enjoying this species, we heard the tell-tale call of Neergaard’s Sunbird. In but a few moments we had the bird in view, and spent the next little while soaking up our views of this scarce and localized species. It was a fine male, and put on a wonderful show for us.

Following our good walk, we made our way back for breakfast, before gathering our things and beginning the drive to our next destination, the birding mecca of Wakkerstroom. It is a fair drive to get to Wakkerstoom, so we settled in for the scenic drive, before taking a backroad into the charming village, allowing us to do some afternoon birding before we arrived. Our first target was White-bellied Bustard, and we did well to find an extremely showy pair of these birds without much hassle. The surrounds also gave us a close-up flock of Southern Bald Ibis, along with others like White-fronted Bee-eater, Lanner Falcon, Ant-eating Chat and Long-tailed Widowbird. Wakkerstroom is famed for its grassland and LBJ (little brown job) birding, and we started off well by getting Spike-heeled Lark (amongst other species we had seen already), and the crowd favorite Cape Longclaw. Numerous Banded Martins and South African Cliff Swallows were also evident over the grasslands. We checked into our comfortable guesthouse in the late afternoon, before settling in for the evening.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

We enjoyed watching this pair of White-bellied Bustards go about their business.

Day 11, 24th October 2023. Endemic birding around Wakkerstroom

We had a full day at our disposal for birding around Wakkerstroom, and were to make use of local guide, David, for the day. We started off the morning looking for Blue Korhaan near Wakkerstroom, and got off to a great start, finding a pair of Blue Korhaans feeding in the open. We enjoyed them for a time, also getting onto some Quailfinches in the surrounding area. We then moved on to the Groenvlei district where we would be trying for two big specials of the area, Rudd’s Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit. We paused along the way when we picked up an Eastern Long-billed Lark right next to the road, and then marveled as we found it had a nest right on the road edge. A Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk gave us a flyby as well, before we carried on. We eventually arrived at the Rudd’s Lark site, and set off on our walk up the hill. A small bird that flushed up out of the grass was our target, Rudd’s Lark, and soon we were enjoying good scope views of this prized endemic. We watched it for a while as it went about feeding in the grass, constantly moving about, before leaving the bird in peace. Yellow-breasted Pipit proved much more difficult to find, and eluded us at this first stop. We did well, though, to get excellent looks at both Wing-snapping and Pale-crowned Cisticolas. We arrived at our second site for the Yellow-breasted Pipit, and while it took some searching to find, we eventually hit the jackpot and found a lovely male Yellow-breasted Pipit which showed off very well to everyone. Content with the good progress from the morning, we broke for breakfast at our guesthouse, before resuming in the late morning.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

Watching an Eastern Long-billed Lark next to the road was superb, but watching as it walked over to its nest nearby was an even better surprise!

Unfortunately, the wind had been picking up throughout the day and it was now at high levels, which would make the rest of the day challenging. Botha’s Lark is the other major grassland endemic that is traditionally looked for in the Wakkerstroom district. This species, however, had largely disappeared from the area and there had been no sightings during the preceding 18 months, incredibly worrying to say the least. We still headed out to the ‘former’ sites where this species occurred and tried our hand at finding them – requiring much walking through short grassland. While no Botha’s Larks were found, we did pick up a small flock of the similar-looking Pink-billed Larks, which showed well in the gale-force winds. Nearby, we got extremely lucky when we flushed up a Black-rumped Buttonquail out of the field in front of us. Black-winged Lapwing required a dedicated trip to a specific site, and we made this trip without any hassles, this side trip also rewarded us with a close-up Secretarybird. Remarkably, we found Cloud Cisticola despite the intense winds, and enjoyed other birds like Swainson’s Spurfowl, a huge flock of Blue Cranes, African Snipe, African Marsh Harrier, Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Mountain Wheatear, Red-billed Quelea, delightful parties of Orange-breasted Waxbills and Black-throated Canary, amongst others. By early afternoon, we called it a day and sought refuge from the winds, and settled in for a more relaxed afternoon, in preparation for a busy few days to come once we got up to the Kruger National Park.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

Wakkerstroom is LBJ (little brown job) heaven – herewith a confiding Pale-crowned Cisticola.

Day 12, 25th October 2023. Birding Wakkerstroom wetland, and transfer to the Kruger National Park

A cold morning greeted us as we had a quick walk around the guesthouse. Here we picked up several Malachite Sunbirds, along with the hoped-for Red-throated Wryneck and African Paradise Flycatchers. We then made our way down to the Wakkerstroom wetland, where we spent a few hours birding. Things were slow to begin with, and we focused on the ducks, where we added the likes of South African Shelduck, Cape Shoveler and Southern Pochard, amongst the many other species present which we were already familiar with. Numbers of Red-knobbed Coots, African Swamphens and Common Moorhens were present, and we spent a while focusing on some of the other rallids. Black Crakes showed nicely without much effort, while Red-chested Flufftail took a considerable amount of effort to track down. We eventually found just the right bird, and were aptly rewarded with excellent views as a male wandered out into the open. African Rail proved even more elusive with scattered and extremely rapid views – until we arrived back at the car ready to call it, when we found a bird walking around in the open and could study it at length! African Snipes put on a good show, while Little Bittern left us wanting a bit more. Black-crowned Night Heron and Squacco Heron showed remarkably well, as did Purple Heron, while numerous African Spoonbills were also present patrolling the edges. A bright Malachite Kingfisher frequented the reedy edges, as did a vocal African Yellow Warbler. A few Spotted-necked Otters were also seen swimming about (well spotted, Mark!). We made a quick trip into a nearby patch of grassland where we enjoyed the multiple Long-tailed Widowbirds, along with other crowd favorites like Cape Longclaw, Pin-tailed Whydah and a very showy Pale-crowned Cisticola.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

Elation as we finally lay eyes on the elusive Red-chested Flufftail.

We returned in time for breakfast, following which we loaded up all our things and settled in for the long drive to Kruger, where we would be arriving in the late afternoon. Our wonderful lunch stop in a scenic valley gave us an excellent Greater Double-collared Sunbird, amongst other species, and was a good break from the car. Another stop saw us visiting a known Bat Hawk nest, where one of the adults was present and perched nicely in the open for all of us to enjoy! Here we also opportunistically found a Groundscraper Thrush, and enjoyed our familiar Purple-crested Turaco once more. We eventually arrived at the gate into the world-renowned Kruger National Park, where we checked in, and headed to our camp, Skukuza, where we would be based for our entire three-night stay in the park. We picked up a few new birds on the drive to camp, but things were mostly on the quiet side. A noisy Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill showed well, and we also added a Purple Roller and several Burchell’s Starlings. We also had repeat views of Crested Francolin and Natal Spurfowl, along with others like Klaas’s and Levaillant’s Cuckoos and Striped Kingfisher. A Spotted Hyaena crossing the road right next to us was our first real moment of excitement and was followed soon after by another sighting of several young Spotted Hyaenas outside their den next to the road. After having had our fill, we pressed on, though didn’t make it too far before we picked up a Leopard lying down next to the road. Even though it was in incredibly dense bush, we had a good view as it walked through, and melted back into the undergrowth. We checked into our accommodations in the camp, and settled in for the evening.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

We enjoyed a pair of Bat Hawks along the route.

Days 13 – 14, 26th – 27th October 2023. Birding the famed Kruger National Park

Our two full days in the magical Kruger National Park blurred together with a similar suite of birds seen throughout each of the days. Both of the days are discussed below as one. We made use of an open safari vehicle for the duration of our full days within Kruger, as this enhances the views and experience of the park, because we are not allowed out of our vehicles except in designated areas (like camps and picnic sites).

Setting off in the cool of the early morning, activity was generally high on our drives and we enjoyed a wider range of sought after birds and mammals. We focused a fair bit of our time on the Sabie River and surrounds, and naturally waterbirds were a primary feature. Carefully scanning the river banks we picked up the localized White-crowned Lapwing and a pair of vagrant African Skimmers (well spotted, Maria!) as two notable standout species. Various smaller dams adjoining the main river were always bustling with birds, and here vast numbers of waterbirds entertained. While flocks of Yellow-billed Storks and African Spoonbills sunbathed on the edges, Hamerkops rode on the backs of Hippopotamuses and Wire-tailed Swallows flitted about over the water. Numbers of African Woolly-necked Storks were also present, and we eked out a few African Openbills and Marabou Storks, and eventually the prized Saddle-billed Stork. Black Crakes were commonly seen, as were African Jacanas and shorebirds like Common and Wood Sandpipers, while the inland race of White-fronted Plover was a good record. Red-faced Cisticolas were a common sight in the reeds along the river, and some of the quieter pools held the likes of Striated Heron and, on a night drive, the rare White-backed Night Heron – the latter of which sadly didn’t hang around for very long. A number of mammals were also seen, with the best sighting going to a large pack of African Wild Dogs found loafing about in the sand. We spent a while watching these special animals as they went about their business, as typical dogs do. Numerous herds of African Elephants were seen, as were the likes of African Buffalo and some antelope like Waterbuck, Impala, Bushbuck and Nyala.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

We spent some time watching a pack of African Wild Dogs lazing about in the dry river.

The immediate river surrounds were also highly productive; noisy Purple-crested Turacos jumped and jostled about in fruiting trees, while cuckoos were well represented with Jacobin, Levaillant’s, Diderick and Red-chested Cuckoos all being seen regularly. Burchell’s Coucals showed well in the rank growth, and were often joined by various other species which included Black-crowned Tchagra, Long-billed Crombec, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Sombre Greenbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, White-browed Scrub Robin, White-browed Robin-Chat, White-throated Robin-Chat, Lesser Masked Weaver and the delightful Blue Waxbill. White-fronted Bee-eaters were found nesting opportunistically on some of the exposed sand banks, with Broad-billed Rollers watching over their patches of water from the treetops. A pair of Bearded Woodpeckers drummed from a bare tree and Golden-breasted Buntings called from the treetops. A particularly large herd of African Buffalo was scrutinized carefully and revealed a few of the scarce (this far south in the Kruger) Yellow-billed Oxpeckers, amongst the more numerous Red-billed Oxpeckers. We also did well to find several Mosque Swallows, another scarce species this far south in the Kruger. Bright Greater Blue-eared Starlings entertained at the picnic sites while flowering plants brought in numbers of Scarlet-chested Sunbirds. As the days began warming up, raptors also became particularly obvious, and White-backed Vultures were frequently encountered, as were Tawny Eagles and Bateleurs. We picked up several pairs of African Hawk Eagles, always quietly perched in the trees, and found Walhberg’s Eagles on several occasions. African Fish Eagles were conspicuous around any bits of water, but we struggled to find any large flocks of vultures. After careful scanning, we finally picked up a White-headed Vulture, and also added a lone Brown Snake Eagle and several Black-winged Kites and Yellow-billed Kites, but generally raptor numbers were down massively from their ‘usual’ numbers.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

A Mosque Swallow calling – a scarce species in southern Kruger.

The wide range of mixed woodland and mixed savannah habitats in the Kruger was also explored, and added yet more species to our tally. Here we did well to pick up shy Red-crested Korhaans in the more open sections of grass, with these areas also patrolled by the likes of Southern Red-billed and African Grey Hornbills, Magpie Shrikes and Lilac-breasted Rollers. Roving bird parties were usually led by noisy Southern Black Tits, but we also added other species like Green Wood Hoopoe, Brubru, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, a bright male Red-headed Weaver and Village Indigobird, amongst others. We also took a trip farther north, which delivered a Spotted Eagle Owl on its nest next to the road, along with the localized Mourning Collared Dove, while drier areas gave up Namaqua Dove, Sabota Lark, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and the locally rare White-browed Sparrow Weaver, amongst others. Some night birding around the camp gave us a fine African Wood Owl, along with several vocal Fiery-necked Nightjars that frustratingly remained as heard only.

These bushveld regions also rewarded us with many more excellent mammal sightings. We encountered numerous prides of Lions, and enjoyed some up close and personal views of these big cats. Leopards were also extremely kind to us on this tour, and we had Leopard sightings on every day, with several cats found up in the trees and a glorious male Leopard on our night drive, that we were also privileged enough to have roaring in front of us! Our night drive also gave us a few nocturnal mammals, like Southern Lesser Galago and White-tailed Mongoose, along with a Spotted Bush Snake and several Flap-necked Chameleons. All the expected plains game was seen, with the bizarre Giraffes also being a favorite.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

An enormous male Lion kept an eye on us during one of our Kruger safaris.

Day 15, 28th October 2023. Birding Skukuza and transfer to Dullstroom, birding en route

Our final morning in Kruger saw us undertaking a birding walk around the Skukuza camp – normally a very birdy affair. This morning was no different, and progress was slow with birds coming in thick and fast. We spent a while enjoying various fruiting trees, which held numerous Purple-crested Turacos, African Green Pigeons, Red-faced Mousebirds, Black-collared Barbets and a plethora of Wattled, Greater Blue-eared and Violet-backed Starlings. Some of the thickets in the camp gave us Bearded Scrub Robin and Terrestrial Brownbul, while the many larger trees yielded the likes of Golden-tailed and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Klaas’s and Red-chested Cuckoos and, after much back and forth, Brown-headed Parrots. The parrots had proved elusive, with only brief flyby views repeatedly throughout the morning, before we finally tracked down where they had settled down. The cut lawns gave us a good opportunity to connect with the likes of dainty Bronze Mannikins, Blue Waxbills, Red-billed Firefinches and Yellow-fronted Canaries. The first Spotted Flycatcher of the season also cropped up on our walk, while some flowering bushes held a plethora of sunbirds, with Collared, Scarlet-chested, Marico, White-bellied and Purple-banded Sunbirds all showing well. A small party of African Black Ducks frolicked in the river in front of camp as we drew our walk to an end and settled down for breakfast.

We eventually had to bid this incredible wilderness area farewell, and we slowly made our way out the park, enjoying some of the regularly occurring suspects, including various hornbills, bee-eaters, rollers, shrikes and starlings. Our most exciting moments, however, came with two separate Leopard sightings on our way out, leaving all of us stunned and ecstatic with how many sightings of these elusive cats we’d seen. Once out the park, we made our way to Dullstroom, where we would be spending the night, but first via Mount Sheba. We broke at Mount Sheba for lunch and a spot of forest birding, but with the sun beating down, activity was virtually nonexistent. We eked out the likes of Familiar Chat and some species we were acquainted with, like Southern Boubou and Cape Robin-Chat, before we finally found a few Swee Waxbills, though the views left us wanting a bit more. A party of Western (Common) House Martins were seen flitting by, and we also did well to find a Black Stork riding the thermals, before calling it and moving to Dullstroom.

We arrived at our comfortable guesthouse, scenically set out in the hills, before heading to the local Dullstroom Nature Reserve where we would spend the evening. Our primary goal here was to stakeout Cape Eagle-Owl. While we waited, we enjoyed the antics of Banded Martins flitting above the grasses, along with numerous Long-tailed Widowbirds. The likes of Yellow Bishop and Streaky-headed Seedeater found their way onto our lists, before we finally picked up on the owl calling, just as it started to get dark. Rather frustratingly, light ran out before we could find the bird, and we had to be content with listening to the deep hoots of this species ringing out over the valley. We retired to dinner in town, and being a weekend combined with the Rugby World Cup Final match taking place later in the evening (in which South Africa was playing against New Zealand), dinner was a busy (and animated) affair in the town. Whilst making our way back to our accommodation, the most incredible thunderstorm rolled in and put paid to our attempts to try for a few nocturnal birds in the area.

Day 16, 29th October 2023. Birding Dullstroom, and transfer to Dinokeng, birding along the route.

Thick mist and ice-cold conditions greeted us in the morning, and we soldiered on and gave some morning birding in the normally excellent Verloren Vallei Nature Reserve a shot. We had a momentary break in the mist, which gave us some hope for the morning but alas when the thick mist rolled in a few minutes later, we admitted defeat with only a handful of birds seen and barely able to see but a meter or two in front of us, and headed for breakfast in town, and greener pastures (and no mist) elsewhere.

Our next destination was the Dinokeng and Rust de Winter region, lying in the rich bushveld north of Pretoria, and we took the adventurous route getting there, via Verena. We started off on some quiet backroads, which access superb tracts of grassland and rocky broad-leaved woodland. One of our major targets here, Melodious Lark, was easily seen with many birds all in full display singing from fence posts and from up in the air. We soaked up our views of this scarce near-endemic, before some careful scanning gave us a fine male Denham’s Bustard in full display. Though the bird was a bit distant, we enjoyed some good scope views. While here, we also picked up on the distinct whistles of an Eastern Clapper Lark – a species we had missed earlier around Wakkerstroom. We had good looks at several birds that were actively displaying in the grasslands, before we turned our attention to the numerous Desert and Cloud Cisticolas that were also present – both of which showed superbly to us! A pair of Capped Wheatears sat on some termite mounds in a burnt patch of grasslands, while a pair of White-bellied Bustards flew by calling away. We soon moved into a tract of broad-leaved woodland, and very soon had a covey of the scarce Shelley’s Francolin calling from a patch of dense grass. Unfortunately, all our efforts to see these birds went by unrewarded, as I was the only one to see them scuttling by and we had to make do with them being heard only. During our time trying to see the francolins, a lovely Flappet Lark gave us superb views, and we also picked up on Brown-backed Honeybird feeding in the surrounding vegetation, and a flyby Black-chested Snake Eagle entertained. Immensely dark clouds rolled in, thunder and lightning began and, with some trepidation, we headed over to the nearby Mabusa Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, we were only given a few minutes of birding here before the storm hit us and forced an early retreat. We only added a pair of charming Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds during our short time here. We completed the journey to our comfortable lodge, arriving in the afternoon, with the rain not relenting the entire afternoon.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

We enjoyed a Melodious Lark in full song in the Verena area.

Day 17, 30th October 2023. Birding the Zaagkuilsdrift Road and Kgomo-Kgomo

Another of the more famous birding routes in South Africa is the superb Zaagkuilsdrift and the Kgomo-Kgomo floodplains. This public gravel road traverses mixed thornveld and offers a host of sought-after specials, and while the floodplains around Kgomo-Kgomo are dry at this time of year, the dry thornveld here is always worthwhile for several species. We started the day in frigid conditions with rain about, but the rain fortunately abated, leaving us with productive overcast weather, though the temperature remained cold. Our biggest challenge was getting through the numerous (and deep) mud pools that had formed after the heavy rain the previous day and night, and we fortunately managed to get through without hassles.

Birding was extremely slow to start off with, almost certainly due to the cold temperatures, and our first sessions hardly produced any birds except vocal Rattling Cisticolas and chattering Chestnut-vented Warblers. A flash of color ground us to a halt, and we all piled out the car to enjoy a pair of Crimson-breasted Shrikes. The birds were shy, but gave us all good looks in the end. A noisy and confiding group of Southern Pied Babblers were also evident here, and we got our first looks at the fidgety Burnt-necked Eremomelas as well. Things were finally beginning to come out, and we also enjoyed a good flyby view of a Great Spotted Cuckoo. As we carried on, we enjoyed old friends like Magpie Shrike, Lilac-breasted Roller, Burchell’s Starling and White-browed Sparrow-Weavers. We spent a while with a mixed feeding flock of small seedeaters which were mostly made up of Blue Waxbills and Red-billed Firefinches. Careful scrutiny of the flock also gave us several Jameson’s Firefinches, along with several pairs of Green-winged Pytilias, while a Grey-backed Camaroptera also came to investigate the feeding birds.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

A confiding group of Southern Pied Babblers put on a fine display.

We pressed on to the drier Kgomo-Kgomo floodplains, and the new birds came rolling in. A fine party of Cape Penduline Tits kicked things off with a bang, and we quickly found the likes of Black-chested Prinia and Marico Flycatcher as other dry acacia specials. Small groups of the comical Scaly-feathered Weavers roved about, while dainty Kalahari Scrub Robins ran about between thickets. We found a female Great Sparrow huddled up in a tree, and some patience allowed us to track down the male, and their nest, which they appeared to be freshening up in preparation for the upcoming breeding season. Large numbers of Red-billed Queleas were feeding on the dry ground of the floodplains, and were interspersed with the likes of White-winged Widowbird. We also did well to find both Violet-eared Waxbill and Shaft-tailed Whydah feeding on the ground nearby, while our views of Black-faced Waxbill left us wanting a bit more. The flats also had several Kittlitz’s Plovers walking around them, while the remaining pools of water from the past rainy season had only a few common and widespread waterbirds in attendance. The wind began to pick up, and made it bitingly cold outside the vehicle, and we sought some shelter in the trees. We did well to pick up on a Barred Wren-Warbler and enjoyed superb views of this shy bird at point-blank range. Further along in denser areas, we finally managed to locate a Pearl-spotted Owlet, which showed well to all, while a Lesser Honeyguide also made an appearance. With the rain starting up again, we called it a day and made our way back to our lodge. Here we settled in for the afternoon, enjoyed some downtime and got our things sorted in preparation for our departure the following day. Following dinner, we opportunistically decided to make the most of the short break in the rain, and headed out for a night drive. Things were slow and quiet throughout, with the inclement weather hanging around no doubt affecting things, but just as the drizzle started up, we found a superb Southern White-faced Owl that gave us all excellent and prolonged views.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

A lovely Southern White-faced Owl in the drizzle rounded off a superb day of birding.

Day 18, 31st October 2023. Birding urban Gauteng, and departure from Johannesburg

The final day of the tour had come much too quickly, and our hopes of a morning walk around the lodge were put to paid as the rain continued. Following breakfast, we gathered our things one last time, and departed this area, bound for some urban Pretoria and Johannesburg sites, where we would spend the remainder of the day, before departing in segments from the Johannesburg airport.

Our first stop near Pretoria was unfortunately a washout, and the heavy rains meant the access gate was not functioning. We reverted to the nearby Rietvlei Nature Reserve, where we could stay in our car and negate some of the rainy weather. This proved a good move, and we enjoyed a drive around the grassland-dominated reserve adding a few new species, and finding several photogenic birds not wishing to move from the road edge. Common Ostriches seemed unhappy with life, and despite the rain bucketing down, we somehow pulled out a vocal Northern Black Korhaan and a pair of Spotted Thick-knees out in the open. We took a coffee break at the restaurant and picnic site, and wandered around in the drizzle, adding the likes of Fiscal Flycatcher, and enjoyed our last Fork-tailed Drongos, Green Wood Hoopoes and African Hoopoes. We also finally enjoyed some top Long-tailed Widowbird views, and also found the Cape Longclaws to be quite obliging, walking next to the road.

Our time had come to leave the reserve, and head to the airport for our first round of departures, where we bid farewell to some in the group. Those that were remaining only departed later in the day, and we headed off to some nearby pans where we would spend the remainder of our time birding. We had a bit of a gap in the rain here, and enjoyed the likes of Maccoa Ducks and Blue-billed Teals at Bullfrog Pan, and African Olive Pigeons and Karoo Thrushes in the surrounding suburbia. Korsmans Bird Sanctuary held a large flock of Lesser Flamingos, and some careful scanning revealed a few Greater Flamingos scattered in between them. We also found a lone Pied Avocet wandering the shoreline with a few Common Ringed Plovers, while a monstrous Goliath Heron attempted to eat a large fish further along the shoreline. A few Rose-ringed Parakeets seeking shelter from the now falling rain was our last sighting, before heading back to the airport, and dropping off the remaining guests in time for their departures.

Subtropical South Africa trip report

A content group and happy guide, after our Blue Swallow success!

I would like to thank the group for always keeping their heads up, despite the challenging weather and conditions we had on this tour. It was this, and the fantastic group camaraderie, that made the tour the success it was. Despite the inclement weather on many days, there were not many species missed and we did remarkably well to still find virtually all of the major targets on this route. We ended the tour off having recorded just over 450 species of birds, with marginally under that total being seen.

Bird ListFollowing IOC 13.2

Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen.

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following the IUCN Red List:
CR = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable.

Common nameScientific name
Ostriches (Struthionidae)
Common OstrichStruthio camelus
Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)
White-faced Whistling DuckDendrocygna viduata
Fulvous Whistling DuckDendrocygna bicolor
White-backed DuckThalassornis leuconotus
Spur-winged GoosePlectropterus gambensis
Knob-billed DuckSarkidiornis melanotos
Egyptian GooseAlopochen aegyptiaca
South African ShelduckTadorna cana
African Pygmy GooseNettapus auritus
Blue-billed TealSpatula hottentota
Cape ShovelerSpatula smithii
African Black DuckAnas sparsa
Yellow-billed DuckAnas undulata
Red-billed TealAnas erythrorhyncha
Southern PochardNetta erythrophthalma
Maccoa Duck – ENOxyura maccoa
Guineafowl (Numididae)
Helmeted GuineafowlNumida meleagris
Southern Crested GuineafowlGuttera edouardi
Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)
Crested FrancolinOrtygornis sephaena
Red-winged FrancolinScleroptila levaillantii
Grey-winged FrancolinScleroptila afra
Shelley’s Francolin (H)Scleroptila shelleyi
Natal SpurfowlPternistis natalensis
Swainson’s SpurfowlPternistis swainsonii
Red-necked Spurfowl (H)Pternistis afer
Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)
Fiery-necked Nightjar (H)Caprimulgus pectoralis
Swifts (Apodidae)
African Palm SwiftCypsiurus parvus
Alpine SwiftTachymarptis melba
African Black SwiftApus barbatus
Little SwiftApus affinis
White-rumped SwiftApus caffer
Turacos (Musophagidae)
Grey Go-away-birdCrinifer concolor
Purple-crested TuracoGallirex porphyreolophus
Livingstone’s TuracoTauraco livingstonii
Knysna TuracoTauraco corythaix
Bustards (Otididae)
Denham’s BustardNeotis denhami
White-bellied BustardEupodotis senegalensis
Blue KorhaanEupodotis caerulescens
Red-crested KorhaanLophotis ruficrista
Northern Black KorhaanAfrotis afraoides
Cuckoos (Cuculidae)
Burchell’s CoucalCentropus burchellii
Green MalkohaCeuthmochares australis
Great Spotted CuckooClamator glandarius
Levaillant’s CuckooClamator levaillantii
Jacobin CuckooClamator jacobinus
Diederik CuckooChrysococcyx caprius
Klaas’s CuckooChrysococcyx klaas
African Emerald CuckooChrysococcyx cupreus
Black CuckooCuculus clamosus
Red-chested CuckooCuculus solitarius
Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)
Rock DoveColumba livia
Speckled PigeonColumba guinea
African Olive PigeonColumba arquatrix
Mourning Collared DoveStreptopelia decipiens
Red-eyed DoveStreptopelia semitorquata
Ring-necked DoveStreptopelia capicola
Laughing DoveSpilopelia senegalensis
Emerald-spotted Wood DoveTurtur chalcospilos
Tambourine DoveTurtur tympanistria
Namaqua DoveOena capensis
African Green PigeonTreron calvus
Flufftails & Forest Rails (Sarothruridae)
Buff-spotted FlufftailSarothrura elegans
Red-chested FlufftailSarothrura rufa
Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)
African RailRallus caerulescens
Lesser MoorhenParagallinula angulata
Common MoorhenGallinula chloropus
Red-knobbed CootFulica cristata
African SwamphenPorphyrio madagascariensis
Black CrakeZapornia flavirostra
Cranes (Gruidae)
Grey Crowned Crane – ENBalearica regulorum
Wattled Crane – VUGrus carunculata
Blue Crane – VUGrus paradisea
Grebes (Podicipedidae)
Little GrebeTachybaptus ruficollis
Flamingos (Phoenicopteridae)
Greater FlamingoPhoenicopterus roseus
Lesser FlamingoPhoeniconaias minor
Buttonquail (Turnicidae)
Black-rumped ButtonquailTurnix nanus
Stone-curlews, Thick-knees (Burhinidae)
Water Thick-kneeBurhinus vermiculatus
Spotted Thick-kneeBurhinus capensis
Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)
African OystercatcherHaematopus moquini
Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)
Black-winged StiltHimantopus himantopus
Pied AvocetRecurvirostra avosetta
Plovers (Charadriidae)
Blacksmith LapwingVanellus armatus
White-crowned LapwingVanellus albiceps
Black-winged LapwingVanellus melanopterus
Crowned LapwingVanellus coronatus
African Wattled LapwingVanellus senegallus
Grey PloverPluvialis squatarola
Common Ringed PloverCharadrius hiaticula
Kittlitz’s PloverCharadrius pecuarius
Three-banded PloverCharadrius tricollaris
White-fronted PloverCharadrius marginatus
Caspian PloverCharadrius asiaticus
Jacanas (Jacanidae)
African JacanaActophilornis africanus
Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)
Eurasian WhimbrelNumenius phaeopus
Bar-tailed GodwitLimosa lapponica
Ruddy TurnstoneArenaria interpres
Curlew SandpiperCalidris ferruginea
SanderlingCalidris alba
Little StintCalidris minuta
African SnipeGallinago nigripennis
Terek SandpiperXenus cinereus
Common SandpiperActitis hypoleucos
Wood SandpiperTringa glareola
Common GreenshankTringa nebularia
Coursers, Pratincoles (Glareolidae)
Collared PratincoleGlareola pratincola
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)
African SkimmerRynchops flavirostris
Grey-headed GullChroicocephalus cirrocephalus
Caspian TernHydroprogne caspia
Greater Crested TernThalasseus bergii
Little TernSternula albifrons
Common TernSterna hirundo
Whiskered TernChlidonias hybrida
Storks (Ciconiidae)
African OpenbillAnastomus lamelligerus
Marabou StorkLeptoptilos crumenifer
Yellow-billed StorkMycteria ibis
Saddle-billed StorkEphippiorhynchus senegalensis
Black StorkCiconia nigra
African Woolly-necked StorkCiconia microscelis
Gannets, Boobies (Sulidae)
Cape Gannet – ENMorus capensis
Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)
African DarterAnhinga rufa
Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)
Reed CormorantMicrocarbo africanus
White-breasted CormorantPhalacrocorax lucidus
Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)
African Sacred IbisThreskiornis aethiopicus
Southern Bald Ibis – VUGeronticus calvus
Hadada IbisBostrychia hagedash
Glossy IbisPlegadis falcinellus
African SpoonbillPlatalea alba
Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)
Little BitternIxobrychus minutus
White-backed Night HeronGorsachius leuconotus
Black-crowned Night HeronNycticorax nycticorax
Striated HeronButorides striata
Squacco HeronArdeola ralloides
Rufous-bellied HeronArdeola rufiventris
Western Cattle EgretBubulcus ibis
Grey HeronArdea cinerea
Black-headed HeronArdea melanocephala
Goliath HeronArdea goliath
Purple HeronArdea purpurea
Great EgretArdea alba
Intermediate EgretArdea intermedia
Black HeronEgretta ardesiaca
Little EgretEgretta garzetta
Hamerkop (Scopidae)
HamerkopScopus umbretta
Secretarybird (Sagittariidae)
Secretarybird – ENSagittarius serpentarius
Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)
Black-winged KiteElanus caeruleus
African Harrier-HawkPolyboroides typus
Palm-nut VultureGypohierax angolensis
Bearded VultureGypaetus barbatus
White-backed Vulture – CRGyps africanus
Cape Vulture – VUGyps coprotheres
White-headed Vulture – CRTrigonoceps occipitalis
Black-chested Snake EagleCircaetus pectoralis
Brown Snake EagleCircaetus cinereus
Southern Banded Snake EagleCircaetus fasciolatus
Bateleur – ENTerathopius ecaudatus
Bat HawkMacheiramphus alcinus
Martial Eagle – ENPolemaetus bellicosus
Long-crested EagleLophaetus occipitalis
Wahlberg’s EagleHieraaetus wahlbergi
Tawny Eagle – VUAquila rapax
African Hawk-EagleAquila spilogaster
Dark Chanting GoshawkMelierax metabates
African GoshawkAccipiter tachiro
Rufous-breasted SparrowhawkAccipiter rufiventris
African Marsh HarrierCircus ranivorus
Yellow-billed KiteMilvus aegyptius
African Fish EagleIcthyophaga vocifer
Common BuzzardButeo buteo
Jackal BuzzardButeo rufofuscus
Owls (Strigidae)
Pearl-spotted OwletGlaucidium perlatum
Southern White-faced OwlPtilopsis granti
Cape Eagle-Owl (H)Bubo capensis
Spotted Eagle-OwlBubo africanus
African Wood OwlStrix woodfordii
Mousebirds (Coliidae)
Speckled MousebirdColius striatus
Red-faced MousebirdUrocolius indicus
Trogons (Trogonidae)
Narina TrogonApaloderma narina
Hoopoes (Upupidae)
African HoopoeUpupa africana
Wood Hoopoes (Phoeniculidae)
Green Wood HoopoePhoeniculus purpureus
Common ScimitarbillRhinopomastus cyanomelas
Ground Hornbills (Bucorvidae)
Southern Ground Hornbill – VU (H)Bucorvus leadbeateri
Hornbills (Bucerotidae)
Southern Red-billed HornbillTockus rufirostris
Southern Yellow-billed HornbillTockus leucomelas
Crowned HornbillLophoceros alboterminatus
African Grey HornbillLophoceros nasutus
Trumpeter HornbillBycanistes bucinator
Rollers (Coraciidae)
Purple RollerCoracias naevius
Lilac-breasted RollerCoracias caudatus
Broad-billed RollerEurystomus glaucurus
Kingfishers (Alcedinidae)
Brown-hooded KingfisherHalcyon albiventris
Striped KingfisherHalcyon chelicuti
Mangrove KingfisherHalcyon senegaloides
African Pygmy KingfisherIspidina picta
Malachite KingfisherCorythornis cristatus
Half-collared KingfisherAlcedo semitorquata
Giant KingfisherMegaceryle maxima
Pied KingfisherCeryle rudis
Bee-eaters (Meropidae)
Little Bee-eaterMerops pusillus
White-fronted Bee-eaterMerops bullockoides
European Bee-eaterMerops apiaster
African Barbets (Lybiidae)
White-eared BarbetStactolaema leucotis
Green BarbetStactolaema olivacea
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird – DDPogoniulus bilineatus
Red-fronted TinkerbirdPogoniulus pusillus
Yellow-fronted TinkerbirdPogoniulus chrysoconus
Acacia Pied BarbetTricholaema leucomelas
Black-collared BarbetLybius torquatus
Crested BarbetTrachyphonus vaillantii
Honeyguides (Indicatoridae)
Brown-backed HoneybirdProdotiscus regulus
Lesser HoneyguideIndicator minor
Scaly-throated HoneyguideIndicator variegatus
Woodpeckers (Picidae)
Red-throated WryneckJynx ruficollis
Ground WoodpeckerGeocolaptes olivaceus
Golden-tailed WoodpeckerCampethera abingoni
Bearded WoodpeckerChloropicus namaquus
Cardinal WoodpeckerDendropicos fuscescens
Olive WoodpeckerDendropicos griseocephalus
Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)
Lanner FalconFalco biarmicus
Peregrine FalconFalco peregrinus
African & New World Parrots (Psittacidae)
Brown-headed ParrotPoicephalus cryptoxanthus
Old World Parrots (Psittaculidae)
Rose-ringed ParakeetPsittacula krameri
Wattle-eyes, Batises (Platysteiridae)
Cape BatisBatis capensis
Woodwards’ BatisBatis fratrum
Chinspot BatisBatis molitor
Black-throated Wattle-eyePlatysteira peltata
Bushshrikes (Malaconotidae)
Grey-headed Bushshrike (H)Malaconotus blanchoti
Olive BushshrikeChlorophoneus olivaceus
Orange-breasted BushshrikeChlorophoneus sulfureopectus
Gorgeous BushshrikeTelophorus viridis
BokmakierieTelophorus zeylonus
Brown-crowned TchagraTchagra australis
Southern TchagraTchagra tchagra
Black-crowned TchagraTchagra senegalus
Black-backed PuffbackDryoscopus cubla
Southern BoubouLaniarius ferrugineus
Crimson-breasted ShrikeLaniarius atrococcineus
BrubruNilaus afer
Vangas & Allies (Vangidae)
White-crested HelmetshrikePrionops plumatus
Cuckooshrikes (Campephagidae)
Grey CuckooshrikeCeblepyris caesius
Black CuckooshrikeCampephaga flava
Figbirds, Old World Orioles, Piopios (Oriolidae)
Black-headed OrioleOriolus larvatus
Drongos (Dicruridae)
Fork-tailed DrongoDicrurus adsimilis
Square-tailed DrongoDicrurus ludwigii
Monarchs (Monarchidae)
Blue-mantled Crested FlycatcherTrochocercus cyanomelas
African Paradise FlycatcherTerpsiphone viridis
Shrikes (Laniidae)
Magpie ShrikeLanius melanoleucus
Southern FiscalLanius collaris
Crows, Jays (Corvidae)
Cape CrowCorvus capensis
Pied CrowCorvus albus
White-necked RavenCorvus albicollis
Rockjumpers (Chaetopidae)
Drakensberg RockjumperChaetops aurantius
Fairy Flycatchers (Stenostiridae)
Fairy FlycatcherStenostira scita
Tits, Chickadees (Paridae)
Southern Black TitMelaniparus niger
Grey TitMelaniparus afer
Penduline Tits (Remizidae)
Grey Penduline TitAnthoscopus caroli
Cape Penduline TitAnthoscopus minutus
Nicators (Nicatoridae)
Eastern NicatorNicator gularis
Larks (Alaudidae)
Spike-heeled LarkChersomanes albofasciata
Eastern Long-billed LarkCerthilauda semitorquata
Sabota LarkCalendulauda sabota
Rudd’s Lark – ENHeteromirafra ruddi
Eastern Clapper LarkMirafra fasciolata
Rufous-naped LarkMirafra africana
Flappet LarkMirafra rufocinnamomea
Melodious LarkMirafra cheniana
Pink-billed LarkSpizocorys conirostris
Large-billed LarkGalerida magnirostris
Red-capped LarkCalandrella cinerea
Bulbuls (Pycnonotidae)
Sombre GreenbulAndropadus importunus
Yellow-bellied GreenbulChlorocichla flaviventris
Terrestrial BrownbulPhyllastrephus terrestris
Yellow-streaked GreenbulPhyllastrephus flavostriatus
Dark-capped BulbulPycnonotus tricolor
Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)
Black Saw-wingPsalidoprocne pristoptera
Banded MartinNeophedina cincta
Brown-throated MartinRiparia paludicola
Grey-rumped SwallowPseudhirundo griseopyga
Rock MartinPtyonoprogne fuligula
Blue Swallow – VUHirundo atrocaerulea
Pearl-breasted SwallowHirundo dimidiata
White-throated SwallowHirundo albigularis
Wire-tailed SwallowHirundo smithii
Barn SwallowHirundo rustica
Western House MartinDelichon urbicum
Red-breasted SwallowCecropis semirufa
Mosque SwallowCecropis senegalensis
Lesser Striped SwallowCecropis abyssinica
Greater Striped SwallowCecropis cucullata
South African Cliff SwallowPetrochelidon spilodera
Crombecs, African Warblers (Macrosphenidae)
Cape GrassbirdSphenoeacus afer
Long-billed CrombecSylvietta rufescens
Leaf Warblers (Phylloscopidae)
Willow WarblerPhylloscopus trochilus
Yellow-throated Woodland WarblerPhylloscopus ruficapilla
Reed Warblers & Allies (Acrocephalidae)
Lesser Swamp WarblerAcrocephalus gracilirostris
Common Reed WarblerAcrocephalus scirpaceus
African Yellow WarblerIduna natalensis
Grassbirds & Allies (Locustellidae)
Barratt’s WarblerBradypterus barratti
Little Rush WarblerBradypterus baboecala
Cisticolas & Allies (Cisticolidae)
Red-faced CisticolaCisticola erythrops
Lazy CisticolaCisticola aberrans
Rattling CisticolaCisticola chiniana
Wailing CisticolaCisticola lais
Rufous-winged CisticolaCisticola galactotes
Levaillant’s CisticolaCisticola tinniens
NeddickyCisticola fulvicapilla
Zitting CisticolaCisticola juncidis
Desert CisticolaCisticola aridulus
Cloud CisticolaCisticola textrix
Pale-crowned CisticolaCisticola cinnamomeus
Wing-snapping CisticolaCisticola ayresii
Tawny-flanked PriniaPrinia subflava
Black-chested PriniaPrinia flavicans
Karoo PriniaPrinia maculosa
Drakensberg PriniaPrinia hypoxantha
Bar-throated ApalisApalis thoracica
Rudd’s ApalisApalis ruddi
Yellow-breasted ApalisApalis flavida
Green-backed CamaropteraCamaroptera brachyura
Grey-backed CamaropteraCamaroptera brevicaudata
Barred Wren-WarblerCalamonastes fasciolatus
Burnt-necked EremomelaEremomela usticollis
Sylviid Babblers (Sylviidae)
Bush Blackcap – VUSylvia nigricapillus
Layard’s WarblerCurruca layardi
Chestnut-vented WarblerCurruca subcoerulea
White-eyes (Zosteropidae)
Cape White-eyeZosterops virens
Southern Yellow White-eyeZosterops anderssoni
Laughingthrushes & Allies (Leiothrichidae)
Arrow-marked BabblerTurdoides jardineii
Southern Pied BabblerTurdoides bicolor
Sugarbirds (Promeropidae)
Gurney’s SugarbirdPromerops gurneyi
Starlings, Rhabdornises (Sturnidae)
Common MynaAcridotheres tristis
Common StarlingSturnus vulgaris
Wattled StarlingCreatophora cinerea
Black-bellied StarlingNotopholia corusca
Cape StarlingLamprotornis nitens
Greater Blue-eared StarlingLamprotornis chalybaeus
Burchell’s StarlingLamprotornis australis
Pied StarlingLamprotornis bicolor
Violet-backed StarlingCinnyricinclus leucogaster
Red-winged StarlingOnychognathus morio
Oxpeckers (Buphagidae)
Yellow-billed OxpeckerBuphagus africanus
Red-billed OxpeckerBuphagus erythrorynchus
Thrushes (Turdidae)
Spotted Ground Thrush – VUGeokichla guttata
Orange Ground ThrushGeokichla gurneyi
Groundscraper ThrushTurdus litsitsirupa
Olive ThrushTurdus olivaceus
Kurrichane ThrushTurdus libonyana
Karoo ThrushTurdus smithi
Chats, Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)
Karoo Scrub RobinCercotrichas coryphoeus
Brown Scrub RobinCercotrichas signata
Bearded Scrub RobinCercotrichas quadrivirgata
Kalahari Scrub RobinCercotrichas paena
White-browed Scrub RobinCercotrichas leucophrys
Pale FlycatcherAgricola pallidus
Grey Tit-FlycatcherFraseria plumbea
Ashy FlycatcherFraseria caerulescens
Southern Black FlycatcherMelaenornis pammelaina
Fiscal FlycatcherSigelus silens
Marico FlycatcherBradornis mariquensis
African Dusky FlycatcherMuscicapa adusta
Spotted FlycatcherMuscicapa striata
White-starred RobinPogonocichla stellata
White-browed Robin-ChatCossypha heuglini
Chorister Robin-ChatCossypha dichroa
Red-capped Robin-ChatCossypha natalensis
White-throated Robin-ChatDessonornis humeralis
Cape Robin-ChatDessonornis caffer
Sentinel Rock ThrushMonticola explorator
Cape Rock ThrushMonticola rupestris
African StonechatSaxicola torquatus
Buff-streaked ChatCampicoloides bifasciatus
Sickle-winged ChatEmarginata sinuata
Ant-eating ChatMyrmecocichla formicivora
Mountain WheatearMyrmecocichla monticola
Capped WheatearOenanthe pileata
Familiar ChatOenanthe familiaris
Sunbirds (Nectariniidae)
Collared SunbirdHedydipna collaris
Olive SunbirdCyanomitra olivacea
Grey SunbirdCyanomitra veroxii
Amethyst SunbirdChalcomitra amethystina
Scarlet-chested SunbirdChalcomitra senegalensis
Malachite SunbirdNectarinia famosa
Southern Double-collared SunbirdCinnyris chalybeus
Neergaard’s SunbirdCinnyris neergaardi
Greater Double-collared SunbirdCinnyris afer
Marico SunbirdCinnyris mariquensis
Purple-banded SunbirdCinnyris bifasciatus
White-bellied SunbirdCinnyris talatala
Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)
Yellow-throated Bush SparrowGymnoris superciliaris
Cape SparrowPasser melanurus
Great SparrowPasser motitensis
Southern Grey-headed SparrowPasser diffusus
House SparrowPasser domesticus
Weavers, Widowbirds (Ploceidae)
Red-billed Buffalo WeaverBubalornis niger
White-browed Sparrow-WeaverPlocepasser mahali
Scaly-feathered WeaverSporopipes squamifrons
Thick-billed WeaverAmblyospiza albifrons
Spectacled WeaverPloceus ocularis
Cape WeaverPloceus capensis
Eastern Golden WeaverPloceus subaureus
Southern Brown-throated WeaverPloceus xanthopterus
Lesser Masked WeaverPloceus intermedius
Southern Masked WeaverPloceus velatus
Village WeaverPloceus cucullatus
Dark-backed WeaverPloceus bicolor
Red-headed WeaverAnaplectes rubriceps
Red-billed QueleaQuelea quelea
Southern Red BishopEuplectes orix
Yellow BishopEuplectes capensis
Fan-tailed WidowbirdEuplectes axillaris
White-winged WidowbirdEuplectes albonotatus
Red-collared WidowbirdEuplectes ardens
Long-tailed WidowbirdEuplectes progne
Waxbills, Munias & Allies (Estrildidae)
Bronze MannikinSpermestes cucullata
Black-and-white MannikinSpermestes bicolor
Swee WaxbillCoccopygia melanotis
Green TwinspotMandingoa nitidula
Black-faced WaxbillBrunhilda erythronotos
Grey WaxbillGlaucestrilda perreini
Common WaxbillEstrilda astrild
QuailfinchOrtygospiza atricollis
Orange-breasted WaxbillAmandava subflava
Violet-eared WaxbillGranatina granatina
Blue WaxbillUraeginthus angolensis
Green-winged PytiliaPytilia melba
Pink-throated TwinspotHypargos margaritatus
Red-billed FirefinchLagonosticta senegala
Jameson’s FirefinchLagonosticta rhodopareia
Indigobirds, Whydahs (Viduidae)
Village IndigobirdVidua chalybeata
Pin-tailed WhydahVidua macroura
Shaft-tailed WhydahVidua regia
Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)
Cape WagtailMotacilla capensis
African Pied WagtailMotacilla aguimp
Cape LongclawMacronyx capensis
Yellow-throated LongclawMacronyx croceus
African PipitAnthus cinnamomeus
Mountain PipitAnthus hoeschi
Nicholson’s PipitAnthus nicholsoni
Striped PipitAnthus lineiventris
African Rock PipitAnthus crenatus
Yellow-breasted Pipit – VUAnthus chloris
Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)
Forest CanaryCrithagra scotops
Black-throated CanaryCrithagra atrogularis
Lemon-breasted Canary (H)Crithagra citrinipectus
Yellow-fronted CanaryCrithagra mozambica
Drakensberg SiskinCrithagra symonsi
Yellow CanaryCrithagra flaviventris
Brimstone CanaryCrithagra sulphurata
Streaky-headed SeedeaterCrithagra gularis
Cape CanarySerinus canicollis
Buntings (Emberizidae)
Cape BuntingEmberiza capensis
Golden-breasted BuntingEmberiza flaviventris
Species seen:444
Species heard:7
Total recorded:451

Mammal List

The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following the IUCN Red List:
EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable.

Common nameScientific name
Hyraxes (Procaviidae)
Rock HyraxProcavia capensis
Elephants (Elephantidae)
African Elephant – ENLoxodonta africana
Rabbits and Hares (Leporidae)
Scrub HareLepus saxatilis
Squirrels and Relatives (Sciuridae)
Smith’s Bush SquirrelParaxerus cepapi
Red Bush SquirrelParaxerus palliatus
Old World Mice, Rats and Gerbils (Muridae)
Sloggett’s Vlei RatOtomys sloggetti
Bushbabies (Galagidae)
Southern Lesser GalagoGalago moholi
Old World Monkeys (Cercopithecidae)
Chacma BaboonPapio ursinus
VervetChlorocebus pygerythrus
Blue MonkeyCercopithecus mitis
Bats (Chiroptera)
Wahlberg’s Epauletted Fruit BatEpomophorus wahlbergi
Cats (Felidae)
Lion – VUPanthera leo
Leopard – VUPanthera pardus
Hyaenas and Aardwolf (Hyaenidae)
Spotted HyaenaCrocuta crocuta
Mongooses and Fossa (Herpestidae)
Yellow MongooseCynictis penicillata
White-tailed MongooseIchneumia albicauda
Slender MongooseHerpestes sanguineus
MeerkatSuricata suricatta
Common Dwarf MongooseHelogale parvula
Banded MongooseMungos mungo
Canids (Canidae)
Side-striped JackalLupulella adustus
Black-backed JackalLupulella mesomelas
African Wild Dog – ENLycaon pictus
Mustelids (Mustelidae)
Spotted-necked OtterHydrictis maculicollis
Horses, Asses and Zebras (Equidae)
Plains ZebraEquus quagga
Rhinoceroses (Rhinocerotidae)
White RhinocerosCeratotherium simum
Hogs and Pigs (Suidae)
Common WarthogPhacochoerus africanus
Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamidae)
Hippopotamus – VUHippopotamus amphibius
Bovids (Bovidae)
African BuffaloSyncerus caffer
NyalaTragelaphus angasii
Cape BushbuckTragelaphus sylvaticus
Greater KuduTragelaphus strepsiceros
ImpalaAepyceros melampus
SteenbokRaphicerus campestris
Southern ReedbuckRedunca arundinum
Mountain Reedbuck – ENRedunca fulvorufula
WaterbuckKobus ellipsiprymnus
Grey RhebokPelea capreolus
HartebeestAlcelaphus buselaphus
BlesbokDamaliscus pygargus
Common WildebeestConnochaetes taurinus
Common DuikerSylvicapra grimmia
Blue DuikerPhilantomba monticola
Natal Red DuikerCephalophus natalensis
KlipspringerOreotragus oreotragus
Giraffes and Okapis (Giraffidae)
Southern GiraffeGiraffa giraffa
Rorquals (Balaenopteridae)
Humpback WhaleMegaptera novaeangliae
Species seen:47
Total recorded:47

Reptile List

Common name
Scientific name
Crocodiles (Crocodylidae)
Nile CrocodileCrocodylus niloticus
Colubrids (Colubridae)
Spotted Bush SnakePhilothamnus semivariegatus
Chameleons (Chamaeleonidae)
Flap-necked ChameleonChamaeleo dilepis
Skinks (Scincidae)
Rainbow MabuyaTrachylepis margaritifera
Tortoises (Testudinidae)
Leopard TortoiseStigmochelys pardalis
African Side-necked Turtles (Pelomedusidae)
Cape TerrapinPelomedusa galeata
Species seen:6
Total recorded:6


This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.

Join our newsletter for exclusive discounts and great birding information!


Thank you!