Drakensberg – It’s a Birder’s Paradise

The bird list for the Drakensberg and its surrounding nature reserve is an impressive one, boasting many endemic species – those having a very restricted distribution. A variety of habitats in close proximity to the Drakensberg reserve offer birdwatchers a chance to find species that have previously eluded them. It does not matter whether you are a real beginner or a serious twitcher, as the saying goes “Birdwatchers do it at The Cavern”! We also offer birding and nature weekends with David and Sally Johnson, where the emphasis is on birds but all of nature is included, and this is at no extra cost to the guest.

Early mornings are the best time to see the most Drakensberg birds and a walk around the gardens before breakfast is certainly a good way to start the day. An easy circuit from the front lawn, down past the bowling greens (good place to see Groundscraper Thrush, Rock Bunting, Cape Wagtail) and through the gate and down to Darter Dam. Walk round the dam and on a really good day one can spot all four of the resident kingfishers, the Halfcollared being a real Cavern special. Keep on the bottom level and head for the Charleswood Dam, keeping eyes and ears open for Grassbird and Drakensberg Prinia, look left over the stream and admire the Mountain Bottlebrush trees clinging to the rocky slopes. At Charleswood Dam you may be lucky enough to find a Black Duck, normally a duck of tumbling streams. Sit and enjoy the tranquillity here before heading back along the path below the tennis courts to a welcome breakfast.

If grassland species are missing from your list, then head out to Cowslip and the Top Dams, or take the road down to Natural Pool. For the more adventurous whose wish list includes a Ground Woodpecker, head off towards Echo Cave. Never forget to look up into the skies where Drakensberg specials; Jackal Buzzard, Lammergeyer and Cape Vulture can often be seen.

Drakensberg forest birds are always difficult to spot, they are secretive and elusive but if you sit quietly for a while, you may be rewarded with a view of the tiny Yellowthroated Warbler or the exciting Olive Woodpecker, perhaps a Barthroated Apalis or that Drakensberg megatick, the Bush Blackcap.

A trip to the Drakensberg Sentinel Car Park does not always mean scrambling up the Chain Ladder – you could just be looking out for Orangebreasted Rockjumper or Drakensberg Siskin. A gentle wander up the path leading towards the base of the World Heritage Site Sentinel will provide a feast of mind-blowing views, Drakensberg high altitude birds and a dazzling array of Drakensberg alpine plants.

Sally Johnson

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