DRAKENSBERG ESCARPMENT AND THE ELEPHANT COAST OF KZN

Clients : Jeff & Maryann Williams, Wales, UK
Dates : 16 to 25 October 2007
Duration : 10 days

Route: A medley of high lying grassland areas and rocky outcrops to the south east of Johannesburg were extensively birded before descending into the foothills and river valleys of the Eastern Drakensberg to the foot of the Sani Pass that represents the eastern gateway into Lesotho.

This tortuous and untarred 4X4 track is one of the top three birding destinations in South Africa and is almost guaranteed to deliver great sightings of Bearded Vulture, Southern Bald Ibis,
Sentinel Rock Thrush, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker, Drakensberg Siskin and Mountain Pipit (summer only).

From here the route selected traversed across the Natal midlands, taking in a selection of key montane and coastal forest patches, before descending into the labyrinth of thorn scrub, savanna woodland, wetlands and estuaries of the Zululand coastal plain and doubling back onto the escarpment east of Pretoria.

White Fronted Bee Eater, W Tarboton
Crested Guineafowl, W Tarboton

As such the altitudinal gradient of the route provided the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of habitat types each supporting a suite of targeted species. Habitats included open grassland, montane and coastal forests, broad-leafed savanna, acacia thornveld, open estuaries and a number of wetlands of varying size and environmental complexity. Time of year was optimal for birding with most resident species actively engaged in breeding activity and many intra-African migrants present.

Listings: A total of 304 species were recorded over the 10 day period. Highlights included Crested Guineafowl, White-backed Duck, Hottentot Teal, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Narina Trogon, Half-collared Kingfisher, White-fronted Bee-eater, Black Cuckoo, Cape Parrot, Tambourine Dove, Denham’s Bustard, Palm-nut Vulture, Bearded Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Lizard Buzzard, Red-breasted Sparrowhawk, Crowned Eagle, Great White Egret, Southern Bald Ibis, Wooly-necked Stork, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Woodward’s Batis, Drakensberg Rockjumper, Grey Penduline Tit, Wire-tailed Swallow, Yellow-spotted Nicator, Barrett’s Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Bush Blackcap, Layard’s Titbabbler, Rudd’s Apalis, Rudd’s Lark, Spotted Ground Thrush, Fan-tailed Tit Flycatcher, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Pink-throated Twinspot, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Mountain Pipit, Red-winged Francolin , Drakensberg Siskin and Terek Sandpiper.

In the client’s own words: Thanks for a brilliant trip. It was such fun but also so interesting. Patrick is such a mine of information and the birding was great too!!
Maryann Williams

‘We had a fantastic time! In particular special note should be made of Patrick’s driving which was at all times very sound even in the face of adversity – indeed exceptional below the Sani Pass. What contributed to our enjoyment was the immaculate organization and Patrick’s huge fund of knowledge about South Africa in general as well as birds; and the laughs!! Service was excellent.’
Jeff & Maryann UK

For more information contact Marie-Louise on enquiries@avianleisure.com

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