Verlorenkloof Estate is an exciting birding destination in Mpumalanga. Due to its wonderful array of habitats, birds are both diverse and numerous. To date, 186 species have been recorded on the estate, six of which are endemic to South Afric a, while an additional 17 species are endemic to southern Africa (see overleaf). Seven species are listed in the South African Red Data Book – Saddle-billed Stork, Bateleur, Peregrine Falcon, Southern Bald Ibis, Southern Crowned Crane, Blue Crane and Broad-tailed Warbler.
The following is a summary of some of the birding highlights at Verlorenkloof Estate:
Walking through the numerous kloofs (e.g. Robin’s Kloof, Verlorenkloof ) look and listen out for the following forest species: African Goshawk, Black Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, Orange Ground Thrush, Chorister Robin, Yellow-throated Warbler, Cape Batis, Blue mantled Flycatcher and Collared Sunbird. These are all relatively uncommon species, which are more often heard than seen.
A climb to the top of the mountain will reveal extensive montane grasslands with rocky outcrops. Here grassland specials such as Fan-tailed Cisticola, Ayre’s Cisticola and Wailing Cisticola are common and easily recognizable by their calls and/ or display flights. Isolated clumps of Protea species will reward the birder with sightings of Gurney’’ Sugarbird (these birds breed exclusively in proteas); Malachite Sunbird and Cape canary. Look out for the Malac hite Sunbird at Fernkloof Hut. Spec ies to look out for clambering on the rocks and boulders are Buff streaked Chat, Sentinel Rock Thrush and Long billed Lark. Sitting on or near the edge of the cliffs, one is rewarded with excellent views of some of the aerial masters of the mountains, including species like Black Swift, Alpine Swift, Rock Martin and raptors such as Black Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Rock Kestrel and even perhaps a Peregrine or Lanner Falc on. Southern Bald Ibis and Red winged Starling may also be seen from this vantage point.
Interspersed between the kloof forests is woodland. This is probably the richest bird habitat on the estate and is highly recommended, especially if walked in the early morning. Noteworthy species to look and listen out for inc lude Klaas’s Cuckoo, Woodland Kingfisher, Red-throated Wryneck, Black Sawwing Swallow, Olive Bush, Shrike, Plum coloured Starling and Sweet Waxbill. Raptors inc lude the Gymnogene and Steppe Buzzard.
The wetlands on the estate can be divided into dams, vlei areas and the river. All play a role in the diversity and abundance of aquatic birds on the estate. Some highlights include species like Dabchick, Spur-winged Goose and Half collared Kingfisher on or near the dams, Broad-tailed Warbler, Croaking Cisticola, Yellow Warbler and all five widow species in the vlei areas, while Africa Black Duck, Yellow-billed Duck and Cape Weaver ( with large nesting colonies) are frequently seen on the river.
The mid and upper slopes are dominated by sour grass veld and are home to certain species, Including Redwing Francolin, Croaking Cisticola, Grassbird, Rufous-naped Lark, Blue-billed Firefinch, Black Widowfinch and Streaky headed Canary.
A COUPLE OF TIPS TO ENSURE GOOD VIEWING
- Spend most of your time in the early part of one day exploring the kloofs and woodland areas while doing the same another day for the grassland and wetland areas. This will greatly increase your chances of seeing more birds during your trip.
- Summer is definitely the best time to visit the Estate from a birding perspective, as this is when most migrants can be seen and many species are breeding.
- A weekend list of a 100 species is not impossible, while a longer visit could produce a list of close to 150 species.