The Highveld Plateau is dominated by grasslands and is largely devoid of native trees except along some rivers and sheltered hillsides. Extends across eastern Mpumalanga at an altitude of between 1400m and 1800m ASL. In its natural state, this habitat is dominated by Themeda triandra, with many other grass species including Eragrostis, Heteropogon and Cymbopogon.
Characteristic birds of this habitat include Long-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Cape Longclaw, Black-shouldered Kite, Blue Crane and Rufous-naped Lark. Prized endemics such as Rudd's Lard, Botha's Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit occur in pristine pockets of this habitat.
Highveld Wetlands and Rivers
The Highveld plateau is sprinkled with pan systems which fill up during the wet summer season and typically hold water into winter. These ephemeral wetlands are a magnet for waterfowl, with ducks, geese, herons, cormorants and others often in abundance. Blue, Grey Crowned and Wattled Cranes breed in these natural wetlands, while plovers and migratory sandpipers forage on mudflats.
The Highlands & Wetlands Birding Route includes Wakkerstroom, Chrissiesmeer and Dullstroom.
This area boasts many lakes and pans located within a 20 km radius of the village. This area contains extensive interconnected and interdependent wetlands and peat lands. All birding is done from the roadside and specials include Blue Crane, Red-winged Francolin, Chestnut-banded Plover, Hottentot Teal, Cape Shoveler and Greater and Lesser Flamingo. In summer, migratory waders can occur in large numbers with Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Ruff, Common Greenshank and Wood Sandpiper feeding alongside resident Black-winged Stilt.
From Johannesburg, travel on the N4 towards Machadodorp and take the R33 to Carolina. 4km out of Carolina, turn to the right and travel for 20km to Chrissiesmeer.
Open for day visitors and accommodation facilities are available.
For more information contact Central Reservations.
Matotoland Eco Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)17 847 0008
Chrissie Pans IBA: http://birdlife.org.za/conservation/important-bird-areas/iba-directory/item/160-sa019-chrissie-pans
The Wakkerstroom area is famous among birders as it is the easiest place to find three endemic species restricted to South Africa's high altitude grasslands – Rudd's Lark, Botha's Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit. Other specials include Blue Korhaan, Denham's Bustard, Ground Woodpecker, Southern Bald Ibis, African Marsh-Harrier, Black-crowned Night-heron and Bush Blackcap. It is also an Important Bird Area. Most birding can be done from the roadside.
(Please visit the Bird Hide page for a description on the grading of the accessibility of the different Bird Hides).
There are four bird hides (Grade 4) situated around the wetland. There are two hides are located on the Northern side of the wetland, namely the Clive Beck Hide and the WOW (Wings over Wetlands) Hide. From the Clive Beck Memorial Hide, look out for Black-crowned Night-heron, African Snipe, African Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron and African Rail. Red-chested Flufftail is often heard from the Sasol Flufftail Hide and it is a good spot to find roosting Grey Crowned Crane.
The other two bird hides are located on the Western side of the wetland, namely the Crane Hide and Iain Drummond Memorial Hide. Species encountered at the Crane Hide include Blue Korhaan, Levaillant's Cisticola, Long-tailed Widowbird, Egyptian and Spur-winged Goose. The 500m path running through the grassland connecting the Flufftail and Crane Hides is good for both Grass and Marsh Owl, The lain Drummond Hide is good for sighting of African Marsh-harrier. The Amersfoort road bridge can be very rewarding with species such as Little Bittern, African Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Common Moorhen and Purple Heron.
Habitats range from open grassland to mistbelt forest, gorges and cliffs, with extensive wetland habitat in the form of vleis, pans and dams.
From Johannesburg take the N17 to (Springs) to Leandra. At the T-junction (Leandra on your left) turn right towards Standerton on the R50 and travel for 76tkm to Standerton. AT Standerton, take the R23 to Volksrust (80km) and then the R543 to Wakkerstroom (27km).
From Durban, take the N3 to Estcourt. Take the N11 to Ladysmith (11km from the N3 offramp). Travel through Ladysmith and head for Newcastle along the N11 (80km) and continue to Volksrust (55km). Pass through Volkrust and take the R543 to Wakkerstroom (27km).
Tel: +27 (0)17 730 0433
Mobile: +27 (0)71 718 1566
Verloren Valei Nature Reserve
With a range of wetland types including permanent and seasonal marshes and streams, peatlands and springs situated in an area of high altitude grassland close to Dullstroom, the reserve contains more than thirty wetlands in near-pristine state. Specials include Wattled Crane, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Sentinal Rock-Thrush, Ground Woodpecker and Southern Bald Ibis. During summer, Long-tailed Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-crowned Bishop and Yellow Bishop can be seen in their spectacular breeding dress. Raptors such as Jackal Buzzard, Kestrel and African Marsh Harrier can be seen in the grasslands, while African Grass-owl and Marsh Owl emerge to hunt after dark.
From Dullstroom, travel for 6km on the R540 towards Lydenburg. Turn left onto a gravel road and proceed for 8km to the reserve.
Mpumalanga Parks & Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)13 254 0799