Updated: Oct 1, 2020
The stunning and breath-taking Mpumalanga on the eastern side of South Africa is famous for the Kruger National Park and it’s sought after big 5 and amazing bird life. But this magnificent province has more to offer then ones realizes. Even locals have no idea of the avian gems waiting to be seen a stone throw away from the capital Nelspruit. The birding in Kruger is amazing, and I lead and join birders on trips to Kruger but this write up is aimed at the a patch of indigenous forest known locally as Peddlars Bush behind Barberton in the Makhonjwa Mountains- a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As a bird guide I lead tours all over Africa and the world for Nature Travel Birding, but my home province of Mpumalanga has some exceptional birding. With us all being restricted on travel I have been focusing on local birding trips with South Africans, now that we can travel why not join me on a birding trip to Peddlars Bush or one of the many great birding spots the area has to offer while on the way to Kruger.
The Indigenous forest of Peddlars Bush and the scenic mountain views above Barberton offer the birder some attractive birding. A strategic stop overlooking the valley with a hillside full of Mountain Proteas produces our first special bird for the trip, the stunning Gurney’s Sugarbird- an endemic species to Southern Africa, and one of two members of the Sugarbird family endemic to South Africa, the other being the Cape Sugarbird endemic to the fynbos of the Western Cape. Other great sightings along the boulder-strewn hillside include: Cape Rock Thrush, Red-winged Francolin, Buff-streaked Chat, Malachite Sunbird, Jackal Buzzard, Drakensberg Prinia and Alpine Swift to mention a few and wet your appetite.
As we enter the cool, green indigenous forest we hear the familiar call of an Olive Woodpecker calling, as we get onto this beauty we hear the deep growling calls of the stunning Knysna Turaco and enjoy cracking views of the stunning bird. What a start to the trip, just before we entered the forest we also had great views on a small group of Swee Waxbills. A most enjoyable cup of coffee is on the cards as we watch the groups of Cape White-eyes, Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Canaries and Forest Canaries moving around feeding. Just as we are about to get going we hear the characteristic call of the Narina Trogon- with a bit of searching we manage to get great views on this avian gem- a bird that can turn anyone into a birder.
As we catch our breaths from the spectacular sighting of the Trogon we enjoy the chorus from the forest and soon hear the ventriloquist calling, it’s amazing how the Chorister Robin- Chat is a master at mimicry, we flush a Lemon dove from the forest floor and manage to get great views of the Chorister in the tree posing for the group. Other great sighting from the forest include: Grey Cuckooshrike, Trumperter Hornbill, Olive Bushshrike, Square-tailed Drongo, African Emerald Cuckoo(Summer), Bush Blackcap, Blue Mantled Crested Flycatcher, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and the beautiful White-starred Robin.
As we continue to enjoy the magic of the forest we hear a raptor calling and get spectacular views of a Rufous-brested Sparrowhawk flying over the forest-a great bird for the province. Wow wow what a great day in the forest, the trip however is not over and we still are missing one sought after beauty the near-threatened Orange Ground Thrush, after some searching and calling we manage to obtain the most incredible views of a bird feeding on the road with a Olive Thrush, just breath-taking. Some of the other great species seen in the area include: Barratt’s Warbler, Crowned Hornbill, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, Dark-backed Weaver, Cape Batis, Olive Sunbird and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler to name a few.