Lower Drakensburg Foothills – Springbrook Farm

About the Birding

Springbok Farm is a 1100 hectare dairy farm in the Highflats District. The property is dominated mainly by mistbelt grasslands though includes five dams that are surrounded by protected wetlands. The farm operates on zero till eco-friendly practices making the area an ideal haven for birds. Natural corridors are left between pastures and hay making, to encourage and support the local birdlife.

As such, grassland species dominate and specials to look for include the strange Fan-tailed Grassbird, Red-winged Francolin, Red-necked and Swainson’s Spurfowls, Grey Crowned Crane, Denham’s Bustard and a high diversity of cisticolas including the Croaking, Cloud, Zitting and Pale-crowned Cisticolas. Raptors are common and species to look for include the Long-crested, Wahlberg’s and Booted Eagles, African Marsh and Black Harriers, Forest and Common Buzzards, Black-shouldered and Yellow-billed Kites, Black Sparrowhawk and Lanner Falcon. The wetland and dams support White-backed Duck, South African Shelduck, African Rail, Black Crake and Red-chested Flufftail. Around the farmhouse, look for Red-throated Wryneck and Violet-backed Starling. Early morning visits may be rewarded with Western Barn, Marsh and African Grass Owls as well as Spotted Eagle-owl.

Key species:

Fan-tailed Grassbird, Red-winged Francolin, Forest Buzzard, Black Harrier, Red-chested Flufftail

About the Birding Site

The Lower Drakensberg Foothills Birding Route lies inland and to the south-west of the Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route and is easily accessible from both Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the two nearest points of entry. The source of this route is found in the Ukhahlamba Drakensberg World Heritage Site at the majestic Sani Pass where birders get the unique opportunity to view birds in a rugged and stunningly beautiful environment, consisting of five different habitats and ranging in height from 1600m to 3200m.

However, the heart of this route lies in the lowlands below the Sani Pass where numerous beautiful nature reserves and large tracts of pristine mist belt forest and grassland are to be found supporting a plethora of interesting species including several of South Africa’s most sought-after birds. Top specials within this birding route include the critically endangered Blue Swallow, Drakensburg Rockjumper, Cape Parrot, Drakensburg Siskin, Bearded and Cape Vultures, Orange Ground Thrush and Gurney’s Sugarbird among others. Several days are recommended in the area to do the route proper justice and summer visits (September-April) are optimal to ensure that all target species are present and that all sites will be accessible.

Key species:

Fan-tailed Grassbird, Red-winged Francolin, Forest Buzzard, Black Harrier, Red-chested Flufftail

Other Related Information

From Pietermaritzburg, take R56 for 80 km towards Ixopo. Turn left onto R612 towards Umzinto. After 13.6km turn left into Rydal Station Road, follow dirt road for 700m take first road right (signed), follow this road for 1.2km down to the house.

Access and facilities:
Springbrook is accessible to day visitors by appointment. A nominal entrance fee is charged. Safe parking and toilet facilities are available at the main homestead.

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
The nearest Birder Friendly Establishments are in the nearby towns of Ixopo and Pietermaritzburg. For more information, please visit:

Local guide information:
A trail guide is available at Springbrook Farm, given prior arrangement.

Text prepared by:
Daniel Keith Danckwerts (Rockjumper Worldwide Birding Tours)

Key species:

Fan-tailed Grassbird, Red-winged Francolin, Forest Buzzard, Black Harrier, Red-chested Flufftail

Contact details:

For more information, contact:

Doug and Trish Strachan - Owners
Tel: +27 (0)39 835 0086
Mobile: +27 (0)82 411 2708
E-mail: rydal@futurenet.co.za