Lowveld – Halls Gateway

About the Birding

As you enter the complex check the tall Fever Trees (Acacia xanthophloea) next to the fuel station. Village Weavers breed in these trees every summer, starting in early September. Later they are joined by some Lesser Masked Weavers and they breed side by side. Naturally the breeding activity is a drawcard for Diederik Cuckoos which give themselves away with plaintive high-pitched notes, making them easy to spot. Also check the roof of the fuel station for perched Wire-tailed Swallows, which sometimes breed here. Familiar Chat, Mocking Cliff Chat and Cut-throat Finch are often seen here as well.

Then park your car in the covered parking area in front of Hall’s Stall and stroll westwards down the road lined with tall Fever Trees. This will take you past the entrance to the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency offices. The trees attract a number of birds such as Cardinal Woodpecker and the slightly larger Golden- tailed Woodpecker. Noisy family parties of Green Wood-hoopoe are often present and so is the solitary and scarce Common Scimitarbill. Others to look for are Brown- hooded Kingfisher and sometimes its migratory cousin, the noisy Woodland Kingfisher. Of course the lovely African Paradise Flycatcher is usually present in summer and Southern Fiscal is always nearby.

When you reach the end of this avenue turn left on a gravel road that skirts the office complex. There are tall Eucalyptus trees here, making this is a favourite spot for Black- shouldered Kite and on a number of occasions there have also been a Lizard Buzzard and more frequently African Harrier-Hawk, while African Goshawk is less frequently observed.

Cross a traffic circle and continue walking towards the Mbombela Stadium. On your right is a small pond but unfortunately it is fenced and cannot be closely approached. It is worth checking the perimeter though to get some different birds for your growing list. These could include Western Cattle Egret, Reed Cormorant, White-faced Whistling Duck, Southern Bald Ibis, Blacksmith Lapwing and sometimes Three-banded Plover. Continue walking towards the stadium but keep to the left side of the road with a sports field next to you.

This is worth scanning for birds such as Crowned Lapwing, African Wattled Lapwing, African Pipit and Cape Wagtail. A short distance further and you reach a few small buildings and there are two palm trees in front of them which are an annual breeding site for Cape Weaver, a scarce bird in Mbombela. Diagonally opposite is the stadium entrance and to the left of the entrance is a marshy area with some small Acacia trees. Yet another weaver breeds low down in these trees and this is the locally uncommon Southern Masked Weaver. Check the stadium itself for Rock Martin and the localised Speckled Pigeon. Retrace your route at this point and at the traffic circle turn right. On your left will be an open field which occasionally has Grey-rumped Swallows flying low and settling on the ground. African Hoopoe is often there as well and so is Groundscraper Thrush, African Pied Wagtail and flocks of European Bee-eaters in summer.

Continue down the road and cross over at the Halls sign to walk next to a reedbed wetland. Here you could find Cape Grassbird, African Stonechat, Common Waxbill, Red-collared Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, African (Holub’s) Golden Weaver, Thick-billed Weaver and Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. Red-chested Flufftail and Black Crake have also been recorded here, as well as the uncommon Orange-breasted Waxbill.

Should you not find all of these in this wetland section then cross the highway at the traffic light intersection to the north and you will meet up with the same wetland again to continue your search for a short distance. This section is also home to a number of LBJ’s to add to your list. These include the loud Red-faced Cisticola, the locally uncommon Levaillant’s Cisticola, Little Rush Warbler and the one with a lovely song; Lesser Swamp Warbler. The developing thickets here often hold Tambourine Dove. Return to the traffic lights and on the right hand side of the road is an open field that often has some of the ground species already mentioned, plus Helmeted Guineafowl and Natal Spurfowl.

By now you should be ready for breakfast and it is a very short stroll to Hall’s Gateway. It is suggested you sit at the breakfast tables in the nursery garden and while enjoying the meal you can add a few more birds to your list such as Spectacled Weaver, White-browed Robin- chat, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird and of course Red-eyed Dove and Purple- crested Turaco. The locally uncommon Greater Double- collared Sunbird is also sometimes present.

About the Birding Site

This could be done as a walk or drive, but walking is recommended as you will see far more birds, especially if you do this walk during summer. Early morning is best and as we are starting at Hall’s Farm Stall, just west of Mbombela, this excursion is ideal to finish with a relaxing open-air breakfast in the Fever Tree Nursery section of the cafeteria.

Other Related Information

There is no entry fee charged to bird this area and as mentioned the Fever Tree nursery is a excellent pace for a meal and offers a safe place to park your car.
The Halls gateway is located on the N4, just as your leave Nelspruit heading in the Johannesburg Direction.
GPS: -25.458, 30.935

Contact details:
Halls Farm Stall
Tel: +27 (0)13 752 2142

Text prepared by:
Extracted from Birds of Mbombela – A Comparative Study by Duncan McKenzie and Peter Lawson. Published by BirdLife Lowveld (2019).

Key species:

Southern Bald Ibis, Mocking Cliff Chat , Cut-throat Finch, Common Scimitarbill, Lizard Buzzard, Cape Weaver, Cape Grassbird, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Orange-breasted Waxbill and Levaillant’s Cisticola.

Contact details:

Halls Farm Stall
Tel: +27 (0)13 752 2142