Lowveld – Peglar’s Bush

About the Birding

The Indigenous forest of Peddlars Bush and the scenic mountain views above Barberton offer the birder some attractive birding. Proceed slowly up the Saddleback Pass, stopping at various intervals where the road allows, scanning the rock-strewn, Protea-rich hillsides for specials such as Gurney’s Sugarbird- an endemic species to Southern Africa, and one of two members of the Sugarbird family endemic to South Africa. Other great birds to watch out for along the boulder-strewn hillside include: Cape Rock Thrush, Red-winged Francolin, Buff-streaked Chat, Malachite Sunbird, Wailing Cisticola, Rock Kestrel, White-necked Raven, Jackal Buzzard, Drakensberg Prinia and Alpine Swift. Southern Tchagra is also found here and is easily located on its call.

At the top of the pass, turn left onto a dirt road marked Shyalongubo Dam. This road can be very treacherous after heavy rain as it is used continuously by heavy forestry trucks. There is a lot of bracken fern growing alongside this road which winds through the pine forest, with Swee Waxbill, Cape Canary and Drakensberg Prinia being seen regularly. Look out for Forest Buzzard during the drive.

As one enters the cool, green indigenous forest 10 kilometres along this road it is advisable to stop at frequent intervals, climb out of the car being careful to avoid any forestry trucks and walk and listen. The familiar calls of Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon and Trumpeter Hornbill are usually heard first, and as one descends to the bottom of the forest plateau, other forest birds such as Olive Bush-Shrike, Square-tailed Drongo, African Emerald Cuckoo and Chorister Robin-Chat soon join in the chorus. Swee Waxbills, groups of Cape White-eyes, Southern Double-collared Sunbirds, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Canaries and Forest Canaries move about the forest canopy as one moves through this magnificent indigenous forest.

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 sightings from the forest include Grey Cuckooshrike, Trumpeter 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 you move through the forest keep looking up for Crowned Eagle and a rarity for the area in the form of the Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk is sometimes seen flying over the forest. As you make your way to the bottom of the forest listen for White-starred Robin and Brown Scrub-Robin, Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Orange Ground-Thrush and Grey Cuckooshrike. Lemon Dove is regularly chased up at one’s feet and Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Olive Woodpecker are easily heard. 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.

About the Birding Site

The small 60-hectare oasis of indigenous woodland known as Peglar’s Bush, set amongst the pine plantations outside Barberton, is a bird lover’s paradise. Peglar’s Bush behind Barberton in the Makhonjwa Mountains- a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a small spot of indigenous forest located in the Twelo Bosbou area above Barberton, being particularly good for forest birds. Here you might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the elusive Orange Ground-thrush or Bush Blackcap, as well as some of the 350+ other species of birds found in the area. The route described is a very pleasant morning outing from Nelspruit, but it is advisable to check weather conditions with people in Barberton first, as this area is often closed with mist and light drizzle. There are no ablution facilities available and no camping or fire making is allowed either.

Other Related Information

Peddlar’s Bush is located on the dirt road leading to Shiyalongubo Dam. To get there you take the R40 out of Barberton and head towards Swaziland. At the top of Saddleback pass you will see a sign for Shiyalongubo Dam to the left. Follow it for 10km and you have reached Peddlar’s Bush where the plantation gives way to indigenous woodland (Latitude -25.800315 & Longitude 31.141424). From here stop, get out and spend time listening and looking out for birds. The road is a public road and one can bird the road and area at free will.

Text prepared by:

Marc Cronje- Nature Travel Birding

Key species:

Orange Ground Thrush, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Knysna Turaco, Bush Blackcap, Grey Cuckooshrike, White-starred Robin, Malachite Sunbird, Brown Scrub-Robin, Southern Tchagra and Lemon Dove