Lowveld – Steiltes Nature Reserve

About the Birding

Around the main entrance and car park of to this small but unique reserve birds that are often easily found include Bronze Mannikin, Cape Robin-Chat, Purple-crested Turaco, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Kurrichane Thrush, African Palm Swift, African Dusky Flycatcher while the small stream occasionally holds Mountain Wagtail.

Bare rocky areas and associated belts of vegetation as well as the central rocky massif are home to Striped Pipit throughout the year and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting invades during summer while the bare rocks themselves and hold roosting Freckled Nightjar which are best sought before dawn or as the sun sets.

Thickets are home to top birds like Green Twinspot, African Firefinch, White-browed Robin-Chat, White-throated Robin-Chat, Terrestrial Brownbul, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Southern Boubou, and Green-backed Camaroptera however patience is often required to get good views. This is true, none more so, than in search of the stunning Gorgeous Bushshrike which, despite being resident, is best found in the warm summer months when their songs echo through the reserve.

Crowned Hornbill is a regular feature of the reserve while Trumpeter Hornbill is recorded occasionally. Open woodlands are home to both Retz and White-crested Helmetshrikes, Red-headed, Spectacled and Holub’s Golden Weaver, Amythest Sunbird, Ashy Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrike, Little Bee-eater, Southern Black Tit and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird are all regularly encountered.
Summer migrants that arrive from mid-October onwards include cuckoos like Red-chested, Black, Diederik and Klaas’s, Willow Warbler, European Bee-eater and even African Pygmy Kingfisher has been recorded.

A specialty of the reserve is the unobtrusive Brown-backed Honeybird which can often be found in mixed parties while Lemon Dove, Tambourine Dove and Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove are often seen bursting up from the ground unexpectedly from shady leaf litter.

The small patch of indigenous forest is home to several pairs of Narina Trogon as well as Olive Bushshrike, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape Batis, Collared Sunbird, Olive Woodpecker and during summer these are joined by Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher and in some years Black-bellied Starling. African Wood Owl is also present in small numbers.

On the southern edge of this small reserve, there have been a number of interesting records which include several records of Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Grey Cuckooshrike, Black Saw-wing, Grey Penduline Tit, White-starred Robin, Bush Blackcap and Purple-banded Sunbird, particularly during winter, while Eastern Nicator is a resident speciality and recently the out of range Pink-throated Twinspot has been found to be somewhat regular.

Birds of prey are a feature of the reserve with good views from the main trail over well-vegetated valleys offer good chances of African Crowned Eagle, Little Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, African Harrier-Hawk and Yellow-billed Kite while Ayres Hawk-Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, African Cuckoo Hawk and Peregrine Falcon have all been recorded.

About the Birding Site

A small and relatively unknown gem of a reserve, the Steiltes nature reserve offers a series of relatively short looped walking trails draped around one of the large granite koppies found in the leafy suburb of Steiltes. Habitats include a small area of canopy forest as well as open broad-leafed woodland, bare rocky patches and a great view over the nearby Shandon Eco-estate from a picturesque ridgeline. In terms of birding, the reserve boasts a rather impressive list of arboreal Lowveld species, a few top-quality forest specials, and a fairly good record for locally unusual species, especially during winter when altitudinal migrants can occur at any time. Overall, for its diminutive size and relatively easy access Steiltes Nature Reserve, holding a list of over 150 recorded species, is a fantastic birding destination with undoubtedly more still to be discovered.

Other Related Information

The reserve is accessed off of Melkweg Street in Nelspruit. The reserve is open from 06h00 in summer and there is no charge to enter the reserve.

GPS: -25.497, 31.009

Text prepared by:

Michael Medlinger

Key species:

Crowned Eagle, Narina Trogon, Brown-backed Honeybird, Green Twinspot, Striped Pipit, Gorgeous Bushshrike, Retz’s Helmetshrike, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Lemon Dove, Pink-throated Twinspot and Olive Bushshrike.