North-eastern Highveld and Woodlands – Wilge River Valley

About the Birding

One enters the valley by turning off the R25 tar road toward “Zusterstroom” and proceeding along a small segment of tar before the gravel road commences. This area is great for Red-collared Widowbird, Neddicky, Yellow-fronted Canary, Brubru, and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater (winter). If one can get here before dawn, listening out for the dog-like call of Freckled Nightjar and the melodic song of Striped Pipit.

As the valley begins to widen, keep your eyes to the skies for any raptors hunting along the cliff edges, flyovers by Southern Bald Ibis, and the erratic flights of Alpine and African Black Swifts (both summer) amidst mixed hirundine flocks. At the base of the towering mountains the habitat slowly changes into Silver Cluster-Leaf dominated broad-leaved woodland, where Greater-double Collared Sunbird, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Bar-throated Apalis, and Lazy Cisticola are around in good numbers. The Wilge River itself can be birded at various points throughout the valley but is best by visiting either Muelstream or Qodesh. Here birders should keep their binoculars peeled for African Finfoot, Common Sandpiper, Striated Heron, African Pied Wagtail, and even the occasional Mountain Wagtail from time-to-time. The deep, well-concealed, forested gorges within the valley are home to some seriously sought-after species for Gauteng, namely Swee Waxbill, African Firefinch, Ashy Flycatcher, African Crowned Eagle, and Olive Woodpecker. These are best explored by visiting the accommodation options listed below. As one finds themselves closer to the R544 tar road on the eastern side of the valley, Coqui Francolin, Green-capped Eremomela, and Striped Kingfisher are all relatively common.

Key species:

Southern Bald Ibis, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, African Finfoot, Freckled Nightjar, Alpine Swift, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Green-capped Eremomela, Ashy Flycatcher, Spectacled Weaver, and African Firefinch

About the Birding Site

The Wilge River Valley is well known and extremely popular amongst many local Birding Big Day teams due to its coverage of a wide variety of habitats and the sheer number of localized specials one is able to find hidden in the valley. This area offers a mixture of farm dams, highveld grassland, broad-leaved woodland with scattered Vachellia and Senegalia-dominated bush, and a river that follows the length of the valley which can every so often be birded from the roadside.

Within the valley the rocky gorge and open cliff faces offers a scenic route for any visitor, and brilliant for scanning for raptors that either next on or use the cliffs for hunting. There are a few overnight accommodation options available as well as camping facilities for those more adventurous.

Key species:

Southern Bald Ibis, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, African Finfoot, Freckled Nightjar, Alpine Swift, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Green-capped Eremomela, Ashy Flycatcher, Spectacled Weaver, and African Firefinch

Other Related Information

Directions:
From Pretoria take the N4 east toward Bronkhorstspruit. Take the R25 exit and turn left. Stay on this road for 28km before turning right toward Zusterstroom (P237). Proceed until the tar ends and becomes dirt and commence your birding from here.

Times: No access times.
Entrance Fees: No entrance fees payable. Roadside birding.

Other related information:

Recommended Accommodations nearby:
There is an array of accommodation options available for birders to choose from. Most recommended includes:

Qodesh (camping)
Tel: +27 (0)83 289-1803

Deales Rock
Tel: +27 72 783-0790

Meulstroom Lodge
Tel: +27 (0)12 941 9189

There are no BirdLife Recommended Accommodations in the area.

Text prepared by:
John Kinghorn and Toni Geddes

Key species:

Southern Bald Ibis, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, African Finfoot, Freckled Nightjar, Alpine Swift, Half-collared Kingfisher, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Green-capped Eremomela, Ashy Flycatcher, Spectacled Weaver, and African Firefinch

Contact details:

N/A

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