The Lowveld – Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve

About the Birding

The Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve is located on the escarpment of the Drakensberg, between Tzaneen and the Able Erasmus pass. Key habitats include spectacular forests and rolling grasslands. There are historical records of Blue Swallows in the grassland, and this is a good site to see Black Saw-wing and other montane grassland species like the Wing-snapping, Croaking and Wailing Cisticola, Denham’s Bustard, Cape Rock-Thrush, Buff-Streaked Chat, Fan-tailed Grassbird, and Malachite Sunbird. Flowering proteas at high altitudes attract the low-density Gurney’s Sugarbird.

The forested gorges hold good numbers of the endangered Cape Parrot, Red-capped and Chorister Robin-Chats, Orange Ground Thrush, White-starred Robin, Black-fronted Bush Shrike, Barratt’s Warbler, African Emerald Cuckoo (summer), and Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler to mention a few. Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon was recorded in the ‘70s but there are no recent records, though it is not impossible that birds would wander into the forested areas from the nearby Magoebaskloof forests.

Key species:

Cape Parrot, Orange Ground Thrush, Chorister Robin-chat, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Black-fronted Bush Shrike

About the Birding Site

The Capricorn-Letaba birding route stretches from the city of Polokwane in the west to the Great Letaba River beyond the Letsitele valley in the east. The route runs just a few degrees south of the Tropic of Capricorn, mainly along the R71 road which links the towns of Polokwane, Haenertsburg, Tzaneen and Gravelotte.

An interesting geographical feature of this route is its varying altitude. Polokwane lies on a plateau at approximately 1300 masl, further east lies the escarpment of the Northern Drakensberg and Wolkberg mountain ranges where the altitude reaches 2300 masl. The route then drops down into the Lowveld where the altitude is approximately 480 masl at the Letaba River. These extreme variations in altitude result in a great range of vegetation types within a relatively small area. Within these diverse habitats, over 500 bird species are to be found.

The open thornveld habitat of the Polokwane plateau supports a great variety of both Bushveld and Kalahari-type birds. Typical species here include Crimson-breasted Shrike, Barred Wren-Warbler, Short-clawed Lark and Black-faced Waxbill. Just before reaching the foothills of the Drakensberg and Wolkberg Mountains, one passes through the outcrop strewn Mamabolo Bushveld. These granite inselbergs hold many rock-dwelling species, including Southern Bald Ibis’s northern-most population. In the Northern Drakensberg and Wolkberg sections of the route, birders enjoy vast tracts of montane grassland, which is Blue Swallow territory and houses other sought after species such as Broad-tailed Warbler, Croaking Cisticola and Drakensberg Prinia. The afro-montane forests of Woodbush and Magoebaskloof offer amongst the best forest birding in the country with specials like Brown Scrub-Robin, Black-fronted Bush Shrike, Barratt’s Warbler, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, and Orange Ground Thrush. The eastern lower slopes and valleys of Magoebaskloof provide reliable sites for the elusive Bat Hawk and Green Twinspot. The Tzaneen area is well-known for its sub-tropical fruit industry and the interesting mix of lowland habitats here support a wide range of species including Gorgeous Bush Shrike, White-browed Robin-chat and Purple-crested Turaco. The Lowveld region around Letsitele and along the Letaba River is blanketed in extensive Mopane Woodland where Arnot’s Chat is resident. There are many Lowveld rivers with their associated riparian forest habitats where the likes of Greater Blue-eared Starling, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Retz’s Helmet-Shrike and Thick-billed Cuckoo can be found. This is also one of the prime raptor areas in the region.

The Capricorn-Letaba Birding Route is further divided into four different birding areas, namely the Northern Escarpment, Polokwane, The Lowveld and Tzaneen. Each area has its unique character and a set of special bird species. The area is also well-supported by a variety of different accommodation options as well as several easily accessible birding sites.

The lowveld is the most easterly section of the Capricorn-Letaba Birding Route with an altitude of less than 650 masl. Blanketed in Mopane woodland and sour bushveld, there are a host of birds not found anywhere else on the route including the likes of Arnot’s Chat, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Thick-billed Cuckoo and Stierling’s Wren-Warbler. More common species include the Greater Blue-eared Starling, Woodland Kingfisher and White-crested Helmet Shrike. The regions’ proximity to the larger conservation areas of the lowveld also makes this area good for the larger birds like raptors and storks. White-headed and Hooded Vulture and Bateleur Eagle are examples of the birds that you should continuously be scanning the sky for. The riverine areas along the Letaba River act as a conduit, drawing birds like White-backed Night-Heron, Saddle-billed Stork and African Openbill Stork into the area.

Key species:

Cape Parrot, Orange Ground Thrush, Chorister Robin-chat, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Black-fronted Bush Shrike

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
A nominal entrance fee is charged and the reserve features a simple picnic area and several short hiking trails. A well-paved road winds up onto the plateau offering easy access to the high altitude grassland.

Directions:
From Tzaneen, head southeast on the R36 towards Hoedspruit. The turnoff to Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve is to the right about 40km from Tzaneen.

Other related information:

Recommended accommodation nearby:
A variety of accommodation options are available in the nearby areas of Magoebaskloof, Haenertsburg. The nearest BirdLife Recommended Accommodations include the Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge, Bramasole Guesthouse, and Magoebaskloof Birders’ Cottages for which additional contact details are provided below.

Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge
Physical address:
Sterkloop Farm, Houtbosdorp, Magoebaskloof
Tel: +27 (0)15 276 1131
Mobile: +27 (0)82 200 4596
E-mail: info@krm.co.za
Website: http://www.krm.co.za

Bramasole Guesthouse
Address: A37 Bramasole, off the R71 between Polokwane & Tzaneen, Magoebaskloof, Limpopo, 0731
Landline: +27 (0)15 007 0629 (weekdays 8am – 5pm)
Phone: +27 (0)72 062 8514
Email: reservations@bramasole.co.za
Website: www.bramasole.co.za
Instagram: @bramasole97

Magoebaskloof Birders’ Cottages
Address: Dragonwyck Farm, A 46.5 off R71, Magoebaskloof
Phone: +27 (0)844023709
Website: http://mbcottage.co.za/ or http://birderscottage.com

Local guide information:
Paul Nkhumane: +27 (0)73 670 5857
David Letsoalo: +27 (0)83 568 4678

Text prepared by:
Daniel Danckwerts (Rockjumper Birding Tours)

Key species:

Cape Parrot, Orange Ground Thrush, Chorister Robin-chat, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Black-fronted Bush Shrike

Contact details:

For more information, please contact:

Lekgalameetse Resort
Tel: +27 (0)15 290 7355 / 7339 / 7336
Email: info@lwr.co.za
Website: www.wildliferesorts.org

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