Elaine and myself spent two days along this little river to attend Anmar's wedding. It is located in the valley running from the Sudwala caves to Lydenburg in Mapumalanga and the habitat is dominated by dense riverine forests. We stayed at a resort called River Wild that is best known as a 4X4 destination and both Ford and Suzuki launched new products here over the last few weeks. We were however blessed being the only people there when we visited.
Narina Trogon in the treetops
The dawn chorus here is simply overwhelming as both Red-capped and White-browed Robin-Chats (we still prefer Natal and Heuglin's Robins) were producing mimics that had us in stitches. There were bee-eaters, boubous, puffbacks, Nerina Trogons and many more being mimicked and we could lie in the chalet working up an appetite for the type of birds that we could expect to find. Purple-crested Turacos and Narina Trogons are particularly numerous here and their haunting calls and flashes of brilliant red through the tree-tops a constant delight. The tree at our patio alone produced a total of twenty species that included African Paradise-Flycatcher, Black Flycatcher, Grey Tit-Flycatcher and Greater Honeyguide. African Black Ducks also frequented the rapids in front of the chalet. The dense vegetation and poor light conditions unfortunately made photography very difficult.
There were sunbirds all over the show and we located Amethyst, Collared, both double-collared species and White-bellied variations. Interestingly both Cape and Chinspot Batis and both Bar-throated and Yellow-Breasted Apalis were seen. Cardinal, Olive and Yellow-tailed Woodpeckers were very active throughout our stay. Black, Diederick and Red-chested Cuckoos were calling constantly. Other species that one would normally associate with denser vegetation such as this included Black-collared Barbet, Dark-capped Bulbul, Sombre Greenbul, African Olive-Dove, Black-headed Oriole, Bushveld Pipit and Spectacled Weaver. As one could expect the African Goshawk patrolled the early morning skies and a Long-crested Eagle also made a showing. Entertainment at night was provided by Fiery-necked Nightjars and African Wood-Owls.
View of rapids from patio
There were some open patches of vegetation and these were dominated by a wide selection of birds that one would normally associate with Lowveld or bushveld habitats. Notable species here included Green-backed Cameroptera, Olive and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrikes, Long-billed Crombec, African Firefinch, Natal and Swainson's Spurfowls, Black-crowned Tchagra, Groundscraper Thrush and Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove. We also found it very interesting that Trumperer Hornbills are being seen at Sudwala on a daily basis and will report this a an out-of-range sighting to SABAP2.
Another interesting feature of the area was the vast numbers of butterflies that were present.
In the end we saw well over 90 species in the little time that we had to bird seriously. I was able to record close to 300 species in this area during the 1980's and this, together with some of the species that were 'name dropped' above clearly illustrates that this area has huge birding potential. Add to this that the Sudwala Caves and Dinosaur Park are certainly well worth a visit. It is strongly recommended that the area is visited when trips are planned to the Kruger National Park or Mozambique as the forest species that could be added here are undoubtedly worth a few night's stop-over. For accommodation contact River Wild at email@example.com or Pierre's Mountain Inn at firstname.lastname@example.org