Situated within the Maloti-Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site (MDP) is the oft overlooked Kamberg Nature Reserve. Surrounded by awesome scenery it has a variety of habitat types as well as terrain that ranges from steep and rocky through gently undulating grassland down to relatively flat grassland containing a large wetland bordered by a river. As such, there is a healthy variety of exciting birds. Kamberg Nature Reserve is very much an under-rated birding venue, as a great many fascinating species are to be seen there.
The quiet resort at Kamberg is tucked away in a garden-like setting consisting of indigenous vegetation as well as some exotic trees. An early morning stroll could produce Brown-hooded Kingfishers, Chorister Robin-Chats (a devilish mimic of other bird calls), and African Hoopoes probing for food on the lawns. Groundscraper Thrushes can be seen speed-walking across the lawns before suddenly standing bolt upright. Around the chalets you are bound to be greeted by confiding birds like Cape Robin-Chats, and Familiar Chats with their pronounced wing flick every time they land. In the larger trees you might be fortunate to see very noisy Green Wood Hoopoes – this species goes around in family groups checking for insects hiding under the bark. From these big trees one may also be lucky to see an African Goshawk, or Black Sparrowhawk break cover to hunt the not-so-lucky Cape Canaries, Doves and Pigeons.
A comfortable walk to the trout dams will also be productive with birds such as Yellow-billed Ducks, Pied Kingfishers, the tiny Malachite Kingfisher, Little Grebes, and various very challenging ‘little brown jobs’ in the form of Warblers (apart from the brightly coloured African Yellow Warbler) and Cisticolas!) If you are at Kamberg in winter then en route to the dams (and in the resort grounds) check the flowering aloes for a variety of Sunbirds, Black-headed Orioles and Fork-tailed Drongos.
While walking the trails towards the Berg massif keep an eye open when passing rocky outcrops – ideal habitat for Buff-streaked Chats, the large Ground Woodpecker, the smart-looking Cape Rock Thrushes, as well as antelope such as the Mountain Reedbuck and Grey Rhebuck. Flowering protea trees should be closely examined for the beautiful Gurney’s Sugarbirds, and Malachite Sunbirds (in summer the male is a magnificent glossy green). Any dead trees are likely to house Red-throated Wrynecks. As one goes up in altitude birds like Sentinel Rock Thrushes and Jackal Buzzards could appear, and you may even flush Grey-winged Francolins. Remember to check the high cliff faces for soaring Bearded Vultures, Cape Vultures and Verreaux’s Eagles.
We recommend taking a drive to the Stillerust Cottage side of the Nature Reserve. Here the terrain levels off into undulating grassland enclosing a large wetland. These grasslands contain Denham’s Bustards, Cape Longclaws, Red-winged Francolins, and game species such as the black wildebeest, the rare oribi, and blesbok. The major highlights of this area are the stately Wattled Cranes (which nest in the wetland), and with luck Blue Cranes and Grey Crowned Cranes.
Once at the river stay alert for Giant Kingfishers, the stunning Half-collared Kingfishers, the shy African Black Ducks, and otters. The thickets along the river bank hold cute Fairy Flycatchers, vocal Drakensberg Prinias, and the special Bush Blackcap.
Then it’s back to the chalets for a well-earned braai and refreshments!
The interesting thing about the birds of Kamberg is that most of them are to be found in similar habitats throughout the MDP. We will be covering other special places in the MDP in future editions of this newsletter – so stay with us!