Birding in the Soutpansberg:
With over 600 bird species on offer, the Limpopo Province ranks amongst the top international bird watching destinations in the world. The reason for this great avian diversity is a multitude of pristine and varied habitats, each with a rich assortment of distinctive species. Some of these specialized habitats include afro-montane forest and grassland, arid savannah, seasonal floodplains, riparian forest, plateau grassland, Acacia thornveld and semi-deciduous woodland.
There are a number of species that are easier to find in the Limpopo Province than in the rest of the country. These are Short-clawed Lark, Shelley's Francolin, Grey-headed Parrot, African Broadbill, and Crested Guinea fowl. In addition to this, many central and east African bird species reach their southern-most distribution here and thus will not be found anywhere else in the country. These include species such as Black-fronted Bush shrike, Arnott's Chat, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Racket-tailed Roller, Senegal Coucal and Tropical Boubou.
?Hot spots? of particular importance
In terms of birding 'hotspots' in the Soutpansberg, the following could be mentioned:
The Cape Vulture breeding colonies on the Blouberg (700800 pairs, the second largest colony of this species in existence) and on Buffelspoort and Uniondale, just west of the Sand River (50100 pairs)
The extensive network of large cliffs found west of Louis Trichardt, and especially west of the Sand River: some 67 pairs of Peregrine Falcons nest here and at least 22 breeding pairs of Black Eagles nest west of the Sand River.
The Mottled Spinetail breeding colony (100+ nesting pairs) in the 'Big Baobab' near Sagole Spa
The patch of Brachystegia woodland at Shakadza (in Nwanedzi catchment): this has the potential of harbouring a population of one or more miombo-restricted species
the baobab stands along the northern slopes of the Soutpansberg west of the Sand River: these provide breeding sites for a number of large eagles, including at least 1 pair of Martial Eagle and 6 pairs of African Hawk Eagle Hieraaetus spilogaster.
all forest patches, but especially those on Entabeni, where a pair of Bat Hawks breed, where there are several nesting pairs of Crowned Eagle and where such Red Data species as Orange Thrush and African Broadbill occur.
The gallery of riparian forest along the Sand River where it cuts through the Soutpansberg, providing habitat for White-backed Night Heron, Pel's Fishing Owl and others.
Hanglip Forest and Hiking Trail:
Probably one of the best spots to experience the Soutpansberg forest birds is the 354 hectare Hangklip Forest overlooking Louis Trichardt. This beautiful forest in addition attracts worldwide dendrological interest due to an abundance of indigenous trees that are all marked. Enchanting trails wind through scenic wooded countryside with a charming picnic site under a canopy of trees with tables, benches and Braai areas. The trails are easily accessible, well marked and maintained to provide one to three kilometer hikes through the magical and serene forest. Birding is an absolute treat in the Hangklip Forest where forest 'specials' such as the blue-spotted wood dove, the narina trogon, purple-crested loerie, the prized yellow-streaked greenbul and the steppe buzzard. On early morning hikes you may be luck to encounter samango monkeys or a bushpig and the Transvaal forest rain frog can be heard on wet and misty days.