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Introduction

 

The Capricorn - Letaba birding route stretches from 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 2300masl.  The route then drops down into the lowveld where the altitude is approximately 480masl at the Letaba River. 

These extreme variations in altitude result in a great range of vegetation types within a relatively small area.  It is within these diverse habitats that 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, African 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 the northern-most population of Southern Bald Ibis.

 

Crested Barbet

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.  While 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 has habitats including Mopani 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.


Bird Clubs

 

Birdlife Polokwane
(Tel: 015 263 6473 or 083 380 2322) based at Tembele Country Estate - Polokwane
Tzaneen Eco Club
(Tel: 307 58 55 or 082 835 4185


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