The small escarpment town of Kaapsehoop close to Nelspruit owes its existence to the discovery of gold there in the late 19th century. The yield turned out be quite poor and after many years of decline the beautiful town, set at 1,486 m (4, 878 ft) above sea level, has been “re-discovered” in recent times and has now become a popular weekend retreat for hikers, birders and nature lovers.
Kaapsehoop used to be famous for the vulnerable Blue Swallows which unfortunately have not been seen in the area for some time (but you never know!), but the little town on the escarpment with its fantastic scenery and wild horses still offers some incredible birding.
With indigenous forest accessible in the area this is a great spot for sighting some of the region’s secretive birds, including Bush Blackcap, Barratt’s Warbler, Green Twinspot and White-starred Robin.
Other great birds in the forest area include African Olive Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Burchell’s Coucal, Grey Cuckooshrike, Olive Bushshrike, Olive Woodpecker, Red-chested and African Emerald Cuckoo, Red-backed Mannikin, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Chorister Robin-Chat, Brown Scrub Robin, Forest and Cape Canary, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cape Batis and Swee Waxbill.
The magical thing about the area is the variety of habitats; one can spend time in the forest and then head across to the open montane grasslands of the Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site or walk among the boulder-strewn hillsides, enjoying a fantastic variety of birds. There are also several ponds and other waterbodies, further enhancing the bird count.
In winter the flowing aloes attract the likes of Gurney’s Sugarbird and Malachite Sunbird.
Other great birds seen in the grasslands and around the town could include Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Rock Thrush, Cape Grassbird, Drakensburg Prinia, Red-throated Wryneck, Cape Longclaw, Nicholson’s and Plain-backed Pipit, Speckled Mousebird, Bokmakierie, Southern Tchagra, Wing-snapping and Wailing Cisticola, Red-necked Spurfowl, Red-winged Francolin, Black-winged Lapwing, Black-rumped Buttonquil and even Striped Flufftail.
Raptors are well represented here too, and sightings could include Peregrine and Lanner Falcon, Eurasian Hobby, Black and Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Jackal, Forest and Common Buzzard, Long-crested Eagle, African Goshawk and many more.
A morning birding trip in and around Kaapsehoop guarantees a range of different birds not seen in the nearby Kruger National Park. A stop at Kaapsehoop will only make that Kruger trip even more special, and with some luck you might even tick a Blue Swallow!
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