The Mbombela Golf Club, established in 1928 and home to the famous annual “Jock” tournament, is an interesting and often-overlooked birding spot situated in the eastern part of the city of Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), a short distance from the Malalane gate of the Kruger National Park.
One of the main reasons for the golf club’s status as a good birding spot is because it has a great number of magnificent indigenous trees, including huge specimens of Marula, Natal Mahogany, Kiaat Tree, Paperbark Thorn, various wild figs and others. Drainage lines are well-wooded and there is good indigenous woodland on the perimeters as well and also in gardens in the housing estate. There are also splendid granite outcrops on the southern side and these form an additional bird habitat.
Key species to look out for on a walk at the golf club include Red-headed Weaver, Gorgeous Bushshrike, Tambourine Dove, Fan-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Grey-rumped Swallow, Striated Heron, Lesser Moorhen and Golden-tailed Woodpecker.
Dense wooded areas are home to Terrestrial Brownbul, African Firefinch, White-throated Robin-Chat, Green-backed Camaroptera and other forest birds.
Some of the drainage lines feed into a low-lying marshy area where Red-faced Cisticola, Thick-billed and Holub’s Golden Weaver, and White-fronted Bee-eater may be found.
More open woodland with taller trees is favoured by Amethyst Sunbird, Brimstone and Yellow-fronted Canary, Streaky-headed Seedeater, Ashy and Southern Black Flycatcher, Sombre Greenbul, Bar-throated Apalis, Fork-tailed Drongo, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, African Hoopoe, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape and African Pied Wagtail, Bronze Mannikin, Kurrichane Thrush and Natal Spurfowl.
Rocky slopes on the southern boundary and a granite outcrop between the fairways are good places to find Mocking Cliff Chat, Lazy Cisticola, Striped Pipit, Little Bee-eater, Violet-backed Starling, Black-headed Oriole, Purple-crested Turaco, African Green Pigeon, Black-collared Barbet and Cardinal Woodpecker.
On the northern boundary there are citrus orchards and the grassy areas adjacent to the fence are frequented by Neddicky, Black-crowned Tchagra, Arrow-marked Babbler and Long-billed Crombec.
There are also some ponds and a wetland area. Rarities have been seen here but the more usual suspects include Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, Black Crake, Blacksmith Lapwing, and Lesser Swamp, Little Rush and African Reed Warbler.
The Mbombela Golf Club is an excellent birding spot if you are in the Nelspruit/Kruger area and have only a morning available. It is a beautiful place for a stroll (just watch for stray teeshots!) with the added bonus of ticking some top birds.
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