A small and relatively unknown gem of a reserve, the Steiltes (literally Afrikaans for “heights”) nature reserve offers a series of relatively short looped walking trails around one of the large granite koppies found in the suburb of Steiltes in the Lowveld town of Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit).
Habitats in the reserve include a small area of canopy forest as well as open broad-leafed woodland, bare rocky patches, a steep-sided kloof with an adjacent stream, and great views over the surrounding areas from a picturesque ridgeline. In terms of birding the reserve boasts a rather impressive list of arboreal Lowveld species, a few top quality forest specials and a fairly good record for locally unusual species, especially during winter when altitudinal migrants can occur at any time.
Top species that can be seen in Steiltes include Crowned Eagle, Narina Trogon, Brown-backed Honeybird, Striped Pipit, Eastern Nicator, Gorgeous and Olive Bushshrike, Retz’s Helmetshrike, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Lemon Dove, and Green and Pink-throated Twinspot.
Other sought-after and interesting birds to look out for are Crowned and Trumpeter Hornbill, African Black Duck, Bronze Mannikin, Cape, White-browed, White-throated and Red-capped Robin-Chat, Purple-crested Turaco, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Kurrichane Thrush, African Palm Swift, African Dusky Flycatcher, Mountain Wagtail, Malachite Kingfisher, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting, African Firefinch, Terrestrial Brownbul, Southern Boubou, Red-chested, Black, Diederik and Klaas’s Cuckoo (summer), Green-backed Camaroptera, Black Cuckooshrike, White-crested Helmetshrike, Red-headed, Thick-billed, Spectacled and Holub’s Golden Weaver, Amethyst and Collared Sunbird, Brimstone Canary, Ashy Flycatcher, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bushshrike, Little Bee-eater, Southern Black Tit, Willow Warbler (summer) and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird.
On the southern edge of the reserve there have been a number of interesting records of some fantastic birds, including Shelley’s Francolin, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Grey Cuckooshrike, Black Saw-wing, Grey Penduline Tit, White-starred Robin, Bush Blackcap and even Purple-banded Sunbird.
Birds of prey are a feature of the reserve, with good chances of Crowned Eagle, African Wood Owl, Little and Black Sparrowhawk, Lizard Buzzard, African Harrier-Hawk and Yellow-billed Kite (summer), while Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Brown Snake and Wahlberg’s Eagle, African Cuckoo-Hawk and Peregrine Falcon have all been recorded.
Overall, for its diminutive size and relative easy access, Steiltes Nature Reserve, holding a list of over 150 recorded species, is a fantastic birding destination with undoubtedly more still to be discovered. A morning trip to the reserve from your base in Nelspruit or the nearby Kruger National Park should make for some excellent ticks to add to your trip list.
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