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Matatiele Mountain, situated near Matatiele village in east Griqualand, is the most accessible and reliable site in KwaZulu-natal for a variety of high altitude birds including some highly sought-after specials. A day’s exploration of the mountain should produce 40-60 species of birds.



Rudd's Lark, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Short-tailed Pipit, African Rock Pipit, Mountain Pipit, Cape Eagle-Owl, Buff-streaked Chat, Drakensberg Rock-jumper and Gurney's Sugarbird.



The habitat consists primarily of high altitude grasslands, dissected by rocky gorges filled with Leucosidea (Ouhout) in places, the ridges supporting small patches of protea woodlands. A large lake is situated on the mountain top with a seepage marsh at its head.



Accommodation is available in Matatiele. The road can be impassable during bad weather but is usually accessible by normal vehicle if taken carefully.



To maximise your birding, the following spots are recommended :

1) The scarp on the left hand of the main access track is the best site for African Rock Pipit and Buff-streaked Chat. Listen for the pipit’s distinctive call. The proteas to the right of the road here and above hold Gurney's Sugarbird and Malachite Sunbird, whilst the large level area to the left of the road a few hundred metres further should be walked for the elusive Short-tailed Pipit.

2) After the road reaches the plateau, take a right into High Street (approximately 7km from the town - the sign is damaged and does not read the full name of the "street" ) - this track leads through grazed grasslands which support a population of Rudd's Lark, Yellow-breasted Pipit and Mountain Pipit. It should be noted that African Pipit and Long-billed Pipit occur alongside the previously mentioned species. Other species to watch for here include Grey-winged Francolin, Denham's Bustard, Black-winged Lapwing and Black Harrier.

3) Approximately 3km along this track (across a fence into the next field) is a rocky gorge (to the left) which supports Cape Eagle-Owl and Drakensberg Rock-jumper, and a small dam (to the right) which occasionally holds Maccoa Duck. Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk may be seen in the introduced Eucalyptus.



To reach Matatiele Mountain take the R56 from Kokstad. This becomes Main Road in Matatiele village. Turn left into Jagger Street and then right 500m further onto a gravel road which continues to the radio mast at the top of the mountain.

Adam Riley 2001.
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