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The Wilge River Valley is situated in NE Gauteng on the edge of the Highveld Grassland biome in the south and the Bushveld and Broadleaf Woodland areas to the north. It is a relatively newly explored area in the Gauteng region and is quickly becoming known as one of the best in the province. Apart from the very scenic cliffs that line the valley, there are also numerous wetland areas along the Wilge River and some of the only true forest patches in the province. The farmlands are also good for species such as Abdims Stork. All in all a great place with one of the widest range of habitats for a relatively small area.

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Species

Abdim's Stork, Coqui Francolin, Shelley's Francolin, Freckled Nightjar, Marsh Owl, Cape Grassbird, Alpine Swift, Lazy Cisticola, Striped Pipit, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Redheaded Weaver, Garden Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, African Finfoot, Cuckoo Hawk, Brown Snake-Eagle, Cape Batis, African Goshawk, Greencapped Eremomela, Bushveld Pipit, Flappet Lark.

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Habitats

Bushveld, broadleafed woodland, forest, wetland, farmland, cliffs.

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Facilities

Road access and accommodation in Amanzimtaba Resort.

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Birding

The road that traverses through the valley starts from the R25 some 23km north of Bronkhorstspruit and heads east. One quickly begins descending through a narrow gorge, home to species such as Lazy Cisticola, Striped Pipit and Mocking Cliff-Chat, with Barthroated Apalis, Redheaded Weaver and Garden Warbler also being relatively common. In summer the forest is filled with the sounds of Black Cuckoo and Redchested Cuckoo, and an early start should produce Spotted Eagle-Owl, Fierynecked Nightjar and Freckled Nightjar.

The road continues through the gorge and opens out into the valley below, crossing the Wilge River twice and allowing for good opportunities to find Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Red-chested Flufftail, Marsh Owl, Cape Grassbird, and African Finfoot if you are lucky.

As the day heats up and the thermals begin, check the skies for raptors such as Cuckoo Hawk, Brown Snake-Eagle and Steppe Buzzard. Often House Martin and Horus Swift are seen.

The surrounding farmland areas are good for Abdim's Stork, and the bushveld patches can produce a range of species such as Greater Honeyguide and Lesser Honeyguide, Klaas's Cuckoo, and a number of warblers in summer.

Midway along the valley, the Amanzimtaba resort provides excellent accommodation and is the perfect place to base yourself and exlore the area. The hotel grounds can quickly produce a range of species from Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Cape Weaver and Black Cuckooshrike, while Coqui Francolin and Shelley's Francolin are often heard on the surrounding slopes. Just behind the hotel, a walk into the forest will produce Cape Batis and African Goshawk. Against the cliffs, keep a look out for wheeling Alpine Swift and African Black Swift as they circle above the forest.

Further down the road travelling eastwards, the bushveld changes into open broadleaf woodland and is a great place to look for Striped Kingfisher, Greencapped Eremomela, Bushveld Pipit and Flappet Lark.

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General

From Johannesburg and Pretoria, find your way onto the N4'Witbank Highway. Take the Bronkhorstspruit East Off-ramp and onto the R25 towards Groblersdal. Continue for 23km and turn right at the Zusterstroom / Amanzintaba Sign (Total garage on the right on the hill).

Amanzimtaba Resort. Tel: (013)652-9725. Fax: (013)652-9719. Website: www.amanzimtaba.co.za. Email:

Kevin Ravno 2008





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