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The 2200 hectare Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve is situated on the eastern side of Lydenburg along the scenic Long Tom Pass to Sabie. About 286 species have been recorded in the reserve and vicinity, and several game species such as Bushbuck, Kudu, Impala, Zebra, Eland, grey Rhebuck and Steenbok also occur.

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Habitats

The Klipgatspruit cuts the mountainous area into a deep valley. The main habitats include thornveld and bushveld in the low-lying areas, and montane grassland on hillsides and plateaus, with protea woodland, dominated by Silver Proteas P. roupelliae, on the higher areas. small isolated pockets of montane forest are present in the ravines that are tributaries of the Klipgatspruit. Along The Long Tom Pass scienic views of montane grassland with mountainous gorges and cliffs can be seen, while small pockets of Silver protea occur along the road and large concentrations of common Sugarbush on mountain plateaus.

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Specials

Specials of the reserve and areas along Long Tom Pass include Jackal Buzzard, Amur Falcon, Gurney's Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Grey-winged Francolin and Red-winged Francolin, Bar-throated Apalis, Olive Bush-Shrike and Denham's Bustard. A vulture restaurant in the reserve attracts mainly Cape Vulture, Cape Crow and White-necked Raven.

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Birding

1. Enter the reserve and drive through the grassland area to the main dam. Look out for Ant-eating Chat and White-winged Widowbird. In the the bush areas, a stop at the picnic area alongside the dam is recommended. Breeding Lesser Masked-Weaver, Spectacled Weaver, and during recent years Thick-billed Weaver occur. In the surrounding bush clumps and along the stream look out for Crested Francolin, Natal Spurfowl, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Yellow-breasted Apalis and Bar-throated Apalis, Black Cuckooshrike, Klaas's Cuckoo, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike and Sombre Greenbul. Little Sparrowhawk and Lizard Buzzard have been sighted in the riverine areas, as well as Scaly-throated Honeyguide.

2. In the thornveld on the hilly slopes and along tourist routes the main attractions are Jacobin Cuckoo, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar (flushed from beneath thorn trees), White-browed Scrub-Robin, Long-billed Crombec, Chinspot Batis, Brubru and Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler. In the stony terrace areas, Southern Boubou, Lazy Cisticola and Golden-tailed Woodpecker occur in the denser vegetation. In the adjacent grassland areas, Coqui Francolin, White-bellied Korhaan, Rufous-naped Lark, Long-billed Pipit and Plain-backed Pipit are common, while Fan-tailed Widowbird and Red-collared Widowbird can be sighted in the open thornveld.

3. There are several trails, and the more remote areas of the reserve can be explored on foot where several species only occur at higher altitudes. The protea and Ribbok routes are mainly in protea woodland and rocky mountain hillside. In the rocky areas look out for Denham's Bustard (resident pair), Buff-streaked Chat, Wailing Cisticola, Grey-winged Francolin and Red-winged Francolin, and raptors such as Lanner Falcon and Jackal Buzzard. Black-winged Lapwing have been sighted during summer on the plateau, and a single Bronze-winged Courser was observed in open protea woodland during January 1997. In the Silver protea clumps Gurney's Sugarbird is abundant and breeding during summer while Malachite Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird and Greater Double-collared Sunbird are also common. Other birds, which visit the protea clumps, include Streaky-headed Seedeater, Golden-breasted Bunting, Dark-capped Bulbul and occasionally Cape Rock-Thrush. Drakensberg Prinia is common along bracken in kloofs and emergent vegetation, as is Cape Grassbird. In the isolated forest clumps and along Long Tom Pass, species include African Olive-Pigeon, Purple-crested Turaco, Klaas's Cuckoo, Olive Woodpecker (also in protea woodland), Chorister Robin-Chat, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler, Cape Batis, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Olive Bush-Shrike, and Swee Waxbill. In the Finsbury valley, at Nooitgedacht Nature Reserve, Knysna Turaco was sighted in a large forest patch during November 2005, with Purple-crested Turaco alongside it.

4. Roadside birds along Long Tom Pass include perched Amur Falcon, Jackal Buzzard, White-necked Raven and Cape Rock-Thrush and Sentinel Rock-Thrush. A stop at the picnic site at the top of pass or at the farm Paardeplaats ("Jesus" stone writing on hill) is recommended to observe special birds. The one picnic stop gives a nice view over the nature reserve. Specials in the protea veld include Gurney's Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Amethyst Sunbird, Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Buff-streaked Chat, Cape Rock-Thrush and also Black Saw-wing flying overhead. In the moist grassland, Yellow Bishop are common, while Denham's Bustard are frequently observed in montane grassland. A few kilometers further along the Long Tom Pass, at Whiskeyspruit, Barratt's Warbler can also been heard calling in the small forest patches below the road.

5. Gurney's Sugarbird is a winter visitor to the town and small groups can be sighted in several gardens and the aloes at the Lydenburg Hospital, and at the officies of the Lydenburg Production Unit (previously known as the Fisheries Institute) outside the town. Also at the Production Unit, Half-collared Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher and Pied Kingfisher can be sighted at the production dams, while other waterbird species include White-breasted Cormorant, Hamerkop and Glossy Ibis, and Southern Bald Ibis forages on the lawns. European Honey-Buzzard has been recorded from the gum trees, as well as Black Sparrowhawk, Lizard Buzzard and in the dense grass, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler.

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General

At the entrance to the reserve, on the Long Tom Pass, there is a museum with an auditorium for conference facilities, an open exhibition and a curio shop. The museum has a very interesting exhibit about the town's history and history of the archaelogical Stone Age sites. The reserve is open daily (08h00 - 16h00 weekdays and until 17h30 over weekends) and entrance fee per vehicle is payable at gate. The reserve can be contacted by 013-2352213 or write to the Museum Curator, PO Box 61, Lydenburg, 1120.

There are four hiking trails on the reserve. These lead to more remote areas where some of the specials can be seen; the Pedi-route (5 km), the crane route (9 km), the protea route (12 km) and the Ribbok route (which is a two day route over 20 km with overnight hut). The vulture restaurant is on the grassy plateau along the crane route. The shorter routes visit wooded areas along the streams and lower hillside areas, and are ideal for day visitors, The longer routes will take you to the higher montane areas, where the views over Lydenburg and the Long Tom Pass are spectacular.

If travelling to the Lowveld via the Long Tom Pass, a stop at the Paardeplaats farm is recommended (easily located by the "Jesus" stone writing on hill) to observe some of the birding specials around the protea clump. There are overnight chalets situated in a scenic area of Paardeplaats farm (tel 0824485253).

Dawie de Swardt 2007



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