Wakkerstroom is situated in a beautiful valley, 27kms from the town of Volksrust. It lies at an altitude of 1760m and Newcastle and Piet Retief are the closest big towns, both 80km away. The Wakkerstroom district is a major farming area, with the main crop being maize. Cattle and sheep are the main livestock farmed in the area. What makes Wakkerstroom so special is that it is one one of South Africa's premier birding destinations. There are three bird habitat types in the area - wetlands, grasslands and forests and this, together with the mountains make for great birding. It is also home to three bird species that have been on my want list for a long time.....Yellow-breasted Pipit, Rudds Lark and Bothas Lark.
I booked a campsite for myself and a friend, Andrew (a first time birder), who would be joining me with his wife, Anneli, and three year old daughter Abi who couldn't wait to try out her new binoculars on some real birds. Seeing as we were going for such a short time I also arranged a bird guide to meet us on the Sunday morning to find the birds quickly for us.
|Looking over the wetland at Wakkerstroom from the Birdlife campsite|
It was a beautiful sunny day when we arrived late on Saturday afternoon. We immediately set up camp at the Birdlife Centre then set off for a drive to try for Yellow-breasted Pipit. By following the directions in the excellent book "Birding Gauteng" by Etienne Marais and Faansie Peacock, we quickly found the birds mentioned in the text in almost the exact locations specified. In fact the only one we didn't see was a Ground Woodpecker. In the field on top of the mountain next to the Utrecht road junction we found the first of my target birds in the form of a Yellow-breasted Pipit. Two birds were seen foraging and eventually the male performed a display flight almost right above me....it was only after they had flown off that I realised I had not taken any photos....... here is a photo of the field they were in for you.
|Yellow-breasted Pipit site|
On the way back we came across a very obliging Buff-streaked Chat next to the road who really didn't mind a photo or two and posed for a quick session.
That evening was rather quiet but we could hear the Red-chested Flufftails calling faintly in the distance. After supper we headed off to bed in anticipation of an early start where I discovered sleeping on the ground on a thin mattress was probably what it is like sleeping on a padded ironing board.
|Southern Bald Ibis|
|Bothas Lark - note the pink bill and you can just make out the whitish belly|
|Note diagnostic streak through the crown|
|Always on the move!!|
|Blue Korhaans in the mist|