Birding around Barberton
Mpumalanga is renowned for its birding and the Genesis Route is no exception. Over 350 different species of bird have been identified along the Genesis Route, mainly around the Gold Rush town of Barberton.
Photographs by Warwick Tarboton
African Olive Pigeon
So what makes the Barberton area so attractive to our feathered friends? It is the vast array of different environments that can be found around there. From the rocky mountain lands with their pockets of indigenous woodland to the vast open grasslands, these varying environments are providing a wide range of habitats for a huge number of different birds. It’s not just the natural vegetation that makes this area a birders paradise. The area’s dams, plantations, agricultural crops, golf courses and even the exotic species in urban gardens attract their own suite of bird species to the area.
By simply driving along the Genesis Route you will be exposed to a host of different habitats and countless bird species that call this area home. But if you are looking to improve your bird count, then a tour of Peddlar’s Bush or a walk along the Rimer’s Creek Birding Trail is a must.
This small 60 hectare oasis of indigenous woodland set amongst the pine plantations is a bird lover’s paradise. With many a keen birder spending hours, or even days, in this secluded woodland desperate for a glimpse of the elusive Orange Ground-thrush or Bush Blackcap.
Located along the dirt road leading to Shiyalongubo Dam, to get here you take the R40 Bulembo Road out of Barberton that goes all the way to Swaziland. This takes you over Saddleback pass, which is famed for its incredible views. Take your time on route to Peddlar’s Bush as there are many wonderful bird species along the way to keep a look out for including Gurney’s Sugar Bird, Cape Rock Thrush and the Jackal Buzzard. At the top of the pass you will see the dirt road leading to Shiyalongubo Dam on your left. Follow this for 10km, but keep an eye out for logging trucks!
It will be startlingly obvious when the road takes you into Peddlar’s Bush, as the vegetation changes dramatically from plantations to indigenous forest (approximate Latitude -25.800315 & Longitude 31.141424). For the next 2km stop frequently and walk around, listening out for the calls of Trumpeter Hornbills, African Olive-Pigeons (Rameron Pigeon), Brown Scrub-Robin and White-starred Robins and perhaps you will be lucky enough to get a glimpse of a few.
Trumpeter Hornbil / White Starred Robin
The birding trail at Rimer’s Creek was established by the Barberton Birding Club due to the large number of species found in this small area. Rimer’s Creek is an area of riverine forest and is home to at least 107 different species of bird. These include the Emerald Cuckcoo, Knysna Touraco (Lourie), Narina Trogon, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike and Eastern Nicator.
Gorgeous Bush Shrike / Narina Trogan
The trail starts behind the historic Fernlea Museum House (GPS Coordinates: Latitude -25.7912 & Longitude 31.057692) and is well sign posted and maintained by the Birding Club. The trail is circular and extends for about 2km, with a rest stop about 500m in along with a look out spot, and even for a non-birder the circular route is a nice hike amongst indigenous riverine forest. It is easy to spend 2-3 hours on the trail, listening out for various calls and trying to spot their maker, so ensure you have plenty of water and something to eat just in case!
The Birding Club hopes to extend this trail in the future to include the pioneer cottage belonging to the Barber brothers, after whom the town was named. This will not only increasing the birding experience but also add a heritage attraction to the trail.
The best time to see most birds is early morning, but not too early as the sun rises over the mountains a bit later in this valley so with both Rimer’s Creek and Peddlar’s Bush the best advice is to get there around 07:30am. It is also sensible to pack, along with a hat, bird book and binoculars, some food and plenty of water as once you are there you won’t want to come back!