A Proposed Three-Day Itinerary
Though we can customize a tour specifically for your needs and interests, this three-day itinerary, appropriate for South Africa's summer season, should give you an idea of what is possible in our area.
Using the Farm As A Base
Day 1 - Arrival at Creighton. After welcoming you to our farm homestead, we will depart to a nearby evening roosting site of approximately five hundred Eastern Red-footed Falcons. As we enjoy sundowner drinks we will watch the incredible sight of these agile birds in aerial display and pre-roost flocking until they finally swoop into the trees above our heads at final flight. A delicious home cooked dinner will be served back at the farm.
Day 2 - A predawn departure is essential in order to arrive at our chosen ridge by dawn. Here we will have an impressive vista of the pristine Hlabeni Forest and the Creighton Valley below, a photographers' dream as the sun rises and mist disperses. As we sip on our coffee we hope that our morning's target bird will appear, the critically endangered Cape Parrot. The numbers of this vociferous parrot are now down to approximately 375 birds, making it one of Africa's most threatened species. This brown-hooded form of the Cape Parrot which is restricted to the few remaining Podocarpus (Yellowwood) Forests of Eastern South Africa is now considered a different species to the more widespread grey-hooded savannah form.
Other species that we will hope to see from this site include the elusive Forest Buzzard, Black Sparrowhawk, African Goshawk, Lanner Falcon, Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk), Red-necked Francolin, Rameron Pigeon, Lazy Cisticola, Grassbird, African Yellow Warbler, Drakensberg Prinia, Gurney's Sugarbird and Malachite and Greater Double-collared sunbirds.
After birding the ridge and surrounding grasslands, we will enter the forest itself. Birds will still be highly vocal at this time of morning and we will hope to find the endemic Knysna Turaco (Lourie), African Emerald, Klaas's and Black cuckoos, Grey Cuckoo-shrike, the rare Orange Ground Thrush, Starred Robin, Cape Batis, Blue-mantled Flycatcher and Lesser Double-collared Sunbird. We will also have the opportunity to view some giant Podocarpus (Yellowwood) trees in their natural environment.
Once we emerge into the open we will depart for the homestead for a late morning brunch. En route we will look out for Swee and Orange-breasted Waxbills and Blue-billed Firefinch in the scrubby road verges.
After a midday rest we will set off into the rolling grasslands of the Creighton Valley in search for some of its highly sought-after birds. Prominent amongst these is the very rare Black-rumped Button-quail, a skulking denizen of fallow lands. Whilst searching for this species we may also come across Common Quail and if we are very fortunate, an over-wintering Corncrake.
Other target birds will be the stately Stanley's Bustard, Black-bellied Korhaan (Bustard), elegant Blue and Grey Crowned cranes, Black-winged Plover, Banded Martin, Broad-tailed Warbler and Pale-crowned and Ayre's cisticolas, usually engaged in their high aerial display flights which have earned them their name as "cloud-scrapers". If we are lucky we also may find African Grass Owl, Red-headed Quelea and Cuckoo Finch.
Our final target bird of they day is another critically endangered species, the Blue Swallow. This elegant bird is a breeding migrant to moist mistbelt grasslands, which have almost entirely been converted to endless pine plantations. Only 50? pairs are now present in South Africa, breeding in aardvark burrows or natural sinkholes. We will visit an area where a pair is present and hope to see this vividly blue swallow foraging over the grasslands.
An optional night drive will be available and we may find Spotted Eagle, Barn and Marsh Owls and Fiery-necked Nightjar, as well as Grey Duiker and Common Reedbuck.
Day 3 - Sani Pass, Lesotho and departure. Today we travel up into the tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho, in search of a handful of localised, highland endemics. We will use 4X4 vehicles and make our way up the rugged and spectacular Sani Pass, birding en route. The grassy slopes and rocky outcrops at the lower end of the pass are home to the bizarre Ground Woodpecker, Cape Rock Thrush and Yellow-rumped Widow, whilst stands of Protea support the endemic Gurney's Sugarbird (belonging to a family endemic to Southern Africa), Greater Double-collared Sunbird and the dazzling Malachite Sunbird. Thick stands of gnarled "ouhout" or Leucacidium which grow along the stream courses support the skulking Bush Blackcap and Barratt's Warbler.
As we approach the crest of the Escarpment, we will be watching rocky scree at the roadside for the stunning Orange-breasted Rockjumper, South African Rock Pipit, Sentinel Rock Thrush and Drakensberg Siskin.
Atop the plateau, the steep slopes and rugged cliffs are replaced by gently undulating terrain and endless vistas of distant, blue mountains. Black Stork and Southern Bald Ibis may be found alongside the mountain streams, whilst Grey-winged Francolin, Red-capped Lark, Sickle-winged Chat, Grassveld and the recently discovered Mountain pipits, Cape Sparrow, Yellow Canary and Cape Bunting prefer adjacent meadows. A number of birds more typical of the Karoo, such as Southern Grey Tit, Southern Thick-billed Lark, Karoo Prinia, Layard's Titbabbler and Fairy Flycatcher, reach the eastern limits of their range here in the Lesotho highlands. We will keep a careful watch skywards as both Cape and the magnificent Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier), Verreaux's Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon and White-necked Raven are regularly seen overhead. Other animals of particular interest atop the "Roof of Africa" are the approachable Ice Rat, the endemic Drakensberg Crag Lizard and the colourful Southern Rock Agama.
We will return to South Africa by early afternoon to allow you to depart.
Appendix 1: The Birdlist