Did you know?
When you go birding in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State province, you'll be in one of the largest protected areas in the Highveld – in fact, it's one of the largest grassland reserves in the country.
But the Golden Gate Highlands National Park is not just about grassland, it's one of South Africa's most spectacular mountain parks with striking red sandstone formations that rear up against blue skies and – what you've come for – over 175 species of birds.
You'll see plenty of antelope – eland, black wildebeest, blesbok, springbok, grey rhebok and mountain reedbuck – as well as Burchell's zebra and baboons. But it's the birds you've come to see, so have those binoculars and bird book ready.
Because of the altitude – you're 1 750m above sea level – look for raptors. Soaring above you you'll see buzzards, kestrels and Verreaux's eagles. If you're lucky, you might see a lanner falcon beside the road, feasting on a kill. The threatened Bearded vulture is a special tick – look out for big nests of sticks on high rock ledges. Local guides will point you in the right direction.
If you're a twitcher, start twitching the moment you enter the Golden Gate Highlands National Park because two threatened endemic species – the Yellow-breasted pipit and Southern bald ibis – are present. Other local birds with a limited distribution found here include the blue korhaan and the handsome Drakensberg rock-jumper.
Twitcher, novice or just interested in birds, get a park map, choose your route and off you go.