Through the lens of birding, and a pair of binoculars, there’s plenty to discover in South Africa’s smallest national park. On a weekend visit to Bontebok National Park I spotted 56 species. Here’s my checklist. By Morgan Trimble

I never expected to be a birder. Travelling in the Lowveld years ago, I remember begging, pejoratively, “Come on bird nerds, can’t we please look for lions?”, as my friends peered into an unremarkable bush for what felt like hours, waiting in vain for something called a twinspot to emerge.

But as I spent more time with birders, I began to appreciate the diversity of species, their ecological roles, unique personalities and, most importantly, the challenge and sense of accomplishment in finding and identifying them. I caught the birding bug.

Now, I’m loath to be without binoculars. I keep species lists, both digital and hard copy, just in case, and I plan entire holidays around birding.

That’s how we recently found ourselves in Bontebok National Park for a long weekend. Bontebok covers just 3,500 hectares. It’s tiny – the smallest national park in South Africa. Around 200 bird species occur in Bontebok. Our ticklist shows that we spotted 10% of these from camp!

From Lang Elsie’s Kraal: Cape sparrow, southern boubou, southern double-collared sunbird, Cape wagtail, Cape robin-chat, common fiscal, fiscal flycatcher, Cape weaver, brimstone canary, bar-throated apalis, Cape white-eye, sombre greenbul, African black duck, African hoopoe, red-eyed dove, Cape turtle-dove, Cape bunting, speckled mousebird, red-faced mousebird, blacksmith lapwing, yellow bishop


African hoopoe. Pictures by Morgan Trimble

Bushbuck Trail: Bar-throated apalis, common moorhen, spur-winged Goose, Egyptian goose, red teal, blacksmith lapwing, yellow-billed duck, Cape white-eye, African darter, common fiscal, Cape batis, Cape bunting, common waxbill, Cape bulbul, lesser swamp warbler, speckled mousebird, southern boubou, African black duck, reed cormorant, sombre greenbul, Cape crow


Black-headed heron

Aloe Hill Trail: African black duck, common moorhen, Cape white-eye, Cape bulbul, bar-throated apalis, Levaillant’s cisticola, Cape spurfowl, Cape sparrow, Egyptian goose, blacksmith lapwing, sombre greenbul, Cape weaver


Cape longclaw

Die Stroom: Speckled mousebird, Cape weaver, Cape white-eye, African stone-chat, African hoopoe, Cape sparrow, common moorhen, African jacana, neddicky


Cape weaver

Game drive: Long-billed crombec, African stone-chat, black harrier, Denham’s bustard, Karoo prinia, malachite sunbird, Cape longclaw, black-shouldered kite, red-capped lark, yellow bishop, lesser-collared sunbird, red-faced mousebird, yellow canary, common waxbill, Karoo scrub-robin, secretarybird, lesser kestrel, lanner falcon, Cape sugarbird, Cape grassbird, speckled mousebird, European starling, black-headed heron


Karoo scrub-robin

Read the full story about birding in Bontebok National Park in the summer 2017/2018 summer issue of Wild.