The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is land-locked within South Africa; rugged and grand, it is high lying Big Sky country with clear clear air and lots of silent space. Picturesque tranquil villages lie in the cultivated valleys, rude shepherd’s huts cling to the lofty mountainslopes. All Lesotho lies above 1000 metres. In all the world it is the country with the highest lowest point.

The Top of Sani Pass © Birding Ecotours

The Caledon river forms Lesotho’s boundary with South Africa’s Free State Province, the mighty Drakensberg with Natal. The entire drainage is to the Atlantic, via the Orange river. The landscape of the Maluti; the mountains, is of basalt lava overlying creamy sandstone and red shale, relicts of primaeval Gondwanaland. Overhanging cliffs and walls of sandstone provided living shelters and art galleries for the Bushmen, that Ancient Race of Africa some of whose genes and culture flow on through the Basuto people of today.

The deepest valleys are, or were, partly wooded; the lower mountain slopes shrubby and denuded by overgrazing. The highlands are grassy, with high altitude representatives of South Africa’s Karoo semi-desert heath plants.

The total bird species count is around 200, and the best months to see them are October to March.

Gurney’s Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi Ian Merrill © Birding Ecotours

The special birds of the region are to be found in their greatest concentrations and diversity along the road which spans an altidudinal range from 1700m to 3250m between the threshold to Sani Pass near Underberg (in Natal, S.Africa) and a point about half-way towards the Lesotho town of Mokhotlong. In the course of a one-day expedition, and more or less in order of wished for appearance, the following special birds occur: Wattled Crane, Drakensberg Siskin, Half-collared Kingfisher, Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Yellow Warbler, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Sicklewing Chat, Bush Blackcap, Mountain Pipit, Sharp-billed Honeyguide, Grey-wing Francolin, Barratt’s Warbler, Southern Grey Tit, Broad-tailed Warbler, Lammergeier, Buff-streaked Chat, Rock Pipit, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Black-headed Canary, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Eagle Owl, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Vulture, Cape Rock Thrush, Layard’s Tit-babbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Horus Swift, Bald Ibis.

Sentinel Rock Thrush Monticola exploratory © Ian Merrill Birding Ecotours

In central Lesotho birds are rather sparse, though a drive anywhere into the high mountain country would yield some of the specials. Lesotho’s Sehlabathebe Park, accessed with some difficulty from Matatiele in Natal, is a stronghold of Yellow-breasted Pipit.

Text Source:             Fatbirder

Photo Source:          Birding Ecotours

Map Source:            Google Maps

Skip to content