AFTER HAVING SPENT a large part of winter inside, wrapped in blankets and longing for warmer days, for birders living in Gauteng the promise of spring brings with it a tangible sense of excitement. They relish the thought of the arrival of summer migrants and more daylight hours in which to enjoy them.
So where best to welcome this change of seasons? Surely Gauteng, the sprawling conurbation that encompasses Johannesburg and Pretoria, can’t be all that exciting as a birding destination? Well, many birders would argue otherwise and the six destinations included here – chosen and rated on a combination of their productivity, quality of birding, levels of safety and accessibility – bear out why the province has six of the best mustvisit spots this spring.
RIETVLEI NATURE RESERVE
Estimated spring species count 80+
Cuckoo Finch anyone? Covering 3870 hectares, the Rietvlei Nature Reserve is probably one of the best sites in Gauteng to connect with this often tricky and elusive summer visitor. Spend your time in the reserve’s extensive swathes of grassland where cisticolas and prinias abound and you should strike it lucky. Cuckoo Finches are a parasitic species and soon after they arrive they begin to focus their energy on breeding, shifting their attention from one another to finding potential hosts to incubate their eggs and raise their chicks.
Other star attractions at Rietvlei include Northern Black Korhaan, Plain-backed Pipit, Red-winged Francolin (on the vlei route) and Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. The skulking and highly sought-after African Finfoot occasionally puts in an appearance along the Grootvlei Spruit.
Good to know
This fantastic reserve is conveniently situated in south-eastern Pretoria. It is extremely well maintained and has facilities ranging from ablutions to well placed bird hides along the Rietvlei Dam shoreline. There is even a lovely picnic site for those who wish to enjoy a relaxed lunch after a productive morning’s birding.
Estimated spring species count 110+
Situated north of Pretoria and west of Roodeplaat Dam, the Buffelsdrift Conservancy is ideal for those who want to enjoy extremely rewarding birding without having to venture too far from the confines of Pretoria (or even Johannesburg). The conservancy comprises predominantly acacia-dominated thornveld and its associated species. These include birds such as White-backed Mousebird, Marico Sunbird, Marico Flycatcher, Acacia Pied Barbet, Violet-eared and Black-faced waxbills, Cape Penduline-tit, Scaly-feathered Finch and Kalahari Scrub-Robin.
The presence of well-treed residential gardens, orchards, and nurseries leads you to feel that you are in residential Pretoria rather than in a conservancy and it is in these settings that gems such as African Crake, River Warbler and Spectacled Weaver have been recorded. In the evening the quiet network of dirt roads also lays claim to being one of Gauteng’s best when it comes to nocturnal stakeouts for the breeding intra-African migrant, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.
Good to know
This is primarily a residential conservancy and many of the roads have restricted private access. You need to make arrangements before your visit to ensure you can gain the right of entry to the entire road network and the best birding spots. To do so and to receive a list of available accommodation options, e-mail Rob Geddes (robertgeddesrg13@gmail. com), chairman of the conservancy’s committee.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Cape Town-based Trevor Hardaker is one of South Africa’s most active birders. He runs a highly regarded rare bird alert system and is a regular contributor to African Birdlife, compiling the rarities report for each issue. When we chatted to Trevor, it became clear that his birding transcends being a hobby and is more of a lifestyle.
THE LONG & THE SHORT OF IT Abnormal weaver nest attachments
sightings IN THE SUBREGION - Mid-September to mid-November 2020
As spring became early summer, local birders were finally given plenty to keep them entertained. It was a welcome relief, as most had endured a serious lack of birding during lockdown and as many people headed out into the field again, a number of reports of good birds began to filter through.
Mite infestation in birds
ON THE menu
ON THE menu
A Finger On The Pulse Of Penguins
Marine ecosystems are highly dynamic and frequently experience changes resulting from natural and human-induced processes. Some of the most productive ones are the four upwelling systems situated at the eastern edges of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Do Not Disturb
The stealth factor in photographing birds
And Breathe... Rocherpan Nature Reserve
After the pandemic’s catastrophic impact on travel and finances, everyone has been constrained to look closer to home for their much-needed breakaways. Fortunately for South Africa’s birders, there are several local spots that are easily accessible, affordable and well worth a visit. One such oasis is Rocherpan Nature Reserve on the Cape’s West Coast. Managed by CapeNature, the reserve is 25 kilometres north of Velddrif and just two hours’ drive from Cape Town.
Where Kalahari Meets Congo
For many people, the far north-west of Zambia is both the source of the mighty Zambezi and the ‘land of pineapples’. For the country’s own naturalists this region is important for tens of other reasons – reasons that give them goosebumps and set them drooling. The districts of Mwinilunga and Ikelenge, for example, were known to be incredibly biodiverse, yet for years were barely visited on account of their extreme remoteness. A recent renaissance in exploration is confirming that there is still much to be discovered about the wealth of this little-known paradise.
Sex & The Single Plover
Life on earth managed without sex for more than two billion years, but it was only after sex evolved some 1.2 billion years ago that we saw the rapid diversification of life forms.
It's time to plan for winter
Before we know it, winter will be upon us. Make sure you are properly prepared to help your crops withstand the first frost, says Bill Kerr.
Activism In The Time Of Covid-19
The Bench Marks Foundation rose to the challenges caused by the pandemic through innovation and creativity with its community activist training programme.
How To Manage Your Greater Tax Risk In 2021
"If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance." - Paul McNulty, former US Deputy Attorney General
Bites & Stings
Life support medic ALET MAARTENS is a Gauteng-based trail runner with a few tips to keep you safe against summer bugs with big appetites or short tempers.
The pride of PRETORIA
THIS MONUMENTAL HOME MAKES AN EFFORTLESS STATEMENT
The curious case of the US elections
I AM FOND OF ROASTED RACK OF LAMB — CHRIS MORRIS
UP & CLOSE PERSONAL
The Cloete family have turned adventure into a lifestyle. Two years ago Pieter, Rut and their children, Declan and Charma, left their home in Pretoria to embrace a more nomadic lifestyle. Why work from home when you can work from anywhere in the country?
Animal Welfare – Donation Drive Success!
“As our national donation drive came to an end on 18 July, Mandela Day, we felt extremely proud of the result that we were able to achieve, with the help and support of our customers and members of the surrounding communities,” says Genevieve Baptie, Marketing Manager of Absolute Pets.
A very PUBLIK pivot
David Cope, founding director of PUBLIK wine merchants, reveals how his local business adapted to the COVID-19 challenge, and continues to do so.