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Gauteng

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Cape Robin Chat Cossypha caffra ©Stephen Hammer Website

Birding Gauteng

Gauteng is is smallest province of South Africa, and, as the industrial heartland of South Africa, much habitat is degraded. The province does however offer high bird diversity, as it straddles the transition between several different biomes. Approximately 350 species are regularly present, and many more have been recorded. Gauteng province offers the visitor 60 endemic species or near endemics to the Southern African Region, which can make a short birding foray very worthwhile for global twitchers with limited time.

Gauteng lies on the continental watershed, and much of the province is at relatively high altitude (1000 – 1600m). This is part of a wider region known as the highveld. The east and south is largely grasslands, with the Suikerbosrand range being a key feature of the southern section. These grasslands are largely degraded through agriculture, but a range of grassland endemics and specials are still present, especially in the Suikerbosrand reserve, and to a lesser extent along the eastern border of the province. The Magaliesburg is a prominent ridge that runs westwards from Pretoria-east. North of the Magaliesburg range, and in the valleys of the west and north-west part of the province, it is much warmer and woodlands and wooded valleys prevail. The best woodlands are the acacia thornveld of the northern parts of the province and broadleaved woodlands in the northeast. A number of significant wetlands and large water bodies provide for a good range of water birds, and up to 17 species of herons are possible! The most important of the wetlands is the Blesbokspruit – an extensive wetland near Nigel in the southeast of the province.

While there is no reason for birders to restrict themselves to birding just in the Gauteng Province, it does contain a number of excellent birding localities, so is well worth a visit.

Gauteng is a common stopover for business travellers or conference-goers, and while the localities below can provide a fine birding interlude, it is best to venture a little further into neighbouring North-west Province for really excellent bushveld birding. Top localities nearby include Vaalkop Dam (Northwest Bird Sanctuary); Borakolalo National Park and Pilanesburg in the North-West Province, Nylsvley Nature Reserve and Zaagkuildrift in the Northern Province, and Loskop Dam Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga. There is also superb highveld birding some three hours drive away in the Memel or Wakkerstroom areas – both of which offer a range of grassland endemics.

Top Sites

Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Information

Satellite View

This sanctuary is part of the Blesbokspruit, a RAMSAR wetland, and it contains the best wetland birding in the region. It is known for regional rarities such as Slaty Egret, Baillon’s Crake and Painted Snipe as well as endemics such as Cape Shoveler, Yellow Canary and South African Shelduck.

Northeastern Gauteng

Satellite View

This relatively unknown area offers a wide variety of woodland habitats, including very fine broadleaved woodland that is host to a number of specials. The area is good for raptors such as African Baza, Lizard Buzzard and Black-breasted Snake Eagle. Most local birders come here for woodland specials such a Green-capped Eremomela, Tinkling Cisticola and Pallid Flycatcher. The area also offers the Roodeplaat Dam and neighbouring reserves, as well as the Buffelsdrift Conservancy area, which offers a range of excellent thornveld and riverine birding.

Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve

Satellite View

A very fine, pristine patch of highveld grassland and rugged hills, the Suikerbosrand reserve is the best place to see a range of specialities, some of which are found nowhere else in the province. These include Grey-winged Francolin, Yellow-tufted Pipit and in Winter, Sentinel Rock Thrush.

The Witwatersburg

Satellite View

This range of hills which runs parallel to the larger magaliesburg provides a mix of highveld grassland, partially wooded (bushveld) and more densely wooded habitats. Several relatively undisturbed areas provide haven for large raptors such as Martial Eagle and rivers conceal African Finfoot. There are a number of private reserves, hiking trails and picnic spots in this scenic area, which extends for the town of Magaliesburg in the west to the Schurveburge just west of Pretoria.

Contributor

Etienne Marais

Chairman - Pretoria Bird Club - A Branch of BirdLife South Africa

Pretoria

etienne@birding.co.za

http://www.birding.co.za

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 350

(As at September 2018)

Endemics

But c. 60 of the South Africa endemics or near endemics can be found in the state

Useful Reading

Fieldguides

See the main South Africa page useful reading section

The Chamberlain Guide to Birding Gauteng

(101 Prime Birding Sites in and Around Johannesburg and Pretoria ) | by Faansie Peacock & Etienne Marais | Mirafra Publishing | 2008 | 384 pages, Maps, colour photos, maps |

ISBN: 9780620416214

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

BirdLife Northern Gauteng

Facebook Page

Formerly the Pretoria Bird Club….

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

BS Austin Roberts

Information

Satellite View

The Austin Roberts (Memorial) Bird Sanctuary is a 11.76 ha (29.1 acres) nature reserve located in the Walkerspruit Open Space System, in the Nieuw Muckleneuk suburb of Pretoria, South Africa. It became the first bird refuge in Pretoria when it was opened.

BS Marievale

Information

Satellite View

Approximately 1 000ha in extent, the sanctuary supports more than 240 bird species, among them 65 waterbird species, including large populations of Reed Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot and Yellow-billed Duck. The sanctuary is also one of the best locations in Gauteng to see Goliath, Black, Squacco and Purple herons.

NR Abe Bailey

Information

Satellite View

It is situated near Carletonville, beside the township of Khutsong on the West Rand. It is about 4,200 hectares in size.

NR Alice Glockner

Information

Satellite View

It is a 168-hectare (420-acre) nature reserve located south of Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. It has altitudes between 1,600 and 1,700 metres (5,200 and 5,600 ft) above sea level.

NR Roodeplaat

Information

Satellite View

It is located on the shores of the Roodeplaat Dam, 22 km north-east of Pretoria.

NR Suikerbosrand

Information

Satellite View

An hour's drive from Johannesburg International Airport and near the historical town of Heidelberg, this reserve boasts a representative sample of the fauna and flora of the rocky Highveld grassland biome.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Africa

Tour Operator

Birding Africa is run by three Capetonian birders and naturalists, Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Peter Ryan, all based at the University of Cape Town`s Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Callan and Claire are postgraduate research students, and have recently published an new birding site guide to Cape Town and beyond: Essential Birding - Western South Africa. Peter is a lecturer and researcher, and the author of numerous publications, most recently a new field guide to the birds of Afrotropics.

Birding Ecotours

Tour Operator

The 1-3-day trip to the northeastern parts of ‘wider’ Gauteng offers both species richness and species diversity. A day list of 150 in the summer and 120 in the winter is not an uncommon achievement.

Bustards Birding

Tour Operator

Day trips in the area know by local birders as the Wider Gauteng area, focused on a geographical area a 100km radius from the city centers of Johannesburg and Pretoria provide a diverse array of habitats, which in turn produce a diverse array of bird species, some 500 species have been recorded. In an 8 hour trip during summer, over 100 species can be recorded, and winter 80 or more.

Indicator Birding

Tour Operator

Day trips and longer tours from Etienne Marais who leads short tours in the Gauteng and surrounding areas, and is available to lead customised trips in the area.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2013 [05 May] - Martin Birch - Korsman Conservancy

PDF Report

List

2015 [09 September] - Dylan Vasapolli - Zaagkuilsdrift & Wakkerstroom

PDF Report

We had a beautiful (but warm) day up north, with many of the acacia/western specials being found (Ashy Tit, Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Shaft-tailed Whydah, and Red-headed Weaver). However, the weather severely hampered us around Wakkerstroom, with incredibly cold conditions, rain, thick fog, and lots of wind over the entire time we were present there. That being said, we got virtually all of the major target around the area, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Rudd’s and Botha’s Larks, Blue Korhaan, Blue and Grey Crowned Cranes, Grey-winged Francolin, etc.

2015 [12 December] - Chris Lotz - Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve

PDF Report

The high altitude (about 2100 meters or 6900 feet), picturesque town of Dullstroom, midway between Johannesburg and the Kruger National Park, is a premier site for a good number of very exciting bird specials.

2016 [09 September] - Wian van Zyl - Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve & Marievale Bird Sanctuary

PDF Report

Even though we had a slightly later start than usual I decided to take a moment to go down the Eendracht road before entering the reserve.

2017 [08 August] - Wian van Zyl - Zaagkuilsdrift, Borakalalo Park, Marievale and Walter Sisulu

PDF Report

With this being a short private trip, we managed to connect with most of the special target birds in the respective areas. The aim of the trip was photography, so our overall total of bird species reflects that. In general, everyone enjoyed the trip thoroughly and produced some great shots of the target birds.

2017 [09 September] - Dylan Vasapolli

PDF Report

This short tour began and ended in Johannesburg and saw us transiting northwards first to the rich thornveld of the Zaagkuilsdrift Road, followed by the montane forests of the Magoebaskloof hills before visiting the moist grasslands and broad-leaved woodlands found in north-eastern Gauteng.

Places to Stay

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2 Mokolo

Accommodation

2 Mokolo offers an intimate respite from the hustle of the city. Entering the gates, you’ll imagine yourself in a country retreat. It’s hard to believe you’re a mere 4.5km from the heart of busy Sandton. The house embraces a Highveld ‘koppie’, set amid a rambling array of indigenous trees and plants. Bird life, of course, is found in profusion here: A breeding pair of Cape Glossy Starlings protect their turf from the marauding Burchells’ Coucal, while the leisurely preening of the doves and sparrows is disturbed by a Little Sparrowhawk swooping in for the kill…

Crane's Nest Guest House

Accommodation

Situated adjacent the Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary, this Guest House offers guests on business or holiday easy access to a Nature Paradise or to the Brooklyn Shopping Mall. Hospitality is second nature at Crane's Nest. We know the art of tranquil living and offer you this with the perfect surroundings…

Farmstay

Accommodation

Excellent birding opportunities on farms and in rural areas in South Africa -- Click around and discover the wide variety of farmstays and activities on farms and in rural areas offering quality facilities in attractive yet unconventional surroundings and at tariffs you can afford - bed and breakfast, self-catering, game viewing, bird watching, hiking, biking, 4x4 routes, fly-fishing, horse riding, and many more…

Festivals

Sasol Bird Fair

Facebook Page

The Sasol Bird Fair will be held on 5 and 6 September 2015 at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort, Gauteng. The annual Sasol Bird Fair provides a superb opportunity to create awareness about birds, bird research and conservation, and the bird conservation organisations, like BirdLife South Africa, who work tirelessly to conserve our country's birds. BirdLife South Africa is very grateful to Sasol for sponsoring this important event, and for SANBI and the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden for hosting the Fair.

Museums

Ditsong National Museum of Natural History

Webpage

The Bird or Ornithology Section has had a fluctuating history as the structure of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History has altered over the decades. Until the Second World War, the Bird Collections were curated within a larger “Higher Vertebrates Department” under the curatorship of Austin Roberts. During his 38-year-long career at the Museum Roberts established the museum’s bird collection as the finest on the African continent.

Blogs

Ernst Retief - Ernst's Birding

BLOG

Last updated December 2012 - A BLOG about anything related to my birding experiences - I am passionate about birds and their conservation. I love to contribute to bird monitoring projects - to me that is birding with a real purpose. I contributed to numerous bird monitoring projects as for instance bird riging, BIRP, PCC, Natworld and SABAP2 to name a few. I am also a proud member of Birdlife Northern-Gauteng and the Regional Co-ordinator for the second South-African Bird Atlas Project…

Gareth Hazell - The Lazy Birder

BLOG

I am a South African birder living in the south of Pretoria in the province of Gauteng. The reason I thought of this name for my blog is that I really love birds and birding but the thought of getting in my car and driving off at 2 or even 4a.m. to get to a prime birding site by first light is enough to make me roll over and go back to sleep. This means that most weekends I end up birding in the garden or some local park that I can get to in 5 to 10 minutes, which is not always bad…….I mean I have had species like Southern Whitefaced Owl, Little Bittern and Ovambo Sparrowhawk right in my back yard. What I hope to achieve with this blog is to share some of the birds I have seen on my weekend and holiday trips with my friends and family….

Other Links

Etienne Marais Birding

Facebook Page

Etienne Marais (see above) leads short tours in the Gauteng and surrounding areas, and is available to lead customised trips in the area. This is the facebook page for the birding interests of Etienne Marais. I've been a birder all my life and through Indicator Birding currently run tours, courses and guide in South and Southern Africa.

Niall's Nature Pages

Website

A site dedicated to birds and other things natural, concentrating on Southern Africa but encompassing other parts of the globe as I visit them. My website is a constant work in progress, with images of wildlife, in particular the birds of Southern Africa. Above and below are thumbs of my most recent additions to the site, clicking on them will take you to a page on that species. Entering part or the full bird name in the search box above will pull up direct links to that species.

Photographers & Artists

Webcam - Allen BirdCam

Webcam

Welcome to our South African garden! With the Allen BirdCam you can witness many different garden birds feed all day long. The Allen BirdCam is placed in our Pretoria (Tshwane) suburban garden, and allows us to share with you all the fun of watching so many birds…