Duration: 1-3 days
Tour Start: Johannesburg/Pretoria
Tour End: Johannesburg/Pretoria
The 1–3-day trip to the northeastern parts of ‘wider’ Johannesburg/Pretoria offers both species richness and species diversity. A day list of 150 in the summer and 120 in the winter even on a 1-day trip is not an uncommon achievement.
One-day Trip – Northeastern Johannesburg/Pretoria area
An early start is always recommended in order to maximize the special sightings and greatly increase our chances for endemics and a higher species total, but a leisurely start to this area, especially in the winter, can also be very productive. The birding sites will include the likes of the Verena grasslands, Mabusa Nature Reserve, and the Wilge River Valley. Each of these three sites has a different ‘main habitat’, and therefore the species differ greatly from site to site. Some of the main target species that we find in the beautiful Verena grassland area include White-bellied Bustard (Barrow’s Korhaan), the endemic Melodious Lark, Red-winged Francolin, and Secretarybird, as well as Long-tailed and Red-collared Widowbirds. In summer we look for Banded Martin and the rare Short-tailed Pipit.
Mabusa Nature Reserve is an incredible destination with rolling grassy hills and broad-leafed and riverine woodland – a true gem, and really underrated on the South African birding scene. Our guides know this reserve very well and can find the likes of Green-capped Eremomela, Flappet and Fawn-colored Larks, Mocking Cliff Chat, Lazy Cisticola, Shelley’s and Coqui Francolins, Half-collared and Woodland Kingfishers, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, and sometimes the rare White-backed Night Heron! The Wilge River dissects the area and forms the spectacular Wilge River Valley, where we have a good chance of finding many riverine woodland species, including Greater Double-collared Sunbird, White-crested Helmetshrike, Grey-headed and Orange-breasted Bushshrikes, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Grey Tit-Flycatcher, Rock Kestrel, Green Wood Hoopoe, and White-fronted Bee-eater, and sometimes we find Verreaux’s Eagle as well as Little Sparrowhawk.
As mentioned before, this day trip can really give you a balanced day list with species from indigenous grassland areas, riverine woodland, and broad-leaved and acacia woodland to rocky ridges and outcrops. The scenery is also fantastic, and there is always a chance of bumping into a few mammals on the day; some of them include Black-backed Jackal, Black Wildebeest, and Yellow Mongoose.
Extension: 2-3-day Trip (Overnight Wilge River Valley/Rust de Winter)
As an extension to this brilliant one-day trip to the northeastern parts of Johannesburg/Pretoria we can stay over in the Wilge River Valley and/or the Rust de Winter area. We are then able to extend our birding hours by waking up to the morning chorus and enjoying a cup of coffee while keeping an eye out for cuckoos, robin-chats, and other fantastic woodland species. Of course there are even more benefits to staying the night in these areas; one can be sure to bird the important sites more thoroughly, and we then have the opportunity to visit the fantastic Mkhombo Nature Reserve – one of the absolute local hotspots among Johannesburg- and Pretoria-based birders. A full day’s birding, accessing a few key sites and Mkhombo Dam, can produce over 200 species! The dam and surrounding woodlands offer a multitude of waterfowl as well as some excellent dry acacia specials for the area. Some examples include Goliath and Black Herons, Red-billed and Hottentot Teals, Yellow-billed Stork, Western Osprey, and African Fish-Eagle. The summer months often deliver specials such as Black-winged Pratincole, Greater Painted-snipe, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Allen’s Gallinule, Harlequin Quail, and Lesser Moorhen. The drier acacia bush offers Marico Flycatcher, Chinspot Batis, Scaly-feathered Weaver, Southern Pied Babbler, Black-faced Waxbill, Barred Wren-Warbler, Chestnut-vented Warbler, and the uncommon Cape Penduline Tit. We are able to make an excellent two-day and even three-day trip out of these fantastic birding areas mentioned here and in the one-day northeastern itinerary.
Please get in touch with us for more detailed information and about how we can make this trip a success filled with lifers!
We went out to Marievale with Dylan to (re)connect with some South African birds after some years away from SA. It was a wonderful experience. Dylan was charming, helpful and incredibly knowledgeable about the birds. We saw over 50 species in a morning and learned a lot about the birds. We would highly recommend Birding Ecotours for an excellent birding experience.
Linda Jacobson – Toronto, Canada