Tour Start: Johannesburg/Pretoria
Tour End: Johannesburg/Pretoria
Price: on request
Single Supplement: on request for overnight trips
We take birders to sites for some exciting birds that can be found on the doorstep of Johannesburg and Pretoria, if you know exactly where to go, like our guides do. We can also arrange 2-3 day Wakkerstroom trips from Gauteng.
1. Tough Birds of Gauteng
We take birders to sites for some of tough birds, like African Grass Owl, White-bellied Bustard, Orange River Francolin, Red-chested Flufftail, and others that can be found on the doorstep of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Most Johannesburg birders have not seen these star birds, and yet they can be seen given less than a full day’s birding.
Please note: this tour includes 1-day trips on weekends
2. Pilanesberg National Park
This large game park is home to some 350-odd bird species and is particularly well-known for its big game. A good array of bushveld birds occurs here, and 150 species on a good summer day is quite feasible. Although we do many day trips to this area, a longer stay comes highly recommended. A lot of our birding will be done at selected spots where we are allowed out of the vehicle and can stroll around at leisure. There are several small dams and watering holes, with the latter being quite productive at times, as well as the larger Mankwe Dam, where we will look for waterbirds. Raptors are well represented, and a regular scan of the skies usually produces some of the larger eagles as well as vultures. Specials to look for include Secretarybird, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Kori Bustard, African Cuckoo, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Verreaux’s Eagle, Rock Kestrel, Jackal Buzzard, Black-breasted Snake Eagle, African Hawk-Eagle, Martial Eagle, Pearl-spotted Owlet, and Lappet-faced Vulture.
3. Borakalalo Nature Reserve and Vaalkop Dam
Although both these localities can be visited in one day, it is far more productive to do them on separate days. Both these localities have so much to offer and one can easily spend many more days in this area. Borakalalo is a large game reserve close to Gauteng and has a wide variety of bushveld, woodland, and waterbirds. Over 300 species have been recorded, and a day trip in summer can easily produce 120 species. The large Klipvoor Dam is a prominent feature of the reserve, and it is on the Moreleta Spruit (a small stream) below the dam that we will be looking for African Finfoot and the occasional White-backed Night Heron. Other specials include Red-billed Oxpecker, Short-toed Rock Thrush (winter), Grey-hooded Kingfisher, Meyer’s Parrot, Purple Roller, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Bronze-winged Courser, and Southern Pied Babbler.
The Vaalkop Dam is a large earth-fill type dam on the Elands River and has an incredibly rich selection of birds, with a good representation of raptors, which include Western Osprey (summer), African Fish Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle (summer), and African Hawk-Eagle. Some of the larger waterbirds present include Goliath and Purple Herons, Great Egret, Yellow-billed Stork, and African Spoonbill. In the bushveld we will look for Violet-eared and Black-faced Waxbills, Cape Penduline Tit, Crimson-breasted Shrike, and Barred Wren-Warbler. Some other specials include Icterine Warbler, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, and Woodland and African Pygmy Kingfishers.
4. Ezemvelo Nature Reserve and Bronkhorstspruit Dam
A very early start twill see us at Bronkhorstspruit Dam, which is a haven for waterfowl as well as for a number of interesting grassland endemics. Over 200 species have been recorded, and we should pick up 70-odd species here. Specials to look for include Red-chested Flufftail (more often heard than seen), White-backed Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Caspian Tern, Fan-tailed, Cloud, and Wing-snapping Cisticolas, Blue Korhaan, and Orange River Francolin, as well as the occasional Western Osprey. From here we head for the 10000+ ha Ezemvelo Nature Reserve, offering excellent grassland habitat as well as riverine bush and small areas of acacia-veld. This reserve boasts an impressive bird list, which can be found in the download section of their web page at www.ezemvelo.co.za . We should find birds such as White-bellied Bustard, Greater Honeyguide, Banded Martin, Red-breasted Swallow, and Striped, Buffy, and Plain-backed Pipits with relative ease.
5. Gauteng, Alternate Mountains and Wetlands Routes
We will start at the 95-ha Rondebult Bird Sanctuary, where we will concentrate mainly on running up a quick list of waterbirds. The sanctuary consists of a number of large ponds originally created as settlement pans for a nearby sewage treatment plant. From here we head to Kloofendal Nature Reserve, where we will find some woodland birds including the likes of Black Cuckooshrike, Malachite Sunbird, Klaas’s Cuckoo, Lesser and Greater Honeyguides, and many more. A short distance from here we find the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, which is an outstanding birding locality with a bird list of approximately 230 species. On arrival we will enjoy a packed picnic lunch before heading for the nesting Verreaux’s Eagle near the waterfall. There are some pleasant and well-laid-out walks, along which we will look for Greater Double-collared Sunbird, Mocking Cliff Chat, Rock Kestrel, African Black Duck, and Half-collared Kingfisher, to name a few.
6. Short tours targeting hard-to-find (or identify) southern African birds: flufftails, larks, crakes, and warblers
Please contact us for details.
7. Weekend trip for River Warbler, Olive-tree Warbler, Thrush Nightingale, crakes, etc., out of Johannesburg/Pretoria
On this trip we look for some of South Africa’s most difficult warblers, all found within a stone’s throw of Pretoria/Johannesburg. River Warbler has to be found during the couple-of-weeks period when it starts calling, just before it migrates out of South Africa. These warblers are unpredictable – please provisionally book well in advance, but note that we may have to change dates to accommodate the birds. With luck, and rain-dependent, we may also find crakes and other skulkers. The area we visit also has well over 300 other bird species, so expect a long list as a byproduct of looking for the tough warblers.
The guide for day trips is allocated only after you have booked, as all of them are run as private trips. But we always use the country’s top birding guides.
We had an absolutely wonderful weekend at Ezemvelo. Great company, good weather and Dylan.
What a good guide that young man is!!! He certainly knows his birds, and tries very hard to make everyone happy. He really goes out of his way. He’s such a gentleman, he’s going to go far. By the way four adults and one Blue Crane chick were seen on the weekend. Also a Black Stork, which Dylan was so pleased to see, and a couple of Honey Buzzards!
Bev Carstens — Johannesburg, South Africa