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Arid West

 Koedoeskop - roadside birding

Roadside Attractions
The farm roads around the Koedoeskop between the R510 and the R511 up to Thabazimbi offer some excellent birding. Yellow–throated Sandgrouse can be seen in this area from the roads by scanning the black cotton soils. There is good general birding along this road with White and Abdim´s Storks, African Quail Finch, Amur Falcon and many more. During summer the woodland is alive with the sounds of several species such as Red-chested, Striped, Jacobin and Diderick Cuckoo, Woodland Kingfisher and European Bee-eater. Also look out for Brown-crowned Tchagra and Grey-headed Kingfisher. Extensive reedbeds along the river have good numbers of White-winged Widows and Southern Red and Yellow Bishops. A series of irrigation dams on the northern (right hand) side of the road are home to Lesser Swamp-Warblers and Levaillant’s Cisticola that are easy to locate due to the sparse vegetation cover. The dams are surrounded by cultivated fields which attract species such as Comb (Knob-billed) Ducks, White-faced Ducks and Spur-winged Geese. To access these roads, turn left off the R511 to Koedoeskop about 30km south of Thabazimbi. Head straight on this road for 1.2 kms until you get to the bridge over the Crocodile river.

 Madeline Robinson

Bookings Required Guides Roadside Attractions
This small reserve that is owned by the Anglo-Plat mine, is the best place in the country to see the Yellow-throated Sandgrouse. Access is arranged via a mine employee, Jannie Willemse, who guides visitors to a waterhole where the birds come and drink. The birds can be seen in this area from the roads by scanning the black cotton soils. From Thabazimbi, take the R510 to Rustenburg. Several kilometers, out of town, take the turnoff to the left signposted Koedoeskop. Scan the agricultural fields along this road especially those found on black ´cotton soils´ This road eventually brings you out at the Koedoeskop village and ultimately the R511 Thabazimbi-Brits road. There is good general birding along this road with White & Abdims Storks, African Quail Finch, Amur Falcon, White-winged Widowbird and many more. Jannie can be contacted on 083 456 2279.

 Matamba bush campsite & lodge

Accomodation Camping Hides Roadside Attractions Trails
Matamba bush camp and lodge is situated within the Waterberg biosphere and is part of the Waterberg conservancy. Malaria free and with easy access from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Polokwane, Matamba is on the R33 between Vaalwater and Lephalale.

Matamba has two different accommodation options. The bush campsite offers a unique camping experience with individual campsites nestled under wild syringa trees, the family ablution block built from natural material blends into the surrounding bush.

The lodge accommodation is luxurious, a large central dining and living area with a bar and pool. There are four tasteful chalets each with a king size bed. The lodge is set in a magnificent indigenous garden which attracts an incredible variety of birdlife. Matamba is owner run, Sue and Alan offer their guests a farm stay experience with freshly prepared wholesome meals which can be served either in the dining room or under the stars in the lapa.

Matamba’s habitat comprises Terminalia bushveld, open plains where Bushveld pipit, lizard buzzard, Black breasted snake eagle are frequently seen. There are over 30 km of walking and mountain biking trails with spectacular views of the Welgevonden Game Reserve in the mountains. The birdlife is prolific; and with relaxed plains game, Matamba offers bushveld birding at its best!
Tel: 083 653 1287 | Cel: 082 337 1650 | e-mail:| alan@joyride.co.za

 Rust de Winter Dam

Roadside Attractions
This is the closest part of the province to Gauteng being only 80km from Pretoria. It offers good bushveld and broadleaved woodland birding as well as a good diversity of water birds. Goliath and Black Heron, Comb Duck and White-Backed Duck can be seen on the dam as well as a host of wader including Wood and Common Sandpipers. The acacia woodland holds Barred Wren-Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher Cape Penduline Tit and in the Broadleaved woodland look out for Coqui Francolin, Great Sparrow and Flappet Lark. Various rarities have been found here as well, with a Greater Frigate bird and Golden Pipit boosting the reserves lists. To get there, take the N1 north and take the Hammanskraal off ramp and follow the signs to Rust de Winter.

 Zaagkuildrift and Kgomo Kgomo

Roadside Attractions
This dirt road follows the Pienaars river and after about 15km end at the Kgomo Kgomo floodplain where the Pienaars Plat and Tshwane river meet. The habitat along the road is mostly Acacia woodland with areas of grsssland at the beginning and end. This area is renowned for the varity of warblers that can be found here, Barred Wren, Olive-tree, Marsh, Great-reed and Icterine are found here as well as Common Whitethroat, River Warbler and even Thrush Nightingale. You may also fine Tinkling Cisticola, Pied Babbler and Crimson-breasted Shrike here. The grassland around the Kgomo Kgomo area have Blue-cheeked Bee-aeter, Kittliz’s Plover, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark and African Quailfinch. When the floodplain inundates it attracts Balck, Goliath, and Purple Heron as well as Yellowbilled Stork, Allen’s Galinule, Lesser Moorhen and Corn, Ballion and African Crake. To get there take the Rust de Winter / Pienaarsrivier off-ramp and turn west. Drive to the T junction with the R101 and turn right, after 1km turn left on to a dirt road to Zaagkuilsdrift. In very wet years the roads around the flood plain get inundated and are sometimes impassable for a week or two.

 
Nylsvley floodplain

 BOKPOORT DAM

Roadside Attractions
This small dam, just north of Mookgophong, is covered with water-lilies and so provides a perfect habitat for Pygmy Goose, they have been recorded here a few times. There are two bridges here and some nice reed beds that host a number of swallow, swift and martin species, other species to be seen here include White-backed Duck, African Fish Eagle, Purple Heron and Purple Swamp-hen. Look out for Giant Kingfisher, Great Crested Grebe and Zitting Cisticola here as well. Directions: From Mookophong take the R520 out of Mookophong, you will turn left at the most northern traffic light in the town. After the 11 km turn left at the T junction, after less that 1km turn right on the Marken road, the dam is on the right along this road, just before the pass where the road crosses the Sterk River.

 Doorndraai dam

Camping Roadside Attractions Trails
This reserve holds a large dam in the foothills of the Waterberg between Mookgophong and Mokopane. There is a variety of habitats in the reserve with wooded hills, savannah bushveld and open plains and broadleaved woodland making up the majority of the habitat other than the dam and it well-vegetated banks. The reserve has a good complement of raptors with Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle and African Fish eagle all breeding here. This is one of the few places in the country where Garganey has been recorded, and Osprey are regularly seen here in summer. Coqui and Shelley’s Francolin are also often seen and heard and Freckled Nightjar Mocking Chat and are found in the hills. More than 12 species of shrike occur here as well as Yellow-throated Petronia and Orangebreasted Waxbill. Doorndraai dam has been a favourite for fishermen in the area for years and birders are only now starting to discover this beautiful reserve. Walking is allowed and there is lots of general game to be seen as well. To get there, take the Sterkrivier road off the R101 between Mookgophong and Mokopane and follow the signs. There is a camp site in the reserve

 MOORDDRIFT

Roadside Attractions
This farm is 40 km’s from Nylsvley on the banks of Nyl River near Mokopane. The farm has a large dam that provides permanent water along the Nyl river floodplain. Other than the thornveld woodland around the dam, there is reeded river and marshland habitat. Even in a dry season, the pan is bursting with Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Duck, Knob-billed Duck, Spur-wing Goose, Sacred Ibis, White-faced Duck, Fish Eagle, resident Maccoa Duck as well as a host of sandpipers, plovers, coots, herons, warblers, cisticolas and spoonbills. The woodland around the dam is good for Chestnut-vented Tit Babbler, Barred Wren-Warbler and Crimson-breasted Shrike. To organize a visit to this amazing dam, please make prior arrangements on 082 920 1741 or 015 491 9400.

 Nylsvley

Accomodation Camping Hides Roadside Attractions Trails Picnic
This RAMSAR site is a unique seasonal flood plain that is the largest and most intact in the country. It is surrounded by typical bushveld savannah. The area has over 365 bird species recorded, with 104 of these being water birds. The flood plain is inundated every two to four years and when it floods, several rare and endangered water birds breed here. All three of the bittern species occur and breed here and all of the southern African herons have been recorded here. The largest recorded breeding concentrations in South Africa of Great Egret, Black Heron, Squacco Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron occur at Nylsvley. Streaky breasted Flufftail have been recorded here and Striped Crake and Lesser Moorhen and Allan’s Gallinule breed here. Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck and Comb Duck are some of the 15 duck and goose species that occur at Nylsvley in the wet years. In the dry years, the area is still a prime birding destination for bushveld birding. Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Olivetree Warbler and Tinkling Cisticola all occur here. There is a large concentration of Pearl-spotted Owlet along with 7 other owl species. This is a birding stop not to missed. There is a camp site and accommodation in the reserve as well as a variety of birder friendly accommodation around the reserve and in Modimolle and Moogophong, less than half an hour’s drive away.

 
Waterberg fringes

 Leeupoort Town / Leeukrans Restaurant

Roadside Attractions
This little town is run as a suburb of Thabazimbi but is located in the bushveld, 40km from the town, surrounded by a game reserve. It is freely accessible to the public through a manned gate. A network of roads, which get you off the main road and into great bushveld habitat and good birding, can be explored. Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Arrow-marked Babbler, Lizard Buzzard and Shikra are often seen. This is a convenient refreshment stop as the restaurant garden is a real birding hotspot, especially if you are a photographer as the birds allow you to get close to them. Within the gardens, several breeding pairs of African Paradise Flycatchers are nesting in summer as well as nesting Amethyst Sunbird. During the evenings, African Scops Owls can be heard calling around the restaurant area. There is also an entertaining group of Banded Mongoose which frequents the gardens. For more information call Leon on 014 735 0955.

 Masebe Community Nature Reserve

Accomodation Guides Roadside Attractions Trails
This reserve in the far north eastern part of the Waterberg has some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere in the province. There is a spectacular escarpment of red sandstone cliffs and a host of lone-standing mesas that remind one of postcards of Arizona in the USA. The reserve is just over 4000 hectares and the habitats are mainly deciduous broadleaved woodland. The main birding attraction of the reserve are the raptors - there are 4 pairs of Verreaux’s Eagle breeding on the cliffs as well as African Hawk Eagle, African Harrier Hawk, Lanner Falcon and rock Kestrel. Lizard Buzzard and Brown and Black-chested Snake Eagles are also found here. The other interesting species that have been found here include Retz’s Helmentshrike, Grey Tit-Flycatcher and Short-toed Rock Thrush. There is an Ivory Route camp in the reserve.
Tel: 015 290 7300 |

 Roadside birding on Route R516 from Bela-Bela to Koedoeskop/Thabazimbi

Roadside Attractions
At the traffic circle opposite the Aventura holiday resort in Bela-Bela look out for African green Pigeon amongst the large trees as you leave town. The first 20 Kms of this route is relatively quiet on the bird front except for the ubiquitous Magpie (Long-tailed) Shrike and the odd Pearl-spotted Owlet perched on the telephone lines. Along the Mabalingwe area approximately 20 kms out of town look out for Burchell’s starling. Other specials to look out for are Purple roller and Red breasted Swallow. Raptors are also present and look out for Lizard buzzard perched on the telephone lines. Chances to see larger raptors such as Black-chested, and Brown Snake- eagle and African Hawk-eagle improve as you travel westwards. Sixty kilometers from town is the turnoff signposted Leeupoort Residence. Turn right at the sign and continue for 500 metres, turn right and then right again at the primary school. Continue until you reach a cul-de-sac and look out for Bronze-winged Courser along the road verge After 70 Kms you reach the small town of Leeupoort (Look out for the Leeukrans sign board) Some rocky hills on the Northern side (Right hand side) of the road, opposite Leeupoort might produce Verreaux’s Eagle. Although present elsewhere on this road, eastern paradise whydah are fairly common on the section of road between Leeupoort and the T-junction at Koedoeskop.

 
Waterberg Plateau

  Rankin pass /Alma / Bokpoort area.

Bookings Required Roadside Attractions
This is the over-wintering area of between 40 and 60 Blue Cranes. The area is mainly montane grasslands and besides Blue Cranes, you can see Denham’s Bustards, Barrow’s Korhaan, Short-toed Rock Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat ,Wailing Cisticola and many more. The Cranes gather on private farms and are monitored by the provincial officials who can organize outings to see the birds. You can also travel through the area on the public dirt roads and have good roadside birding. The recommended route is turn left at the second Alma turning on the R33 when traveling from Modimolle to Vaalwater, just after a small school. Follow this road for about 10km to a T junction, here turn left to Alma continue through Alma to Rankin’s Pass, just before the Police station in Rankin’s Pass turn right towards the mountain, this road will take you back to Alma, follow the signs, through some great habitat. About 7km along this road is a farmer Jan de Beer, who will allow access onto his farm with prior arrangement. Call him on 014 721 0833 or 082 903 2483 to organize access to his farm. Please note that these roads are not always maintained correctly so a vehicle with some clearance is recommended and after rain a 4 x 4 is sometimes needed. If you want to know where the Blue Cranes are between May and August, phone Joseph Heymans, the District biodiversity Monitor on 082 807 6741 and he may be able to organize an outing onto the private farm lands where the cranes gather in winter.

 Marakele National Park

Hides Roadside Attractions
This wonderful national park is 30km north-east of Thabazimbi and covers 45 000 hectares of the Southern Waterberg. This huge area is not all accessible to the public, but the parts that are hold a fantastic variety of birds. The cliffs have the largest Cape Vulture breeding colony in the country and there is access to the highest point of the Waterberg via a concrete road. On top of the peak, you can find Gurney’s Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Buff-streaked Chat and many other high-altitude specialists. The rest of the park is dominated by bushveld and patches of broadleaved woodland and riverine habitats. You can see Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Red-crested Korhaan, Kori Bustard and Secretary Bird at Kwagga’s Vlakte - a separate piece of the park where the campsite and tented camp is situated. There are many raptors in the park, with Booted Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Cuckoo Hawk being some of the more notable. The banks of the Matlabas and Sterkstroom rivers and the dams in the park have a variety of water bird and you may see Half-collared Kingfisher, African Darter or Red-faced Cisticola in the reeds. There are Elephant, Black and White Rhino and general game in the park, so walking is not permitted without an armed ranger-guide. The park has a variety of accommodation options, from camping to tented and bush camps.

 Palala River Bridge.

Roadside Attractions
From Vaalwater take the Melkrivier turn-off and follow the road for 40 kms. Look out for amongst others Lizzard buzzard and Purple Roller on this road. Turn left onto a dirt road at the Melkrivier School and Rhino Museum signboards. Follow the road for 5.9 kms and turn right still following the Rhino museum boards. Follow the road for 5.7 kms, past the Rhino Museum until reaching the bridge. The Palala river with its well vegetated banks snakes through the Palala Valley and in some parts is fringed by spectacular sandstone cliffs. River Bushwillow and Wild olive trees are prominent along its banks. The river is dammed by a weir to the west of the bridge and is now home to a resident pod of Hippopotamus. A note of caution; Hippos are very dangerous and walking should only be done if accompanied by an experienced guide. Sunrise and early morning is the best time to do birding in this area especially if looking for African Finfoot and Little-Bittern. Scanning the sandbanks will reveal the resident group of Water thick-knees and African Wattled Lapwings while Green-backed Heron might be found within the adjoining reedbeds. Keep a look out for Black Crakes as they dash across the sandbanks from one side of the river to the other. Although very rare African Pygmy Goose have been recorded in the past at this site. This is also a good place to see African Fish-eagle and Giant Kingfisher. The surrounding woodlands towards the south of the bridge are well represented with a variety of typical bushveld species. Take a walk back up the road to look for specials such as African Pygmy Kingfisher, Yellow-fronted tinkerbird, Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush-shrikes, Grey-Tit (Fantailed) Flycatcher, African Firefinch and Little Sparrowhawk. During the summer months watch out for Eastern Paradise and Pin-tailed Whydah as well as Purple Indigobird. Scanning the wooded bank to the east of the bridge might produce Black Sparrowhawk, especially if one happens to be there later in the afternoon.

 WATERBERG MONTANE GRASSLANDS

Roadside Attractions
This private cattle farm is the breeding area for a pair of Blue Cranes. This vast farm is mainly covered by tall montane grasslands. Other than Blue Crane there is a good chance of seeing Denham’s Bustard, Barrow’s Korhaan and the Common Quail. There are also 3 species of pipit and 5 species of cisticola to be found here. The cranes are on the farm from September to March. The farmer, John Malovich, allows birders on his farm if you book with him in advance. He will either give you directions or send someone with you to show you around. There are 2 strict rules on the farm – No Smoking, as fires are a big problem and “If a gate is closed, you must close it behind you. If it is open, leave it open”. The farm is at the top of the Bokpoort pass near the source of the Palala River, you will get directions from John when you organize a visit. To organize an outing on this beautiful farm, call John on 083 661 8823.

 
 
 
 
 
 
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