As you may have picked up the birding bug has bitten. At first a few birds might have been photographed along the way, now we plan trips with specific birds in mind to add to the find list. We thought it a great idea to share some of our birding experience in Pretoria specifically. A good start for many who call Pretoria home.
Please take not not all sites are always safe and if you do not feel safe or feel your gear or life could be in danger rather skip the birds and head to safety and take a few friends along next time. We are usually groups of 2 to 4 or more. The more eyes the more birds you get to see.
The good news is there are many birds about and in all kinds of places near in and around Pretoria. Most spots you will find on the Roberts birding app and if you are lucky enough to move in the circles of birders many more spots will pop up.
Our favorite is Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary, perhaps because it is down road from our home and there is a restaurant right by the dam. Despite it’s small size, we have ticked 59 birds from the hide and have managed to get some amazing photos. Number 60 keeps alluding us, the half collared kingfisher. A quick stop can give you 20 birds including ‘Stompie’ the local black heron that likes to show off.
Most people do not tick the blue cranes and grey crowned cranes. But they have each had a chick that actually fly around and will probably leave the nest and sanctuary for grassy fields further away.
Another favorite is Rietvlei Nature Reserve, unfortunately there are no more cheetah or lions around but the birding is excellent with quite a few hides in the reserve. More grassland species of birds can be found here and the there are a pair of crimson breasted shrike that local the coffee shop area.
In the same area in winter you will find South Africa’s smallest flycatcher at the pick-nick area. As for pictures, don’t ask us, this little bird jumps around way to much. A good summer morning can yield 60+ birds. One lucky day, Jo Buggs Balmer (one of the best birders I know) came along and helped us tick a 125 species in one day.
Moreleta Kloof Nature Reserve can also deliver a good 40 birds on a morning hike and the hide has a few specials every now and then. The brown backed honey-bird is one, but again we could not get a shot as its always being chased by a karoo thrush. The little rush warbler (the only lbj we can accurately identify on call now) can be heard in the reeds. The hike is a bit tough with all the camera gear but can be done at leisurely pace and yield some cool birds.
Our other birding site is a bit outside Pretoria on the ARC‘s farm near Roodeplaat (Francois use to work there).
This farm has a large variety of habitats including the Pienaars river running through it. And is one of the few places in Gauteng where you can be lucky enough to find African fin-foot. The farm has a bird list of 200 species but has restricted access. So it advised to go do the hiking trail from Buffelsdrift and take the binoculars.
Another strange birding site is the one at near Centurion paintball where all the twitchers were hoping to catch a glimpse of the rufous bellied heron. We only managed a shot in the run on our third attempt but also picked up another 20 birds on the same quick stop.
And then of course the birds in your own garden or golf course. Pretoria is lined with trees and streams and the average garden can yield, depending on location and vegetation, anywhere from 20 to 100 different bird species in a year. Our own garden list is sitting at 56 species, many of which fly over to the experimental farm at UP close by.
So in summary Pretoria has many good and strange birding sites with a lot of regulars and some more special birds. Pretoria provides an opportunity of finding over 250 different bird species easily with in a year. So get out there and tick those birds…