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Marievale Bird Sanctuary, South Africa


Peter Connan

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Peter Connan

This is not a conventional trip report, but rather a collection of thoughts and images from one location.

 

Marievale is a sanctuary situated on the Blesbokspruit near the town of Nigel in Gauteng. As such it is just an hour's drive from Johannesburg.

 

Matt's edit: here is the website.

 

It is about 10 square km in extent, and a large part of it encompasses vleilands and reed-beds, ans as such it is a hotbed of bird activity, particularly waterbirds, shorebirds and waders. There are several well-situated hides, and on weekends you will often find these hides well populated with eager photographers and twitchers from well before sunup. Best of all is, it's free!

 

The first hide you will find after entering is the Hadeda hide. This is perhaps also the best early-morning hide, and offers a wide variety of birds.

Strategically placed perches often produce beautiful photos of some of the smaller, more colourful birds and it is possibly the best place in the province to stalk the inimitable Malachite Kinfisher.

 

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Furthermore you are virtually guaranteed to see Squacco heron, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Whiskered Tern, Yellow-billed Duck, Reed Cormorant, and Purple Gallinule and Swamp Warblers here. Black Crake and the rather shyer African Rail are often seen as well.

 

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Peter Connan

And many others are often seen here. In summer, it's a great place to photograph white-breasted Swallows.

 

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Peter Connan

The drive from there to the picnic spot can deliver a number of interesting species including Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Glossy Ibis, Brown-throated Martin, African Jacana, and more ubiquitous species like Egyption Goose and Blacksmith Plover.

 

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Peter Connan

The hide at the picnic sight is usually good for weavers, and I have seen Pied Kingfisher here as well.

 

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Peter Connan

Next up is Duiker hide. During the wet season, the footpath leading to this hide can be pretty flooded, and you might want to bring gumboots or remove your shorts. Once there though, you will get amazing opportunities to photograph flying Whiskered Tern at very close distance (such that a 300mm lens on a crop-frame sensor is sometimes almost too much). There is usually a Darter on the perch out front, and I have seen Goliath, Black-headed and Grey Herons here. Dabchicks are usually found here, as well as spur-winged Goose and Grey-headed Gulls. I have also seen Pied Kingfisher and Great Crested Grebe here.

 

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Peter Connan

In addition, a number of other (less water-bound) species can also be seen along the roads in the reserve.

 

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In total, around 300 species of birds have apparently been seen, which means that I will have to go back a few more times.

 

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Game Warden

@@Peter Connan I've just edited the title and added tags, as well as a website link into the text.

 

Matt.

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Treepol

@@Peter Connan thanks so much for posting your wonderful photos and for the heads-up on such a rich birding site.

 

What a fantastic place to spend the last day/morning before catching the plane home.

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Nice work... A top notch birding spot.

 

300 species. What size in area is the sanctuary?

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Peter Connan

Thanks for the edit @@Game Warden

 

Thanks @@Treepol. I would recommend that you bring a friend, driver or "guide" along. There were one or two robberies during 2013, although it seems as if the managemant are taking steps to prevent this, and I have not heard about any problems since then.

 

Thanks @@Geoff. It covers around 10 square km. Of course due to the nature of the terrain, large areas are un-reacheable, but it's not the type of place where one wants to spend the whole day driving around anyway.

 

I forgot to mention, it's also a great place to see Cape Clawless Otter in action.

 

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Edited by Peter Connan
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Wow! What a collection. Particularly like the two shaking off water in post #2.

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Soukous

super stuff @@Peter Connan, I've never been there but at least now I know it exists

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Atravelynn

Coffee table book material! How many visits did you make to obtain this magnificent collection?

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Peter Connan

Thanks @@Atravelynn. I used photos from just three morning visits.

 

Thanks for the view and comment @@TonyQ

Edited by Peter Connan
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Atravelynn

Really!!?? That makes it even more amazing. I thought maybe Marievale was your hangout and these were the best shots of the year.

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Peter Connan

Well, @@Atravelynn, they pretty much are my best shots of the year! I have not found a better place to get stunning bird photos, although obviously not all species.

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Wow, Peter just stubbled onto this post. What a pleasure.

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Peter Connan

Thanks Patsy.

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Atravelynn

Well, @@Atravelynn, they pretty much are my best shots of the year! I have not found a better place to get stunning bird photos, although obviously not all species.

You are kind to share this secret. I can see South Africa trips getting extended several days to take advantage of this magical location.

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Peter Connan

@@Atravelynn, if you do, also consider the following places:

 

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort (beautiful location, safe, and great for various sunbirds, black eagle and (during summer) various Cuckoo and Paradise Flycatcher, as well as grey-headed bush shrike and Wattled Plover, among others.

 

Rietvlei Nature Reserve (closest to OR Tambo of the lot, and good for a wide variety of birds and even game, also safe and offers some accomodation).

 

Austin Roberts in Pretoria (this one I have not visited myself, but need to do so in the near future).

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Atravelynn

@@Atravelynn, if you do, also consider the following places:

 

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort (beautiful location, safe, and great for various sunbirds, black eagle and (during summer) various Cuckoo and Paradise Flycatcher, as well as grey-headed bush shrike and Wattled Plover, among others.

 

Rietvlei Nature Reserve (closest to OR Tambo of the lot, and good for a wide variety of birds and even game, also safe and offers some accomodation).

 

Austin Roberts in Pretoria (this one I have not visited myself, but need to do so in the near future).

You are revealing all your secrets!

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Stunning photo's, also love Marievale! Great place to brush up on both birding & photography skills!!

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