Birds of the Magaliesberg 2023

Vaalkop Dam is located approximately 60 km north-west of Brits and has long been regarded as one of the prime birding sites in the region due the diversity of birds that can be found on the dam, in the reserve, and in the surrounding area. Birding is good throughout the year; summer days can be hot, while birding in winter can be very rewarding due to the high number of resident species. Summer migrants augment the impressive bird guild and may include several local specials such as occasional African Skimmer and vagrant Sooty Tern. It is easily accessible as a day trip from either Johannesburg or Pretoria. Over 360 bird species have been recorded in and around the reserve. Normal access hours are 05:30 to 19:00 (April to August) and 05:00 to 20:00 (Sept to March). SITE DESCRIPTION The dominant feature of the reserve is the 1045-hectare dam situated between the Elands and Hex Rivers. As water levels fluctuate, the habitats vary between open water areas, flooded grassland on the shore and several islands which are often utilised as heronries. The woodland areas comprise a mixture of savannah thornveld and smaller areas of open broadleaf areas too. Good birding is possible from the turn-off from the tar road to Magalies Water Treatment Works. The agricultural land adjacent to the road usually hosts high numbers of seedeaters, and the settling dams near the water facility should be scanned for ducks, and several reed-dwelling birds, not easily encountered at the dam. Proceed to the North-West Parks reserve entrance, after paying the entrance fee, it is possible to turn left to the southern end of the reserve where it is possible to encounter several species normally associated with the drier west (White-backed Mousebird, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Marico Flycatcher and Crimson-breasted Shrike).The shoreline should be carefully scanned for a host of waders, herons, and ducks. One needs to backtrack to the entrance and then slowly proceed on the road towards Bushwillow Estate and the Fishermen’s Camp. This woodland area below the dam wall is outstanding for a variety of birds including several species each of robins, cuckoos, shrikes and waxbills. In summer a variety of migratory warblers frequent this area too. The low-level bridge over the Eland’s River is an excellent place to stop and scan for birds such as Black Crake, Malachite Kingfisher and Black-headed Night Heron. This area also regularly yields Half-collared Kingfisher. The area around Bulkop Hill (the prominent hill) should be scanned for overhead raptors and several swallow species. There is a fork in the road before Bulkop Hill where one can follow the left path to the fishermen’s camp site, or right, towards Bushwillow Estate. One needs to have a permit issued by the North-West Parks board to enter Bushwillow and the NW Bird Sanctuary. Normal access hours for both are 05:30 to 19:00 (April to August) and This private estate is located on the northern shore. The bays, and in particular the jetty area at Bushwillow, are good areas to scan for a variety of waterbirds -scan carefully across to the islands for Water Thick-knee. Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is usually present in the summer and Western Osprey is often encountered in these areas too. Further along, the NW Bird Sanctuary is predominantly an area of broadleaf woodland where one should look for Striped Kingfisher and Bushveld Pipit. Look also for Double-banded Sandgrouse along the road verge and Coqui Francolins which are usually heard before being seen. Directions Take the R511 north from Brits for 35 km to a sign indicating Beestekraal. Turn left and continue 4 km to a sign indicating Vaalkop Dam to the right. Travel a further 11km 05:00 to 20:00 (Sept to March). BUSHWILLOW ESTATE

to the entrance to the Vaalkop Dam and Magalies Water Project complex on the left and continue to the reserve entrance gates gate. GPS coordinates: 25°18’33.5”S, 27°28’57.5”E BIRDS INCLUDE

• Goliath Heron • Marabou Stork • Northern Black Korhaan • Water Thick-knee • Black-winged Pratincole • Half-collared Kingfisher,Woodland Kingfisher • Monotonous Lark • Yellow-bellied Greenbul • Great Reed Warbler • Bushveld Pipit, Buffy Pipit • Great Sparrow • Common Ringed Plover

• White-winged Tern • African Pied Wagtail • Black Cuckooshrike • Fairy Flycatcher • Striped Pipit

Green-winged Pytelia

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