Northern Bushveld – Rust de Winter Dam, Nature Reserve & Roadside Routes

About the Birding

When referring to Rust De Winter one needs to be sure to separate the 1650ha reserve (inclusive of the dam) from the surrounding roadside routes which are also equally fantastic for birding. The reserve itself is brilliant for birding and a popular destination for fishermen. Over 400 species of bird have been recorded in the nature reserve, the high total giving testament to the variety of habitats present.

Depending on which way one travels to Rust De Winter, birding often starts as one takes the offramp from the N1 highway. Keep your eyes peeled on the powerlines for Southern Carmine Bee-eaters (summer), Lesser Kestrels, and Purple Rollers. The access road into the reserve itself can be productive and often produces good acacia thornveld species such as Violet-eared Waxbill, Black-faced Waxbill, Magpie Shrike, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Ashy Tit, Kalahari Scrub Robin, and Marico Sunbird. Upon entering the reserve, make your way down toward the dam and spend your time driving slowly between the angling area to have your best chances at connecting with any species that may be frequenting the water such s White-faced Whistling, Knob-billed, and Yellow-billed Ducks, Great-crested Grebe, African Spoonbill, and African Fish Eagle. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled in the bushveld that lines the dam for the likes of Yellow-billed Hornbill, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Striped Kingfisher, Chinspot Batis, Long-billed Crombec, Golden-breasted Bunting, and Barred Wren-Warbler.

If one travels toward the Rust De Winter 4X4 camp, park along the side of the road once crossing the Elands River and spend your time birding the Monkey Thorn fringed river. Keep your eyes peeled for Grey-backed Cameroptera, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Half-collared
Kingfisher, African Finfoot, and in summer after good rains, the extremely elusive River Warbler. Booking one or two nights camping at the 4X4 camp is well worth the stay as it also gives one the opportunity at connecting with African Scops Owl and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, the latter occasionally viewable from the road as they roost high-up in the Monkey Thorns.

Key species:

African Fish Eagle, African Spoonbill, African Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Violet-eared Waxbill, Green-winged Pytilia, Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Scops Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, River Warbler (summer), Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Burchell’s Starling, Lesser Kestrel (summer), Southern Carmine Bee-eater (summer)

About the Birding Site

The network of roads in the Rust De Winter region offers some of Gauteng’s best roadside birding opportunities and can provide birders the opportunity of recording upward of 110+ species in summer. The area consists of savannah plains which follow the length of the Elands River, lined by big stands of Monkey Thorn (Senegalia galpinii).

The nearby Rust De Winter Dam and Nature Reserve – roughly a 500ha dam – also offers good birding opportunities and hosts a variety of waterfowl amidst the locally occurring species associated with the surrounding mixed woodlands, rocky slopes, and acacia veld.

Key species:

African Fish Eagle, African Spoonbill, African Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Violet-eared Waxbill, Green-winged Pytilia, Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Scops Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, River Warbler (summer), Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Burchell’s Starling, Lesser Kestrel (summer), Southern Carmine Bee-eater (summer)

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
Birding is good throughout the year but take note that the reserve can get particularly busy over weekends and public holidays and is a popular site for both anglers and boat enthusiasts. There is an entrance fee per person and per vehicle payable at the entrance.

Other related information:

Directions:
Take R 21-North towards Pretoria. Shortly before reaching Pretoria turn onto the N1-North towards Polokwane. Turn off at the Rust de Winter / Pienaarsrivier off-ramp. Turn right and continue for ± 21km towards Rust de Winter town. Turn right at the Rust de Winter Dam sign onto a dirt road and drive for 4km to the entrance of the reserve. Allow for approximately an hour and a half traveling time from OR Tambo International Airport. If traveling to spend time birding the roadside routes in and around the 4X4 camp, do not turn right toward the reserve and continue straight along the tar road through Rust De Winter town.

Rust De Winter Nature Reserve GPS coordinates: – S 25° 14′ 10.00″, E 28° 30′ 57.00″
Times: 06:00 – 18:00 (summer and winter)

Entrance Fees: A nominal entrance fee is payable per person and per vehicle when arriving at the entrance to the reserve.

Text prepared by:
John Kinghorn and Toni Geddes

Key species:

African Fish Eagle, African Spoonbill, African Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Violet-eared Waxbill, Green-winged Pytilia, Pearl-spotted Owlet, African Scops Owl, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, River Warbler (summer), Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Burchell’s Starling, Lesser Kestrel (summer), Southern Carmine Bee-eater (summer)

Contact details:

N/A

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