South-eastern Wetlands and Grasslands – Devon Grasslands

About the Birding

One starts their birding at the first farm dam adjacent to the N17 highway just as you take the offramp toward the town of Devon. Scan here for Maccoa Duck, Southern Pochard, Black-necked Grebe, and Cape Shoveler. Make your way south along the R548 before venturing off onto the surrounding dirt roads (a good map of the area and its birding spots can be found in the “Chamberlains Guide to Birding Gauteng” book – page 239).

It is within these grasslands where birders can be treated to stunning flocks of Blue Cranes in the winter, Black Harrier in the winter, and both Pallid and Montagu’s Harrier in summer. Keep your eyes peeled alongside the road verges for coveys of Orange River Francolin, and small flocks of Pink-billed Lark in between the far more common Red-capped Larks. Make sure to check the fringes of watercourses and seasonally inundated patches of grassland for Yellow-crowned Bishop and Pale-crowned Cisticola. Familiarize yourself with the display calls of Zitting, Wing-snapping, Cloud, and Desert Cisticolas, and make sure not to overlook displaying Melodious Larks who incorporate all the above into their own expert repertoire. Careful searching in the early mornings might produce visuals of the highly vocal Blue Korhaan whilst Capped Wheatear and Greater Kestrel will require somewhat less expensive energy to find.

Key species:

Orange River Francolin, Blue Korhaan, Blue Crane (winter), Black Harrier (winter), Maccoa Duck, Black-necked Grebe, South African Shelduck, Montagu’s Harrier (summer), Pallid Harrier (summer), Common Quail, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Pink-billed Lark, Marsh Owl

About the Birding Site

This top-notch birding destination is a mixture of pristine highveld grassland, maize fields, seasonal wetlands, a few river systems, and a fair amount of farm dams. The network of dirt roads is publicly accessible, but the property adjacent to the road is private property, so birders are encouraged to respect and adhere to the privacy of the local farmers.

This area is definitely a must visit in both winter and summer and each season brings with it an array of different species with some migrating into the area during winter, others during summer, and others simply more vocal and prominent during their breeding season which coincides with summer.

Key species:

Orange River Francolin, Blue Korhaan, Blue Crane (winter), Black Harrier (winter), Maccoa Duck, Black-necked Grebe, South African Shelduck, Montagu’s Harrier (summer), Pallid Harrier (summer), Common Quail, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Pink-billed Lark, Marsh Owl

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
The local farms in the area have done an incredible amount of work in terms of partnering with BirdLife South Africa and combatting various mining and other environmental threats so as to protect these stunning patches of privately owned grasslands. As such, a good relationship has been formed between farmers and birders and visitors to the area are asked to respect any private property and to stick solely to the demarcated public roads.

Other related information:

Access and facilities:
There are no ablution facilities within the farmland areas, and if birders are in need of such facilities they should then travel to Devon itself and visit the service station.

Directions:
From Johannesburg travel south on the N3 toward Durban for approximately 24km before taking the N17 eastward toward Leandra. Keep on the N17 for approximately 68km before taking the offramp to your left toward the town of Devon. Turn immediately right onto the R548 toward the town of Balfour. Your first dirt tracks will appear on the left +-2.8km.

Times : No access times. Roadside birding.
Entrance Fees: No entrance fees payable.

Text prepared by:
John Kinghorn and Toni Geddes

Key species:

Orange River Francolin, Blue Korhaan, Blue Crane (winter), Black Harrier (winter), Maccoa Duck, Black-necked Grebe, South African Shelduck, Montagu's Harrier (summer), Pallid Harrier (summer), Common Quail, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Pink-billed Lark, Marsh Owl

Contact details:

N/A

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