Tshwane and Environs – Rietvlei Nature Reserve

About the Birding

An extremely productive reserve which in summer can see one expecting to see close on 100+ species in a single day’s birding. What makes this reserve even more appealing is its proximity to major residential areas. Not long after entering the reserve, about 500 meters from the entrance, is the Coot Corner’s hide which will provide you with excellent views over the dam. Numerous waterbird species can be seen from this hide including Reed Cormorant, African Purple Swamphen, Great Crested Grebe, Common Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot and African Darter.

Lesser Swamp-Warbler can be heard calling from the reed beds while other warbler species might be heard in summer including African Reed-Warbler. Several species of pipits and larks occur in the reserve and your identification skills of “LBJs” will be tested on a regular basis. Look out for Plain-backed Pipit, African Pipit, Spike-heeled Lark, and Rufous-naped Lark and listen out for the characteristic display flight calls in summer of Zitting Cisticola, Desert Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, and Cloud Cisticola. Levaillant’s Cisticola is common in the vlei areas and rank grass adjacent to streams. A hide that must be visited is the Marais dam picnic spot which is another good spot to see a number of waterbirds including Reed Cormorant, Yellow-billed Duck, White-breasted Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen and Egyptian Goose. Also make sure to scan the edge of the water for Black Crake and African Purple Swamphen. Warblers can be heard calling in the reeds next to the hide and birders should keep a lookout for Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Little Rush-Warbler. Other special birds for the Gauteng area that occur at Rietvlei are Capped Wheatear and Northern Black Korhaan while Secretarybird has bred in the reserve and can sometimes be seen strolling through the grasslands searching for food. Grass Owl and Marsh Owl also occur in the reserve, but you will be extremely lucky to see the former (although not impossible). African Yellow Warbler has also been recorded recently whilst other more common species in the wooded areas include Thick-billed Weaver, Cape White-eye, Southern Boubou, Cape Starling, Chestnut-vented Warbler, and Fiscal Flycatcher. Scan the sky regularly for swallows, martins and swifts for example Brown-throated Martin, Banded Martin, Sand Martin, White-throated Swallow, Greater-striped Swallow and African Palm Swift. Rietvlei is also a good spot for raptors and the likes of Greater Kestrel, Rock Kestrel, Amur Falcon, Steppe Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, and Eurasian Hobby (summer) are frequently recorded.

Key species:

Cuckoo Finch (summer), Rufous-naped Lark, Wing-snapping and Cloud Cisticola, Great-crested Grebe, Secretarybird, Eurasian Hobby (summer), Orange River Francolin, Northern Black Korhaan, Spike-heeled Lark, Banded Martin, African Yellow Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher (winter), Plain-backed Pipit, Long-tailed Widowbird

About the Birding Site

This reserve is a favorite birding spot for many birders due not only to the interesting variety of birds that can be found here, but also because of the excellent facilities as for example the 40kms of roads (30kms tarred) and three well maintained bird hides. The reserve also has several mammal species including Rhino, Buffalo, Hippo, and most recently, Cheetah.

A variety of habitats can be found in the reserve with the Rietvlei dam and other water bodies hosting numerous waterbirds, whilst the reserve is also well known for its vleis, grasslands and woodland areas.

Key species:

Cuckoo Finch (summer), Rufous-naped Lark, Wing-snapping and Cloud Cisticola, Great-crested Grebe, Secretarybird, Eurasian Hobby (summer), Orange River Francolin, Northern Black Korhaan, Spike-heeled Lark, Banded Martin, African Yellow Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher (winter), Plain-backed Pipit, Long-tailed Widowbird

Other Related Information

Access and facilities:
There is a basic coffee shop and restaurant in the reserve, as well as ablution facilities and picnic facilities as well.
GPS coordinates: S 25° 52′ 59.00″, E 28° 15′ 48.00″
Winter/Lockdown Times: 06:00 – 18:00 (last entry at 16:00).
Summer/No Lockdown Times: 05:30 – 19:00 (last entry at 17:00) Entrance Fees: R64 (Adults), R37 (Children between 7–17 years), R10 (Children between 3 –6 years).

Other related information:

Directions:
From Johannesburg International take the R21 towards Pretoria. Before reaching Pretoria take the Irene/Nellmapius Drive off-ramp. At the top of the off-ramp turn right and drive to the first four-way stop and then turn right towards Olifantsfontein. After about 1.5 km (after crossing the Sesmylspruit) you will see the sign “Rietvlei Nature Reserve”. Turn left and follow the road to the main gate.

Text prepared by:
John Kinghorn and Toni Geddes

Key species:

Cuckoo Finch (summer), Rufous-naped Lark, Wing-snapping and Cloud Cisticola, Great-crested Grebe, Secretarybird, Eurasian Hobby (summer), Orange River Francolin, Northern Black Korhaan, Spike-heeled Lark, Banded Martin, African Yellow Warbler, Fairy Flycatcher (winter), Plain-backed Pipit, Long-tailed Widowbird

Contact details:

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