Sunday, 23 March 2014

Marievale, Rondebult and Johannesberg Botanic Gardens, Johannesburg, South Africa, March 2014

If I had managed to get out of bed just 5 minutes earlier, the day would have had a completely different complexion and the South African Traffic Police would have remained, in my opinion, a group of stalwarts working for the public well-being. Ah well!
Note to self; when driving in South Africa, carry licence AND passport.
Note to self; do not follow a South African Traffic Police patrol car away from a roadblock and lose touch with an in-charge officer.
Note to self; an on the spot fine does not involve emptying your wallet to a patrolman by the side of the road.


Of course if I hadn’t been stopped, I would not be able to impart this important experience to you. So all in all, you are getting great value for money here.
Anyway, on to Marievale. The journey took three and a half hours after being stopped and having to return to the hotel to fetch my passport. I was pretty grumpy by the time I reached the wetland, but an African Rail skittered into the reeds as I pulled up at Otter Hide (Google Earth ref; 26 21 32.83S 28 30 27.15E) and put a smile back on my face. The Pied Kingfishers seemed determined to cheer me up too as they were fishing in the middle of the road. From the hide, Red-knobbed Coots, Eurasian Moorhens and a Black Crake made a nice foursome of Rallids.


A White-throated Swallow rested on the structure in front of the hide and a Squacco Heron flushed from the reeds.
Three Pied Kingfishers fished as the overflowing wetland forded the road. There is a small bridge to the side of the road which allowed me to press further on, but at the junction, I met a couple in a large 4x4 that had turned back, unable to get into the reserve.


The road was inundated just beyond the junction and that was as far as I was able to get. Still, the birds seemed as if they were sympathetic to my mood and a Black Heron posed at the water’s edge, right by the road. Truth be told, the high water was probably pushing rails and herons closer to the edge, but I was cheering up a little.


Small islands on the north side of the road appeared to be sprouting roots and Grey-hooded Gulls roosted here along with a Ruff and another wader that escaped me. There was not much area to explore here today, so I moved on. Engineers’ Road on the way in and out is always worth a look. Ironically what is usually a wet patch when all around is dry, held no water today, but the spot on the south side of the road (Google Earth ref; 26 20 37.73S 28 28 11.80E) still held some appeal for Spur-winged Goose and Glossy Ibis.

Birds seen;
Spur-winged Goose 3, Yellow-billed Duck 2, Little Grebe 3, Long-tailed Cormorant 4, Squacco Heron 1, Black-headed Heron 1, Black Heron 1, Glossy Ibis 1, African Rail 1, Eurasian Moorhen 6, Red-knobbed Coot 3, Blacksmith Plover 2, Ruff 1, Grey-hooded Gull 35, White-winged Tern, Laughing Dove 2, Pied Kingfisher 3, White-throated Swallow 8, Stonechat1, Red Bishop 4, Yellow-crowned Bishop 1,Long-tailed Widowbird 1.


I moved on to Rondebult Bird Sanctuary (Google Earth ref; 26 17 43.52S 28 12 39.48E ) and was disappointed by its sad neglect. The sentry at the gate was upset to be disturbed and reluctantly let me through. She was unhelpful in the extreme when I asked for the keys to the hides. The area near the car park has been over-run by feral geese and paths have become overgrown. The walkway out to the hide nearest to the car park, has almost completely fallen apart. What is left is mostly rotted through and unsafe. The tower hide was inaccessible.


I stayed for a short while and saw the birds below, but found myself recalling the first time that I visited here and left feeling very sad.

Birds seen;
Egyptian Goose 14, Spur-winged Goose 3, Red-billed Duck 2, Hottentot Teal 2, Little Grebe 6, Long-tailed Cormorant 1, Black Heron 1, Glossy Ibis 5, Hadada Ibis 2, Eurasian Moorhen 6, Red-knobbed Coot 12, African Palm Swift 3, Barn Swallow 4, Karoo Thrush 3, Southern Masked-weaver 5, Red Bishop 8.


So I pushed on again; this time to a new site at Johannesburg Botanic Gardens (Google Earth ref; 26 9 7.44S 28 00 09.66E). This was a much more pleasant way to spend the afternoon. By now, time had almost run out and I was only able to make a very cursory exploration of the gardens. It was Sunday afternoon and the good citizens of Emmerentia were cycling, picnicking and generally enjoying their facility.


A popular pastime amongst parents with kids was to feed the many Egyptian Geese on the dam. At the shallow end of the lake, Great Cormorant, Long-tailed Cormorant and African Darter (one of each) dried their wings on a dead branch.


In the weedy, reedy area beyond, a White-browed Coucal popped his head up to see who was pishing and a pair of Tawny-flanked Prinias came out from the long grass to shoo me away. 


The gardens, as one might expect contained lawns, plantings and formal gardens. The dam was fed by a sluggish stream that in turn flowed from a lake further on. Though I was tempted, I simply didn’t have the time to investigate “Bird Island” on the far lake. Instead, I made my way back through the upper lawns and added Grey go-away-bird, Crested Barbet and Common Fiscal to my list. The last bird of the trip was a grand Rameron Pigeon seen as I left the gardens.


Though I was not able to do justice to the gardens today, it has an eBird Hotspot list of 56 birds. I am sure that this can be improved upon with a few extra visits.

Birds seen;
Egyptian Goose 200, Great Cormorant 1, Long-tailed Cormorant 1, African Darter 1, Black-headed Heron 1, Hadada Ibis 2, Eurasian Moorhen 2, Red-knobbed Coot 2, Rameron Pigeon 2, Red-eyed Dove 1, Ring-necked Dove 8, Laughing Dove 3, Grey Go-away bird 1, White-browed Coucal 1, African Palm-swift 3, Eurasian Hoopoe 1, Crested Barbet 1, Common Fiscal 1, Pied Crow 2, Tawny-flanked Prinia 3, Karoo Thrush 2, Common Myna 15, Southern Masked-weaver 6.

There is a gate, but no entrance fee for the gardens, so I cannot say how secure it might be during the week when the area is likely to be quieter. Docents assisted with parking on a Sunday afternoon, but I cannot say if they would be present when the visitor numbers are lower.

Visit the dedicated African page for more posts from Johannesburg, including; Dullstroom Grasslands and Mount Sheba. You will also find previous posts from Marievale and Rondebult.
Birding, Birdwatching, Johannesburg, South Africa.