Potchefstroom and environs

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Potchefstroom is in the south-eastern corner of the Northwest Province. It lies in an area where several major habitat regions overlap. This leads to quite a variety of birds occurring here. During the five years in which the South African Bird Atlas Project was run, 389 different species were seen. In the past 126 years, more that 450 species were seen in the Potchefstroom area. It is quite difficult to give directions to good birding spots in the Potchefstroom area, because most of the good birding spots are on private land. However, the names of the reserves, birding spots and contact persons will be given, so that the birders can get permission to enter these places. A two day stay in one of the many guest houses in Potchefstroom or at the Potchefstroom Dam Resort will be sufficient time to visit all the spots. Habitats around Potchefstroom consist mainly of wide open grassveld interspersed with mixed acacia and other bush. South of the town is the Vredefort Dome mountain with its own special birds. Potchefstroom was once a region of vleis and marshes. Sadly these no longer exist, but the small remnants that survived still make for excellent birding. Specials include several lark and pipit species, as well as White-bellied Korhaan, Osprey, Great Crested Grebe, Crimson-breasted Shrike, African Grass-Owl, Black Sparrowhawk and a wide variety of bush birds.

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OPM Prozesky Sanctuary

Located in the south of town. Drive south on Mooi river Boulevard past the golf course. The first part of the sanctuary is just south of the golf course, between the river and the road. This part is open for hiking and can be very soggy. The last street to the right on Mooi river Boulevard is Viljoen Street. Turn right for 400m and then left into the sanctuary. It is signposted. Park at the kiosk and toilets. The reserve is always open to the birding public and access is free. A circular route with paths, bridges and two hides will keep you birding for at least four hours. It is a good idea to take along a Y4 key to open the hides and the toilets. During the wet season it gets very soggy and old shoes or gumboots are recommended. The smell in the reserve can sometimes be a bit strong. Black-winged Stilt, moorhen, gallinule, sandpiper, tern and swallow are common. The odd Sand Martin and Common House-Martin can be spotted among the many swallows, swifts and martins that feed above the pans. Several species of duck occur, with White-faced Duck and Fulvous Duck the common species. Red-billed Teal, Cape Teal and Hottentot Teal can often be seen. Most of the herons and egrets occur in the reserve, and Little Bittern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Squacco Heron and Black Heron can be seen with patience. African Rail and Red-chested Flufftail are often heard and can be called into vision with a tape. Several seedeaters, from the diminutive Orange-breasted Waxbill to the Long-tailed Widowbird occur in the reserve. Some LBJ's to get to grips with are Levaillant's Cisticola, Great Reed-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler, African Reed-Warbler, European Sedge Warbler, European Marsh Warbler and Little Rush-Warbler.

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Boskop Dam Nature Reserve

Situated 25km north of Potchefstroom on the Carletonville road (R501). Turn left at the Rysmierbult/Muiskraal turnoff, go over the Mooi river and turn left immediately after the bridge. Look out for waterbirds and waders on the shores of the dam, with Great Crested Grebe a highlight. Get special permission from the office to go into the grassveld area behind the office - larks, pipits, coursers and Banded Martin are the common birds out there. Look for the Osprey on the power lines close to the small bay with the dead trees.

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Naschem Nature Reserve

Situated on the same road as Boskop Dam, but just closer to Potchefstroom. Turn right after +20km at a well-signposted turnoff to Nachem and Boskop Training Centre, a kilometer or so after the shopping centre on the left. Grassveld and acacia species abound in this reserve, with sunbirds and buntings common against Perdekop. No birding can be done in the hunting season. Contact Hein Fourie on 018 299 8500 for permission.

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Klipdrift Dam

Situated about 20km from Potch on the Johannesburg road (N12). Turn right at the second Klipdrif sign, past the cell phone tower. Follow the gravel road for +10km and turn left into Van Niekerk's farm at bluegum plantation. Follow the road to the resort and do your birding there. water birds, including terns, ducks, Great Crested Grebe, Pink-backed Pelican, Caspian Tern, Black-winged Pratincole, egrets, herons, storks, waders and grassveld species can be seen here. White-bellied Korhaan, Montagu's Harrier and Pallid Harrier as well as Lesser Black-backed Gull are among the rarer species that have been seen here. You can drive past the Van Niekerk turnoff and go on to the shop a kilometer further. Get permission to enter the area opposite, from the shop, to see waders and gulls.

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Vaal River and Vredefort Dome

Follow the Mooi river Boulevard south out of Potchefstroom, past Prozesky Bird Sanctuary. After you have crossed the Mooi river, the road splits. If you go straight it leads to Schoemansdrif. A right turn will take you to Skandinawie Drif and Viljoenskroon on the R501. Go straight on the Schoemansdrif road to the farm Schoemanshof. On the way there, do some birding next to the road. Just before the tar ends, you can turn left to Venterskroon and go into the mountains (See the paragraph on Dome Trails). By staying close to the river you will end up in Parys (on Vaal). By going straight to Schoemanshof, you will end up on a dirt road. Follow this road until there is a turn to the right to Skandinawie drif. Keep straight to where the road makes a sharp turn to the left. Go straight into the farm. The first birding site is the koppie, and bush around the old shed and tobacco sheds. You then drive on down to the Vaal river. Excellent birding can be done in the bush and koppies, with Ashy Tit, Common Scimitarbill, Black Cuckooshrike and Red-throated Wryneck to be found. At the thatched hut on the river, look out for Lesser Honeyguide and Brown-backed Honeybird, Bar-throated Apalis, three species of bunting, and Mocking Cliff-Chat. Giant Kingfisher, Green-backed Heron, Little Bittern and African Black Duck can often be seen on the river . Contact GP Schoeman at 014 721 0629 / 083 261 9900 for permission to do birding on the farm. Mr Schoeman is the champion mampoer stoker in South Africa - his mampoer is good and strong - keep it away from children and paintwork. Go back to the turnoff to Skandinawie drif, 2km from Schoemanshof and follow this road to Skandinawie drif. You will go past the Elgro Lodge and Game Reserve. This is an excellent place to stay over for a weekend. It can accommodate groups of up to twenty people in luxury. Game and night drives are offered and walking next to the river and in the koppies usually yields a fair share of water and bush birds. Follow this road through the mountains and next to the river until you hit tar again at Skandinawie drif and the Potch-Viljoenskroon road. Do your birding next to the road.

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Eleasar Road

This circular road is a must for someone who wants to get to grips with grassveld species. Drive out of Potchefstroom on the Ventersdorp road (R53) Go past the head quarters of Northwest Command, and turn left to Eleasar. Birding next to the road will yield mainly bush birds. However, from where the tar stops and the gravel begin, you are in pipit and lark habitat. Spike-heeled Lark, Eastern Clapper Lark, Rufous-naped Lark and Red-capped Lark can be identified at leisure. Look out; or rather listen, for Melodious Lark in areas where red grass (Themida tiandra) grows. Where the road goes through rocky patches, eye must be peeled for Eastern Long-billed Lark and Pipits. Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark and Grey-backed Sparrowlark are usually seen on red coloured or light coloured sands respectively. They are easy to find in the road and the difference between the females can also be studied. Try to identify the different pipits by looking at their chest, back and throat markings, as well as their behaviour. African Pipit' white outer tail feathers will give it away immediately, while a pipit with no markings will most probably be a Plain-backed Pipit. A pipit with a deep and slow dip in the tail can be nothing else that a Buffy Pipit. Keep your eyes peeled for Secretarybird and Martial Eagle, both of which breed in the area. Ant-eating Chat, Capped Wheatear and Familiar Chat are common. Pied Starling can be seen at the old New Machavie Gold Mine. Go straight on past the mine. A few kilometers further is a huge pan on the right. This pan is usually full of water and a lot of different waders can be seen. Both Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, as well as both species of stint, several species of duck, ibises and African Spoonbill are to be seen when there is water in the pan. A couple of kilometers further is the farm Goedgevonden. There is an earth dam on the right which sports great numbers of waders and water birds and Maccoa Duck and White-backed Duck have been seen here regularly. You can turn left here and drive to the main road between Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp (N12) and go back to Potchefstroom, or keep going straight to the Faan Meintjes Nature Reserve, just a few kilometers on. Mainly grassveld and acacia species occur here.

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General

Potchefstroom Tourism Information
Tel 27-18-299-5371
Fax 27-18-299-5133
E-mail:

Boskop Dam
Tel: +27 18 293 1330
E-mail:

TARIFFS: Adults R10,00 Juveniles R5,00 Pensioners R5,00 Angling R10,00 per person Competitions R250,00 + entry & angling fee per person Camping R15,00 per site per night + entry fee & angling fee

North West Tourism Website

Sam de Beer 2001
Nick Jonas 2004