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Page History: Bapsfontein District Loop

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Page Revision: 2008/10/10 11:15


This area is relatively unknown amongst most birders, but unfortunately it is being developed at a fast pace. Most birding is either on private land, or from the roadsides, but it is still a rewarding area with interesting birds pitching up from time to time. It is probably one of the last remaining areas where relatively pristine grassland can be found around Pretoria. A number of very interesting highveld pans, including the well-known Elandsvlei (formerly known as Dicken's Pan), are also found here. Around 100 species can be expected with a full day of exploration.

Specials

Glossy Ibis, White-backed Duck, Fulvous Duck, Maccoa Duck, Black Sparrowhawk, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Red-winged Francolin, Orange River Francolin, Common Quail, Red-chested Flufftail, Kittlitz's Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, African Snipe, Northern Black Korhaan, Whiskered Tern, Brown-backed Honeybird, Red-throated Wryneck, Capped Wheatear, Marsh Warbler, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler, Cape Grassbird, 7 cisticolas, 4 pipits, Cuckoo Finch, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Melodious Lark, Eastern Long-billed Lark and Eastern Clapper Lark. Marsh Owl and African Grass-Owl are present.

Habitats

Most of the area is covered by rolling grasslands, with extensive marshes, such as Rietvlei and Grootvlei, being found in the valleys. Mountain birding can be good on the Bronberg. The plantations of Bluegums and stands of Wattles host some interesting species, although it is a factor that has a negative impact on the grassland species. Much of the grassland is used for agricultural practices, and this also has an interesting bird community.

Facilities

Accommodation is available at Inkwe Pleasure Resort, on route 4 described above, or alternatively consider one of the numerous good hotels and guesthouses in the Pretoria, from where it is only a short drive to the area discussed here. Most of the birding can be done from public roads, as discussed under "General". Farmers are usually very accommodating towards birders, and will let you walk or drive around on their properties, with their permission.

Birding

The area described here stretches from the most southerly and easterly suburbs of Pretoria (Moreleta Park, Elarduspark, Wapadrand and Mamelodi) to more or less Bapsfontein in the south. The route described can be reached from the N1 / N4 crossing by travelling south on the N1 and taking the Atterbury offramp.

If you are doing the loop from the north, start your birding from the Pretoria east Hospital at the edge of Moreleta Park. This is situated on the Welbekend road that runs between Menlyn and the R25. If you turn into the short drive to the hospital, one can continue just a short distance past the hospital entrance gate and park at the gate. The dams on the left and right are worth scanning and the surrounding grassland holds some interesting species including Red-collared Widowbird, Marsh Warbler (summer) and Black-chested Prinia. Many birds that originally inhabited the area where the city is situated, are being forced farther and farther by increasing development. If you continue past the hospital and take the next right turn into de Villebois Street and the Woodlands Residential Development, one can stop at the entrance gate of the woodland residential area, and walk around on the hillside. Examples of such "forced out" that have been seen here include African Marsh-Harrier, Cuckoo Finch, Redwinged Francolin, Coqui Francolin, Cardinal Woodpecker, African Black Duck, Malachite Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Common Quail and of course the famous Melodious Lark (also occurs locally at other spots in Themede triandra grass). Regular species at this site are Rufous-naped Lark, Cape Longclaw, African Pipit, Zitting Cisticola, Desert Cisticola, Cloud Cisticola, Common Waxbill, Red-collared Widowbird, White-winged Widowbird, Tawny-flanked Prinia, White-rumped Swift and Little Swift. The tall Eucalyptus trees along the stream have held Ovambo Sparrowhawk and Black Sparrowhawk in the past.

Return to the main road and continue driving south-east. A few kilometres further down you will see the Mooikloof Residential Development on your left. This is a private area, but birders who know residents there or go driving around inside the complex should pay a visit to the dam in the far eastern corner of the property. This dam supports Green-backed Heron, White-fronted Bee-eater, Cape Grassbird, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Orange-breasted Waxbill.

Continue driving along the main road, checking the roadside for Pied Starling, Black-shouldered Kite, Long-tailed Widowbird, Common Fiscal, Bokmakierie and if driving in the early morning or late afternoon Marsh Owl and Spotted Eagle-Owl. The Grootvlei Residential area on the right sometimes supports Capped Wheatear in bare areas and Greater Kestrel hunt over this area. Near the entrance to this development, a small depression is to be found on the left of the road and a quarry on the right that is usually filled with water. Both these sites have held White-backed Duck on occasion. Just after the Grootvlei area, an extensive marsh is visible far off to the right. This marsh does hold Red-chested Flufftail but to get there is not easy if you don’t know the area and the farmers on the farms adjacent to the marsh should be contacted for information.

Continue towards Welbekend and cross the R 25 (Bronkhorstspruit / Bapsfontein road). Continue past the school on the left until the road turns to dirt. A few kilometres further you should cross a small well-vegetated stream where Dark-capped Yellow Warbler occurs. If you do attract these Warblers with tapes please use them sparingly. Although not yet seen (to my knowledge) African Black Duck and Half-collared Kingfisher should be expected here. Continue over the bridge and soon after you will come to a T-junction with a small dam visible to the left and in front of you by some willow trees. The small marsh around the dam is worth searching for Common Waxbill, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Southern Red Bishop and Yellow-crowned Bishop. The dam itself sometimes holds Yellow-billed Duck and Southern Pochard. If you turn left here there is an off-chance that you could encounter Cuckoo Finch, although they can turn up anywhere in this region. Peregrine Falcon are sometimes seen hunting in this general area.

Turn right at the T-junction by the dam and slowly bird the next kilometre or so. Firstly the grasslands surrounding the sandworks on the left and right are very productive and host a plethora of Melodious Lark, Eastern Clapper Lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Pink-billed Lark, Red-capped Lark, Spike-heeled Lark and Eastern Long-billed Lark have all been recorded in this general area. Also to be looked for are Ant-eating Chat, Banded Martin and Horus Swift (the latter two only in summer) which all breed in the banks and holes created by the diggings. Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Amur Falcon, Red-footed Falcon and even Jackal Buzzard have turned up here. Pipits include Long-billed Pipit, Plain-backed Pipit and African Pipit.

Continue up onto the rocky ridge. The ridge here supports small populations of Mountain Wheatear, Orange River Francolin, Wailing Cisticola, Amethyst Sunbird, Lazy Cisticola, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting and Rock Martin. They can be found in any rocky areas with grass and shrubs. If you are up for a kilometre walk you can also access the railway bridge, where African Black Duck on the river below and Rock Dove around the bridge can be seen.

After passing over the ridge, check the dams and vleis on both sides of the road quickly for Red-collared Widowbird, White-winged Widowbird and Long-tailed Widowbird and Cape Weaver. Continue along this dirt road and check out the agricultural lands around the area where a road comes in from the left near some buildings. These (and other agricultural lands in the area) support an interesting diversity of birds including Northern Black Korhaan, Swainson's Spurfowl, Pied Starling, Spotted Thick-knee, African Wattled Lapwing, African Quailfinch, Barn Swallow and more, with Red-capped Lark and Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark putting in an appearance every so often. Also in this area some species that are distinctly associated with gardens or exotic plantations can be found. These include Bokmakierie, Bronze Mannikin (streamsides or in grasslands when feeding, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher. White-fronted Bee-eater occur near suitable breeding banks. Cape Grassbird are common in the tangled growth near streams.You should start driving through rather dense and uninteresting Wattle plantations. Although not very bird rich, Wattle and Eucalyptus, Poplar and willow plantations in this area support breeding Ovambo Sparrowhawk and Black Sparrowhawk, Red-throated Wryneck, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, Southern Boubou, Fiery-necked Nightjar, Fork-tailed Drongo, Brown-backed Honeybird, Lesser Honeyguide, Greater Honeyguide and Jameson's Firefinch

After passing through most of the Wattle trees a small depression is visible on the left (sometimes supports smaller numbers of waterbirds including Yellow-billed Egret) and a dirt road goes off to the right flanked by smallish saplings. This is the farm affectionately known as Elandsvlei. The agricultural lands on the farm support good numbers of Swainson's Spurfowl, Red-capped Lark, sometimes Abdim’s stork and White Stork, Capped Wheatear and some of the more common agricultural birds already mentioned. The main attraction of the farm to birders, is however the pans and surrounding habitat here. Turn in at the saplings and stay on the main track until you reach the pans. Don’t think that the first pan on your right is the only area. A little further on is an even better pan on the left. The pans and vleis support distinct bird communities with species such as African Purple Swamphen, White-backed Duck, Maccoa Duck, White-faced Duck, Fulvous Duck, Yellow-billed Duck, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Spur-winged Goose and Egyptian Goose, Hottentot Teal and Red-billed Teal, Kittlitz's Plover and Three-banded Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Eurasian Curlew sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Cape Weaver and Glossy Ibis being regular. A variety of herons and egrets occur, including Black-crowned Night-Heron and Yellow-billed Egret. Baillon's Crake should be looked for. Warblers are common in the reeds, sedges and weeds, and of particular interest is Marsh Warbler at the edges of pans or thickets in grassland or woodland under storey away from water. Levaillant's Cisticola and Common Quail also prefer these edge habitats at sides of pans and Corn Crake can be expected. Whiskered Tern and White-winged Tern fly overhead, and African Snipe frequent muddy edges. Black-winged Pratincole can be expected anywhere. All three grebe species are common, with Black-necked Grebe being somewhat nomadic and unpredictable. NB: DO NOT VISIT "DICKEN’S PAN" OR ANY OTHER FARM WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE LANDOWNER FIRST.

Go back to the main road and continue heading south-west until you reach the tarred road between Delmas and Bapsfontein (R50). Turn right and keep going straight for the following +-40km. Just after passing the BP Garage in Bapsfontein, there is a large dam on the right and some roadside quarries on the left. Check these areas for any waders and ducks that might be around. As you head north to Pretoria, scan the roadside for Long-tailed Widowbird, Amur Falcon (summer) and Capped Wheatear. Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve is on your left for most of the way and you should end up between Wingate Park and Elardus Park suburbs in Pretoria, from where you can just continue going straight until you reach the N1.

General

The area described here stretches from the most southerly and easterly suburbs of Pretoria (Moreleta Park, Elarduspark, Wapadrand and Mamelodi) to more or less Bapsfontein in the south. The route described in the main text can be reached from the N1 / N4 crossing by travelling south on the N1 and taking the Atterbury offramp. At the crossroads over the highway go left in Atterbury road and Menlyn shopping Centre should be on your right. Turn right at the robot at the corner of Menlyn in Atterbury / Lois Ave. Take Lois Ave up to Garsfontein road (Menlyn Road or Welbekend road) and turn left. You should now be on the right route and the Pretoria east Hospital is a few kilometres further on just after the Moreleta Plaza Shopping Centre. You can’t miss the huge white hospital buildings on the right. It is however advisable to first consult a good general map of this area, as some of the secondary roads can become confusing.

Directions to Elandsvlei If you only want to visit Elandsvlei follow these directions from Pretoria: Take the Rigel offramp from the N1 and head east past the big Krygkor building on your right. Continue with this road (variously signposted "Delmas" or "R50". Continue with this road for +-40km through Bapsfontein and 6.3km after the big 4-way stop in Bapsfontein, turn left onto a dirt road signposted "KleinZonderHout". Continue along this road for 2.3 km and the road to the left leads to the big pan commonly known as Elandsvlei. This is the property of Mr. Piet Barnes, who should be contacted for access (Tel: 011-7331086). Of course, there are many of alternative routes to explore. The use of a 1:50 000 (2528CD) map will prove invaluable.

From JHB International airport, travel north on the R21 freeway for 14 km. Take the off-ramp (No 32) to the R25, travelling east for 17km to a T-junction. Turn right towards Delmas. Travel for 3km to a four-way-stop. Carry on straight for 4 to 6km, and take the first left turn onto a gravel road marked "Kleinsonderhout". Continue on the gravel road for about 2km and take the first left turn where the telephone lines cross the road. Now you are on the farm. Travel between trees past the farm buildings on the right. Follow the road turning sharp left then right, go straight through an opening in the trees and turn sharp right. Follow the road till it becomes a track (keeping right all the time). The main pan can be reached by carrying straight on (past the first left turn) and taking the second left turn.

Faansie Peacock 2001



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