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Page History: Bapsfontein District Loop

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Page Revision: 2008/10/16 09:55


Elandsvlei (formerly known as Dicken's Pan) is a large ephemeral Highveld pan near Bapsfontein, south-east of Pretoria. The pan (as well as a smaller secondary pan) lies on a private farm, but fortunately for birders, the landowners have gone to great trouble to make the area accessible and to conserve the important habitats in and around the pan. However, it is essential to make prior arrangements to visit the pans (see General below). Around 100 species (water birds and grassland species) can be expected in summer.


Glossy Ibis, White-backed Duck, Fulvous Duck, Maccoa Duck, Common Quail, Kurrichane Buttonquail, Kittlitz's Plover, Marsh Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, African Snipe, Whiskered Tern, Capped Wheatear, Marsh Warbler, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Melodious Lark, Marsh Owl, African Grass-Owl, White-backed Duck, Maccoa Duck, Cape Shoveler, Black-winged Pratincole and migrant harriers. Several vagrant waders have also been recorded (e.g. Red Phalarope, Pectoral Sandpiper, White-fronted Plover).


The pans are surrounded by a mosaic of Highveld grassland, alien tree plantations and agricultural land. It is advisable to check the conditions with the landowners beforehand, as the pans often dry up completely during dry seasons.


A hide has been erected on the main pan, and rudimentary toilets are available. Birding can be done on a relatively good dirt track skirting the pan, or on foot on a trail through the grassland.


On the way to the pans, the agricultural fields should be checked for Red-capped Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Swainson's Spurfowl, White Stork, Capped Wheatear and Yellow-crowned Bishop. Any areas of natural grassland are worth exploring for Common Quail, Kurrichane Buttonquail, African Pipit, Cape Longclaw and Zitting Cisticola.

The first, smaller pan is often just as productive as the main pan in terms of waterbirds and supports similar species. Depending on water levels, waders can be excellent in summer with most typical species present. Careful scanning might reveal something a bit more unusual, and Pectoral Sandpiper has been seen here. Ducks and geese are present in good numbers and include White-backed 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, Maccoa Duck is best looked for on the main pan.

Apart from the species already mentioned, the main pan also supports African Purple Swamphen, Glossy Ibis, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Greater Flamingo, Yellow-billed Egret and Black Heron. Raptors are diverse but largely unpredictable, but African Fish-Eagle, Montagu's Harrier, African Marsh-Harrier, Western Marsh-Harrier, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Amur Falcon and Peregrine Falcon are seen regularly. Black-winged Pratincole are unpredictable, but are recorded annually, sometimes in flocks of several hundred. The pratincoles are sometimes seen roosting on exposed muddy areas, but are more often spotted hawking for insects high overhead. Other interesting species include Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe (nomadic), Whiskered Tern, Levaillant's Cisticola, Corn Crake and Pied Avocet.

African Grass-Owl occurs in the rank grassland surrounding the pan and is best seen at dusk when they emerge to hunt. However, be careful not to mistake them with the much commoner Marsh Owl. Spotted Eagle-Owl and Barn Owl have also been recorded. A drive around the pan is likely to produce small flocks of Orange-breasted Waxbills next to the track, as well as African Stonechat, Marsh Warbler (summer) and possible African Quailfinch.


From the N1, take the Rigel offramp and head east past the big Krygkor building on your right. Continue with this road (variously signposted "Delmas" or "R50") for 30km to Bapsfontein. Just through Bapsfontein, measure 6.3km from the big 4-way stop (crossing with R25) and turn left onto a dirt road signposted "KleinZonderHout". Continue along this road for 1.6 km and turn left onto a smaller dirt road that leads to the pans. Please contact Piet Barnes to arrange access (Tel: 011-7331086).

From JHB International airport, travel north on the R21 freeway for 14 kms. 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 the "KleinZonderHout" road. From there, see directions above.

Faansie Peacock 2007

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