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Situated in the suburb of Muckleneuk, Pretoria, the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary offers visitors a selection of common water birds and garden birds. Regrettably birders are limited to views from outside the perimeter fence (although guided walks inside the fence can be arranged in advance) but the sanctuary is nevertheless a great place for a Sunday afternoon family outing or a short tranquil walk. Around 170 species have been recorded and birders will see around 40 species in a short morning visit. The main attraction is the dam where an excellent hide is situated. There are also woodland patches and exotic trees in the sanctuary. The Blue Crane restaurant and adjacent recreational park offers further attraction.



The first area that visitors should investigate, is the area around the Blue Crane restaurant and the dam. Good views of the dam and adjacent reedbeds can be obtained from anywhere along the perimeter fence and from the top deck of the restaurant. A bird feeding area (food available from the restaurant) attracts Blue Crane and Grey Crowned Crane which were originally kept in the area by having their wings clipped regularly. However, they now move around in the recreational park and sometimes fly around over the sanctuary. Be sure to warn small children about the crane's sharp beaks! Doves and Pigeons are also common; Rock Dove, Speckled Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Red-eyed Dove and Cape Turtle-Dove being abundant. Egyptian Goose also join the feeding frenzy and catfish gratefully gobble up morsels fed to them. Also easily spotted here are Reed Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Little Grebe, Red-knobbed Coot, Cattle Egret, African Sacred Ibis, Hadeda Ibis, Pied Kingfisher and sometimes something more exciting like a Little Bittern or Green-backed Heron.

The Sasol Hadeda Hide offers excellent views of all the abovementioned waterbirds. In summer, you will also be treated to the delightful sight of colonies of Southern Masked-Weaver, Thick-billed Weaver and Southern Red Bishop breeding in front of the hide. Also keep an eye open for the less conspicuous warblers ' African Reed-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler and Lesser Swamp-Warbler are the commonest species, and Marsh Warbler and Willow Warbler are also seen in summer. Black-crowned Night-Heron might be seen roosting in the surrounding trees.

Birders with a little more time on their hands might wish to walk the two kilometres or so along the perimeter fence. Apart from sightings of Grey Duiker and Leopard Tortoise, you should find a plethora of the commoner garden birds. Look for Streaky-headed Seedeater, Black-throated Canary, Bronze Mannikin, Common Waxbill, Brown-hooded Kingfisher, African Hoopoe, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Cape Robin-Chat, Olive Thrush, Red-faced Mousebird, Speckled Mousebird, Common Fiscal, Cape White-eye, Burchell's Coucal, Black-collared Barbet and Crested Barbet, and a variety of swifts and swallows in the skies. This walk is also likely to produce Groundscraper Thrush and possibly Ovambo Sparrowhawk.



The easiest way to reach the sanctuary is from the R21 highway. At the Fountain Circle near Unisa, take George Storrar Drive eastwards towards Groenkloof. Storrar then becomes Middle Street. After crossing Koningen Wilhelmina, turn left into Melk Street to reach the Blue Crane restaurant where the best viewpoints (and secure parking) is to be found. The sanctuary is surrounded by Middel, Dey, Boshoff and Melk Streets.

The Blue Crane restaurant is open from 07:30 on weekdays, from 09:00 on weekends.

Visit Blue Crane Website for more information. The Sasol Hadeda Hide and the Exhibition Centre are open from 07:00-18:00 (summer) and 07:00-17:00 (winter).

Guided walks inside the sanctuary can be arranged (preferably 4 weeks in advance):

Contact or phone 012 449 8316 / 012 341 0591. More information can be obtained at Tshane Website .

Faansie Peacock 2007

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