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The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is an outstanding birding locality close to the urban centre of Johannesburg. The relatively small area, virtually surrounded by urban development, is managed by the National Botanical Institute (NBI) and includes a diverse array of habitat types which ranges from steep cliffs surrounding a magnificent waterfall to open scrubland and riverine woodland. Several short walks run through the garden and the surrounding natural areas. The JCI Geological Trail has recently been developed and gives visitors the opportunity to not only walk along the Roodekrans Ridge and in the Nature Reserve portion of the garden, but also to learn something about the fascinating geology of the area. Guided tours can be arranged for groups. Information brochures, a map and a bird list are available at the gate or NBI office. A morning's birding in the garden during summer can easily produce a list of 70 species. A total of 230 species have been recorded in the garden.



1) The Verreauxs' Eagle is an icon of the area and attract visitors from all over. Generations of Verreauxs' Eagle have bred on the steep cliff face next to the waterfall for many years. This is definitely one of the best sites in the country to view these masters of the african skies. During the breeding season which lasts from about March until October visitors are treated with spectacular fly-pasts and territorial displays. The best sites to view the eagles from are the lawns below the waterfall and the pathway leading to the top of the waterfall. The area at the top of the waterfall allows for excellent views of the eagles in flight. Many other interesting bird species share the cliff face and surrounding hill side with the Verreauxs' Eagle. Species to be on the lookout for include Cape Rock-Thrush, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Rock Kestrel, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting and Cape Bunting. Many other raptors have been reported from the gardens and are often seen dive-bombing the Verreauxs' Eagle. These include Peregrine Falcon, African Harrier-Hawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Black-chested Snake-Eagle and Steppe Buzzard during summer.

2) The riverine bush and surrounding bushveld provide shelter to many interesting species not often seen on the highveld. Half-collared Kingfisher and African Black Duck frequent the stream while Striped Pipit are often seen walking on bare ground under large trees next to the stream. African Olive-Pigeon are plentiful during spring while Red-chested Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Diderick Cuckoo, Klaas's Cuckoo and African Paradise-Flycatcher are particularly common along the stream during summer. Orange River Francolin is often heard calling on the hill sides during early morning. Black Cuckooshrike, Ashy Tit, Brubru, Black-crowned Tchagra, Violet-backed Starling, and Greater Double-collared Sunbird are among the more interesting species often recorded. During the early 1990's a Grey Wagtail was observed in the garden during summer and attracted the attention of many keen birdwatchers from across the country.

3) The SASOL Lake provides some wetland habitat that attracts a variety of waterbirds. At sporadic intervals Hamerkop, Reed Cormorant, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Giant Kingfisher and Pied Kingfisher are observed. The marshy area behind the overflow of the dam provides habitat to many nesting weavers and widows.



The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is about 25km from Johannesburg in the Roodepoort / Krugersdorp area. Travel towards Roodepoort on the western bypass and then follow Hendrik Potgieter road towards Tarlton from which the garden is well signposted. The garden is open daily from 08:00 to 18:00, no entry after 17:00. The entrance fee is R18 for adults and R5 for students / scholars. A tea garden and kiosk is situated in the garden overlooking the lawns and the waterfall. Telephone +27 11 958 1750 or visit SANBI Website for up to date information.

Albert Froneman 2001.

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