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The 60 ha Polokwane Bird Sanctuary is situated just north of Polokwane. The sanctuary boasts a list of over 300 species and includes three dams of varying depths, reedbeds, shallow pans, a sandbank, riverine bush and some grassland. Allow three to four hours for a rewarding birdwatching experience.



Facilities include a good network of paths, bird viewing hides, picnic/braai facilities and a kiosk selling refreshments.



1) Immediately after the turn-off to the sanctuary is a fairly extensive area of acacia woodland. This is well worth a stop as some interesting birds have been observed in this section. Look out for several different cuckoo species here in summer. White-throated Robin-Chat, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Common Scimitarbill, Spotted Flycatcher, Fiscal Flycatcher, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Southern Black Tit and Ashy Tit are all common in this area. Both Lesser Honeyguide and Greater Honeyguide also frequent this area and are often heard along this stretch.

2) After passing through the first gate you will enter a more open grassland area where Sabota Lark and Rufous-naped Lark may be seen. Dusky Indigobird, Village Indigobird and Purple Indigobird are frequently seen from mid-summer to early winter.

3) At the entrance gate of the reserve, one should look for the Kalahari Scrub-Robin and Barn Owl and Spotted Eagle-Owl roosting in the lapa.

4) From the entrance, proceed to the first, and largest, dam. This dam is the stronghold of waterfowl, as well as Black-headed Heron, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret and African Sacred Ibis, in the sanctuary. Southern Pochard and Red-billed Teal are common and present throughout the year. Comb Duck, Hottentot Teal and Cape Shoveler are fairly common. The African Fish-Eagle is resident in the area and is often seen harassing birds at the heronry. White-fronted Bee-eater are also common residents.

5) The forest walk, between the first and second dam, may reward you with sightings of African Goshawk, African Harrier-Hawk, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, Terrestrial Brownbul, Sombre Greenbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, White-throated Robin-Chat, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Cape Robin-Chat, Bar-throated Apalis, Southern Boubou, Burchell's Coucal, Black-backed Puffback, Grey-headed Bush-Shrike and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, any of the three firefinch species, Violet-eared Waxbill and Black-faced Waxbill.

6) The service road between the first and second dam is excellent for warblers in summer and it is worthwhile to sit quietly for a while and listen to the calls of the various species. Common Whitethroat, Great Reed-Warbler, African Reed-Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Olive-tree Warbler, Willow Warbler and Icterine Warbler have all been recorded here. Olive-tree Warbler is particularly common in late summer, especially in the acacia stands.

7) The second dam is a lot quieter (birdwise) than the first dam, but the chance of seeing some of the more elusive birds are better at this dam. African Rail, African Purple Swamphen, Squacco Heron, Thick-billed Weaver and Half-collared Kingfisher favours the relative tranquillity of this dam. To the east of this dam, are the wader ponds. Greater Painted-snipe and African Snipe have been seen here, as well as small numbers of Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Greenshank, Little Stint and Ruff. Hottentot Teal also seem to prefer this area. Ant-eating Chat are common in the acacia savanna just outside the fence. Bushveld Pipit are also seen here from time to time.

8) The third dam is excellent for African Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron, African Darter, Green-backed Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Squacco Heron and Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher and Malachite Kingfisher. The acacia woodland to the west of this dam is good for Grey-backed Camaroptera, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Terrestrial Brownbul, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Sombre Greenbul and the White-browed Robin-Chat.

9) The skies should be scanned for Cape Vulture, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Booted Eagle and Long-crested Eagle. Western Marsh-Harrier was common in the past, but hasn't been seen in recent years. Montagu's Harrier was seen in the acacia savanna to the east of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is also home to a number of Accipiters: Little Sparrowhawk, Shikra, Gabar Goshawk and African Goshawk.

An infrequent and special visitor to the reserve is the Southern Bald Ibis which is normally seen in the fallow lands to the east and south of the sanctuary. All yellow canaries should be looked at carefully as Yellow-fronted Canary is quite common on the Polokwane Plateau and Brimstone Canary may also be seen in some flocks.



Access is from the R521 from Polokwane to Dendron. A minimal entrance fee is charged and the sanctuary is open from 07:00 to 18:00 throughout the year. A map is available at the entrance. Contact tel +27 15 290 2331.

Derek Engelbrecht 1997.

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