Return to SA Birding Main Site

Abe Bailey Nature Reserve

Modified: 2008/10/30 10:06 by admin - Categorized as: Gauteng
The Abe Bailey Nature Reserve, situated near Carletonville on the West Rand is approximately 4200 ha in extent and provides excellent viewing of both grassland and wetland birds. The current reserve list stands at over 220 species and while a number of these are vagrants or erratic migrants, one might nevertheless expect to see at least 60 species in a morning. Depending on previous birding experience, the time of year and the variety of habitats visited this number could be considerably higher.



Yellow-billed Stork, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Goliath Heron, Little Bittern, Black Crake, African Rail, African Purple Swamphen, Black Heron, African Fish-Eagle, Orange-breasted Waxbill and Northern Black Korhaan.



Predominantly Highveld Grassland with associated wetlands, dolomitic caves and bush/tree clumps. Wetland areas vary from thick reed beds to shallow open waters fringed with reeds, sedges and narrow mudflats.



Facilities for day visitors include a shaded picnic site and an ablution block located near the visitor parking area at the new DACEL offices (under construction). Also currently under construction are four dormitories (sleep 60 people), a kitchen and lecture facilities (seat 60 people), which may be hired by the public. The existing chalets are in the process of being renovated and will provide additional basic overnight accommodation (4 beds, shower, toilet, stove). Day visitors and those wishing to make use of the lecture facilities or accommodation should contact the reserve manager, Mr Willem de Lange, at (018) 788 3290 during office hours.



No bird hides are currently available (two hides are planned for the future), but a vehicle serves just as well on the main entry road which is accessible to all vehicles. The bridge across the wetland is an excellent spot for catching glimpses of Black Crake as well as good sightings of Black Heron, Pied Kingfisher and Malachite Kingfisher and of course large numbers of Red-knobbed Coot and moorhen.

Birds are best observed on foot and excellent views of a variety of species are possible if one is prepared to walk quietly. Park your vehicle at the DACEL offices and spend some time searching/listening for the Red-throated Wryneck, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Karoo Thrush, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Glossy Starling and Cape White-eye that can often be found there. Walk back along the entry road to wetland and keep a lookout for Black-collared Barbet, Acacia Pied Barbet and Crested Barbet, Dark-capped Bulbul and African Red-eyed Bulbul, Speckled Mousebird and Red-faced Mousebird, African Hoopoe, Green Wood-Hoopoe, Diderick Cuckoo, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Blue Waxbill, Black-chested Prinia and other interesting birds in the long grass, bush clumps and thorn trees adjacent to the road. Fairy Flycatcher may be encountered here in winter.

Once back at the wetland, turn right (i.e. west with the sun behind you) and follow the rough path along the edge of the water until you reach a stand of large Eucalyptus trees. A canal has been dug along the length of the wetland and the numerous, well-spaced, vegetated mounds provide ideal vantage points. Keep a lookout for African Rail, Black Crake, Squacco Heron and Little Bittern. Good sightings of African Purple Swamphen, Reed Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant, African Darter, African Spoonbill Glossy Ibis and a wide variety of ducks, geese, herons and egrets are usually possible. Pied Avocett, Black-winged Stilt, Three-banded Plover, Ruff, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and African Snipe can frequently be seen feeding in the shallower areas and on the adjacent mudflats. Yellow-billed Stork are regular summer visitors while both Greater Flamingo and Lesser Flamingo are occasionally recorded. Don’t forget to keep one eye on the more aerial species as a variety of swifts, swallows and martins may be seen hawking for food over the wetland throughout the year. A lone African Marsh-Harrier has been spotted patrolling the wetland on occasions. Levaillant's Cisticola, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and small flocks of African Quailfinch and Orange-breasted Waxbill may also be encountered on this walk.

Few additional species are likely to be recorded beyond the stand of Eucalyptus trees and this is a good place to turn around. Cormorants and African Darter regularly nest in the dead trees on the far side of the wetland and these are always worth scanning for activity. From the Eucalyptus trees, one can either return to the DACEL offices by retracing the wetland route or alternatively there is a rough road running through the adjacent grassland. African Stonechat, Cape Longclaw, African Wattled Lapwing and Crowned Lapwing and flocks of Long-tailed Widowbird, White-winged Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Red-billed Quelea and Pin-tailed Whydah frequent this grassland area.

For those who are particularly interested in viewing grassland species, the reserve staff should be contacted for directions to the most appropriate tracks/trails. There are currently no access roads for visitors to drive through the grassland habitat. In addition to those grassland species already mentioned, Northern Black Korhaan, Helmeted Guineafowl, Swainson's Spurfowl, African Pipit, Rufous-naped Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Eastern Clapper Lark and Ant-eating Chat are commonly recorded. Capped Wheatear may be abundant in burnt areas at certain times of year and Namaqua Dove and Secretarybird have also been recorded on occasion.



The reserve is managed by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation, Environment and Land Affairs (DACEL), and is open daily from 6am to 6pm throughout the year. At present (2002) there is no entrance fee. The winter opening time may change in future and for those planning to arrive early it would be advisable to make special arrangements with the reserve manager.

There is no longer a fence between the reserve and the neighbouring township of Khutsong and visitors may well encounter groups gathering firewood from stands of exotic trees. Although no incidents have been reported, it is nevertheless advisable for people to visit the reserve in groups, and until such time as the new DACEL offices are completed, no valuables should be left in vehicles.

From Johannesburg, take the M1/N1 to Bloemfontein and then the N12 west following the signs to Potchefstroom. Before the railway bridge across the N12 turn right on the R501 to Carletonville. Take the first turning into Carletonville, cross the railway line and then proceed along Agnew Road to the 4-way stop on Annan Road. Cross over Annan road passing the Carletonville Technical College on the right. Turn right into Ada Street and continue straight over the bridge (grain silos on the right) until you see signs indicating Khutsong to the left. Proceed as to Khutsong, and keep a sharp lookout for the Abe Bailey Project sign on the right 3.1km from the turning. If you reach the little town of Welverdiend then you have gone too far.

From Pretoria, the R500 from Magaliesberg to Carletonville is a possible route. As one approaches Carletonville look for signs indicating Khutsong to the right and then proceed as from Johannesburg. Alternatively take the N1 or R21 to the N12 and then proceed west as from Johannesburg.

Craig Whittington-Jones 2002.

Copyright © 2008 SA Birding cc