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If finding a large number of birds in a short space of time is your goal, then Ditholo is the place to go. Situated along the Pienaars River in northern Gauteng, the reserve boasts good acacia thornveld, including an area of kalahari-like vegetation, riverine bush, plus dams of varying size and depth. Ditholo is an operational SANDF Air Force base.

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Specials

Ditholo is known for Half-collared Kingfisher, Southern Pied Babbler, Barred Wren-Warbler, Great Sparrow, and a high proportion of melanistic Gabar Goshawk.

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Habitats

The major habitat in the reserve is dense acacia thornveld, giving way to drier kalahari-like vegetation in the northwestern section. The river frontage has many impressive specimens of River Bushwillow and other large tree species, but is unfortunately also overgrown with mulberry trees. Dams of various sizes are also present, and the canals and reservoirs of the old irrigation scheme make for very interesting microhabitats. Along the runway there is also an area of open grassland, and the cultivated lands at the entrance attract many seedeaters, herons, kestrels and plovers.

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Facilities

A good network of roads exists, although the roads are on the whole not well-maintained, and can be treacherous after rains due to the clayey substrate. There are three picnic sites, two of which have basic ablution facilities although these are not consistently maintained.

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Birding

While signing in at the gate look out for robins and seedeaters in the dense bush behind the gatehouse, and scan the cultivated lands and telephone wires on the left of the road. When entering the reserve proper from the base, the area straight ahead down to the river and to the right consists of dense acacia woodland with the usual range of shrikes, waxbills, firefinches, cuckoos, kingfishers and robins. Burnt-necked Eremomela and Cape Penduline-Tit are generally abundant, and Black Cuckoo are often spotted along the reserve’s bush-lined roads. The drier habitat birds listed under specials can be found by going left into the northern parts of the reserve. A hide with a good view over the water and adjacent bush is to be found at the dam in the northwestern corner of the reserve. Barred Wren-Warbler, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Burchell's Starling, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill and White-browed Sparrow-Weaver are usually located in the northeastern corner of the reserve. Yellow morph Crimson-breasted Shrike have been present twice in recent years.

Special attention should be paid to the canals, which attract many swallows in summer and also form focal points for kingfishers and bee-eaters. In places the canals leak and form shallow puddles under tree cover, which attract unusual species, notably Greater Painted-snipe.

The river is excellent for Half-collared Kingfisher, which often fly through the river picnic site. African Finfoot have been found here on occasion but are not regular. The tall riparian vegetation harbours African Green-Pigeon, and African Golden Oriole and Eurasian Golden Oriole in summer.

The irrigation reservoir near the guest house attracts many ducks and waders, although it is badly polluted and often foul-smelling.

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General

The reserve is reached by taking the Hammanskraal/Boekenhoutskloof offramp off the N1, turning right and immediately left towards Rust de Winter after crossing the freeway, and left onto the De Witskraal road 3½ km later. Ditholo is at the end of this road, 5km from the turnoff.

Access to the reserve must be arranged in advance. Please contact the Pretoria Bird Club to arrange access

For further details and group guiding, contact Pete Irons, +27 12 808 5432 (h), email .

Pete Irons
Indicator Birding
Tel. (h) 012 808 5432
Tel. (w) 012 529 8019
Cell: 072 290 6355




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