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Marievale Bird Sanctuary, East Rand (Ekurhuleni), Gauteng

The Marievale Bird Sanctuary lies within the Blesbokspruit Ramsar Wetland of international importance.  It forms an significant component of one of the tributaries of the Vaal River, which provides water to the highly industrialised and densely populated Gauteng Province.

With the highest bird count in in Gauteng, at no less than 450 bird species, it’s no wonder this is an important site for birdwatchers. The best time to go is in Spring when (September and October) when the migrants arrive. You will be stunned at the sight that will greet you; thousands of aquatic birds wading through the waters, up to 4000 ruffs have been spotted at one time.

The Blesbokspruit catchment area originally formed as a cast off from the gold mines. Much of the water that fills this wetland is pumped up from underground from the mines or from the local sewage works. Blesbokspruit is severely threatened by discharge of mine water which drastically increases total water volume, maintains artificially high water levels in the dry season, and contains many pollutants, including salt. Fortunately, the value of the system lies in its ability to purify industrial and domestic effluent discharged into the Blesbokspruit River from local industries, sewage works and mines, thereby reducing pollutant loads entering the Vaal River.

The elusive Fulvous Ducks

The major habitat consists of shallow open water, extensive phragmites and typha reedbeds, and surrounding grassland.

Marievale often attracts extremely rare species, such as buff-spotted flufftails, buff-breasted sandpiper, and black-tailed godwit.

Here you can often see further specials like little bittern and slaty egrets, black and squacco herons and striking red-knobbed coots along with the usual aquatic suspects – African rails, crakes, moorhens, cormorants and snipes.

If you’re lucky, you might just see a goliath heron, fulvous duck or an African shelduck.

Good numbers of glossy ibis, yellowbilled duck, squacco heron may be quite common in summer. Hottentot teal and spurwinged goose numbers peak in winter. A good selection of rail occurs, and spotted crake is also recorded. Purple heron, grass owl and marsh owl also occur.

The sanctuary is very oriented towards all things winged, but you can also look out for reedbuck, blesbok, Cape clawless otters, black-backed jackal, yellow mongoose and the odd Cape hare.

There are three viewing hides to spot from, a picnic site and toilets near the entrance of the sanctuary. A wonderful little perk to a day out here is that there is no entrance fee.

Click to enlarge

Directions: From Johannesburg travel on the N17 towards Springs. Go through the toll gate after Carnival City and continue for approximately 20km. Take the Wit Road (R51) off-ramp and at the T-junction turn left (south) towards Nigel. Continue past the sign saying Marievale/Group 16 HQ, through several sets of traffic lights and past the Defence Force Base. Shortly thereafter turn left to Vorsterkroon / Nigel CCC. Continue on this road for 3km, turn left at a T-junction and continue for a few kilometres to the sign indicating Marievale Bird Sanctuary.

The sanctuary is open daily. Opening times are 05h30 to 19h30 from October to March and 06h30 to 18h00 from April to September. There is no entrance fee. Contact Tel. 011-3641101.

More info on the quaint town of Nigel More info on the Ekurhuleni area

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