What could be better than a day off work to take a drive through the Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve just south of Pretoria. Nothing to do except bird, no time restraints, no deadlines and no one to bother me!! Rietvlei was still in the grips of winter and patches of frost covered the ground especially near the water. Skies were clear and the water was a flat and glassy as a mill pond. I first stopped at the hide at Coots corner but it was still too cold for the birds with nothing much around. Rietvlei is 3600 hectares so there was lots of ground to cover and plenty other hides to check. Being a grassland biome, the little brown jobs are all over the place with the Cape Longclaw being the most often encountered and fairly open to a bit of photography.
|Non-breeding Long-tailed Widow|
By the time I reached the picnic area, the air had warmed up a bit and the birds had started to come to life. Here some of the birds I located were Spurwing Goose, Egyptian Goose, Levaillants Cisticola, Pied and Malachite Kingfisher, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Cape Robin-chat, Arrow-marked Babblers, Fiscal Flycaycher, Common Fiscal and African Stonechats which are very common in the reserve.
From the picnic hide I travelled the vlei route to the fountain hide which was pretty quiet as it always is in winter. Ostrich are common and found along most of the roads in the reserve.
|Waterbuck seen along the vlei route|
By far the most productive hide photography wise is the fairly new Island hide which is located near an island which contains a heronry. The young birds tend to use the dead tree perches around the hide for preening and taking a rest after the first flight from the island. Terns and ducks often come close for a quick pic as well.
|Immature Little Grebe|
|Immature White-breasted Cormorant|
|Young Reed Cormorants|
Another feature of this reserve in winter are huge floats of Red-knobbed Coots which swim about feeding. While I was watching a float drift by they suddenly took fright and ran off across the water. The reason being a large Fish Eagle which made an unsuccessful attempt to grab one off the water. Perhaps the chaos of all these birds splashing and flapping across the water was enough to confuse his aim and cause the miss? He later took a fish off the surface of the water...
|Red-knobbed Coots in panic mode|
|African Fish-eagle with fish|
I must have spent over 2 hrs in the island hide, attempting, unsuccessfully to photograph birds in flight. So all-in-all a very relaxing day out of the office!!