Rietvlei Dam Nature Reserve
We awoke at 6am to drive to Rietvlei and it was very overcast. I am glad that we did not follow @Peter Connan's suggestion to get there for sunrise, as I don't think there would have been much to see. Also, as we were staying with friends, it would have been impossible to get up at 4am without disturbing them and given it was day 1 of our holiday, I'm not sure that we would have been able to get up anyway, as we were so tired! So a coffee in a travel mug, load the car and we were on our way, to meet Peter at the gate at 7am. As it was now Saturday and early, the traffic was a breeze. The entrance to the reserve is through a housing estate and just off of the main road, very inauspicious!
About two weeks before we arrived, there had been significant rainfall and the drought had been declared as over. This was perfect timing, as there was a good two feet of fresh grass growth and really unusually for us, a profusion of flowers (although trying to focus through grass blowing in the wind is tricky, to say the least...). Beautiful. Given the rain and the mud tracks, Peter offered to drive in his 4x4 as our rental was only a 2x4 with a lower height for photography.
The main reason for going was the birds, but there are mammals there as well, although not in large numbers, including apparently cheetah, although Peter has never seen them. Our first mammal sighting was a pair of white rhino, but no chance of a photo. The main herbivores were zebra, hartebeest, blesbok and black wildebeest, which we are not convinced that we had seen before.
We saw lots of birds, including a few new ones for us, but the overhead conditions may photography tricky, to say the least. The new ones:
A full list and photos of every bird we saw can be found on my big year thread:
We did get a few goes at the widowbird in flight that we hoped for, but they were all quite far away from the road. Every time we spotted one and Peter stopped, it would fly that bit further away from the road. Grrrr.
Our best chance of one flying backwards and forwards to the same perch, was in front of electricity pylons and its' perch was an electrical box
Time to get out the extender and hope for the best....
It would have been so much easier if the sun was out
Some other birds:
African stonechat - these were very numerous
Southern masked weaver
White-fronted bee-eater - with bee!!
There are several hides dotted around and the centre point of the reserve is the dam, so there are lots of waterbirds
We were so distracted with photography that by the time we stopped for breakfast, they had stopped serving it, so we had lunch instead! A thoroughly lovely day out with lots of photographic opportunities, not bad for ZAR 100 each. There weren't that many other people there and they mainly seemed to be looking at mammals, rather than bird. Although I suspect if you went on a week day, it'd be much quieter. The busiest places were the hides and of course the restaurant! Thanks again @Peter Connan for your hospitality, driving skills and homemade camera supports! Maybe next time we can do Marievale?