On Monday the 25 July 2011, despite a threat of a serious cold front approaching with warnings of heavy snow falls, I headed off at 5:30 on the N12 through Potchefstroom to Klerksdorp to visit the Faan Meintjies Nature Reserve. Here are the GPS co-ordinates for the entrance gate: 26°44'12.25"S 26°42'31.63"E. A write up that I read on sabirding mentioned that the gates only open at 10am so I was concerned that I would be sitting outside in the freezing cold for a few hours. I arrived and the entrance gate was deserted but I called the cell number on the information board (0717869566) and was told by Ishmael that I could let myself in through all the gates and pay when I left later on. Amazing!
The bird life around the entrance gate was rather disappointing - with sightings of Common Fiscal, Karoo Thrush, House Sparrow and Helmeted Guineafowl.
I made my way to the buildings next to the camping area and saw African Hoopoe, Crowned Lapwing, Speckled Pigeon, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and Cape Turtle-Dove. The day was certainly starting slowly.
The game drive starts right next to the camping area and heads up a slope before heading past a quarry and then down into the valley on the other side of the koppie. The beauty of the rising sun behind the threatening clouds was truly spectacular. Sadly there was not much to see in this area apart from Crested Barbet, Laughing Dove and Black-chested Prinia.
My first view of the valley on the other side, and the dam, made me a lot more positive about the spot (although the only birds around were Yellow-billed Duck, Red-knobbed Coot, Egyptian Goose, Blacksmith Lapwing and Cape Longclaw):
As I made my way down into the grassland the bird life came alive with a vengeance - including Ant-eating Chat, African Stonechat, African Pipit, Spike-heeled Lark, Rufous-naped Lark, Sabota Lark, Common Ostrich, Crowned Lapwing and Kalahari Scrub-Robin. There is a Chat in this group of pics that I am still waiting to confirm:
The highlight in the valley happened when I realised that close to a Crowned Lapwing that I was watching was a bird that I initially did not recognise was actually a lifer for me - Double-banded Courser. I snapped as many shots as I could before the two birds disappeared for good:
In the grasslands I saw four different Northern Black Korhaans (while the Common Ostrich did their morning exercises):
I wound my way along the clever network of roads through the grasslands and around the koppies but the wind had risen and it was becoming really difficult bird and everything was getting covered with the fine red sand that was blowing in. The raptor that I spotted flying in the dust storm close to the picnic site has been identified as Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk. I made my way into the picnic area and found some shelter among the trees and after running some water from a tap got some close up shots of the birds in the area including Familiar Chat, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Black-chested Prinia, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Yellow Canary, Green-winged Pytilia, Karoo Thrush, Fiscal Flycatcher, African Red-eyed Bulbul, Neddicky, Speckled Mousebird, White-backed Mousebird, Cape Robin-Chat, Southern Masked Weaver, Pied Crow and Crested Barbet.
One of my favourite birds is Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler - they have such attitude!
From this point you can head straight back to the entrance gate or continue around the windmill - the only bird species I added to my list were Bokmakierie and Cattle Egret.
On the way back to the entrance the road climbs a hill where you can a spectacular view of the valley below - you can see how the dirt road zig zags through the valley so that you get close to the wild life:
At the main entrance I spotted Black-shouldered Kite, House Sparrow and Familiar Chat.
Here is a full list of all the bird species that I saw on the day in alphabetical order: African Hoopoe; African Pipit; African Red-eyed Bulbul; African Stonechat; Ant-eating Chat; Black-chested Prinia; Black-shouldered Kite; Blacksmith Lapwing; Bokmakierie; Cape Longclaw; Cape Robin-Chat; Cape Turtle-Dove; Cattle Egret; Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler; Common Fiscal; Common Ostrich; Crested Barbet; Crested Francolin; Crowned Lapwing; Double-banded Courser; Egyptian Goose; Familiar Chat; Fiscal Flycatcher; Green-winged Pytilia; Helmeted Guineafowl; House Sparrow; Kalahari Scrub-Robin; Karoo Thrush; Laughing Dove; Neddicky; Northern Black Korhaan; Pied Crow; Red-knobbed Coot; Rufous-naped Lark; Sabota Lark; Southern Masked Weaver; Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk; Speckled Mousebird; Speckled Pigeon; Spike-heeled Lark; White-backed Mousebird; White-browed Sparrow-Weaver; Yellow Canary and Yellow-billed Duck.
Here is a selection of other wildlife that I saw during the trip:
It was just after midday and I had seen 44 bird species and seen 1 lifer (and had had enough dust for the day) so I headed off to do some birding around the Vaal River in Orkney. I will create a separate report for that part of my trip.