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Fransa takes birders to the Crocodile

"Wow! Was that a Cuckoo Finch?" Birdlife President Ridge on their Crocodile ramble.

The group from Birdlife President Ridge, which has visited the Conservancy before, asked for an area where they could find water birds. Fransa and Louis Cole, on the Crocodile River in Riverside Estates, offered to host this group on 17 January. Birder Linda Koch (ex-Roodekrans) was also delighted: “The walk was guided expertly by the Coles and thoroughly appreciated by everyone. The walk, the venue, the hospitality - it was wonderful.”

“Wow! This has made my birding year!” This enthusiastic response came from a member of Birdlife Northern Gauteng when the 30-strong group sighted a Melodious Lark on their outing in Hills and Dales on a crisp morning in January. “This is a cryptic species which many birders have not seen because it is easily missed unless the males are performing their aerial display songs,” says bird expert, Geoff Lockwood of Delta Park. “The estimate is that a minimum of 100ha of climax grassland is required to sustain a viable local population.”

The Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy is home to more than 300 species of birds, which makes it a sought-after region for avid birders. The area is ideal for spotting grassland, bushveld and riverine birds. It hosted two bird walks in January, Birdlife Northern Gauteng and Birdlife President Ridge.

Says Andre Marx of Birdlife Northern Gauteng: “We had a great morning. We saw nearly 90 birds which is an excellent total. Top birds besides the Melodious Lark were Lazy Cisticola, Little Bee-eater, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Garden Warbler, Bar-throated Apalis, Amur Falcon and many others. The vegetation was very interesting with many different trees and grasses noted as well. Everyone agreed that we should repeat the outing.”

Mariana Dreyer from Rietfontein in Pretoria was unstinting in her praise: “Baie dankie vir die wonderlike dag. Wat ‘n voorreg om op so ‘n pragtige plek te bly!”

Some quirky feedback from the group on a few of the birds spotted:

Cuckoo Finch and Brown-backed Honeybird: Fairly “Wow!”
Snake Eagle and Grassbird: Very nice
White-throated Swallow chicks: Ag shame!
Amur Falcon: Interesting
Lesser Honey-guide going in and out of a hole: Don't see that too often!
Steppe Buzzard: There's another one over there!
The rest: Worth coming out to see.