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Ken Borland

Vaalkop Dam Nature Reserve

Posted on February 20, 2012 by Ken

The view from the southern part of Vaalkop Dam Nature Reserve, looking across to the islands and Bulkop Hill.

The best feature of Vaalkop Dam Nature Reserve, 50km north-west of Brits, is the overwhelming sense of peace and natural tranquility you get sitting on the shore of the large dam.

On a steamy hot February morning, it was beautiful just to sit and soak in the clear blue skies, the odd koppie and the sounds of the waterbirds going about their business. I even used the opportunity to indulge in one of my favourite treats – dipping my cap into the cool water and then throwing it over my head … Bliss!

I judged the spot where I tiptoed into the water to be crocodile-free because moments earlier a large carp had come to that spot and briefly frolicked in the shallow water …

February 16 was a very hot day, but nevertheless it was a good birding trip.

I stopped at the little bridge across the Elands River and made a great start – a couple of Blackcrowned Night Herons roosting in the overhanging riverine trees.

It was a good spot, also throwing up African Darter, a fleeing Greenbacked Heron with its orange legs dangling conspicuously, Reed Cormorant, a fleeting glimpse of a Woodland Kingfisher, Cape Wagtail, a large flock of Greater Striped Swallows, Southern Red Bishop, Whitewinged Widow, Southern Masked Weaver and Pied Kingfisher. I also heard some rustling down below the bridge and shortly afterwards a large Nile Monitor came shuffling out with a plastic bag and some vegetable/reedy matter clamped tight in its jaws.

The people at Bushwillow kindly allowed me into their bird sanctuary and highlights there were Scalyfeathered Finch, my first European Roller of the summer (leaving it late!), Jameson’s Firefinch, an Ostrich, a nicely posing Lesser Grey Shrike and Goliath Heron.

I then took a little walk down to the dam and spotted a dashing Bluecheeked Bee-Eater, swooping around like a green bullet, as well as a Whiskered Tern that was meandering across the dam before suddenly changing direction and swooping back into the water to catch something small. A couple of dainty Black Heron were also amongst the waterbirds.

A lovely shaded little pool threw up a brilliant Malachite Kingfisher that posed all-too-briefly on a reedstem for me before vanishing in a blur of dazzling colours.

I stopped for lunch at the picnic site and spotted my second ever Great Sparrow (the first was in November at Mapungubwe), hopping about in an Acacia tree along with a Crested Barbet.

The signs warning anglers about the crocodiles are true because I spotted a two-metre reptile cruising in towards the shoreline before my attention was grabbed by a pair of fairly distant African Fish Eagle.

A very yellow Cape White-Eye also popped in to visit and, just before leaving Vaalkop, I spotted an Icterine Warbler in the thicker Acacia woodland in the southern part of the reserve.

By far the most common bird of the trip was the Spotted Flycatcher … there seemed to be one lurking under a tree ever 50 metres or so! As someone who’s birding foundation was in KZN, I’m used to Blackeyed Bulbuls dominating … in fact I didn’t see a single Toppie!

But another wonderful piece of African heaven discovered not that far from home and definite food for the soul …

Sightings list

Blackcrowned Night Heron

African Darter

Greenbacked Heron

Reed Cormorant

Woodland Kingfisher

Cape Wagtail

Greater Striped Swallow

Nile Monitor

Southern Red Bishop

Whitewinged Widow

Southern Masked Weaver

Pied Kingfisher

Laughing Dove

Little Egret

Grey Hornbill

Grey Lourie


Glossy Starling

European Bee-Eater

Scalyfeathered Finch

Redbilled Quelea

Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Lilacbreasted Roller

Pied Crow


European Swallow

Rufousnaped Lark

Cape Turtle Dove

European Roller

Fantailed Cisticola

Nyala (females)

Jameson’s Firefinch (female)

Spotted Flycatcher


Whitebreasted Cormorant

Lesser Grey Shrike

Grey Heron

Goliath Heron

Blacksmith Plover

Egyptian Goose

Bluecheeked Bee-Eater

Cattle Egret

Whiskered Tern (non-breeding)

Black Heron

Sabota Lark

Malachite Kingfisher

Longtailed Shrike

Vervet Monkey

Crested Barbet

Great Sparrow (male)

Common Myna (grrrrr)

Nile Crocodile

Redknobbed Coot

African Fish Eagle

Cape White-Eye

Sacred Ibis

Rattling Cisticola

Red Hartebeest


Waterbuck (pregnant young cow)

Forktailed Drongo

Southern Black Tit (female)

Redbacked Shrike (male)

Icterine Warbler

2 to “Vaalkop Dam Nature Reserve”

  1. Ken says:

    Thank you, hope you continue to enjoy it!

  2. Ken says:

    hang in there, spring is on its way!

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