What was once a beautiful pristine body of water is now over-run by toxic algae, but looking upwards is always rewarding when one is birding in the Hartebeestpoort Dam area.
That’s because the Magaliesberg Mountains surround the dam and, with diverse woodland and thornveld around its shores, Harties is always good for raptors.
The Oberon Resort, now known as Eagle Waters, is expensive for a day visit, but you can drive around the shore for some way as well as walk in the woodland.
It was while I was walking, away from the dam and towards the Magaliesberg that a buzzard came flying over and hovered kindly just about right above me. The barred tail and the chocolate-brown stripes on the belly were distinctive and I had my second Honey Buzzard sighting!
Straight afterwards, a Cape Vulture was soaring imperiously high above the hills, obviously a member of the nearby Skeerpoort colony.
Whitebrowed Sparrow Weavers, those denizens of the arid west, bouncing around at the entrance suggested it would be a good morning and there were certainly plenty of birds about, in between the Plains Zebra and Blesbok that serenely wander around, despite the disgusting efforts of some visitors to hunt them.The water was busy too, with Reed and Whitebreasted Cormorants, Cattle Egret, Egyptian Goose, Redknobbed Coot, Sacred Ibis, Cape Wagtail, African Darter, Yellowbilled Duck, Greyheaded Gull and Whitewinged Tern all dashing about.
Spotted Dikkop were resting in the patches of longer grass on the stony ground, while a solitary Glossy Ibis was a surprise sighting flying over the dam.
After driving as far as I could go, I parked in one of the little fishing spots next to the water and set off on foot. A Blackcollared Barbet was trying to eat a large beetle, while a male Whitewinged Widow was making his presence known as well.
A Cinnamonbreasted Bunting flew up off the road on my way back to the car, where Yellowfronted Canary came to visit and feast on the many grass seeds that were available.
By then my second Honey Buzzard sighting was marked down, but clearly one of the local wasps decided he/she had to keep ahead of that landmark by inflicting only my third ever wasp sting!
I was stalking some birds in a little copse of trees near the campsite, where there is more thornveld as compared to the woodland on the eastern side of the resort, when I trod on a fallen branch, which rotated under my boot, obviously disturbing the wasp. I heard a buzzing, felt something on my neck and then was stung painfully!
I soldiered on, however, and was just thinking how the short grass with nearby trees was the perfect habitat for African Hoopoe when two flew up just ahead of me.
Even better, along the fence of the camping site, in some long grass, were a family of Blackthroated Canaries. Beyond the campsite is some even wilder grassy areas and these produced Fantailed Cisticola.
From Eagle Waters I drove to Magaliespark, where I was let in without any hassle after saying “I was told I can have lunch here.”
This beautiful resort is superbly set up and provides more lush vegetation as well as access to the Magalies River inlet to the dam.
A Common Moorhen was grooming itself contentedly in one of the water features, while I was surprised to see a group of Arrowmarked Babbler in thick, almost forest-like vegetation around the chalets.
The bird hide is really just an open lapa on the shore, but it provides a good view of one of the waterways and Whitethroated Swallow, Whitefaced Duck and Palm Swift were all zooming around.
A Rock Pigeon was my farewell bird as it chilled out on the stoep of one of the chalets, a foretaste of what was to come as I then went to the dam wall, where flocks of European Swallow and Rock Martin produce a swirling mass of birds just above the tunnel crossing, with the occasional Redwinged Starling flying about too.
Whitebrowed Sparrow Weaver
Greater Striped Swallow
Lesser Striped Swallow
Southern Masked Weaver
Southern Red Bishop
European Honey Buzzard
Cinnamonbreasted Rock Bunting
Southern Greyheaded Sparrow