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Witsand Birding

Witsand Birding

In an untouched corner of the Kalahari, Witsand Nature Reserve is a tranquil birding oasis.

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Words and Pictures: Peter Chadwick, www.peterchadwick.co.za

I lived in the Kalahari for two years, and the gnarled camel thorns with their rough bark, large seed pods and yellow pom-pom flowers, and the sandy, copper soils and dry heat, are very special. It’s a corner of Africa that has been left alone, and one that had many places I hadn’t explored. The Witsand Nature Reserve was one of them and I was thrilled to finally discover it on a family holiday through the arid north of South Africa.

Habitat

The Witsand Nature Reserve comprises arid acacia woodland that lies on copper-red Kalahari sands and forms part of the Langberg Mountain range.

Specials

  • Pygmy Falcon
  • Kori Bustard
  • Crimson-breasted Shrike
  • Black-breasted Snake-Eagle
  • Sociable Weaver

Seasons and Weather

Summers can be extremely hot with afternoon thunderstorms. Winters are generally more pleasant, but nights can be very cold.

Accommodation & Activities

There are 10 luxury air-conditioned chalets suitable for large families, as well as caravan and camping sites. Activities include hiking, bird watching, dune boarding and a botanical trail.

Get There

Witsand turn-off is 80km from Griekwastad on the R64 to Grobblershoop. The reserve is 45km from the turn-off. The Witsand turn-off is 58km from Grobblershoop if you’re travelling in the other direction on the R64. There is also a turn-off to Witsand 5km west of Oliphantshoek on the N14. The reserve is 75km from the turn-off.

Checklist:

  1. A common resident in arid savannah, the Kalahari Scrub-robin (Kalahariwipstert) has a musical song of whistles and chirps. Pairs use a soft whistle to stay in contact with each another.
  2. The Chestnut Vented Tit-babbler (Bosveldtjeriktik) is differentiated from the Layard’s Tit-babbler by its boldly streaked throat and chestnut vent, which is white in the Layard’s Tit-babbler.
  3. The male Violet-Eared Waxbill (Koningblousysie) has deep chestnut plumage, while the female is paler with buff underparts.
  4. A common resident of acacia woodland, the Black-throated Canary (Bergkanarie) usually occurs in small flocks.
  5. A common resident of arid savannah, the Black-faced Waxbill (Swartwangsysie) is often found in small flocks that need to drink regularly.
  6. The male Green-winged Pytilia (Gewone Melba) can be differentiated from the female by his bold red throat and cap, which are grey in the female.
  7. The nest of the Scaly-feathered Finch (Baardmannetjie) is an untidy ball of grass lined with softer material. Eggs are pale speckled grey.
  8. The Desert Cisticola (Woestynklopkloppie) is one of five species of short-tailed cisticolas that are best distinguished by their calls. It is usually seen in pairs or small family groups.
  9. The Ashy Tit (Akasiagrysmees) can often be seen as part of a bird party, where they move through trees and bushes preying on caterpillars, spiders and small insects.
  10. An inhabitant of arid savannah and thornveld, the Black-chested Prinia (Swartbandlangstertjie) is the only prinia with a bold black stripe across its breast. It has been known to hybridise with the Karoo Prinia.

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