In an untouched corner of the Kalahari, Witsand Nature Reserve is a tranquil birding oasis.
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.
The Witsand Nature Reserve comprises arid acacia woodland that lies on copper-red Kalahari sands and forms part of the Langberg Mountain range.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The male Violet-Eared Waxbill (Koningblousysie) has deep chestnut plumage, while the female is paler with buff underparts.
- A common resident of acacia woodland, the Black-throated Canary (Bergkanarie) usually occurs in small flocks.
- A common resident of arid savannah, the Black-faced Waxbill (Swartwangsysie) is often found in small flocks that need to drink regularly.
- 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.
- The nest of the Scaly-feathered Finch (Baardmannetjie) is an untidy ball of grass lined with softer material. Eggs are pale speckled grey.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.