Marievale Bird Sanctuary
Did you know?
An excellent birding spot at Marievale is on a bridge built in 1880.
If you are in Johannesburg and crave a spot of birding, there is only one place you should go, and that is the Marievale Bird Sanctuary.
Set in a floodplain near the little town of Nigel near Johannesburg, this interesting provincial nature reserve has Gauteng province’s highest bird count: 280 species. In addition, this part of the Blesbokspruit – a perennial river – has been declared a Ramsar wetland of international importance.
As if that weren’t enough, Marievale has also been declared an Important Bird Area.
Go there in Spring (September and October) when the migrants arrive, before the rains, and you will be greeted with sights that make your jaw drop. Here, not far from gold mining areas, you will see thousands upon thousands of aquatic birds wading in the shallows. Up to 4 000 ruffs, for example, have been seen at one time.
Here you can often see specials like little bittern and slaty egrets, black and squacco herons and handsome red-knobbed coots along with the usual aquatic suspects – African rails, crakes, moorhens, cormorants and snipes.
It’s probably the only place in Gauteng where it is relatively easy to see the goliath heron, fulvous duck and African shelduck.
But what gets birders excited is that Marievale sometimes attracts extremely rare vagrants. In the past, there have been good sightings of buff-spotted flufftails, buff-breasted sandpiper, an American Pacific plover, and a black-tailed godwit.
This is usually a quiet place, but you will immediately know if something extraordinary has been spotted, because birders from all over the country will have descended here.
Marievale has been shaped by mining – much of the water that fills its open areas is pumped up from underground. Yet this has created an extraordinary body of water attractive to birds.
The sanctuary is very oriented towards things winged, but you can also look out for reedbuck, blesbok, Cape clawless otters, black-backed jackal, yellow mongoose and the odd Cape hare.
And if that doesn’t convince you to go, the entrance fee is irresistible. It’s free.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserves (with chalets) also handles Marievale enquiries
Tel: +27 (0) 11 439 6300
Cell: +27 (0) 71 602 7581
Friends of Marievale
+27 (0) 11 734 3661