The beautiful landscape that would one day become Pilanesberg National Park, was formed when a volcano collapsed in on itself, leaving concentric rings of mountains. Nowadays, a dam lies at the centre of the range, overlooked by a charming hide (Google Earth ref; 25 15 58.27S 27 7 5.14E). The hide on Mankwe Dam is a must-see for any visitor to Pilanesberg NP and kept me enthralled for hours this morning.

JNB 25Jun13 Mankwe Hide 01

It is built to reach out into the water when the dam is full and is reached along a raised walkway, screened from the mammals, reptiles and birds that may be roosting, resting, feeding, drinking or waiting in ambush close by.

JNB 25Jun13 Three-banded Plover 03

The walkway proved very productive today; Three-banded Plover, African Snipe, African Jacana, and some White-faced Ducks were seen through the screen in the water to the left as I walked up.

JNB 25Jun13 White-faced Duck 01

Pied Kingfishers hovered before plunging to catch small fish, Pied Crows circled overhead and Village Weavers teed themselves up on dead snags.

JNB 25Jun13 Village Weaver 02

Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Cape Wagtails and Common Bulbuls used the screen or nearby snags as perches to see who was coming along the walkway.

JNB 25Jun13 Common Bulbul 01

All this was seen before I even stepped into the hide. The area surrounding Mankwe Dam is 500 square kilometres of protected acacia scrub, rock strewn hillsides, grasslands and kopjes, so with such a large area to draw from, pretty much anything can turn up.

JNB 25Jun13 Mankwe Hide 03

In front of the hide, the water stretches away to the distance with a few dead trees in the foreground. These trees are very popular as roosts for cormorants and egrets.

JNB 25Jun13 Malachite Kingfisher 01

Smaller snags closer to the water’s edge proved irresistible to the scintillating Malachite Kingfishers which liked to fish from perches around the hide. They seemed oblivious to the safari-goers “oohing” and “aaahing” at them. I confess to being the chief “oooher” and became quite an accomplished “aaaher” by the end of the morning.

JNB 25Jun13 Pied Kingfisher 06

The Pied Kingfishers prefer to perch until they spot a ripple on the water, then fly up to hover above their target before plunging down on it.

JNB 25Jun13 Pied Kingfisher 01

A dead tree in the distance was proving to be a very popular perch. At first it was occupied by a Grey Heron until it was driven off by an Osprey.

JNB 25Jun13 Osprey 01

The Osprey in its turn was dispossessed by an African Fish-Eagle. As the fish-eagle left, the heron returned to the perch and the cycle began again. But it would seem that the Osprey held a grudge against the heron as it tried to displace it from any perch that it settled on and continued to harass it even when it flew down to the water’s edge.

JNB 25Jun13 Osprey 02

Mammals visit the dam as well as the birds. Elephants were seen in the far distance, Warthogs mud-bathed where the water had receded, hippos hauled up in a big flatulent pile along the southern shore and a small herd of Wildebeeste filed down for a drink.

JNB 25Jun13 Wildebeeste 01

Even the little car park that serves the hide was full of birds with Crested Francolin and Arrow-marked Babblers flocking around me like town pigeons, as if they were expecting to be fed.

JNB 25Jun13 Arrow-marked Babbler 01

South Africa’s Kruger National Park may get all the publicity, but I adore Pilanesberg for its intimacy, variety and accessibility. The animals listed below were all seen from the hide and went to make up a day total of 78 birds and 20 mammals, but only the one reptile on this winter’s day.

JNB 25Jun13 Crocodile 01

Birds seen;

White-faced Whistling -Duck, Egyptian Goose, Crested Francolin, Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, Long-tailed Cormorant, African Darter, Hamerkop, Grey Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Osprey, African Fish-Eagle, Black Crake, Blacksmith Plover, Three-banded Plover, African Jacana, African Snipe, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Lilac-breasted Roller, Eurasian Hoopoe, Pied Crow, Common Bulbul, Arrow-marked Babbler, Red-backed Robin-chat, Stonechat, Cape Glossy Starling, Cape Wagtail, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow, Village Weaver, Common Waxbill.

JNB 25Jun13 Giraffe 01

Mammals seen;

African Elephant, Brindled Wildebeeste, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Warthog, Impala, Springbok.

Written by Redgannet
Redgannet worked for more than 35 years as a flight attendant for an international airline. He came to birding late in his career but, considering the distractions, doesn't regret the missed opportunities. He was paid to visit six continents and took full advantage of the chance to bird the world. He adopted the nom de blog, Redgannet, to avoid remonstrations from his overbearing employer, but secretly hoped that the air of mystery would make him more attractive to women. Now grounded, he is looking forward to seeing the seasons turn from a fixed point.