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Goldfields birdlife not just a pie in the sky
  • These areas attract numerous waders, egrets, herons and other water-loving birds
  • sightings of goliath and squacco herons, little bitterns, black crakes and African rails
  • a list of 226 birds seen personally in the Goldfields area and a national list of 451 species found in South Africa

Crested barbetPhoto: Neil Venter
Scaly-feathered weavers Photo: Neil Venter
Red-billed tealPhoto: Neil Vente
European bee-eater Photo: Neil Venter
Eastern clapper larkPhoto: Andy Harrison
Immature gabar goshawkPhoto: Andy Harrison
Secretary birdPhoto: Andy Harrison
African paradise flycatcher Photo: Neil Venter
Black-shouldered kite with preyPhoto: Neil Venter

When one thinks of birding destinations in South Africa, it would be fair to say that the Welkom area does not im­mediately spring to mind.

Welkom can hold its own in the world of birding

with a checklist of well over 250 bird specie

ut perhaps that should change, as Welkom can hold its own with a checklist of well over 250 bird species.

The general countryside is typical highveld Free State – flat grasslands with some belts of acacia bush and a sprinkling of ephemeral pans, all of which attract their own set of bird life.

Secretary birds, blue and northern black korhaans, double-banded and Temminck’s coursers and a variety of larks – including the melodious, spike-heeled, pink-billed and eastern clapper – come to mind.

These can be found adjacent to the many dirt and tarred roads that transect the area.

“Within the city of Welkom, the gardens and parks attract their own set of birds. Apart from the usual culprits, visitors might be rewarded with sightings of African paradise flycatchers, Burchell’s coucals, Gabar goshawks and African harrier-hawks,” says Andy Harrison, one of Welkom’s dedicated bird-watchers and a member of the St Andrew’s Visual Arts Society’s (SAVAS) local photographic society.

Welkom has a number of permanent wetlands and pans, fed by mine and municipal wastewater. These areas attract numerous waders, egrets, herons and other water-loving birds.

Patient birders may be rewarded by sightings of goliath and squacco herons, little bitterns, black crakes and African rails, to name but a few, and always the possibility of a few inland rarities like the white-fronted plover.

And famously, gatherings of several thousand greater and lesser flamingos can make for a beautiful pink sunset.

Welkom has a number of permanent wetlands and pans, fed by mine and municipal wastewater. These areas attract numerous waders, egrets, herons and other water-loving birds.

Patient birders may be rewarded by sightings of goliath and squacco herons, little bitterns, black crakes and African rails, to name but a few, and always the possibility of a few inland rarities like the white-fronted plover.

And famously, gatherings of several thousand greater and lesser flamingos can make for a beautiful pink sunset.

Neil Venter, another Welkom birder and member of SAVAS, says he has only taken an interest in birding since buying his DSLR camera at the end of 2015.

Since then, he has spent countless hours patrolling the Goldfields in search of different bird species.

Venter has compiled a list of 226 birds seen personally in the Goldfields area and a national list of 451 species found in South Africa.

According to him, 12 of the 226 species he has spotted in the Goldfields – most of which are raptors or birds of prey – are classified as near-threatened or vulnerable.

The greater and lesser flamingos which often forage at the Goldfields pans are also listed as near-threatened species found in South Africa.

Venter has compiled a list of 226 birds seen personally in the Goldfields area and a national list of 451 species found in South Africa.

According to him, 12 of the 226 species he has spotted in the Goldfields – most of which are raptors or birds of prey – are classified as near-threatened or vulnerable.

The greater and lesser flamingos which often forage at the Goldfields pans are also listed as near-threatened.

“Earlier this year, we saw large numbers of lesser fla­mingos congregate at the Flamingo Pan, many of which were juvenile or immature birds. This was a good sign, especially after the recent drought at the Kamfers Dam at Kimberley, which is one of only four breeding grounds for the lesser flamingo in South Africa,” says Venter.

There are some beautiful garden birds in the city itself. These include the crested barbet, Karoo thrush and the speckled- and red-faced mousebirds.

Occasionally the Burchell’s coucal, or “rainbird” as some may know them, make an appearance in lush or green gardens.

From the Orange-river white-eye to the more common “mossie”, there is enough birdlife in the Goldfields’ gardens to entertain even the novice birder.

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