A flight of fancy for bird lovers

A male white-winged widowbird in the Dinokeng Game Reserve

A male white-winged widowbird in the Dinokeng Game Reserve (Image: Derek Keats)

There’s no doubt that wildlife reserves are mostly popular for the spotting of bigger animals such as elephant, lion and rhino – sometimes with extended no-show periods between sightings.

But don’t fret. If you can divert your attention to the trees and sky during that lull between shy leopards showing off their spots, you’ll be in for an equally pleasant safari treat. You see, in addition to the wide variety of four-legged creatures, the entire Dinokeng area is also a birdwatcher’s paradise.

In fact, Dinokeng is South Africa’s second-best birdwatching region after Ndumo in KwaZulu-Natal, in terms of species and numbers. A mix of grassland, bushveld Acacia and wetland habitats attract a wide variety of birds to a comparatively concentrated region.

Take a morning drive through most parts of the Dinokeng Game Reserve and you could easily spot anything from 80 to 100 different species, while a further 180 or more might be viewed if you spend a whole weekend birding during the more active summer months for birds – November to January.

With more than 400 species of birds taking up residence here, it doesn’t matter if you’re a serious twitcher or just a keen birder – a leisurely stroll through the reserve promises to be extremely rewarding and you’re certain to tick off a large section of your South African birding list.

If you’re travelling with kids, searching for endemic and migrant bird species serves as a wonderful educational exercise and is something to share with friends at school. It’s also a good idea to follow up with further research back at home to reinforce what’s learned in the field.

Some of the more exciting rare birds already spotted in the area include:

  • African finfoot
  • Olive-tree warbler
  • Golden pipit
  • Fish eagle
  • Crimson-breasted shrike (yellow morph)
  • European golden oriole

So, remember to take along your binoculars, camera, a lot of patience and the latest version of your favourite South African birdlife manual to make the most of your birding adventure.