This past weekend saw us, accompanied by good friends and close family, heading to our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve to celebrate Joubert’s tenth birthday. The highlight of the day for Joubert and his mates was a tour to Rietvlei’s lions, with the birthday boy getting the seat of honour next to the very knowledgeable ranger-guide.
With the spring season now in glorious swing here in South Africa we headed to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden again for a jolly day out in nature this past Sunday. The recently fledged Verreaux’s Eagle chick and its parents were the stars of the show, as always, and yet again we were amazed at the variety of wildlife finding a home here in suburban Johannesburg. The gardens are hugely popular with the citizens of South Africa’s biggest city, and not without reason, as we hope these photos will convince.
Have a look here for all our posts on the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden if you’d like to learn more about this fantastic place.
It is the Heritage Day long weekend in South Africa, and yesterday we packed the Duster with picnic baskets and grandparents and set out for a most enjoyable morning at our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve. Large sections of the reserve have recently received management burns to clear moribund grass cover (fire being an essential component of Africa’s grassland and savanna landscapes), and the first spring rains have spurred the growth of new grass, attracting a wide range of birds and animals to these areas.
Yesterday we celebrated Joubert’s ninth birthday at our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve, just a few kilometers from home. Combining family and friends, wildlife, photography, a picnic and birthday cake just seems like the best way to celebrate the special day, don’t you agree?
Rietvlei is home to a small pride of lions housed in a 150-hectare enclosure in a corner of the reserve. Normally we wouldn’t support any “reserves” in which lions are kept in confined quarters nor any that offer “cub petting” as an attraction due to the very real possibility that these establishments are involved to a greater or lesser extent in the breeding of lions for the canned hunting and bone exporting business, despite their claims of “conservation” and “education”. Rietvlei’s lions however were rescued from exactly such circumstances, cannot be introduced to the wild and will live out their lives here. It was a special birthday treat for Joubert and his friends to visit Tau, Jarvis, Bassie and Tawane at their home.
Just as we were starting to experience withdrawal symptoms after spending almost a month exploring eight of our country’s beautiful national parks we were saved from the agony by a good friend who organised his birthday party at our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve yesterday.
It is supposed to be mid-winter in South Africa, but with daytime temperatures in the comfortable low 20’s centigrade recently, we just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to visit the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Johannesburg again this past Sunday. We enjoyed a lovely day walking and picnicking with good friends, soaking up the glorious sunshine under a cloudless sky, and of course our cameras went along!
Even in winter the garden is a feast for the eyes, and especially the winter-blooming aloes and carpets of daisies are a sight to behold. You are seldom far from water anywhere in the garden, with the Crocodile River flowing serenely through it and the Witpoortjie Falls being the focal point for all visitors to the gardens.
Anyone with a love for or interest in birds, especially photographers, will really find a visit to the gardens worth their while. Apart from the highly visible nesting pair of Verreaux’s Eagles, the garden absolutely abounds with birdlife, even now in winter when so many of the summer migrants have departed for warmer climes. The hide at the Sasol Dam in a quieter corner of the garden must surely rank as one of the best facilities of its kind in the country in terms of the variety and quality of sightings on offer.
Our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve is often just what the doctor ordered when I need a quick nature fix. Located just 13km from our home, with a very fair rate of admission (R50 for adults currently, roughly $3.50), decent facilities, an extensive road network and an amazing diversity of wildlife, Rietvlei never fails to recharge the batteries! A week or so ago, in serious need of getting my head cleared following a few health worries, that’s exactly where I headed for a solo trip.
In all the years we’ve been visiting Rietvlei the reserve’s cheetahs have always eluded us – these large spotted cats are experts at hiding! I therefore felt extremely pleased when at long last I encountered a female with her three cubs, just after they had their fill of a freshly caught blesbok. I returned to the site several times later during the day, hoping that the family might still be in the vicinity, only to find the remains of the carcass variously attended by nervous black-backed jackals and pied crows squabbling over the left overs.
At one of the bird-viewing hides I had another encounter that will live in my memory forever. A reedbuck ewe hid her young lamb in a dense stand of reeds nearby, which is quite normal behaviour for the species. The curious (or should that be naughty?) youngster however did not want to stay put where his mom told him to, and quite unafraid approached me where I was sitting flat on the ground taking photos of him from a distance. Eventually he got so close that I had to get up and walk away, afraid that if he was to rub up against me his mother might catch my scent on him and abandon him. If I was pleased after the earlier cheetah sighting this experience really had me feeling utterly blessed!
Winter is getting a firm hold on South Africa’s Highveld now and early morning at Rietvlei is a pleasure to behold as mist rises from the waterways and the rising sun starts to thaw the frost covering the grass and trees.
For a reserve almost entirely surrounded by urban sprawl and industries, Rietvlei harbours an impressive collection of large and easily visible mammalian inhabitants. My sightings included black wildebeest, blesbok, buffalo, eland, meerkat, plains zebra, hartebeest, springbok, waterbuck, white rhinos and yellow mongoose (as well as the already mentioned cheetahs, jackals and reedbuck).
I also managed to identify 55 different kinds of birds in the few hours I spent at Rietvlei!
All in all a very pleasant day’s outing; one that certainly got my head back in the right place!