Tag Archives: Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary

A month of monochrome memories: Prinia Lunchtime

A tiny Tawny-flanked Prinia showing off its even smaller grasshopper-meal at the Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary in Pretoria.

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Our end-of-year 2015 holidays were absolutely packed to the brim. Apart from our ten-day visit to the Kruger National Park (read more about our time at Lower Sabie, Olifants and Shingwedzi in December), we also made day trips to five other reserves, and will be sharing photos from those (except Suikerbosrand, which we introduced in a post all of its own) daily through the month of February, in a series we call “a month of monochrome memories”.

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A month of monochrome memories: Hunting Little Egret

Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary is a haven for several kinds of herons and egrets, going about their business rather unperturbed by the presence of human spectators. The hunting technique of the black heron we enjoyed close-up views of there was a special treat, and quite unlike the side-ways bobbing head movements employed by this hunting Little Egret in zoning in on its prey.

Austin Roberts 22112015 (2) Austin Roberts 22112015 (4)

Our end-of-year 2015 holidays were absolutely packed to the brim. Apart from our ten-day visit to the Kruger National Park (read more about our time at Lower Sabie, Olifants and Shingwedzi in December), we also made day trips to five other reserves, and will be sharing photos from those (except Suikerbosrand, which we introduced in a post all of its own) daily through the month of February, in a series we call “a month of monochrome memories”.

A month of monochrome memories: Metro Mahem

The tiny Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary is one of the city of Pretoria’s gems, and the reserve’s flock of Grey Crowned Cranes (known as “mahem” in Afrikaans) must be among the most photographed of their species.

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Our end-of-year 2015 holidays were absolutely packed to the brim. Apart from our ten-day visit to the Kruger National Park (read more about our time at Lower Sabie, Olifants and Shingwedzi in December), we also made day trips to five other reserves, and will be sharing photos from those (except Suikerbosrand, which we introduced in a post all of its own) daily through the month of February, in a series we call “a month of monochrome memories”.

Black Heron

Egretta ardesiaca

One of the most interesting birds you could hope to see in action in South Africa’s wild places, is the Black Heron. It’s a smallish species, about 55cm long and less than 350g in weight. Their black plumage and bright orange-yellow feet make them easily recognisable.

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Black Herons roost and breed communally in reedbeds or trees, near or over water, with others of their own species, and other kinds of egrets, herons, cormorants and ibises. Nests are platforms built of twigs at the start of the rainy season, on which clutches of 2 to 4 eggs are incubated.

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They search for food, alone or in flocks of varying sizes, in rivers, swamps, lakes and estuaries, and feed predominantly on fish.

Black Herons occur widely in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the equatorial forests, The IUCN considers the species’ population stable and in no immediate danger of extinction, though they are highly threatened in Madagascar.

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A recent visit to Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary afforded us the opportunity to enjoy up-close views of the Black Heron’s characteristic hunting method, knows as “canopy feeding“. The bird uses its wings to create an umbrella around its head, and then picks off fish and tadpoles beneath. This behaviour may serve a dual purpose of preventing glare from the water, making it easier to see their prey, and tricking the prey into thinking that the shadow is a safe hiding place. They are also known to wiggle their toes underwater to attract their fishy prey.

Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary

Austin Roberts was one of South Africa’s most acclaimed zoologists, best known for his authoratitive reference book on the birds of Southern Africa. Today, his legacy is honoured in the Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary, located in Pretoria’s leafy Nieuw Muckleneuk suburb.

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The tiny reserve covers only eleven hectares (about four city blocks), yet more than 170 bird species have been identified here – a consequence of the wide range of habitats that it provides: dense woodland, mixed bushveld, reedbeds and nine small perennial dams. In addition, a few small antelope and a couple of tortoises also occur here.

AR_Blesbok

Blesbok

AR_CapeTeal

Cape Teal

AR_CommonMoorhen

Common Moorhen

AR_EgyptianGoose

Egyptian Geese

AR_FulvousDuck

Fulvous Duck

AR_LaughingDove

Laughing Dove nesting inside the hide

AR_Steenbok

Steenbok

AR_White-facedDuck

White-faced Ducks

AR_Yellow-billedDuck

Yellow-billed Duck

Red-knobbedCoot

Red-knobbed Coot with chick

AR_BlueCrane

The Blue Crane is South Africa’s national bird

AR_CrownedCrane

Crowned Crane

Facilities at the sanctuary include a restaurant and photographic hide, both extremely popular, and both offering a very nice lunchtime break from the office!

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A section of the hide at Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary