Friday 4 February 2011

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

Follow the path into the gorge at Walter Sisulu (Witwatersrand) Botanical Gardens and there, beside the waterfall, you will see the eerie of the famous resident Black (Verreaux’s) Eagles. It is an enchanting place to be as the eagles wheel above and the Crocodile River begins its journey to Hartebeestpoort Dam.

There is a steep path and steps that leads up the side of the cataract and allows one to scale the kloof (cliff or escarpment) and reach the top of the falls. From here it is possible to look down on the eagles as they catch early morning air currents rising up the cliff-face. They have abandoned the top nest in favour of the privacy afforded by the lower one which cannot be seen from above. Notice boards requesting visitors not to throw stones at the eagles conjures dark theories as to why they prefer to be out of sight.

A path with a much shallower incline leads gently down through indigenous trees and scrub of the slope on the western side of the gardens. I would have used this one to scale the cliff if I had known. This was a productive area with Tawny-flanked Prinia, African Paradise Flycatcher and Speckled Mousebird. In the larger riverine trees at the foot of the path, a pair of Southern Boubou sang a sweet duet. There is a hide overlooking a small dam on the western side of the river.

A pair of African Black Duck roosted on a floating log at the dam and the inevitable weavers lent some colour to the scene. A path runs through the hide, but without exception everyone who passed through, including the children, were impeccably behaved. The board-walked wetland behind the dam had been drained and looks as though it may be due for renovation.

On a weekend morning the park was very busy from the get go. The aspiring classes from the Roodepoort neighbourhood between Johannesburg and Krugersdorp were picnicking. From 08.00 yummy mummies and driven daddies competed with each other to stake a claim to the prime picnic sites where they set up extravagant picnic parties for their offspring, which seemed to have coincidentally clashed with their networking parties. The cafe at the gardens does a very good breakfast.

It is a beautiful garden and would be well worth a visit on a weekday morning when you might do better than my pathetic list as below. The gardens open at 08.00 and an entrance fee of RSA 35 applies. It is ironic to note that the admission price causes an affluent demographic in the visitors book that would have saddened the anti-apartheid campaigner for whom the park is named. A list of the potential 220 birds which have been seen is available at reception.
Find the gardens at Google Earth ref; 26 05’ 13”S 27 50’ 52”E and visit the following website which gives a write up about the park and the eagles;  

Bird species; 28

Striated Heron 1, Sacred Ibis 6, Hadada Ibis 6, African Black Duck 2, Black-shouldered Kite 3, Verreaux’s Eagle 2, Helmeted Guineafowl 4, Red-eyed Dove 30, Ring-necked Dove 2, Laughing Dove 8, African Palm Swift 3, White-rumped Swift 5, Speckled Mousebird 1, Greater Striped Swallow 6, Cape Wagtail 1, Common Bulbul 25, Kurrichane Thrush 10, Cape Robin-chat 2, Tawny-flanked Prinia 4, Fiscal Flycatcher 2, African Paradise Flycatcher 1, Cape White-eye 2, Southern Boubou 2, Common Myna 10, Red-winged Starling 5, House Sparrow 10, Black-throated Canary 5, Yellow-fronted Canary 1.

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