DIEPSLOOT NATURE RESERVE
This nature reserve is one of Gauteng's best kept secrets, with around 270 recorded bird species.
Diepsloot Nature Reserve, which is about 1600 hectares in size, was proclaimed as a nature reserve in 1960 as a green belt around the Northern Wastewater Treatment Works.
The area was used for irrigation for treated effluent through a maturation pond system and has been farmed for a number of years with Bovelder cattle and various crops.
Today there is no longer a need to depend as heavily on the farmland as a wastewater treatment option and as a result other uses for the farm were considered, foremost among these being increased recreational use.
In the medium term portions of the farm will continue to be used for effluent treatment and farming will for the time being continue as before.
It is not a pristine area by any means, with artificial dams and stands of exotic trees and reedbeds being the dominant habitat type.
However, there are few wetlands of any significance in the general area and protecting and improving the nature reserve status is therefore of paramount importance and is something that the Northern Farm Recreational User Group Committee (NFRUG) regards as a priority.
In addition, Johannesburg Water has committed to creating a sustainable facility for integrated recreational use by members of the public. Today the part of the reserve that is most visited is the northern section, more commonly known as Northern Farm.
Resident birds include Black-crowned Night Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Goliath Heron, Little Bittern, Cape Longclaw, Red-capped Lark, African Fish-Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk, African Purple Swamphen, Green-backed Heron, African Black Duck, African Spoonbill, African Snipe, African Rail, Red-chested Flufftail, Cape Grassbird and Comb Duck, with specials such as African Grass Owl, Dark-capped Yellow Warbler and Cuckoo Finch also being recorded occasionally. There are several species present that are hard to find in urban Johannesburg such as Cape Crow, Marsh Owl, Arrow-marked Babbler, Kurrichane Thrush, Orange-breasted Waxbill, Giant, Pied and Half-collared Kingfisher. The summer migrants include Yellow Wagtail, Common House Martin, Sedge Warbler, Great Reed-Warbler, Diderick Cuckoo, African Paradise-Flycatcher, Amur Falcon, and Steppe Buzzard.
There are ablution facilities at the entrance, with a lapa and braai area. An education centre has been established with classrooms. Currently there is one hide at one of the large dams with more being planned. The dirt road network is comprehensive and has routes that cover all the dams and habitats in the reserve. It is advisable to obtain a map when you purchase your entrance ticket.
Early morning birding is recommended in summer. In winter a later arrival with a longer stay is recommended, while summers are generally hot at midday. Optimal times of the year for birding are autumn and early summer with the arrival or departure of the migrants.
The dams and reed areas provide excellent birding all year round. It is advisable to bring a scope with you, as several of the dams have visible mixed heronries, and raptor nests. These areas have high densities of the following birds: Southern Red Bishop, Southern Masked-Weaver, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Red-knobbed Coot, Common Moorhen, Reed and White-breasted Cormorant, and Little Grebe, to name some. The reed areas should produce Black Crake, African Purple Swamphen, Purple Heron, Little Bittern (both races), Goliath Heron, Common Waxbill, Orange-breasted Waxbill and a variety of warblers dependent on the season, such as Lesser Swamp-Warbler, Little Rush-Warbler, with Great Reed and Sedge Warbler frequently encountered.
The grassland and cattle kraal areas in summer often have Yellow Wagtail, Amur Falcon, Greater and Lesser Kestrel, African Pipit, Pied Starling, Cape Longclaw, Cape Grassbird and both Red-capped and Rufous-naped Lark. Nomadic birds like the Capped Wheatear are also seen regularly, and numbers of Long-tailed and White-winged Widowbirds can be expected.
Hirundines are well represented, and in summer up to 8 species can be found, including South African Cliff-Swallow, Common House Martin and Sand Martin.
The reserve is known for its raptors with Long-crested Eagle, Black and Ovambo Sparrowhawk breeding in the extensive poplar stands, while Black-chested Snake-Eagle and Lanner Falcon are also observed frequently. Specials such as Osprey, African Marsh Harrier, and Black Kite are also known to occur and European Honey-Buzzard is recorded annually. This is the only known locality in the Greater Johannesburg area where African Fish-Eagle regularly breeds.
The remnant woodland areas with Rhus and Acacia species are excellent for resident Fiscal Flycatcher as well as migratory Fairy Flycatcher. Willow Warbler, Cardinal Woodpecker, Arrow-marked Babbler, Green Wood-Hoopoe are commonly seen in the woodland areas as well, especially alongside the Jukskei River. Birds that are often seen in overlapping habitats include the Bronze Mannikin, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Common Waxbill, African Stonechat and Cape White-eye and Kurrichane Thrush.
The reserve has a broad mix of highveld habitats. It includes grassland areas which are heavily grazed by cattle, reedbeds and grassland areas, agricultural fields and cattle kraals. The wetland habitat is represented by farm dams and irrigation canals, with riverine vegetation along the Jukskei River. There are stands of exotic trees, particulary poplars, which providing breeding habitat for a number of raptor species, throughout the reserve.
1. All persons to have a valid ticket on entering these premises. (This includes siblings, parents, guests, spectators, grooms etc.)
Entrance is charged per person
2. The Farm is ONLY open on Weekends and Public holidays from:
6:30am - 5:30pm (1 May - 31 August)
6:00am - 6:00pm (1 Sep - 30 April)
The Access Card office closes at 3:00pm
3. FARM VEHICLES HAVE RIGHT OF WAY. ANIMALS ALWAYS HAVE RIGHT OF WAY OVER VEHICLES AND BICYCLES
4. Mountain Bike - No helmet, no ride, no exceptions
5. Mountain bike vehicle parking is at the main clubhouse
6. Private vehicles are restricted to Birders ONLY and may not leave established tracks
7. No fire arms allowed
8. No noise or loud music
9. No misuse of alcohol - no drunkenness
10. No littering - take rubbish with you
11. Do not feed any animals
12. No snaring/trapping of animals
13. No picking of, or damaging plants
14. Stay on designated pathways and roads
15. Do not swim in any of the dams or the river
16. Do not drink water from the river or dams, only drink from designated taps
17. Use the toilet provided
18. No lighting of fires in undesignated areas - ONLY at designated braai areas at clubhouse
19. No driving beyond designated pathways
20. Motor vehicle speed limit is 20kph
21. No unaccompanied minors
22. Please close any gates you open
23. No pollution of any kind
24. NO DOGS!