Happy World Wetlands Day!
Spare a thought for birdlife around the world today, under threat not just from avian flu, but also from shrinking wetlands.
In South Africa, many wetlands conservation projects are underway, aimed at preserving the summer homes of the birds that descend each year from Eurasia and north Africa, and the year-round abodes of SA’s thousands of indigenous species.
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Wakkerstroom, a small town in Mpumalanga Province (about 200 kms southeast of Johannesburg), is one of the best places to find both. Twitchers from around the world, dare we say it, flock to the area for what are known as “big ticks” – not large, bloodsucking arachnids, but thick black checkmarks in their bird books, next to rare birds, indicating that they’ve spied the feathered flyers in question.
In particular, Wakkerstroom birders are hunting for glimpses of the cryptically-colored Rudd’s and Botha’s larks, both endemic to the area.
Wakkerstroom boasts one of Mpumalanga’s – indeed, one of South Africa’s – best options for birdwatchers interested in “Eco” tourism. In this case, “Eco” carries a dual sense: “ecological” and “economic”. The Wakkerstroom Wetland Reserve and Training Centre is a spectacularly beautiful place to go a-birding, and also provides work for budding bird guides, most of whom have poor, rural backgrounds.
For the best Wakkerstroom birding experience, follow these links: