Marievale is near the small town of Nigel on a perennial river, the Blesbok Spruit. This floodplain area offers the highest bird species count in Gauteng, some 280 species having been recorded for the area.
Spring and summer birding is generally the best with large populations of waders as well as the influx of summer’s migrants being present. What makes Marievale particularly rewarding is the opportunity to see some real specials – Little Bittern, Slaty Egret, Flufftails, Black Tailed Godwit, Marsh Owls, Western Marsh Harrier have been spotted along with the more common Fulvous Duck, Snipes, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruffs, both Grebe species, Little Stints, Flamingos, and many more.
Recent trips (November 2015) have included a Yellow Wagtail at the T-Junction just south of the picnic spot.
Marievale is a RAMSAR wetland of international importance and on top of that has also been declared an Important Bird Area. Set around gold mining activities, much of the open water is pumped up from underground and this has created dams that are attractive to birds so although the mining has impacted on the original vlei birds still gather in their 1000’s.
There are a number of good bird hides on the property with dirt roads leading to the hides and the picnic spot. Two hides north of the picnic spot (which is sort of in the middle of the reserve) have been badly vandalised and are probably not worth spending time there.
It is generally recommended birding in groups as there have been criminal incidents in the past. To help control access only the main entrance gate is open which is on the R42. The main dirt road from this gate into the reserve is also currently undergoing an upgrade but this does not significantly hamper access to the first hide or rest of the reserve.
There is overnight accommodation available near the main gate.
Besides birds, various antelope species occur and it’s probably one of the few places in Gauteng to look for Cape Clawless Otter.