Covering a total area of 5000ha, Blood River Vlei is one of the largest inland wetlands in KwaZulu-Natal. The wetland is situated on the western boundary of Zululand and part of the Thukela River catchment, which is the largest river in the province. The wetland is situated on private land, and the service of a guide is recommended. Pristine grasslands, as well as agricultural lands surround the wetland, and the three habitats combined, host around 140 species of birds.
Blood River Vlei is well known for its numbers of waterbirds, especially in winter when ducks, geese and cranes gather to over-winter and moult. The irrigated pastures also attract many geese. Spur-winged Goose numbers reach 2000, while Egyptian Goose numbers reach 1500. Grey Crowned Crane gather in a flock of 140 birds, one of the largest in the country.
Thirteen duck species have been recorded, including Fulvous, White-backed and Comb Duck, South African Shelduck, Hottentot Teal and Cape Shoveller.
Twelve heron species have been recorded; specials include Goliath, Squacco, Black and Black-Crowned Night-Herons.
The marshy areas are home to Kittlitz’s Plover, African Snipe, Red-chested Flufftail, African Rail, Baillon’s Crake and African Purple Swamphen. African and Lesser Jacana are resident, as well as African Spoonbill and African Wattled Lapwing.
Summer visitors include Marsh, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, Common Greenshank, Whiskered Tern and Amur Falcons.
Raptors are represented by Secretarybird, African Fish Eagle, African Marsh-Harrier and in summer, Western Marsh-Harrier and Amur Falcon already mentioned.
The grasslands surrounding the wetland host important endemics such as Blue Crane, Blue Korhaan, Bald Ibis, Jackal Buzzard, Anteating Chat and Cape Longclaw. Other grassland specials include Barrow’s Korhaan, Spike-heeled Lark, Buffy and Plain-backed Pipits, Long-tailed Widowbird, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Common Quail, Small Buttonquail and African Grass-Owl. African Quailfinch, Red-billed Quelea and Cape Canary can be seasonally abundant.
From Vryheid, drive out for about 15km towards Dundee (R33) and turn right at the sign “Scheepersnek”. Continue for about 6km, the wetland is on your left. Access to the best spots is on private land, and permission is required.
All types of accommodation is available in Vryheid, 25km away.