In the middle of the Fairview Racecourse (off the Draaifontein Road) is an extensive wetland. The water in the middle is being encroached upon by a huge reedbed of Phragmites reeds. There are also large areas of flooded marshland.
Next to the racecourse is a small impoundment where there are good water birds as well.
At one stage Maccoa Duck were resident. Also occasionally seen were African Pochard, White-backed Duck and African Jacana. But recently the variety of waterfowl has taken a plunge and mostly only the common ducks plus White-faced Whistling Ducks can be seen.
The reedbeds are good for warblers, bishops, waxbills and cisticolas. A pair of African Marsh Harriers is resident and breeds annually in the reedbeds.
Best bird for the vlei is African Grass Owl. It has been flushed five times over five years. You have to know exactly where it lives to flush it. It requires serious bush bashing through the tall marsh vegetation. Spotted Eagle Owls breed on the roof of one of the main buildings.
Spotted Eagle Owl – Corné Erasmus
The other great bird is the African Snipe. It is the best spot locally for this species and up to 20 birds have been flushed in the area at one time.
There is are also a few bush birds and quite a lot of Grassy Fynbos birds like Malachite Sunbird, Cape Longclaw, African Stonechat, Yellow Bishop and Cape Grassbird. Once off records include Secretarybird, Capped Wheatear and a Denham’s Bustard which flew over.
Other good birds are Little Bittern, African Swamphen, Black Crake, Purple Heron and large flocks of Whiskered Tern in summer which breed. It is a good spot for Plain-backed Pipit.
How to get there:
Drive out on the Old Cape Road, turn left onto the Draaifontein road just after the Greenbushes Hotel. Drive out on the Draaifontein Road and turn right at the sign for the Fairview Racecourse. A good birding spot on the way is at the corner of the Duspan Road and the Draaifontein Road. Here Brown-backed Honeybird has been seen twice in some big bluegum trees. Also Red-winged Francolin (heard) and Long-crested Eagle. There is a boom at the entrance to the racecourse, so it is essential to phone the manager beforehand for permission. His phone number can be given by Birdlife Eastern Cape.