Published by : Stuart McLean - 19 May 2020

Golf courses around South Africa serve as natural habitats for wildlife, and the lengthy lockdown has proved an unexpected boon for those resident animals, birds and insects left largely undisturbed for almost two months.

White-faced Whistling Ducks prepare to splash down in a water hazard at Kyalami.

Golfers are no longer tramping around, invading sensitive areas in search of golf balls; only basic maintenance is being done to keep fairways, greens and tees mown; and there’s minimum use of chemicals and fertilisers.

A pair of Long-Crested Eagles are Gauteng residents.
A rare European Honey Buzzard in flight at Kyalami.

Kyalami Country Club course superintendent Etienne Coetzee has seen a significant increase in the number and variety of birds visiting one of Gauteng’s more rural layouts, situated in an equestrian belt. Gauteng’s many parkland courses, with their enormous number of trees and wetlands, attract a kaleidoscopic variety of bird species.

A Green-backed Heron in breeding plumage, and a Malachite Kingfisher.

Coetzee is a keen photographer and arrives at the club early on work days armed with his camera. “With less activity I’m seeing new visitors to the course, including a European Honey Buzzard for the first time. It’s a rare visitor to this country,” he said. “We tend to attract raptors at Kyalami, which is exciting. We have a resident pair of Long Crested Eagles, and I’ve seen an African Harrier Hawk.”

Clockwise, from top left, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Black-shouldered Kite, Klaas’s Cuckoo and Masked Weaver.

Coetzee, who works for maintenance contractors Golf Data, is enjoying being back at Kyalami after a short stint outside the golf industry. “It’s a great club to be involved with, having this beautiful and tranquil natural environment, and a wonderful membership,” he says. Much of his career, 19 years, was spent at Killarney Golf Club, and he left the central Johannesburg club to work for Golf Data on the landscaping projects at Steyn City. He then replaced long-serving John Hammond at Kyalami when he retired.

Last year, Coetzee provided the Top 100 Courses website with magnificent course photographs of Kyalami, which can be seen on the club’s page, and now we include a selection of his bird images.


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