Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week. N207 is moving further and further south.

Please also see some new photos of the growing chick in the nest with camera.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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BirdLife KZN Midlands newsletter

Dear members

Attached (Click here) is the latest great edition of the BLKZNM newsletter.  Congratulations to Rosemary, the editor, and to all the contributors of articles and/or photos.

Best wishes


BLKZNM secretary

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week. N207 is moving further and further south.

Please also see some new photos of the growing chick in the nest with camera.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Alverstone Wildlife Park Outing

Report by Terry Walls

Saturday 6 October 2018

Alverstone Wildlife Park is a 100 hectare nature reserve near Hillcrest, Durban, South Africa. The reserve was created in 1997 by a group of neighbouring landowners.

The park has a diverse ecosystem, which includes grasslands, a forest, and wetlands. A number of mammals can be found in the reserve, including duiker, bushbuck, bushpig, civet, genet, mongoose and rock hyrax. Herds of blesbok, blue wildebeest, impala and zebra have been introduced to the reserve.

The weather was extremely kind to us as a small group of birders set off on the pathway along the crest of the hillside through the bush clumps.

The first call to greet us was the unfamiliar (to some of us) call of a Cape Robin-Chat which was confirmed, when it showed up beautifully on the path. Also calling  in the same area out in the open in the grassland to the right of the path was a male Stonechat and the unmistakable chi chi chirrrrr call of Rattling Cisticola.

African Stonechat – Mike Stead

Further along the path a small group of Neddicky were active.

As we passed a group of large trees the Egyptian Geese were highly vocal, we were not sure if it was our presence, or that of a Beautiful Jackal Buzzard which glided past us, that was upsetting the Geese.

Egyptian Goose – John Bremner

Here are a some other birds that made our day.

And some mysteries.

The next highlight as we approached the small dam were the herds of Impala, Blesbok, Wilderbeest, and Zebra. The dam produced a Grey Heron, excellent views of Lesser Stripped Swallow, Common Fiscal and Yellow-billed Kite.  A group of Turacos which include both Knysna and Purple-crested were calling loudly.

As we made our way down the pathway to the dam at the bottom of the hill, Oriole and Black collared Barbet were seen.

Black-collared Barbet – John Bremner

The bottom dam produced the Golden Weaver we were looking out for, Southern Black Tit, a Black Saw-wing – not flying, but perched in a tree. Beautiful views of Sombre Greenbul and African Paradise Flycatcher too.

Weaver – John Bremner

The walk back to the picnic area was far from quiet, with African Emerald and Red-Chested Cuckoos calling, along with Orange-breasted Bushshrike.

We were also fortunate to get an Olive Bushshrike out in the open. In the grassland once more we had beautiful views of Yellow-throated Longclaw.

Yellow-throated Longclaw – Mike Stead

To finish the day an African Hoopoe paid a visit to the Boma to bid farewell to the group.

A total of sixty three birds were identified (click here to view the list).

Jackal Buzzard was unanimously voted as the “bird of the day”.

Terry Walls

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Lesser Frigatebird – St Lucia

Report by Sally and Paul Bartho

11 to 13 October 2018

On the spur of the moment, Sally and I decided to dart over to St Lucia to try our luck at seeing the immature Lesser Frigatebird.

The day started off very pleasantly, however by the time we reached St Lucia – four and a half hours later – it was overcast and windy. The forecast was for foul weather to come.

Nevertheless we persisted in trying our luck that afternoon. Up and down the beach next to the lagoon wherever we saw Terns. At one point I sank knee deep into the quicksand- looked just like hard sand by the water’s edge. Had to lie flat down to extricate myself. Lovely black mud everywhere below thigh level. Fortunately both camera and binos got off lightly. Then to the beach to wash off in the sea. Nothing quite like walking with shoes and sox full of sand.

Legs and foots full of mud – poor shoes

Managed to do it a second time trying to cross a small stream to get onto a sandbank in the lagoon. Not so serious that time.

There were many waterbirds about, hundreds of waders – Three-banded Plovers, Curlew Sandpipers and Common Ringed Plovers mainly. Nine Black Oystercatchers, Pink-backed Pelicans, Greater and Lesser Flamingos in abundance, African Spoonbills etc.

On checking the Swift Terns we noticed a couple of Little Terns. They are really very very little. The photo below shows how small one is compared to the Curlew Sandpiper in front of it.

Little Tern with Curlew Sandpiper in foreground

After some time we reached the end of the lagoon with no joy. Then the bird appeared at a distance over the lagoon bombing the Swift Terns, and Flamingos putting them all to flight. Many photos were taken at a distance in dim overcast conditions. Most were consequently of poor quality.

Greater Flamingos take to the air due to Lesser Frigatebird (top right)

Then as we sat watching at the end of the lagoon where the Terns had just settled about 150 metres away, along came the Frigatebird to disturb them. However it was not the Terns which it was after but a very large Pink-backed Pelican. Coming, it appeared straight in line with us and the photos I got show the comparative wing sizes of the two birds. A fortunate mini series of shots.

A very hot shower was welcome when we got back, not only to get rid of the mud and  blown sand but also to warm us up.

The next morning we were up early hopeful of a brighter day in which to see the Lesser Frigatebird – not to be. Windy and overcast it remained. After a couple of hours we gave up and went to Western Shores for the rest of the morning.

Birding there was very quiet and like all the animals pretty scarce. However we did manage a few nice sightings of which the Martial Eagle was the pick of the day.

Martial Eagle

Red-breasted Swallows were seen mainly on the roads in the rain.

Red-breasted Swallow

And then we came across an unusual sighting. It looked like a spiders had wrapped a web all round a bunch of leaves. On closer inspection there were many red ants running about on the bundle. Later we learned that these are Weaver Ants and that these bundles are commonly seen in KZN coastal forests. The webbing is in fact glue.

Here is an excerpt from Joseph Banks’ Journal  found in Wikipedia “The ants…one green as a leaf, and living upon trees, where it built a nest, in size between that of a man’s head and his fist, by bending the leaves together, and gluing them with whitish paperish substances which held them firmly together. In doing this their management was most curious: they bend down four leaves broader than a man’s hand, and place them in such a direction as they choose. This requires a much larger force than these animals seem capable of; many thousands indeed are employed in the joint work. I have seen as many as could stand by one another, holding down such a leaf, each drawing down with all his might, while others within were employed to fasten the glue. How they had bent it down I had not the opportunity of seeing, but it was held down by main strength, I easily proved by disturbing a part of them, on which the leaf bursting from the rest, returned to its natural situation, and I had an opportunity of trying with my finger the strength of these little animals must have used to get it down.”

In the afternoon we did return to look for the Lesser Frigatebird. It was present but we were unable to get any better sightings of the bird as it kept its distance and the sky was grey again.

Lesser Frigatebird

Saturday morning was not only windy and overcast but it was also squalling. Instead of going to the beach we went into Eastern Shores. Surprisingly none of the dirt roads were closed. We were happy having a 4×4 to drive on them. In places the mud was very slippery and we watched one 4×4 almost slide off the road and down the bank.

Elephants had been out the night before along one of the dirt roads and in one place had downed a large tree across the road with no chance to go round. A long careful reverse was required to find a suitable place to make a U-turn.

Despite all the adverse weather we did manage to identify 107 bird species (click here to see the list) during the time in St Lucia as well as seeing several Rhino and a large herd of Buffalo. Most of the antelope species were hunkered down and not very noticeable.


Paul and Sally Bartho

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Overly gorgeous days in the African bush

October 8, 2018

Adam Cruickshank

So after a long time, I thought after an amazing weekend of birding that it would be a good time start blogging again. With the rising price of petrol in South Africa, birding closer to home has become more attractive than the far trips that I used to do to find birds. What has been exciting over the past few months, is that I have been forced to look at the bird life that I have right on my doorstep, and I have been amazed at what I have found. Two weeks ago I decided to atlas my local pentad of the course of a week during lunch breaks and after work, and I managed in less than favourable weather to record 100 species of birds.

On Friday morning Tyron Dall and myself decided to do some local birding, we headed a few kilometers down the road to a birding spot just inland from Umkumaas. It is a location that is really difficult to explain where it is, I managed to find it last year while atlasing in the area. Based on the amount of people that have atlased it over the years, it does not seem like a very well-known spot, which excites me as there will be many birds that are yet to be recorded in the area.

I was nervous as we headed to the location and really hoped that I would still remember where to go, but once we worked out where we were, we took a turn down a road that I didn’t get to explore last time that I came. As the dusty road snaked down towards the river, the early morning silence nature sounds were welcoming before the sand trucks started to drive down to the river for their sand pickups. The early morning sun started to peak over the tops of the mountains as the valley came alive with the sounds of hundreds of birds. We started to see the skies being filled with the birds that we see almost on the daily basis, the skies overhead filled with the Red-winged Starlings, showing off flashes of red under their wings as they flew rushing to get to their destination. The Hadeda Ibises bellowed their African alarm clock sounds over the still sleepy community. Small flocks of Yellow-fronted Canaries flew through the skies flitting from tree top to tree top. A small Green-backed Camaroptera was calling from deep within the bushes alongside the road, teasing us as if to say: ‘spot me if you can’.

Then we found a bird that would be the highlight of the day for us. What prepared us for the sighting was the fact that over the last few weeks we have been endeavoring to learn 30 bird calls a week, and if I be honest there are moments when I get very frustrated because it seems like nothing is sinking in. The Warblers that are pretty drab little birds that already provide identification challenges, for many of these LBJ critters their calls just sound not very distinctive and are hard to learn. Well I guess we didn’t do as badly as we thought, because as we drove along the road we heard a call that had stuck, and it wasn’t any bird, it was a special bird. I have only seen the bird once and even though it was the same day that I saw the famous Malagasy Pond Heron, the bird was still the ‘star of the day’. We started to try to follow the call and locate it in the thick shrubbery, each time we thought we had located it, it would move somewhere else in the tree. After batches of patience mixed with bigger batches of frustration we saw it – a bird whose call almost as beautiful as its plumage – the Gorgeous Bushshrike. No matter how many times you see this bird, it still takes your breath away. This is a bird that the Creator must have taken a little longer to create, an olive green back, a crimson throat and a broad black bar cutting a course between the throat and the powdery yellow belly. Everything about this bird is something to behold, no matter how long you look, it’s details are a visual feast that capture your gaze.  Reluctantly we had to tear ourselves away to try and find some other birds for the day, but our day was made! We had some other great sightings in the pentad including Swee Waxbill, Cape Glossy Starlings, Yellow Weavers and so on.

The next pentad was filled with many of the same birds that we had just seen, but while stopped deep in the valley taking in the sights and sounds of nature at its best, we both heard and saw the Olive Bushshrike and Grey Headed Bushshirke. The Grey Headed Bushshrike called from the tops the trees, just hiding itself from view, and after much persistence he decided to give us a view of it at the top of one of the trees. We also had two African Pygmy Kingfisher sitting no more than two meters on a branch next to the car, with rich colours that no painter could ever hope to give full justice to. On the way home we stopped at a local water treatment plant and were able to see a pair of Southern Pochard. Over the course of the morning we saw 84 species of birds.

The next morning Tyron Dall, Chris Flannery and myself headed inland stocked with caffeine and food supplies, we didn’t know what to expect but I could not see how it could possibly be better than the previous day. Dave Rimmer had kindly helped us work out all the best places to visit during the day and the best times to visit them, so with this information in hand did expect a great days birding.

We started at Cedara Agriculture College just outside of Howick. While driving to the dam we had some great close up views of Cape Grassbird, Red-throated Wryneck and Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. The dawn chorus was filled with the calls of Levaillant’s Cisticola calling from the side of the road, at first they just look like drab LBJ’s, but once you start to look closer the rich colours on the bird really start to burst through the lens of the binoculars. We were treated to a Red-necked Spurfowl proudly calling alongside the dam, trying to not attract attention by hiding in the grass but at the same time giving its whereabouts with its loud calling.

We headed from Cedara to Doreen Clark Nature Reserve and the highlight of the time was seeing a pair of Bush Blackcaps showing themselves a few meters from us in the trees, giving us great views of its pink bill and black cap. The bird almost has a Fiscal Shrike look to it, with a drabber underbelly and pink bill. We tried for the mythical Buff-spotted Flufftail which stayed hidden deep inside the forest and for the Knysna Warbler which also decided that we were not worth it’s precious time.

After a quick caffeine fix and some rusks we headed to Midmar Dam, which was a first for me, so I had no idea what to expect. The Black-winged Lapwing were all over the grassy patch when we first came in, making their monkey like lapwing call, demanding that we pay attention to them as they stood alongside the road. The dam was full of the usual suspects – White-faced Whistling Duck, Red-knobbed Coot, Egyptian Geese and many birds that most KZN birders would tick on any day when they are around any patch of water. The African Fish Eagle called from high in the skies letting us know in case we had missed it that we were in Africa. We kept on driving eagerly looking for the next ‘tick’ for our bird list focussing our tired eyes on every movement that we saw.

We came round a corner after what seemed like many kilometers of driving and a solo Secretary Bird was right next to the road getting some early morning breakfast on the ground. The last time I saw one of these it was a long way off so it was really exciting to see it showing itself off proudly right alongside the road. Tyron decided that this was a bird that had to be photographed, he slowly got out the car, and as soon as the Secretary Bird saw him it started its hasty walk back into the short grass that was around the road continually checking over its shoulder to make sure it was winning the race. He stayed in hot pursuit trying to get that award winning ‘National Geographic’ photo, all of a sudden a brown rapture ducked into the grass. We all thought it was probably something common but we were curious to see what it was. So Chris got sent on an all-important mission, to go into the grassland to flush it, while we waited with our cameras ready to get the photo. He walked as we directed him – left, right, straight, left again – and all of a sudden the bird showed itself, as we took photos it was apparent what we were seeing – an owl! My hands we actually shaking and my heart was beating against my rib cage – I actually think I did what every birder should never do – I screamed out ‘OWL! OWL!’ We were blown away and decided that we need to see this bird again, as we would probably not see it very soon again. So we sent Chris back into the grass where the owl landed and ‘Chris the Amazing Flusher’ managed to flushed the owl again, this time two owls flew out of the grass showing themselves off. This was getting better and better. We decided to walk one more time through the short grass out of curiosity fascinated with what we had just seen, we walked in a line three across and as we walked ten owls flew out of the grass and were flying all around us. This was nature just showing off now and we were very impressed! This was by far the best experience that I have had since I had started birding. The Marsh Owls are beautiful, drab coloured brown birds, which carry and air of mystery about the, graced us with a few minutes of pleasure that I will not forget very soon. We managed to compose ourselves (well almost), after much frantic messaging and phoning people, we managed to still see Blue and Grey Crowned Crane in the farm lands around the dam.

We stopped off at Darville Water Treatment works on the way home but didn’t see anything worth mentioning, probably due to the combination of a ‘hang over’ from seeing 10 owls and some really tired eyes. We managed to end the day seeing 105 species of birds!

This was a very special day that we will find hard to top, but I guess that’s what makes birding so amazing, just when you think it can’t get better, you will discover something that makes the day before pale in comparison.

Until next time I hope you see some amazing birds. Please feel free to comment and share this post.

Blessings, Adam

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

For your interest, I have also attached photos of Jermia’s, Springbok’s and Pharoah’s nests from a survey undertaken yesterday. Springbok’s transmitter stopped working some time ago but we hope that it is still her occupying the territory and nest!

The pictures from our nest camera show the adult preparing food and feeding the chick.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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New Germany Nature Reserve Outing

Report by Sandi du Preez

Wednesday 19 September

The weather wasn’t great but 12 birders attended the outing and for once there were more males than females! The reserve is looking absolutely stunning at the moment as a portion of the grassland was burnt earlier this year, resulting in a fantastic display of Spring wild flowers. In fact, the flowers outshone the birds by far!

A Southern Ground Hornbill (nick-named Chester) was spotted in the reserve the day before but he obviously didn’t get the WhatsApp ordering him to wait for us.

Walking down the steep “steps” at the start, a Southern Boubou flew across and and we were treated to excellent views.

Southern Boubou – Dave Rimmer

The pathway through the grassy area towards the forest area yielded the usual birds such as Neddicky, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-headed Oriole, African Hoopoe, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Violet-backed Starling, Black-bellied Starling, African Palm Swift, Olive Thrush, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Spectacled Weaver, Purple-crested Turaco. Surprisingly, the only sunbird seen was an Amethyst Sunbird.

For a full species list of the birds recorded, click here. Unfortunately, many of the 65 species  were recorded on call only.

While we were having our picnic, a Yellow-bellied Greenbul was complaining about his “belly-ache!

There was not much opportunity for bird photos so all the flower photos will just have to be tolerated instead! Thanks to Dave Rimmer for his photos.

I had a special treat on the way out. A Black-backed Puffback flew in front of my car with it’s “puff” up and landed on a branch for a superb view.

Sandi du Preez


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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached the movements (click here) of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week. N207 has certainly been quite active!

Please also find attached a selection of photos of our growing chick.

Bearded Vulture

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Mapungubwe NP, Ratho and Golden Gate NP

Report by Paul and Sally Bartho

9 to 13 September 2018

Pel’s Fishing-Owl

Sally and I have just spent four nights camping in Mapungubwe NP at the top-most part of RSA bordering Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Mapungubwe NP

We went there between the Bird Fair (at Walter Sisulu Gardens) and the Getaway Show (at the TicketPro Dome) – both in Jo’berg on consecutive weekends. It was the first time we had been to either show.

Our first issue was to find a campground within easy distance from each location. At first our search on Google Maps showed that there were no campsites reasonably close to either venue. However after much searching we did find one campsite – The Guest House @ Country Lodge in Muldersdrift situated between each venue and within 20 kms of each.

We went to the Opening Day of the Bird Fair – Saturday 8 September – in Walter Sisulu Gardens. This is a very appropriate venue in a wonderful setting. The Fair was equally as interesting. It had stands with everything appropriate to birding as well as talks from a variety of people – even a puppet show for the kids which the adults enjoyed equally. Faansie Peacock’s new book – “A fully fledged field guide… for kids” – was for sale. What a well written book and appropriate not only for kids but new and old adult birders as well.

Walter Sisulu NP is renowned for its Verreaux’s Eagles and their nest in the cliffs. We were not disappointed and had views of them on their nest with their offspring as well as in the air.

Then on to Mapungubwe NP to fill in time between the shows. Another 550 kms drive!!

Mapungubwe NP is divided into two sections – the Eastern and Western sides – with Den Staat Farm in between. See map above. The campsite is in the Western section and the reception is in the Eastern section – some 34 kms apart.

The Den Staat Farm has always had interesting ponds to search for amazing water birds. Permission to enter required. However, when we inquired about going there we understood that the farm had changed hands and the ponds are now all dry. No longer a special birding spot.

Right now both sides of the Park are extremely dry and dusty. The fences are broken in long stretches and cattle wander across the river from Botswana to forage in the Park. Sad that management appears to not have the funds needed to maintain the fences.

Some camp birds.

Our first afternoon and next day we spent driving round the Western section, spending time at the Maloutswa Hide overlooking a patch of wetland (water supplied to maintain the wetland).

Perhaps the best sighting at the water hole was a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl nesting in a Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver’s nest.

In one spot we confronted a few elephants by the river.


Then we came across a Holy Tree.

After that, this juvenile Bataleur nicely framed.

At another spot we found a very rough access point to the river and picked up a few water birds amongst others on the way there.

Limpopo with a small stretch of water

In all we identified 92 different bird species. Our bird list for everywhere we visited can be seen later in this report.

One of the highlights of our time there was to see a Bushpig in the daylight. It had a lovely white mane which went from neck to rump. Most unexpected sighting.

Bush Pig

Another day was spent in the Eastern section. The first bird we saw as we entered was a Red-headed Weaver which flitted about making it impossible to get a photo. A bit further along we came to a lookout point set high above the valley below where Baobabs appear in a barren landscape.

Barren Landscape

We headed for the chalet accommodation at Leokwe nestled in a boulder strewn enviroment.

On the way to Leokwe, Splat (our life-like Platapus furry toy) waved at a passing Park’s vehicle. It screeched to a halt. Out jumped the driver who came running up to our car. Oh-oh I thought. Well the driver, Leonard, immediately said, “I know you. You were in the Kruger Park at Pafuri 7 years ago driving a Kia”. We were astonished that he had remembered us – it must have been Splat whom he recognised.

Anyway he told us to follow him as he had something to show us. So we followed him virtually to the far end of the park to the old SADF bunker.

SADF Bunker

We had been there some 7 or 8 years ago and had intended to go there again during our visit. The benefit this time was having Leonard with us as we were able to get out of the car and walk around the area.

Under the trees by the Bunker

Specifically beneath the two large Nyala trees where we had seen a pair of Pel’s Fishing Owls all those years ago. And sure enough he pointed out another (or the same?) pair. What a wonderful happenstance meeting Leonard.

Pel’s Fishing-Owl

Sadly, we later learned that this wonderful spot at the SADF Bunker is being considered as a future picnic site. If this goes ahead then Goodbye to the Pel’s Fishing-Owls (and their likely breeding spot). Can we afford to let this happen? We have let Mark Anderson know about this and hope he has some influence with SAN Parks to avoid this going ahead.

Close to the Bunker the river did have a large area of standing water in it where we saw a small variety of waterbirds.

Yellow-billed Stork

We went for a walk up to the viewing point overlooking the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. As you can see the rivers at this point were absolutely dry and cattle could be seen wandering into the Park from the opposite side.

From there we went to the tree top boardwalk and hide. The photo below shows the damage the elephants have caused to part of the entrance.

What next

Elephant Exclusion Zones

Some birds and other colourful critters photographed.

In all we identified 71 different bird species during the course of the day there.

On our final day we visited Ratho camp – due west of Pontdrift which is the border crossing into Botswana near the western-most edge of the Park. This crossing enters into the Tuli Block in Botswana. Should you want to visit the Tuli Block for a day visit we were told that it would cost you R700 to enter. Not sure if that cost applies per person nor if it applies if you simply want to drive through into other parts of Botswana.

Ratho sign to turn off the main road going to Pontdrift.

We had stayed at Ratho many years ago so it was interesting to see if it had changed much. At that time they had a 4×4 bush camp atop of a hill with a scenic loo overlooking the valley below. This has now gone, the area having been sold. However a new 4×4 camp has been established in the area next to the river.

Riverside 4×4 Camp

There are now several drives alongside the river where elephants were seen to roam. The main camp has a deck overlooking a waterhole where the elephants often are seen.

Viewing Deck

However the most interesting thing we learnt from the owner – Sandra- was how the whole camp was submerged after the floods one year. In the pictures below you can see me pointing to the height of the water level marked on the tree. Surprisingly the essence of the camp remained and was refurbished. It was quite unimaginable to visualise the extent of the area under water.

Pointing to the height of the river

We had a short drive along the riverside and identified 40 different bird species.

Grey Heron in breeding plumage – red beak

Eventually it was time for us to leave and head back to Jo’berg and the Getaway Show. We stayed at the same campsite as we had the previous weekend. This time without power nor water. Broken transformer and water shutdown. Fortunately we had own supply of both.

The Getaway Show covered everything associated with 4×4 camping. There were displays of all the main offroad campervans for people to examine. Probably the best way to assess which one you prefer.

At lunch time we visited Isdell House in Pinegowrie where we were treated to a full hour and a half tour guided by Mark Anderson. It was very impressive what they have done there. The whole concept is “Green” at its best. One day soon they may even be off the grid.

The support they got from various donors – the Isdell’s in particular – has been very generous. Virtually all the furnishings, building supplies have been donated by various companies keeping the cost of rebuild to an absolute minimum.

And the paintings, sketches, photos and prints – most signed by the artists – are extremely valuable. The library has a large selection of books donated by members. The policy of donated books is to offer the Orthonological Library first choice, then books come to Isdell’s library where some are kept, field guides donated to guides and schools, and the rest sold on – the proceeds of which go into the capital fund.

Such a well run operation with a very dedicated and happy team. It was a pleasant surprise to be guided around by Mark and to glean first hand of the story of Isdell House.

To break the journey home we decided to go to Golden Gate and camp for 2 nights with the hope of seeing vultures at the vulture restaurant, and Cape Eagle-Owl(s) along the cliffs bordering the campsite.

The first thing we realised when we got to the campsite was the noisy people. Friday and Saturday nights are party nights and all passing traffic had their music at full blast. It is also a place for bikers.

There are two loops to bird along. One loop goes up tp 2150 metres while the vulture hide is on the other lower loop. Most of the habitat is high grassland with bordering cliffs. Bird variety is therefore limited.

Devil’s Tooth

Our bird list for here and Mapungubwe can be seen by clicking here. Our afternoon and early morning bird list amountes to 23 different bird species here at Golden Gate.

We dipped on the Cape Eagle-Owl – not even hearing it. Not surprising really as the camp noise drowned out all other wildlife calls.

Black Wildebeest, Blesbok and Zebra were plentiful on the mountain slopes. Eland and Mountain Reedbuck were also seen.

Mountain Reedbuck

The vulture hide was relatively quiet. No vultures, just White-backed Ravens, Cape Crows and a lonely Southern Bald Ibis.

Bald Ibis

The weather was very windy – perhaps that was why there were so few sightings. However we did see one Bearded vulture fly over the hide just as we had returned to the car.

Bearded Vulture

All the other birds we had seen there took to the skies. So we raced back in the hope that the Bearded Vulture had landed – unfortunately it turned out to be another breathless walk 400 metres back to the hide to no avail.

African Stonechats were everywhere but this one had us fooled for a while.

After our morning’s drive round both loops the wind picked up. That was enough for us and we packed up and returned home a day early.

Hope you enjoyed the account and photos.

Paul and Sally Bartho



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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Please also find attached photos of the growing chick accessed this week from our nest camera.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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BLPN 2019 Calendar – the best yet.



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Tanglewood Farm NR Outing

Report by Elena Russell

1 September 2018

We had an excellent outing to Tanglewood.

It was the first day of September, in other words Spring Day and the flowers were blooming all over the hillsides where the grass had been burnt.

There was a good turnout of members and visitors and from all accounts we had some great birding.

Thanks to Sandi for the bird list. Click here to view the list.

Thanks to all the photographers, John Bremner, Dave Rimmer, Mike Jackson, Mike Stead & Sandi du Preez, for all the superb photos not just of birds but flowers and game as well.

The dassie is called Teddy Bear and I am told has been trained to use the spare loo!!

We had tea at the Boat House and were entertained by all the Weavers; Cape, Holub’s Golden and Eastern Golden (aka Yellow).

Many thanks to Caryl for always making us so welcome to this magical place.



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News from Nylsvley

Friends of Nylsvley and Nyl floodplain

News from Nylsvley

Edition #100

September 2018


I hope we find you well?

So here we are presenting the 100th edition of ‘News from Nylsvley’, what a ride it has been…..The first newsletter was circulated by post in August 1991, 27 years ago and we are still here! The most important innovation was the introduction of e-mail communications, and coloured pics. Julia’s drawings are classic and I plan to reuse a lot of them! I have learnt a lot but not how to get a new ipad to send e-mails! I had hoped to find a more modern font and update the 2 duck logo for this edition….

We thank the hardy souls who helped set up and man the stall at the BirdLife South Africa Bird Fair. It was a great networking event. The weather was either very cold or very very windy, I had to vacuum the felt notice boards before I stored them away!

We recently purchased a spotlight (thanks to a special offer on ‘Takealot’ which included delivery directly to the reserve!) for the staff members that have banded together to do night patrols as a preventative measure to protect the reserve and their families. What they have discovered is that the spotlight picks up damage or deliberate cuts in the fence much more easily than daylight patrols!

News from the reserve is that Marabou Stocks have been seen frequently at Vogelfontein, not the handsomest of birds, nor the nicest. They are predators and eat fish from drying up pools. Red billed Queleas attract opportunists and Marabou hang around them picking up scraps as they do in KNP on elephant carcasses. They also catch live rats and mice and have been known to attack, kill and eat Flamingo’s!

Natasha is very pleased to announce that the Working for Water project will be removing Bankrupt bush, have you noticed how it is expanding in the Jacana hide area? The Grey Poplar that needs regular attention and the Spanish Reed are also to be dealt with. One of the jobs we are offering at the upcoming work party weekend, 28 -30 September, is to do a walkabout of the campus and remove Cacti, Syringa and Lantana.

Other jobs include: re-waxing the Crake and Jacana hides…nice job but messy! Lowering the shelf in the Jacana hide, carpentry skills needed, and repainting the road signs at the railway crossing. The tree labels need loosening and to list the ones that need replacing. The Monument recording a Boer war the skirmish nearly opposite the Shumba’s Rest gate also needs tidying up. The group camp long drop walls require some attention if someone could carefully measure what is needed and do a ‘shopping list’ the reserve staff will complete the repairs. Salome Beeslaar from Imerys Refractories has delivered a sign for the Stemmerskop hide; a really nice job to walk or cycle there and screw the sign up? Please let me know ASAP if you will be attending and which job you would like to do? The group camp is also available if you would like a short holiday weekend at Nylsvley. The accommodation will cost R200 per person per night (children half price). Except that I will put out the tea station, the weekend will be self-catering. We plan to go to the Spoonbill for supper on the Friday evening.

An exciting development has been the expansion of wild dog packs in the Waterberg. Some Ranchers are not so impressed as some stock animals have been killed. EWT have a project going where you can visit them and make a donation towards supplying meat. Take a look at: for more information.

Joseph Mokoka a bird guide and staff member at Nylsvley sent this very sad pic of his binoculars that broke while he was guiding a tourist, if anyone has a pair looking for a good home, please let me know.

We welcome new member Barbara Brown and thank our ‘renewees’:  Hedley & Lainey Herring, Pierre Reinecke, Francois Dubb. . elman, Ann Banfill, and Carol Taylor your support is much appreciated, a new batch of reminders will be sent soon.  A donation labelled ‘Paradine’ was received on 3 August? We do not have a member of that name????

I hope you will enjoy the article from Africa Geographic originally published in August 2008 by Ian McCallum telling us why we love our Wild Areas.

An article by our esteemed treasurer Liza Walls about her trip to Lesotho is published in the September edition of Go! Magazine, charming reading….enjoy

Do we have a member who would like to advertise his/her company in the gate brochure?

We need a reprint and would like to include a sponsor’s logo? The Nylsvley Bird Quick guides have proved very popular, the first edition is nearly sold out, that too will need reprinting very soon.

Cyril Ramaphosa recently quoted that South Africa’s biodiversity can create 1000’s of jobs. I firmly believe that one of the ways ordinary people can help care for our precious environment is by securing/helping to look after as many small and interrelated nature areas especially within towns / suburbia as possible.

For many years, as well as being project co-ordinator of Friends of Nylsvley and chairlady of Friends of Smuts I have been Friends Groups adviser for the WESSA Friends Groups all around the country. The

Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) is busy restructuring and the small honorarium I used to receive has fallen away????

The Owls course in October is fully booked, I will be sending more info out soon and we are thrilled to announce that a bird photography course is being negotiated with Robbie Aspeling for early March next year. Did I tell you that a Green-winged Pytilia and Pearl-spotted Owlet were seen near the Dabchick hide?

It was a hot, busy and sometimes hectic 3 weeks in the UK. My family in the UK are well; I loved spending time with sisters (x3) nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. I did not enjoy seeing Verbena brasiliensis being sold in the plant nurseries; it is one of our problem plants!

Since my return at the beginning of August I become a granny for the fourth time, have run a FoN team building weekend and a stall at the Bird Fair hence the delay in sending news.

We congratulate my son Malcolm and Tammy on the birth of their second daughter Kate Sarah on 21 August; 4 year old big sister Rose is so excited!

Cheers for now, God Bless, with love Marion xxx

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Latest Cape and Beared Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

I have also attached a photo of the sibling of the chick in our nest with a camera. This sibling hatched from an egg collected by Shannon Hoffman and her team from Bred 4 The Wild as part of the Bearded Vulture Breeding Programme. Bearded Vultures only raise one chick, therefore if the second egg hatched, the chick would not survive. This provides an opportunity for us to harvest the second egg for the breeding programme which aims to establish a captive stock of this critically endangered species. The advantage of the camera on the nest is that the potential impact of the harvest activity can be monitored. The egg was collected last month and although the parents were off the nest for a few minutes, they continued incubating soon after and hatched the chick successfully (as per the photos emailed last week). Both the wild and captive chick appear to be doing well.

BV_Chick 2018-09-05

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Water, Birds and Biodiversity -Key Elements of Education

This Biodiversity Observations Research Paper can be read by clicking here.

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Please find attached (Click Here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week.

Attached also find some recent images from our nest with a camera- one with the proud parents, one with chick circled in red (born mid-August) and one showing some interesting food items.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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Latest Cape and Bearded Vulture tracks

Dear All

Welcome to the 500th email of our vulture movements

Please find attached (Click here) the movements of our Bearded Vultures; Jeremia, Pharaoh, InkosiYeentaka, Lehlwa and Mollie and our Cape Vultures; Bennie and N207, for the past week. I am happy to report that the proposed wind farm (renewable energy development) that is overlapping with N207’s movements, is no longer planned for development.

Attached also find some images from our nest with a camera.

The poor cell phone signal at the site is preventing us from getting more recent images, but these are being stored for us to access after the breeding season.

Kind regards

Sonja Krüger

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