Friends of Nylsvley Newsletter March 2023


Read the latest Nylsvley Newsletter here: 

FoN Newsflash 17 March 2023


Friends of Nylsvley Newsletter February 2023


Read the February Nylsvley Newsletter here:  FoN Newsletter February 2023 #111


A new Limpopo birding “record”!

Written by Pieter Verster

 A new record for the most bird species observed within a period of five consecutive days in a demarcated area in the Limpopo Province has been set in in the Nylsvley area in January 2023. Three keen birders, a married couple Pieter and Janelle Verster, and Eduard Teichert, managed to find 239 different species of birds in this timeframe in a specifically-defined area of approximately 8 kilometres by 8 kilometres that includes a large portion of Nylsvley & also surrounding areas such as Sandfields and Forests Private Wildlife Reserve. The three of us recorded the species observed based on the atlasing protocol of the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2 (SABAP2) and submitted the data obtained to the project database. Each of the specifically-defined areas used in the project is known as a “pentad”, with this particular pentad being numbered 2435_2840. (For more information about the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2, such as how it works and how one could get involved, as well as to view the specific pentad on a map, visit

We started our attempt at the record early morning on 25 January 2023 and passed the previous record of 221 on day four of the SABAP2 prescribed maximum of five days. However, we continued recording more species over the remainder of the period up to the morning of
29 January 2023 and set a new “record” (highest total) of 239.

Reflecting on the journey I would like to focus on the following aspects of the attempt: The planning, the execution, the statistics, the friends and help along the way & what will remain in the memory bank long after our record has been broken:

 The planning:

The planning more or less followed our previous approaches: This entails preparing a potential species list with a likelihood for each species (we take into account a number of factors, including previous recording rate in Nylsvley, summer/winter movement patterns, last sighting date, as well as looking at birds in adjacent pentads). We more or less came up with a list of 400 potential species. We then divided each of these birds up into the 11 main habitat types that we identified for the area and based on grouping determined how many birds we needed to find per habitat. Mixed woodland (Akasia+Combretum) was identified as the area that needed to give us 94 species, followed by water and reedbed birds at 57 birds. Fields and grasslands we wanted 17, followed by Raptors, aerial feeders, broadleaf Burkea specialists, night birds and the “rats and mice” making up the rest.

Planning also entails where to stay, where to work (we needed to work from 08:30-16:30 on Wednesday and Thursday), where to eat and very importantly the key additional areas we needed to arrange access to. To this extent we would like to extend a huge thank you to local Waterberg birder Christo Venter who went the extra mile to help arrange access to surrounding areas and also kept us abreast on conditions to ensure we plan our effort based on optimal birding conditions.

 The execution:

The effort started before sunrise on the Wednesday morning and we decided to start at Vogelfontein, followed by a quick trip to the South-eastern corner of the pentad. We then played our first Ace in the Boekenhout farm owned by Dennis Vorster. Dennis was extremely helpful, and his property delivered in a big way. In fact, we returned to his property twice after our first visit and kept on adding unique birds even on day three and four of our effort. Dennis’s passion for nature in general was contagious and his excitement and descriptions of birds he just saw on his property filled us with joy. Excellent species for the pentad picked up on his property included House Sparrow, Common Greenshank, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Western Barn Owl, Long-tailed Paradise Whydah, Bennett’s Woodpecker and several others. We ended the first morning session on 105. We returned to the pentad just before 17:00 after spending the rest of the day working from Euphoria Golf Estate (wow, what a nice bunch of people they have there!) and played card number two: Sandfields & Forests – the numbers kept on rolling in at an almost alarming rate. We finished the day with a drive around the Nylsvley outside perimeter and picked up a few good nocturnal birds including a Spotted Eagle-Owl. We finished day one with a very satisfying 144 on the cards. Day two followed much of the same pattern, but we started inside the Nylsvley reserve itself, focusing on the Jacana Hide and surrounding Acacia areas in the morning. The afternoon was spent at Shumba’s Rest, which delivered a great pentad bird in the form of an African Pied Wagtail. We finished day two on 180 species. The Friday we took leave and started in the Burkea section on the Eastern side of Nylsvley. This area had different species than the Western side and although general lower numbers it did produce a few top birds including Grey Penduline Tit and both honeyguides as well as the honeybird. We spent all morning there and went back to Nylsvley around 12:30 for lunch. We were on 201 species – still a lot of work to be done as adding birds become quite a lot more difficult. But as the energy levels and the bird activity dropped in the souring heat, entered our last major card: call him the Ace of spades, the joker or the lucky charm – we were delighted to have our great friend Eduard Teichert join us for the second half of our journey at just the right time. Man, this guy is a great birder! He has a great feeling for where to look, what to look for and what to anticipate. We were hoping for four more birds that afternoon, but when all was said and done, we finished day three on 216 birds! Day four started with a bang as we reached our 222 target already early on with a few newbies at Vogelfontein, before we went back into the Burkea section of Nylsvley. Much to our surprise, returning to the same spots over and over again continued to yield new birds. Day four was also our longest day as we birded almost 15 hours straight before calling it a day just before 22:00 with both Rufous-cheeked Nightjar and Southern White-faced Owl in the bag. The scoreboard ticked over and stooped on 237 after day four. The final day we knew that there was very little to be added, we checked our habitat types one final time and decided the broadleaf can still deliver two possible candidates and after spending a good hour in this area we managed to connect with both Pale Flycatcher and Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow. Try as we may, we could not get to 240 and called it a day after five hours of birding just before 11:00.


The statistics:

  • Birds seen with lower than 10% Reporting Rate (RR) in the pentad – 49
  • Birds missed with more than 10% Reporting Rate in the pentad – 12
  • Lowest RR birds seen: Cape & Grey Penduline Tit, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, African Pied Wagtail, European Honey Buzzard
  • Best SA birds: Dwarf Bittern, Greater Painted-snipe, Lesser Moorhen, Allen’s Gallinule, European Honey Buzzard.
  • Biggest “dip”: It has to go to the African Hoopoe. How do you spend 50 hours in a pentad without seeing a Hoopoe?
  • Number of gates opened: Mmm… Too many to count.
  • Kilometres driven in pentad: Around 400 km
  • Steps walked: Around 100 000 steps – A bit less than usual, but hey, it was peak snake season…

Looking at habitat types that we overachieved our target in, it was the mixed woodlands, water & reedbeds, broadleaf section and night birds. It seems that most of these areas were very happy with the recent good rains and, even although quite late in the season, a second breeding attempt was visible. We did however come slightly short on our target for suburbia birds as well as fields and grassland. The latter we put down to the overall wet conditions and tall grass where finding pipits, larks, widowbirds and coursers proved very difficult.

 Friends and help along the way

An effort like this is never possible without support. We found major support from every angle. We would like to thank Eduard for his friendship, laughter and skills. Dennis from Boekenhout farm; Brian Frank at Sandfields and Forests and then the staff at Nylvley itself. Then a special word of thanks to Warwick Tarboton who pretty much knows every bird by name in this part of the world. Your knowledge helped us a lot. Also thank you to Fanie du Plessis for sharing his knowledge of the area and habitat types.

Nylsvley staff needs a second mention: Wow, what a bunch of people at Nylsvley! It started with the tone from the top as Mr Rhulani Mabasa, the reserve manager, was exceptionally helpful in making our effort as simple as possible. We were very impressed with the security, the personnel at the front office and a special word of thanks has to go to the lady who made us such delicious lunches and dinners at the restaurant. It was a long time ago that we saw somebody who enjoyed her work so much and that always kept us updated on what to expect, and on top of this she even helped us with dinner outside of the normal closing time. The energy you provided us with was fundamental to our effort and for this we thank you. I can also recommend the accommodation highly and it seems there are also additional units being built at the moment. I can strongly recommend Nylsvley to anybody that is looking for a relaxing weekend away not far from large cities in the Gauteng or Polokwane areas.

 Memory Bank stuff

A fair question is why somebody would want to spend fifty hours in one pentad. Yes, we are motivated by numbers, but this is not the main reason. In this case it is much more about the journey than the destination. Records will be broken, but the below will remain in our memories long after the 239 species have been bettered:

  • The friendship, laughter and fun we had had during our effort.
  • The excitement when the scoreboard ticks over to 233 after spending what felt like an eternity on 232.
  • The tenacity the team showed, especially in the afternoon sessions when tiredness crept in, and bird seemed to have crept out.
  • The hope it gives you, when you see how people treat you at the Nylsvley Reserve, how they are interested in your effort and go out of the way to make your effort as easy as possible.
  • How good people like Brian and Dennis open their doors to you and share a portion of their paradise with you. Dennis, I have to say when you called us back for a fourth time when the green pigeons just landed in your trees that was very special!
  • What we learn from such an effort. Everything from how dynamic an area like Nylsvley is, which birds show local movement during certain conditions, what happens when certain areas are well looked after, and everything in between.
  • At the end of the day such an adventure brings together a lot of what we value in life: Friendship, fighting spirit, fun, teamwork, excitement and an appreciation for nature and its great Creator.



Friends of Nylsvley Newsletter January 2023

Dear Friends,

Greetings! Just a reminder of what the Nyl floodplain looks like at the bird migration signpost and the reason why the woodland bird census has been cancelled. Many of the Acacia routes are under water and it would not be safe to send people in to walk or good for the environment. As a third of the census routes are out of action it would not make for a viable woodland census statistically so the decision was made to cancel the event. We thank all those who booked and I am sure you are as disappointed as we are. Ron and I are planning to visit that weekend anyway so hopefully we shall have news for you.

Meanwhile the Raptors course bookings are filling up so if you intend to attend please let us know soon.


Marion x x x


Friends of Nylsvley Newsletter October 2022

Read the latest Nylsvley Newsletter here: FoN Newsletter Oct 2022 #109


Profile of Warwick and Michele Tarboton

Profile Tarboton Weg..Go OctNov 2022


Friends of Kloofendal Newsletter

Read the latest Friends of Kloofendal Newsletter here

Report from Johna Turner on his recent visit to Nylsvley

Read Johna’s report HERE



Newsflash December 2021

The Nyl floodplain is wet!

Happy Christmas!


Newsflash October 2021

Newsflash May 2021

Dear Friends,

Greetings! They are even complaining at Nylsvley about the cooler weather that  is earlier this year!

 We are thrilled that we have been able to book Geoff Lockwood to present a course entitled:

 “ Improve your birding skills” aimed at newish and less experienced birders who feel they need help to become more proficient. This will be over the weekend 25-27 June.

We are negotiating to do a photography course possibly in August; both courses are reliant on the Covid-19 situation.

We sadly noticed that the two windmills on the tourist route at Nylsvley are not working properly and we believe that the one in the ‘off cut’ of the reserve known as Vaalbos; is also not working. I understand that the staff  have been delivering water to the watering point in Vaalbos but not to the other ponds in the western section of the reserve. With the winter weather approaching and the natural water drying up, these ponds become essential to the life of the animals. The idea is that Public Works Department do the actual repairs to the equipment but that the parts are supplied by ??? Can we raise the funds to help this project?

It is with great sadness that we report on the sudden death of Professor Bob Scholes. Prof Bob was to have been our guest speaker at our 30th anniversary celebration at the end of March. He was most gracious when I phoned and said the event would not be happening in March but possibly later in the year….. Please read more at:

Prof. Bob was co-author of the definitive book on Nylsvley: An African Savanna Synthesis of the Nylsvley study. From 1974-1990 the multi-disciplinary African Savanna Ecosystem programme was being conducted at Nylsvley Nature Reserve. At least 30 PhDs emerged from this study and it put Nylsvley ‘on the map’. At that time Prof. Bob was doing research on fire and its effect on Savanna.

May he Rest in Peace.

Huge thanks to the members who recently paid their annual subscriptions, thank you letters will be on their way to you very soon. We now have to take letters to the Post Office to be franked, stamps are not available any more…..

Here are the smart new IBA and Ramsar signs that we put up in place of the ones that had deteriorated with exposure and strong sunlight.

Keep well and warm!
Marion x x x


Newsflash January 2021

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Newsflash June 2020

See PDF version of Marion’s June Newsletter below plus
a charming Youtube Video of Dr. Warwick Tarboton on Birds of the Waterberg 

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Friends of Nylsvley and Nyl floodplain

Since 1991

end May 2020

Dear Friends,

Things are looking a bit more cheerful as we enter lockdown level 3 on 1 June. It is that time of the year again when you put on an extra jersey when you go indoors and the fridge feels warmer than the kitchen first thing in the morning! It has been very quiet at Nylsvley they all seem worried about the possibility of the accommodation being used as a quarantine centre.

My primary motivation for being involved with Nylsvley and the Nyl floodplain has been to help conserve the habitats therein. We have done fairly well in that much of the alien vegetation has been removed. Climate warming and lower rainfall has exacerbated the ingrowth of woody plants in grass areas this has been ‘encouraged’ by lack of regular burning.

Thanks to the Botanical Society for this following information:

Threatened plant species are commemorated on Threatened Species day 15 May each year.
“So what is a threatened species? How does a species become threatened with extinction? South Africa is currently home to around 20 000 known species of plants, constituting around 10% of all plant species found on Earth. Sadly nearly a quarter of South Africa’s flora is classed as threatened with extinction or of conservation concern. This means that it has been shown to be subject to one or several different threats that reduce numbers of that plant in its habitat or are contributing to habitat loss.

Many of South Africa’s threatened plants are ephemeral, meaning that they germinate, grow, flower and set seed within a growing season of just a few short months when weather conditions permit. Some other threatened plants are only seen in their habitats during a specific successional period (for example in the first year after a fire). This makes them challenging to find and to properly quantify how many still survive.

A further complicating factor is that there are many more interesting and threatened plant species living in plain sight that have not yet been formally described as accepted species by plant taxonomists. In addition, there are many South African plant genera that still require taxonomic revision. At least 15% of South Africa’s plant genera are in urgent need of taxonomic revision (Victor et al. 2013; Victor et al. 2015). Taxonomic revision occurs when scientists reassess the scientific names of a particular group of plants, as new technologies and more detailed datasets allow us to more accurately differentiate between species. Additional resources are needed to support this work. (Remember the acacia scandal a few years ago?)


Plants may be threatened because of illegal collection for medicine or the horticultural trade; it might be as a result of changing climate or fire frequency within the habitat that the species grows. Species may disappear as they lose their habitat, either from colonisation by alien invasive plants, habitat clearance for agriculture or urbanisation to feed and house a growing population. More information about the threat status of South Africa’s flora can be found here:

The Nyl floodplain is a fire driven system in which various portions should be burnt regularly approximately every 3-5 years. Over time this has not always happened.  Have you noticed the different plant communities seen in the firebreaks? Good news now is that even in lockdown the firebreaks are to be done. The other news from Nylsvley is that no poaching has so far been evident.

Many readers of this newsflash are not actually members of Friends of Nylsvley perhaps now is the time to consider joining up and helping us the conserve this amazing place. Membership forms are on the website

I have at last got a supply of stamps so we will be sending the thank you letters and a new round of reminders is due out soon.

Using my new ‘magic’ formula on our website is an article about a Baboon that made good and a completely different beautiful piece: ‘The Birds our Teachers’ Enjoy and keep warm!

Marion x x x

Dear Friends,

We’ll meet again……some sunny day!

The popular wartime song by Dame Vera Lynn has been heard a lot recently as the UK celebrated 75 years since Victory in Europe; it is exactly how we feel about getting back to Nylsvley. All is well at the reserve it is being cared for by the garden staff and rangers. The accommodation has been used for quarantine and may be used for isolation at the rate of one person per bathroom!

We were supposed to have had the Annual General Meeting on Saturday 9th May this had to be postponed until we meet again! Just as soon as we are allowed to travel between provinces and can make bookings we plan to host the course ‘The Business of Being a Bird’, followed on the Sunday morning by a short formal AGM. We are still hoping that Wits University Professor Bob Scholes will be available to visit and give a talk on climate change; some of his research was done at Nylsvley. Meanwhile we are preparing the annual financial statement and an annual report which will be available on request.

May 9 was World Migratory Bird Day. Migratory birds are very important at Nylsvley and the reason why we have the woodland census in January to capture the migrant’s info. The north south floodplain could be labelled the N1 route as the birds fly along it looking for food and a place to rest. At 70km long it is an important feature. Please see: for a nice report from EWT.

Has anyone captured a pic of our bird migration signpost surrounded by water ?

Good news is that Dr Warwick Tarboton is working on an article about Woodland Bird Census. Fanie du Plessis did a very good presentation on the results so far at the last census Fanie’s presentation can be found at Woodland Bird Census

Cheers …till we meet again, keep well.

Marion xx

Memories of Nylsvley

by Beth Hackland 

At this last census I realised that Nylsvley has been in my personal regular trip programme for nearly 30 years and thought I should jot down some memories to share with the Friends and especially Marion.  My first visit was in 1992 when a group of friends & I wanted to do a weekend away from our demanding jobs.  After looking through Getaway magazine (remember in those days half of the magazine consisted of adverts for wonderful destinations),  we decided on a cottage just outside Nylsvley.  We had all heard of the Reserve and as were hikers,  wanted to go somewhere we could walk in the bush.  In those days very few people had 4x4s so we duly set off around 4pm from Joburg in our normal sedans loaded to the hilt with food and equipment.   We were given 3 confusing options of directions on how to get to the cottage,  and eventually decided to use the back road turning off from the N1 where the Kranskop Toll is now positioned. Without a GPS, through a huge evening thunder storm and in the pitch dark by then,  we slithered up and down this gravel road in the mud, desperately searching for the entrance to our cottage. The occupants of the 2 car-loads getting more and more angry and desperate as the time went by. I think we eventually found the gate around 8pm and stumbled around in the dark at the cottage, muddy, wet and despondent, trying to locate doors and keys.  Even though the cottage was rustic at best, bed was never more welcome!     

The next morning dawned bright and after filling our thermos’, and grabbing picnic food for the day, we went through to Nylsvley.  At the entrance gate,  which was the one in front of the restaurant, all 6 of us somehow piled into 1 car,  and after a quick drive around, we parked at the day-visitor site for morning coffee with birds twittering all around before setting off for a walk.  I remember that we found a look-out tower and climbed up to the top to see the view over the reserve.  The day was magic and we found the Reserve to be everything we’d expected.  In addition to the game, the pans at Vogelfontein were full with open water,  (unlike the vegetation covered plain that we have at present) & with every kind of duck present.  We had a copy of Newmans,  which we scoured to identify which they were.  I think we only had a few pairs of binoculars and had to pass them around between us, bickering when we all wanted to view a new bird at the same time.   By the end of the day we were hooked and are still keen bird-watchers today.

The next visit to Nylsvley was about a year later when I persuaded other family members to join me for a weekend at the same cottage.    This time it was in autumn,  so the walk through the Reserve did not yield the same volumes of birds and animals that we had experienced before,  and the teenaged children did not really enjoy the experience.  After that I decided we had to actually stay inside the Reserve and booked the old Heron House,  long before the current renovation.  On the next trip we again arrived in pelting rain to no electricity, as lightening had tripped the DB.  1 car-load had left Jhb late and they wandered the roads for over an hour without cell-phone signal to get better directions.  Heron House was rather basic in those days and I only remember a very small fridge and badly provided kitchen equipment.  How beautifully it has been restored,  and what a pleasure it is at present in contrast to that weekend.

After that I decided it was easier to just go on my own and happily put my tent up in the camp-site,  to be able to enjoy the birding on a casual basis.

So it was another few years before I went back,  and this time it was to the group camp to partake of  my first FoN courses,  which was on stargazing.  Im not sure how long Marion had been presenting courses, so this might have been a couple of years after starting FoN.  It was such a pleasure to arrive on Fri afternoon and be greeted by this warm friendly lady who had everything organised so smoothly.   Marion had arranged 3 of 4 members from the Astronomical Society to bring their telescopes, which they had already set up.  These remarkable pieces of equipment, can track a certain object in the night sky,  moving ever so slowly to keep the chosen star in its viewfinder all night. After a short talk and braai supper,  we were captivated by the extraordinary images we could see though their eyepieces.  Over the Sat and Sun, we had talks in the day time where they showed us the most beautiful slides of distant galaxys.  Then in the evening we would look through the scopes at all the stars, planets & moon, and marvel at how it all worked.   One of the lecturers did a short presentation on eclipses of the sun and moon.  He mentioned that there was to be a total solar eclipse which would be visible to us a couple of years in the future.  These events happen somewhere on earth at least twice a year,  but are only visible from within the actual shadow of the moon as it passes over the surface.  He lit a spark in me and I was soon attending the Astronomical Society meetings to learn more.  This connection eventually lead to me organising a 10-day trip for 50 people to Zimbabwe to view the total solar eclipse in 2001,  which was quite an adventure,  and subject for another time.

Then at the end of 1999,  as part of the FoN programme,  Marion proposed a New Year event at Nylsvley.  The idea was for us to spend the Old Years night camping in the bush at a farm adjacent to the Reserve and then would all welcome in the 2000 year at dawn from a view-site on top of a small kopjie.  We spent Fri night in the normal camp site,  then packed up on Sat morning and were driven through to the bush venue.   The sky was packed dense with stars that night.   But though we were all ready with bottles of bubbly to pop as the sun came up (well that might be an expanded memory!)  we never actually saw the sun rise,  due to dense cloud cover – a small disappointment,  but a treasured memory non the less.  Marion as usual had thought through all the logistical arrangements to ensure the group did not to leave a footprint in the bush, after we all left on the Sun.   A related special recollection was that was the time of nervous anticipation as to what would happen to computers when their clock clicked over from “19..”  to “20..”  Now it all seems such an age ago.

Marion’s courses & work parties continued to attract me and I did more courses: on birding with Geoff and with Ulrich; on insects;  reptiles; and even herbal plants over the years.   But the most compelling were always the Woodland census,  and the attraction of birding with better birders,  which would improve my own skills.  Over the years I have walked A, B & C routes and my highlight has always been the area around Stemmerskop.  Somehow that is my iconic image of the Census’ outings.   Warwick and Michèle’s input at these weekends was eagerly awaited to learn more about the bird trends,  the history or other aspects of the Reserve.  I wish I had kept a personal record of my lists over the years,  but Im sure that most of my early lifers were gained on the Nylsvley – certainly Jacobin Cuckoo,  Icterine Warbler and Lesser Spotted Eagle fall into that category for me.

I have also arranged for my bird club (The Slightly Cuckoos!)  to come to Nylsvley on a number of club weekends.  On one of these early summer trips we were in Heron House,  and after a successful weekend, we had packed up the cars around the Sunday noon,  but noticed a thick bank of black clouds approaching from the west.  Anticipating a thunder storm,  we opted to wait for it to finish before driving off back to the city.  So we poured another cup of coffee and settled down on the patio to watch the storm.  Lightening was intense & with the rain pelting down we soon had to retreat inside to avoid getting wet.  A particularly loud clap of thunder was followed by a low rumble and then an enormous sound like an explosion,  which had us all wide-eyed.  What had happened?   One of us went into the east bedroom and shouted that a branch had fallen through that window.  At the same moment we realised that one of those huge eucalyptus trees between Heron and the kitchen,  had fallen over,  right onto the roof above us.  It had wrapped itself around the house, breaking window frames and glass on both the east and the west side,  as well as breaking the roof structure,  with radiating cracks coming down the walls.  None of us were hurt,  but the house was extensively damaged,  so much so that it was months before it could be occupied again.

Im sure that we all have a wonderful store of stories to share and am just so thankful to Marion & Warwick and Michèle for all the years of dedication to the Reserve.  Without their input and tenacity,  Im sure it would not still be the place we love to go to.  All those behind the scenes meetings with aspirant developers, mining companys, farmers etc,  who were trying to start up new operations upstream of the Nyl which would threaten the ecology.  All the objections completed and submitted,  the supervision of Nylsvley staff,  assistance with basic operational structures,  where the official channels had not provided funds for things like diesel.  We have a huge debt to pay to you all –  thank you thank you, thank you.

With kindest regards

Beth Hackland

4 March 2020

Exciting things have been happening at Nylsvley. The roof of the reserve entrance gate has been rethatched and the leaks in Heron House and the reception office roof fixed. Still waiting to hear that Cormorant VIP suite has had its thatch replaced. The river has flowed but every now and again it stops but apparently there is a lot of surface water.

An Auction was held at the former Game capture unit at Vogelfontein, it caused a bit of a panic locally as some people thought they were selling off Nylsvley. It was an auction of old office equipment fridges etc from other reserves as well, most of it real junk.

We thank everyone who has paid their memberships; one came in within 15 minutes of me sending the message! An innovation is that you can now book for a course via our website!  I would still love to find a willing member who can run with our Facebook account?

Please save the date Saturday 9 May for AGM with guest speaker Prof Bob Scholes co-author of the definitive book on Nylsvley …An African Savanna and climate change researcher.

Please find attached the flyer for our new course: ‘The Business of Being a Bird’.

Marion xxx

Thanks to Syd Catton for the before and after pics below.

4 February 2020

Dear Friends,

I so wish I could tell you that there is an inundation at Nylsvley but so far this season it has not happened. The pic we sent out earlier this rainy season must have been local run off. If anyone visits Nylsvley do please report what you find.  Attached is an invitation to the Beginners Birds Course feel free to send it to friends and family. Even if you have been birding for a couple of years it is worth attending as a refresher course. One of the features of being interested in birds is you need to learn all the time!

Latest news is that Mosdene Private Nature Reserve has been sold to Jacques van der Walt. The van der Walt family (butchers from Modimolle) purchased the farm Deelkraal from the Visser family. They resold it only a few years later to a Belgian consortium who, as far as we know, are still the owners.

Mosdene was the farm and study area owned by the well-known botanist Ernest Galpin; we knew his grandson Stewart Galpin he stayed on as manager of the farm for a few years with Allan Salkinder who owned the property from 1991 until 2019. Allan kept to the ‘no burning’ policy, accidental ones did occur, more about Mosdene  in the next newsletter.

Rhulani has sent me  an extensive ‘shopping list ‘ of all current reserve requirements, it was decided to provide the funding for replacement perimeter locks as we struggled at the census due to keys being lost and locks not opening.

Over 60 friends attended the census which went off relatively well; unfortunately the weather that morning was overcast which meant the census recorded the lowest reading in the 21 years we have counted the woodland birds. The next morning 3 routes were deliberately re-census’ed and on that really nice morning 15% more species were identified and 13% more birds were seen.

Caroline and Melissa did well with the 24 hour species count 154 species with very few water birds; imagine if there had been more of them? We thank everyone concerned with this amazing event and to announce that it has been decided that the census will continue as the figures will be even more pertinent in the future with the threat of climate change. Next year’s census: 15-17 January due to BLSA’s ‘flock to Marion Island’ cruise. All results on FoN website:

The next event (17-19 April) after the Beginners Birds is a new course compiled by Geoff on: ’The Business of Being a Bird’. He will go into detail about the philosophy of migration, reproduction strategies, the mechanisms of flight etc. I am looking forward to it.

Our thanks go to the members who recently paid their membership subscriptions, more reminders on the way soon! We welcome Daantjie and Nadia Snyman as new members.

Iain McFadyen is doing a wonderful job keeping our website up to date but I am not doing so well with the Facebook account, offers will be gratefully accepted?

To those kind people who were concerned about my health, thanks, and to say that on new medication I am improving daily but not fast enough for me!

With kind regards
Marion  x x x

Thanks to Anthea Sparrow, Michèle Tarboton and Syd Catton for the pics below. 

To book for our events please contact: Marion: 083 455 1736

December 2019 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Our latest Newsletter has been circulated to our members, other info attached.

I have tried to get an update on the state of the river at Nylsvley with no luck so far,

except that animals and birds are finding their way to Vogelfontein where it is quite wet.

I will let you know as soon as I hear there is an inundation.

Meanwhile best wishes as we start the Christmas season.

Kind regards 

Yours in conservation

Marion Mengell

Opportunists underfoot Veld and Flora March 2019 Eugene Moll

Nylsvley Woodland Bird Census 24-26 January 2020 Invitation

Waterberg Monitoring and Research Program Progress 2019

Newsflash October 2019
Dear Friends,
A few quotations from the insect’s course lecture:
–  50% of all the known species on earth are insects. At least 50 crop species are pollinated by insects.
–  The biomass of the insects in the USA is calculated at 450kg/ha 30 times more than that of humans.
–  Impact of insects on their community is disproportionally large relative to their abundance.
–  Amount of pollination by insects is an unknown but essential to all life. An example: 15 different types of pollinators have been identified on the Naboom (Euphorbia ingrens).
We had a different experience with the recent Insects course. On the Friday morning Elmé and Johann set up various styles of traps on a rocky hillside and on the nearby flatter land, thanks to Mercy, Prelly and Ron for digging the holes. The traps were baited with either a rum, banana and beer mixture, or 2 week old pork chops in water (seriously decomposed and smelly) or nothing at all. Next morning we all drove there to carefully open up and collect the trapped insects. We found a lot of dung beetles varying in size from 5 to 20mm and more. These we took back to the ‘laboratory’ to record and admire. We will put the full results of our survey on our website in due course. Guess what? We found a ‘Malaise’ trap,(it looks like half a tent) that had been totally messed up. We traced baboon spoor back to a pitfall trap with the rum, banana and beer mixture… Some pics from the course are on the FoN Website with thanks to Miles Arnold.

 ** This is a Peltophorum africanum with cocoons of the family Coccida : wax scale colonies that produce Honey dew.
Our thanks to Elmé and Johann for everything they did to make this course so enjoyable and Susan and Gillian our cooks and all the enthusiastic attendees. We welcome Dave and Lynne Randall who joined over the weekend and take this opportunity to thank our members who recently sent in their annual subscriptions, I have sent the thank you letters off.

Something you can do to help ‘Mother Earth’ is to eliminate pesticides from your life. Have you noticed how windscreens do not get so dirty nowadays with insects as it did years ago? The reason is we are poisoning our environment; can you reduce/eliminate your use of pesticides? If an insect has to be removed squashing is the preferred option, or a natural organic product.

We may well schedule a second insect’s course next year which will include more information on anatomy and taxonomy. We are at the planning stage for 2020 please let me have your ideas for topics for the courses and if possible the related trainer?

Ostrich Farm:

For at least 15 years there has been an Ostrich farm on the Olifantsspruit one of the tributaries to the Nyl River and in ‘our’ catchment. About 10 years ago it came to our attention by FoN member John Barrow that the effluent in the river below the spruit was not good. We managed to get the Department of Environmental Affairs to investigate……

We are thrilled to announce that, thanks to Syd Catton and Ben Smit’s investigations, the farm is presently not a threat to the floodplain’s water supply. Some 10 000 birds are farmed there in clean and tidy camps; when they are about one year old they are slaughtered at an abattoir in Roetan. All
production is 100% exported which means the farm has to comply with very stringent international regulations. One of these days we may even be able to purchase Ostrich compost as the owners are planning to install a composting plant! Thanks Syd and Ben. Syd has also been busy representing FoN at
the Waterberg Bio-regional Co-ordinating committee and at a Climate Change district workshop in Bela Bela, thank you!

Clive Walker

is building a database of everything that’s ever been published on the natural history of the Waterberg and ‘his’ Waterberg includes the whole area originally proposed as a biosphere reserve. Nylsvley is included in this greater biosphere area and so all the research publications that have emanated from Nylsvley since its inception would find a natural home with Clive. If we could locate and round these up and pass them on to Clive it would be a most valuable contribution to this database.

Waterberg Echoes

This magnificent tome all about the Waterberg that our AGM speaker Richard Wadley wrote is at last published. I have enjoyed dipping into it; Dr Warwick nearly finished it in a week! We can thoroughly recommend it, available from Amazon etc.

The memorial plot

This project is ready to be launched: The plan is to purchase 450 x 450 mm plain, but in various colours paving stones. These will be placed near the existing bell tower (which is also a memorial) at the back of the Spoonbill Restaurant. The families of former members and anyone who
loved Nylsvley can then have a 450 x 450 granite block (or other material) inscribed and set in the place of a plain paver.

This project has been made possible by a bequest left to Friends of Nylsvley by Lucia Raadschelders. The super leopard pics we distributed with a recent newsflash caused quite a commotion! The result is that we have realised that Friends of Nylsvley are entering the reserve without signing an
indemnity. Good friend Mike Pierce has put one together and the plan now is that I will send it out before each event for attendees to read then when they arrive at the reserve there will be a copy for them to sign which will be kept at the reserve.

Little Brown Job’s

will be the topic of our next course over the weekend 15-17 November Geoff Lockwood is the presenter. There are 4 rooms (8 beds) left in the dormitories and 6 in the more expensive Heron House. Book very soon!

Strong birders:

Please save the date 24-26 January 2020 for the Woodland Bird Census.

Praying for rain!
Kind regards Marion x x x

Newsflash  mid-September 2019


We welcome Mr Rhulani Mabasa our new Reserve Manager and wish him a long and successful tenure at our favourite nature reserve. Rhulani has been transferred from Letaba Ranch near Phalaborwa. Managing Nylsvley with the emphasis on the birds is going to be a bit different; Letaba Ranch is over 40 000 ha in size it is not separated from the Kruger National Park where ellies, crocs, hippos and buffalo roam freely. 

A parting gift from Natasha (who is now happily enjoying her new job as Environmental Officer, Protected Areas Management) was to give permission for our newest members Theo and Meghan Boshoff to set up a camera trap near the pedestrian bridge below the campsite during late August…the pictures speak louder than words! Pic: …081 is a Brown Hyena, …182 is a Civet, …155 is a Caracal. What a contribution…thanks so much, looking forward to meeting you.

The WESSA AGM on Saturday 14th was a long and interesting day. We are thrilled that Stan Madden was awarded a certificate in recognition for his lifelong (it was his 92nd Birthday on 14th) commitment to WESSA Springs/Nigel Branch and WESSA Northern Areas. Stan has been the pusher, puncher and shover to get and keep Marivale as a Ramsar site, we salute you good Sir!

Stan and the rest of his team, they call themselves the Dikkop’s, will be helping us to count the woodland birds at the census 24-26 January 2020.

The Friends Groups within WESSA are expanding very fast and one group from the Western Cape has asked if we can get the Handbook/Manual translated into Afrikaans, any offers? 

Edition # 73 of the WESSA magazine: African Environment and Wildlife is available electronically:   Click Here for HTML flipper      Click Here to download PDF 

We do still have a few places available for the Insects course 11-13 October and for the LBJ course 15-17 November. Please book soon for both events.

Regards x  x   x

Nearly 3 year old Grandson Finn packing an Eco-brick.
For info about Eco-bricks please find me

The well-known Marula is tree of the year 2019.
There are several good specimens at Nylsvley

Newsflash 4 September 2019


 Mahala Week! From 8-15 September most of Limpopo’s reserves will be open to the public for free! September is Tourism month and these reserves will be giving free entry:

Lekgameetse NR, Doorndraai NR, N’wanedi Resort, Singo Safari Lodge, Nylsvley Birding Lodge, Schuinsdraai NR, Rust de Winter and Mokolo Dam….Please visit and enjoy!

 Insects are the forgotten and abused group of essential creatures that allow so many people to live on this world of ours. They are the important key to a healthy environment. We shall be studying them at Nylsvley over the weekend 11-13 October with retired entomologist Elmé Breytenbach and her husband Johann. Every year Elmé trains 4th year students from Dublin University on the entomology section of their Savanna studies. Elmé will be lecturing on the ecology of insects then we shall be collecting and identifying from previously set up traps. It is quoted that we have about 10 000 species of insects at Nylsvley by regularly collecting ID’ing and listing (and returning to the veld) we shall be doing a mini census, which, like the Woodland Bird Census has huge implications for the future.

Did you know that it costs 66c for one litre of effluent to be removed from the septic tanks at Nylsvley!

When we were last there the Spoonbill ladies loo was out of order then I found out that the reason was because the septic tank needs emptying! There are 6 septic tanks on the reserve amounting to about 30 000 litres that need to be dealt with.  So now I am helping to get quotes, we anticipate that LEDET will foot the bill!  Dung beetles are described as the night soil collectors of the planet; Marcus Bryne of WITS university will be presenting on his book ‘The Dance of the Dung beetles’ at Smuts House on Thursday 17 October, please book with Valerie: 083 325 1039 or Sue: 082 959 6316 or Cheryl: 083 376 1734. R150 includes supper.

I had to cancel the work party which would have happened this weekend as there was not enough support to pay for the hire of the hostel, but work still needs to be done ?? 



Newsflash 20 August 2019

Dear Friends,

We thank Jonathan Leeming for his extremely professional presentations on Spiders, Scorpions and the “One World” concept. We all came away with a much greater understanding of how we should be caring for this precious earth of ours. There are some 100 000 venomous creatures in the world. South Africa has 2382 spider species of these only 18 are medically important. The national poison helpline: 086 155 5777

We learnt there really is an inborn fear of spiders, I should like to find out more about the mythology of them? Susan and team again did a marvellous job with the catering; we thoroughly recommend her services for your work or private function: 011 673 9353/ 082 408 3204 /

 The next event at Nylsvley will be a work party 6-8 September, here is the ‘job’ list:







Lower shelving in Jacana hide

Carpentry skills, saw, spirit level, hand drill, tape measure and helper



Touch up information signs in reserve

Sandpaper, brush, Cream enamel paint, varnish, white paint for wooden signs wording, brushes, rags,  turps etc.



Clear area around group camp of cacti, syringa and lantana.

Thick gloves, fork, secateurs, saw, herbicide in container and brush.



Tidy up round Boer War Memorial

Unfinished : Fork,  gloves



Look at gutters in group camp with regard to fixing them 




Experiment:  Clean timber/plastic tables at Spoonbill and Lapa with various cleaners

Handy Andy, Sunlight Liquid, Swipe, Vim  scrubbing brush scorer, cloths, bowl  for water



Oil Stemmers hide

Waxol (provided)  broom and hand brush, cloths, tray  for oil  (wear old clothes!)



Oil new long drop housing

Oil/mix (provided) broom, brush , cloths, tray for oil  (wear old clothes!)



Prepare personalities plot and lay pavers ( still waiting for permission)

Fork, secateurs,



Clean signage at front entrance

Cloths and water


 Please insert your name by your chosen ‘job’ and return ASAP. The cost will be R200 per person per night, the weekend will be self-catering and the tea station will be available. We encourage you to have supper with us at the Spoonbill on the Friday night (at your own expense and own drinks). Friends are also welcome to come and stay just for a holiday; the water birds are surprisingly good at the moment.

 We are very excited to present a new course over the weekend 11-13 October on Nylsvley’s insects, see attached info.

 Friends of Nylsvley are affiliated to WESSA; they produce an interesting magazine: ‘African Wildlife and Environment’ the digital version of Edition 72 is available either as a printable scroll down PDF   Click Here to download PDF

 WESSA also regularly sends out news under the heading ‘Legalbrief Environmental’ it is not always easy to forward them but I would suggest you keep an eye on the Articles tab of the Friends of Nylsvley website:

 The  WESSA Friends Forum when reps from all the Friends Groups in Northern Regions are invited to share their success and problems will be on Saturday 24 August at Rietvlei Nature Reserve from 08h30 please let Carol 082 772 2498 / know if you wish to attend.

 We welcome new members Martin & Dalena Beyers and family and Dawn Needham and thank the friend’s that recently paid their annual membership subscriptions.

Looking forward to spring!     With love from    Marion xxx

 Yours in conservation 

Marion Mengell

NoGo map for prospecting  mining in Limpopo Jul 2019

24 July 2019


Thrilled to announce that Nylsvley, the Nyl floodplain and most of the catchment has recently been gazetted in the LEDET bioregional plan as ‘critical biodiversity areas’ thus providing legal protection and any sort of prospecting or mining in not allowed. On the attached map nature reserves are coloured green the areas surrounding them, in our case most of the floodplain and adjacent catchments are coloured purple. Thanks to Dr Warwick Tarboton for this information. 

All are invited to attend the Wildlife and Environment Society’s 93rd Annual General meeting on Saturday 14 September at Misty Hills Lodge, Muldersdrift 08h30 for 09h00. The theme is:  Leaving no one behind in caring for the earth.  Antony Turton (water) and Bertus Louw (50/50) will be keynote speakers.

Lunch will be provided, booking is essential please contact:

                                   John Wesson 083 444 7649.   by 30 August.

 Rooms are still available for the Spiders, Scorpions and One World Presentations by Jonathan Leeming over the weekend 2-4 August, please book very soon.


Yours in conservation

 Marion Mengell

Tribute to Jo van Dijk

Jo, a gracious and kind lady, we salute her! Jo was the loyal supporter of husband Herman during his late life career as voluntary overseer at Nylsvley Nature Reserve from about the end of 1997 until early 2007…ten years. Jo prepared the little lunch packs just the same as when he was formally employed! Whenever Ron and I arrived at the reserve Jo and Herman were waiting for us, often with a cup of tea and always with some nice cookies or, best of all home-made shortbread!

Ron and I enjoyed birding outings with the couple and lots of social occasions including waiting together at Johannesburg Airport before flying to different destinations overseas!

The older staff members at Nylsvley remember Jo with great fondness and we remember her as a hardworking, kind, artistic in her way, generous and good person.

We thank the family and friends that loved and supported Jo in her last few years, we will miss her especially on our Birthdays which she always membered.

 11 grandchildren & 17 great grandchildren (with potential for more)!

 Marion Mengell

Project co-ordinator

Friends of Nylsvley
31 May 2019

4 July 2019


4 Roan calves were born just recently. Natasha (former OiC) who has now left the reserve will be thrilled but sorry to miss them!

A visitation by senior departmental members and representatives of the Development Bank of South Africa was expected on 2 July. They will be looking at replacing the campsite ablution blocks the re-roofing of the reserve gatehouse and hopefully the enviro centre/ museum that we would so love to see constructed.

Fire brakes are being made this year by scraping the ground; it will be interesting to see what grows afterwards. Special attention is being given to the boundaries with Deelkraal/ Vaalbos camp and on the other side at Vogelfontein.                  

I promise that it will be warmer at Nylsvley when we are there 2-4 August for the Spiders, Scorpions and the ‘One World’ weekend with Jonathan Leeming. The event includes a lunch time field outing picnic to the wilderness section. For more information about Jonathan go to: Please book soon.

FoN committee member John Sparrow will be leading a Geology walk on Smuts Koppie (hosted by Friends of Smuts House) on Saturday 20 July…all welcome please book with Cheryl: 083 376 1734 or Catherine: 083 442 8498. R50 per participant, meeting in front of Smuts House Museum (off Nelmapius Road Irene), 09h00 for a 09h30 start to the walk.

Syd Catton and Anton Cilliers will be attending a meeting in Modimolle on 9 July that the local Department of Environmental Affairs is setting up on Air Quality Awareness, good news for the Nyl floodplain. Thanx Gents.

When we are at Nylsvley in August I will find out from Sthembiso and Sinkie what work they would like us to do during the work party weekend 6-8 September, I know that signage still needs some attention and the shelving in the Jacana hide needs to be lowered. The weekend is self-catering and we recommend having supper at the Spoonbill Restaurant on the Friday evening. The cost is R200 per person per night staying the group camp. Holiday makers are also welcome to stay over and enjoy the reserve.

Upcoming events:

11-13 October: Insect training and survey with Elme Breytenbach

15-17 November: LBJ course with Geoff Lockwood.

24-26 January 2020: Woodland Bird Census…As this event is just a month after Christmas it would be appreciated if you would book early…thank you

Having promised warm weather at Nylsvley in August I have just remembered that I was there a few years ago on Women’s Day and it snowed!


PS: Please circulate flyer…Thank you

Yours in conservation

 Marion Mengell

Dear Friends,

The new grader is commissioned, we look forward to smooth roads in the reserve.

Thanks Julia for the pic.

Meso mammal Honey Badgers, probably a mother and offspring visiting a water hole in the wilderness section of Nylsvley Nature Reserve, thanks Natasha for the pic.

The bathroom benches for the group camp are presently sitting in our driveway! Will be delivered at the end of the month.


All the evidence supporting the appeal against platinum mining on the farm Volspruit

has been submitted to DMR plus the payment that had to go with it!

DMR has 30 days in which to respond, we have made a note of the date

and await with trepidation their reaction!


The estimated cost to install signage in the reserve that Ron made for free is about R4000.00, planning to install gradually as work schedules permits


Watch out for the Barn Owl in residence in the gatehouse to the reserve.


Places still available for the plant course 13-15 October

Cheers and God Bless Marion xxx

The replacement Crake Hide is a reality! with grateful thanks to Natasha for the pics, the Friends who sent donations after the great fires in September 2013, the architect, ‘Woodworx’ the Wendy House Company that constructed and installed the hide and Natasha Möller and staff at Nylsvley who prepared the site.

Benches, some of them saved from the fire, have been put in.

The handing over ceremony will be on Monday morning 28 August meeting at Vogelfontein at 09h00, followed by coffee and sandwiches at the Spoonbill Restaurant. Accommodation will be available in the group camp on the Sunday night before, all friends are invited, please let me know soon if you will be coming.

We still have a few places for the Meso-Mammals course with Ulrich Oberprieler from Friday 25-Sunday 27 August.

We are looking for an Environmental law practitioner who is willing to help us with the appeal process for the proposed platinum mine on the farm Volspruit near Makopane, anyone willing?