Birding Nylsvlei - a Ramsar Birding Site in South Africa.
It is difficult to rate the many South African birding venues available as you are somewhat limited to the areas that you know well. Those are usually the ones near your home. Some your read about in the various resources that are available to keen birders and so you wish that you can one day visit them. As you then visit distant places the opportunity presents its self to expand your vistas.
The Nylsvlei Nature Reserve is a recognized Ramsar Birding area because of its importance as a habitat for many bids species in South Africa. 40km square in size it is found near the town of Naboomspruit in the Limpopo Province. It provides a breeding place for at least 58 waterbirds and 23 of the waterfowl found there are listed as endangered on the Red Data List. During a peak season up to 80 000 water birds flock to this wetland.
It has been on my bucket list for some time now and I finally managed a couple of days in this, the largest inland wetland in South Africa. The good rains in this area raised our hopes that the migrant water birds would have gathered, with the influx of water that surely must have filled the vleis. We soon learnt that it takes a lot more rain to make a big difference to the water levels and this wetland is only at its best after good summer rains of an exceptional nature. This only takes place every 4 years of so and then in Feb./Mch. at the end of summer. Was I disappointed? No.
Because this area is on the highveldt at over one kilometer above sea level, it provides a different group of birds to our area in the coastal sub-tropic area where we live. One gets used to the birds that you see on regular outings in your area and so hearing different calls and seeing different birds is always a pleasure.
Apart from the 80+ birds we listed in the reserve, the game was excellent and the herds of Zebra, Waterbuck, Wildebeest and magnificent Roan Antelope alone made the visit worthwhile. The Friends of Nylsvlei received us with open arms and made us feel at home and the facilities were great. Well equipped prefab rooms and a good kitchen facility makes life easy for the visitor at very reasonable prices. My guides, Paul and Jenny, were as always excellent and provided me with one ‘lifer’, the rare White-backed Duck completing my list of the 7 Duck species found in South Africa.
A Brown Snake-eagle swooping into the grasslands and catching a large green/yellow snake and the sighting of a huge Water-monitor added to the experience. The hides at Vogelfontein provided a good selection of Jacana and Squacco and other Heron. This is a place to return to in the future , especially in February /March after good rains. The reserve has good roads and walking along the levees to the well maintained hides provide good views of the grass lands and streams that flow through the area. It reminded me of the Kansas Bottoms in the USA that we visited some years ago.
If you live in the Gauteng area of South Africa and are thinking of taking up birding as a hobby then this would be an excellent place to spend a weekend. If you are planning to visit our beautiful country then this would also be a good place to see many of the highveldt species in South Africa. You would also be able to see many of the Antelope species in a relatively small area, with good photographic opportunities of both birds and antelope.