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Birding Weekend Nylsvley Nature Reserve 2020

20 April 2020 - Malcolm Timberlake
They say that birds of a feather flock together, that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and that the early bird catches the worm. There just isn’t another birding proverb which could express the joy I now feel that we didn’t cancel the birding weekend ahead of the national lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19. While we did have some last minute cancellations, six vehicles rolled into Nylsvley NR campsite on Friday afternoon. What a great break away before entering home confinement under Covid-19 lockdown for 21 days from midnight 26 March to 16 April.

It didn’t take long for each of us to find a suitable camp spot and after setting up to then join up around the campfire and to relax, knowing the city and traffic were behind us for at least the next two days. We soaked up the clear night sky, reflecting how each of us had been through a downpour of note en route to Nylsvley, yet there was not a drop where we were.

To awaken to the sound of birds chattering in the trees or the raucous sound of a Natal Francolin mere feet away from one’s tent means you’re in the bush. Around coffee some recall hearing the African Scops Owl and the Fiery-necked Nightjar during the night or the early hours. 

There was only one rule for the weekend: Chill and enjoy.  Those who wanted to, went for a drive to the Jacana hide, while some went for a walk across the vlei to the wilderness section on the other side.  Crossing the vlei can still be done on foot because it’s still dry due to water levels not being as high as we were lead to believe.  At the Jacana hide we saw the Woodland kingfisher repeatedly going about its dive and returning to its perch. Rob got a good shot of him in flight.

We returned to camp for a hearty breakfast and then to relax.

Later we took a drive around the nature reserve and were able to see a number of animals.  Birding was hit and miss with several LBJs getting away unidentified. Identifying LBJs remains a major challenge resulting in a constant appeal from my wife, "I need to take a course with someone like Etienne Marais!" (Follow him on Facebook).

Later that afternoon we walked along the Nyl river in the quiet of the afternoon. It was a good time to chat and see wildlife, like a family of Roan antelope.  On our return a sighting of a Brown Snake Eagle was a highlight.  Then it was back to enjoy another evening around the braai. This time a storm hit with a vengeance forcing some of us to take cover for a while only to be drawn back to the fire as it subsided.

On Sunday we had a more relaxed start to the day; some drove to the Vogelfontein hides to the amazing sight of large groups of Cattle Egrets perching on the surrounding trees. When disturbed they all settled in the pan in front of the hide where we watched them and a variety of other birds for a couple of hours. Sightings included a number of Squacco Herons, African Jacana and Red-billed Teals.

Others in the group decided to take a long walk across the vlei and around back to camp leaving them feeling good after having had some vigorous exercise out in all that fresh air.  That’s what makes Nylsvley such a gem, being able to chill out, relax, walk and follow your interest, be it birding or tree and/or animal spotting. 

The limited ablutions, resulting from the Men’s section being burnt down in a major fire some years back, did not seem to put a damper on the weekend. We were able to arrange for keys to the bathrooms at one of the conferencing rooms not far from the campsite, but most of us coped with a cold shower and sharing.

For a number of those who hadn’t visited before, Nylsvley was an eye opener, and a venue to be earmarked for a revisit.  For us it remains a gem.



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