The Bearded Vulture Award


Wits Bird Club were presented with a beaded Bearded Vulture in 2010, after making a donation to a project that was aimed at the satellite tracking and monitoring of the Endangered Bearded Vulture.  Following the passing of Professor Steven Piper, the club committee, felt it would be a fitting tribute to Steven and his legacy, to annually award an individual who has dedicated their time and energy to bird conservation.

This years award was presented to :  Stan Madden


Our recipient this year is Stan Madden, widely recognised for his lifelong efforts in conservation, particularly for his multiple contributions to the conservation efforts at Marievale Bird Sanctuary and the Blesbokspruit Wetland Reserve.

Born in 1927 in Johannesburg, he first visited Marievale and the Blesbokspruit in 1948 when he joined the staff of Marievale Consolidated Mines. Stan says he became fascinated and passionate about the area while riding his motorcycle across the ‘spruit’. Back in the 1970s, 885ha was made available by the mine and since then Marievale has become a landmark birding area under Stan’s continued guidance and firmly become a favourite haunt for birders and photographers.  Today this area is internationally recognised as a wetland that hosts thousands of resident and migrant birds and, on October 2 1986, this wetland covering an area of over 2000 hectares was given Ramsar status. The Blesbokspruit which includes Marievale Bird Sanctuary is duly recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA SA021) by Birdlife South Africa.

Stan Madden’s name is almost synonymous with that of Marievale and the Blesbokspruit Ramsar site and he coordinated the CWAC counts for many years. The 2012 winter count at Marievale marked Stan’s final count as site coordinator but he remains active as a participant.  We are pleased that the East Rand satellite club now coordinates these counts.

Stan’s long list of achievements includes being recognised for his efforts to stop the Grootvlei Mine from pumping polluted water into the Blesbokspruit.  He received an individual award in 1995 for this that was presented to him by Peter Mokaba, then Minister of the Environment.

In 2006 by BirdLife South Africa recognised Stan with an Eagle Award and, in 2008, the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) also recognised him for his ongoing efforts and achievements. Stan was instrumental in the formation of the WESSA Springs branch in 1972.

Stan is also recognised for his ornithological studies and has published articles in various magazines, including notes on the breeding habits of the Black-shouldered (winged) Kite in the journal Ostrich.

Furthermore, Stan is known for his willingness to teach people of all age groups about the wonders of nature.

A former recipient of the Club’s Bokmakierie Award, today we also recognise Stan’s lifetime interest in nature and wildlife, particularly that of birds. We salute Stan for playing his part in establishing and upholding the ethos of a bird sanctuary at Marievale and the Blesbokspruit, and he is duly worthy of being recognised as this year’s beaded Bearded Vulture recipient.

(2014); Ernst Retief (2015); Geoff Lockwood (2016); Henk Nel (2017), Derek van der Merwe (2018), Warwick Tarboton (2019)



The Wits Bird Club Diamond Award is presented annually and recognises the invaluable contributions of any bird club member.  Inserted into the plaque are diamonds so generously gifted to us by De Beers to mark our 60th Anniversary in 2007.

This years winner:  Werner van Goethem


Werner has been an East Rand Bird Club committee member since November 2014 and has been a member of the club for more than 10 years. His involvement in the East Rand branch is an inspiration to many.

Werner’s eagerness to arrange and lead outings for both member outings and Atlassing outings is to be admired. He is always willing to assist members with the Birdlasser program and with SABAP2 website queries. He is also very willing to share his excellent knowledge with others to assist them in bird identification.

The number of Atlassing cards Werner submits is astonishing, even more so with him being full time employed. He not only takes personal responsibility for ensuring the south-eastern quadrant of Gauteng is completed each year but also involves himself in helping to fill the other quadrants. He gets little leave from his job but uses this mainly for birding and even records birds while traveling for his work commitments.

Werner is also very welcoming to new members and, in particular, has taken our youngest member under his wing and involved him in atlassing and outings. He identified and encouraged a passion for birding in this teenager. In a group that is mainly older people, this is very important in ensuring the ongoing life of the club in the future.

There are very few members of the Wits Bird Club who are as committed as Werner to the ideals and objectives of the club.


Previous Recipients:  Koos van Dyk (2008); Stan Madden (2009); Gisela Ortner (2010); Joan Strugnell (2011); John Freer (2012); Gail Schaum (2013); Alison Hansen (2014); Barbi Forsyth (2015); Murrie Slotar (2016); Gail Schaum (2017), Lester Niss (2018), Lia Steen (2019)