Go Birding

“Could you please show us some birds” is not a phrase I hear too often when heading out with guests on safari.

With a country as diverse as South Africa, shouldn’t a day out in nature include a little more than the request to see the Big 5 or the larger mammals? 

With an abundance of protected biodiversity areas and over 900+ species to be found around the country, there are many species to seek out from amateurs to serious enthusiasts alike.

One does not always have to head out to large game reserves to enjoy this growing hobby. A simple stroll through a green area, mountain, riverine or a slow walk along the beach front could spark an interest in birding. You could even start by creating a feeding station and waterhole in your own backyard.

Besides viewing the copious amount of shapes and colours on offer, there are many interesting birding behaviours to be observed. The male Red Crested Korhaan will fly straight into the air and plummet back towards the ground only to open its wings at the last moment to potentially woo a female. The Bearded Woodpecker has a barbed tongue in order to remove larvae from holes in trees. The Green-backed Heron uses insects as lures to catch fish along shallow water edges. Lapwings will feign injured wings in order to distract predators away from its exposed ground nests.

Birding has become relatively easy with the help of technology and apps for your smartphone by helping you to quickly identify birds by shape, distribution & habitat maps and even the recordings of their calls.

I’ve collected a few photos while spending some time at a small waterhole close to home over the last two months.

Many birds can also be enjoyed en route to Big five and other larger mammal sightings.

Even moving around a campsite can allow some time for birding.

The night does not exclude birding activities. I am fortunate to have two African Barred Owlets that roost above my room at night.

With nature conservation awareness growing ever stronger, birding is no longer just a past time activity or hobby for the aged. 


​Coming in strong

Understading animal movements and behaviours can provide you with exceptionally rewarding sightings. This was the case for me this week.
I stumbled on some lionesses and cubs walking hastily down a road towards me. They were still a fair distance away from me. I anticipated their intended direction and headed back to reposition. I decided to position myself off the road, further back and parallel to their movement. As I stood waiting I saw two giraffe standing close to me. One of the lionesses increased her movement to a trot. 

I assumed that she saw the giraffe too. As she approached, a troop of baboons in the trees above saw her and started alarm calling frantically. The giraffe immediately noticed the lioness and ran for cover.

The female failed and ceased the hunt. She continued along the path in the same direction, followed by the rest of the pride.

I followed behind the pride and a little way down the road they side stepped into the bush. I drove further ahead and stopped near an opening in the thicket. Without waiting too long I saw the first female appear through the thicket. The rest followed.

These lions were on a mission and I could see that they were in no way going to stop or change their course. Ahead of me was a large cutline and alongside it was a spacious opening in the thicket. Without a doubt the lions would head for that opening and then cross the cutline to their destination.

I wasted no time and moved well ahead of the felines, anticipating their approach. This minor calculation paid off and sooner than later all the lions emerged from the block and aproached me head on. One by one they walked straight towards me and then veered off at the last moment to continue their journey. 

It was an incredible moment. The feeling felt from watching each lion stare me down before considering their movement past me is beyond words.