Bushwise big birding week
Updated: Nov 13
This blog is by Darryn Murray, Bushwise Trainer, who among his many qualifications holds SKS (specialised knowledge and skills) in birding.
3 min read
Over the past week, the Bushwise trainers and students have been embroiled in an epic birding challenge.
Eight students and a trainer were paired up to see how many birds they could correctly identify – either by sight or sound – over the course of a week at several different locations.
The prize for the winning team at the end of the week was an aptly named “winners vs waiters” dinner – where come Saturday afternoon, the winners would be hosted by the losing team and trainer for a full evening’s braai and fireside experience.
The birding competition heats up
The competition started out friendly, but the teams soon became super competitive and the competition heated up.
The first afternoon took place at the Southern African Wildlife College campus for a speed birding round – each team was allowed three hours to identify as many birds as possible. Ashwell Glasson, registrar from SAWC, joined in the competition for the afternoon, sharing his wealth of birding knowledge and experience with the students.
On day 2 and 3, the groups explored the Manyeleti Game Reserve for a full day. This allowed the groups to venture into a new area, see different vegetation and species as well as allow them 10 solid hours to bird.
Bird counts on the rise
By the end of day 3, one would swear the students were protecting state secrets with their team’s scores. Misinformation began to spread, students tried to get hold of the other team’s lists, and there were many sceptical questions about each and every bird the other team claimed to have seen.
The trainers spurred on the groups, constantly reminding the students (and each other) about the prize at the end of the week.
Day 4 was the highlight for students and trainers alike. At first light, everyone loaded onto their respective vehicles and headed for Mariepskop State Forest. The trainers were possibly the most excited of the lot as it was a chance to bird in a brand new area that nobody in the group had previously been to.
Birding on top of the mountain
The views from the top of the Drakensberg mountains were amazing and the group as a whole took an hour out of their birding challenge just to take it all in, walk around, take pictures and drink coffee with a view.
Lunch was eaten at the Klaserie Waterfall, before returning to the campus and getting a final tally of birds for the week.
The scores were extremely close. Group 1 scored 159 species, but the winning score was 167 by group 2!
Incredible bird counts from all participants
The amazing part of the whole experience was that between the two groups a total of 196 bird species were seen over the week. The students learned the value of patience with long periods of staring at vegetation and describing what they had seen as well as how to keep the group tally a secret.
Everyone learned from the birding week –the trainers were even able to add a few birds to their life list. So all in all a great week was had by all.
Do you have a special passion for birds? Or would you like to learn more about our feathered friends? Join a Bushwise course and see how amazing the world of birds truly is! Apply today.
Words by Darryn Murray, photos by Jacques du Toit