It's the beginning of March, which not only means that we as a country have gone back to level 1 (we even skipped a level), it’s also time for the second edition of African Birdlife Magazine for 2021!
This bi-monthly magazine, published by Birdlife South Africa, is one of the world’s leading bird magazines and is always on top of the shopping list of any serious birder. Whatever your level of birding, there will be something in the magazine that you will enjoy.
The March/April edition comes with a free bird of the year poster – filled with stunning photos and facts about the endemic Cape Rockjumper. The cover has a photo of a powerful Verreaux’s Eagle taken by Warwick Tarboton, which ties into Michael Henshall’s account of the Verreaux’s Eagle nest that was discovered in Northern KwaZulu-Natal (pg 30-33). Margaret Maciver provides insight into accipiter’s and Cape Buzzard breeding in the Western Cape (pg 34-37). These articles in many ways show the appeal of this great magazine, it provides valuable information about the species and their behaviour, in a way that it easy for almost any reader to understand.
Ian-Malcolm Rijsdijk provides insight into the name changes of two species, which are now known as the Blue-billed Teal and the Fynbos Buttonquail (pg 12-13). For those that are seeking understanding behind the name changes from the offensive term ‘hottentot, this article will show why names are more important than many people realise.
I found Duncan Butchart’s insights into the Purple Roller pair involved in courtship feeding, giving insight into both the species as well as the prey (the Dwarf Whip-snake), a fascinating read (pg 17). I have always been impressed by the work of the conservation photographer Peter Chadwick, so I was excited that an interview with him has been included in this edition (pg 25-28). The interview is both inspiring and sobering – this was definitely my favourite article in this edition (it would be great to feature him as a podcast guest soon).
Birders are always looking for great birding destinations – this edition provides a great local and a travel destination that is a bit further afield. Leon Marais' text and spectacular photos featuring local destination iSimangaliso Wetland Park and St Lucia, will have you wanted to pack your bags and heading into Zululand. As a KZN birder this has always been one of my favourite birding destinations, and after this article I have fallen in love with this place all over again! Ken Behren’s article on Madagascar starts with a double page, breath-taking image of a Madagascar Blue Pigeon in the rain. I have heard about this location many times, but I love the insights that Ken gives, along with the photos that allows one to experience some of the special species up close (pg 46-54).
Photographers will get their fix in the magazine with Peter Ryan’s intensive review of the Canon R6 and R5 Camera bodies and their suitability for bird photography. He also tests out the nifty f11 800mm lens – yes you heard right, an f11 lens! I know that many people have their doubts about an f11 lens, so I am sure it will interest you to see Peter’s thoughts on how it performs (pg 56-61).
In terms of conservation, the magazine always gives great information around the important work that Birdlife South Africa is doing in the region. They have a second article on the 2011 Bird of the Year, with an informative article about fynbos and its importance to the birds found there. We get to meet David Letsoala one of the community bird guides, showcasing him not only as a guide, but also highlighting the conservation work he is doing. The FitzPatrick Report gives information about the devastating effects of extreme heat waves on birds (surely an eye opener with regards to the threat of global warming), while the SABAP feature reports on the positive contribution that the project makes to contribution. (pg 18 and pg 38 respectively). As an atlasser the SABAP feature is always one of my favourite pages in the magazine – it allows me to see in some part the impact that me going out atlassing is having for conservation.
This well priced magazine regularly allows us to access the minds of the great birders and ornithologists in the region. It has is filled not only with great information, but also with some of the best bird photography around. I am always impressed with the great work that Eve Gracie and the team do on this magazine – it just keeps getting better and better!
The magazine is available at all leading news agents and supermarkets. You can also become a member of Birdlife South Africa, which includes a subscription to this world class magazine https://www.birdlife.org.za/media-and-resources/blsa-african-birdlife/