Cold, Crazy and Captivated | Chris Flannery

Updated: Oct 1

Picture with me, if you will, a cold rainy day of birding. I am sure we can all share stories of walking through muck and mire to find that one special species. It is understandable, and perhaps even recommendable if you are doing this to view a species you need for a milestone. But this is not a story of a milestone, this is the story of how I got into birding.

A good friend of mine, Adam Cruickshank, invited me along one early Saturday morning with the lure of coffee and nature, to do something called “birding”. To the best of my recollection, I had somehow associated this with old (*ahem* mature) people standing in a forest looking through binoculars. What I did not realise at the time was that this was more than just hiking through a forest looking for a little creature that tweets. This was an introduction to a world of early rises, late nights, and, above all, surreal experiences in nature.

I woke up early (5am was early for me) and looked out the window to see an overcast sky that promised rain. We arrived at a little reserve called Umbogavango, which is mostly forest. As soon as we arrived, it began drizzling. At that point, I had resigned myself to a miserable morning. We began walking through the trees, all the while getting more and more soaked due to the drizzle which had steadily increased to pouring rain. At this point, all we had seen was a Hadeda, a Village Weaver, an Egyptian Goose, and a Southern Red Bishop. They were all beautiful, but not exactly wow birds.

Little Grebe | Adam Cruickshank

I had already decided that birding was not for me when the heavens decided to open and pour out cats and dogs! Needless to say, at this point, I was cold, wet, and longing for a fresh cup of coffee. We ran to the bird hide which sat at the pond edge and sat down expecting nothing. Then we saw a little bird pop out of the water near us. It was a Little Grebe. Again, not the most exciting bird in the world, but this bird really captivated me. It was really miserable weather, but here was this small bird dipping in and out of the water, seemingly unbothered by the rain. It was at that moment that the birding bug bit me.

I have been on many adventures since, and each of them has a special story, but I will always remember my first birding trip. I was cold, I thought Adam was crazy, and a small bird captivated my attention.

Yours in craziness

Chris Flannery (Aged 23)

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