There is something special about traveling to far-flung destinations in search of birds. I have some very special memories of sitting around a fire in the middle of the bush, listening to the sounds of Africa. With the ever-increasing costs of fuel, traveling is becoming more and more expensive. So how do we get our nature fix without having to rob a bank?
On numerous occasions, I have spoken about how local birding has added to my birding journey. Exploring every corner of my 'local patch' and discovering all that my area has to offer has been truly exciting. As a birder, it is always special to discover something for yourself, instead of chasing something that someone else has found.
In a previous post I wrote an article on making the most of your garden birding, but within many neighborhoods there lies another ‘treasure chest’ for the birder. In the pursuit of what lies far off, sometimes we miss the opportunities that lie within a few kilometers of our houses.
I feel that local parks are often under-birded locations that provide the possibility of some special finds. These small pockets of nature allow us to connect with nature right in the middle of the busyness of the lives that we often find ourselves in.
There are two parks in my area that I try to visit at least once a week. The benefit of these parks is that because they are in my area, I can often pop in before or after going to work.
One of the parks is on the banks of the iLovu River, situated just south of Amanzimtoti. Taking a slow drive into the park often rewards me with sightings of Green Twinspot, Little Sparrowhawk, and various birds that like to hide under the thick growth along the road into the park. Along the river banks, one can not only record various wader species, but also get to decipher the calls of the various warbler species that are found in the reeds along the banks. If you are lucky, you will hear the call of the African Fish Eagle filling the skies, and you may just get to see a Western Osprey hovering over your head. Within an hour of birding in the park, depending on the time of day, you will already have recorded around 40 species of birds.
There is another park that is within walking distance of my house. The park is a lot smaller than the other park, but it’s always worth stopping past and looking at what I can find. The park has a few trees and a small lazy stream that winds alongside it. The trees often provide sightings of woodpeckers. I find that when I first arrive at the park, it seems as if not much is showing. But as I spend time in the park, things start to come to life around me. There are often small flocks of canaries and Cape White-eyes moving through the trees. I haven’t yet been able to record anything that would be considered a special sighting, but I have already recorded around 30 species in the small park.
If you want to see more species, one of the secrets is to cover as many habitats as possible in an area. Parks provide pockets of habitat that birders should make the time to visit if they wish to add species area lists. There are a lot of well-known parks around the country that birders will visit because of the birds that have been seen there over the years. Who knows if your local park could also become one of these places if you just take the time to bird it regularly. We can complain about the state of parks in our area, but if no one is using them, why should funds be allocated for their upkeep?
Why not set some time aside this week and bird in a local park?
Let us know in the comments section what are some parks that you enjoy visiting. We would love to hear about some of the special parks around our beautiful region.