Like the curtains being pulled back at the end of a long day, so another year has ended. The 1st of January. A magical day that connects us to both our past and to our future.
A day to reflect and a day to look forward.
A day of both celebration and tears.
A day of both anticipation and regret. Amid the whirlwind of life with all the 'curveballs' that it throws at us, as birders we have an escape. A happy place. A place to make sense of it all. As I look back, 2022 was a year with many happy memories. The year started with the Flock to Marion Cruise – memories of hundreds of Wandering Albatrosses soaring in the ice-cold winds. I was able to do a quick trip to Gauteng – this allowed me to finally experience the famous Kgomo-Kgomo/Zaagkuilsdrift Route. I ended the year with a whirlwind Zululand trip – this trip allowed me to see some fantastic birds and spend time with some good friends. I ended the year seeing a total of 461 species around the country. But what was even more special was that I got to see 243 species in my local area! Many of these species were seen on Full Protocol Atlas cards, which is always a BIG WIN. Birds. Road Trips. Garage pies. Best of all, good friends. But I am also looking forward to 2023. Looking for ways to see more birds this year.
Having more experiences this year.
Making many more friends along the way. If you are like me and you want to see more birds this year, here are five simple things that you can do this year: 1. Join a local bird club – For those that have read this weekly email for a while, you will know that this is something that I regularly push. All around South Africa (and internationally for overseas readers), bird clubs organize regular outings and events. These activities are a great opportunity to both improve your birding skills, while at the same time meeting other birders. Another important aspect of joining a bird club is that they make a valuable contribution to the conservation of birds. The challenge that many birders face in South Africa is birding safely without becoming another crime statistic. Bird Clubs allow you to bird in a group at various locations, meaning that not only will you see more birds, but you will also be a lot safer while doing it. Many bird clubs (for example BirdLife eThekwini) have started outings for younger birders – so this is a great way to get the whole family involved in birding this year. To join a bird club, visit the BirdLife South Africa website
2. Get involved in citizen science – The SABAP2 project uses volunteers to collect valuable data on the distribution of birds in the region. Don’t let the word ‘science’ scare you, you are able to contribute to the project simply by going out and birding, and logging the birds that you see on the Birdlasser App. This is a free app that allows one to record where they have seen the birds out on the field, but it also makes it easy to keep a life list (and a year list). If you would like to get involved in the SABAP2 project, check out their website and find out how you can start atlasing. They even have mentors around the country that would be happy to show you the ropes and get you started with atlasing.
3. Sign up for a Birdlasser Challenge – These challenges are lots of fun and definitely make birding a lot more fun. Challenges include country wide challenges, Southern African challengers, ‘150 kilometer’ challengers, local challenges, and a whole lot more. You simply sign up on the Birdlasser website, download Birdlasser on your phone, and start to record the birds that you see over the course of the year. Even if you are not an experienced birder, this is a good way to monitor how you improve in your birding over the years. One of the things that I love about the Birdlasser challengers is that community aspect that gets built around them. There are many Facebook groups dedicated to the various challenges around the country. It's the first day of the year...what are you waiting for? Get signed up today!
4. Learn more about birds – The more you learn about birds, the more enjoyable your birding will be. There are many great resources out there to help you improve your birding – no matter what level of birder you are. There are many great field guides available and bird identification apps (we recommend either the BirdPro or the Firefinch app). BirdLife South Africa hosts Conservation Conversations weekly, these are great webinars that will help you improve your understanding of birds. Also look to attend BirdLife South Africa’s Flock to the Wilderness event in May and The African Bird Fair later in the year. Both of these events are opportunities to rub shoulders with some of the country’s best birders.
5. Plan a birding trip - Consider planning a birding trip to a new location where you can see a variety of birds that you don’t see in your area. Depending on your budget, South Africa has many fantastic places to explore. If you are looking for accommodation, be sure to check out our Accommodation Directory – there are options to suit different budgets. Pack some ‘padkos’, download a good road trip playlist, and head out and explore. I hope these suggestions are helpful! Happy birding in 2023!