It’s Monday, which means it’s time for the next instalment in our Ultimate Birders Christmas Wish-list. This week is part three, and already we have given you lots of ideas to spoil the birders in your life (or to spoil yourself). Like we have said previously, we have tried to keep the list as broad as possible, with a wide range of prices – which means that different tastes and budgets are catered for.
So here is part 3 of our Christmas wish-list – please comment and let us know which of the ideas you like the best:
1) A pair of Veldskoen – Adam Cruickshank
Reading the top of the Veldskoen shoes website shows why this is a brand that I am passionate about – ‘Sharing our South Africa-ness with the world’. Veldskoen is a style of shoes that is uniquely Southern African (Veldskoen is an Afrikaans word that can be translated as ‘Field Shoe’). They are both old-school and cool all at the same time. My father was Rhodesian, and I remember him proudly wearing his pair of ‘vellies’ every day to work. He was a fitter and turner – so his shoes were covered in layers of grease, but he would wear a pair for many years. These shoes are tough as they come!
What I love about these shoes, is they are just as great walking through the bush on a Saturday chasing birds as they are on a Monday morning for the office. There are other brands that make this style of shoes, but the Veldskoen Shoes brand is streets ahead in my opinion. They are handmade in KwaZulu Natal from ethically harvested fully tanned bovine leather. They say on their website that they take a week or two to wear in, but I took them out the box and found them comfortable immediately. There customer service is exceptional – my shoes arrived less than 24 hours after ordering them! These shoes are a great gift for a birder – they will provide hours of comfort while traversing the African bush in search of the next lifer. They are available all around the world and come in a wide variety of colourful soles. This is a proudly South African brand that is truly lekker and well worth supporting.
For more information or to order a pair visit https://veldskoen.shoes/
2) Hydro Flask Coffee Flask – Adam Cruickshank
I have mentioned in a previous post how well coffee and birding go together. Many brands make claims about what their product can do and then when you use the product it fails to deliver. I have used many flasks and find that they do not keep the water hot for as long as they claim. Hydro Flask claim that this flask due to ‘its double wall vacuum insulation protects temperature for hours’ – they say that it will keep your water hot for up to 12 hours. Last week Saturday I participated in the Birdlife South Africa’s Birding Big Day – we started at 2am and finished at 9pm that night – so caffeine was a necessity. On the day, I made coffee in the flask at 1:30am in the morning, and because we ended up buying a cup from a garage, I only ended up drinking it late in the morning. The coffee was still piping hot in the flask after all the hours of sitting in the flask. It was easy to sip from the flask with its Flex Sip Lid, and it sealed well which meant that there was no spillage. What I loved was how you can disassemble the lid to make sure that it gets cleaned well after it has been used. This isn’t the cheapest flask you will get, but it’s good looks are matched by its performance. You can buy a cheaper flask, but I suggest investing in a Hydro Flask – you will have a flask that will give you many years of hot coffee!
The Hydro Flask is available at various retail stores
3) Flight of the Drongo – Pearl Mountain Wines – Tyron Dall
The Fork-tailed Drongo appeared for the first time on the farm at Pearl Mountain Wines about ten years ago. Like the Drongo, the Grenache was new to the farm, and hence the name of this Grenache Noir wine. Pearl Mountain have been inspired to work with nature, and not against it. They encourage animal life in their vineyards and on the farm in general. Their pest control happens through an assortment of natural predators, of which the Helmeted Guineafowl is the top of the pyramid!
Flight of the Drongo is the first wine, in their “For the Birds” range. All the grapes used are organically grown. The wine reflects the character of the vineyard they come from, and are matured in neutral vessels to avoid overpowering the natural character of the Grenache. The result is a fresher, zesty and lighter style wine.
For more information please visit https://pearlmountain.co.za/
4) A Sapphire Coast Weekend getaway at the stunning El Palma Guest House – Tyron Dall
Escape for a birding weekend to the town of Amanzimtoti on the KZN south coast and stay at this luxurious four-star guest house. El Palma Guest House offers accommodations with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, a shared lounge and a garden. Offering garden or sea views, each unit comes with a kitchenette, a satellite flat-screen TV and DVD player, desk and a private bathroom with shower and a hairdryer. A microwave, a fridge and toaster are also offered, as well as a kettle and a coffee machine.
Look out for all the birds that come to the feeders at the patio and garden areas. Red-headed Queleas are among the more desirable birds to visit, but numerous other species also occur.
Then venture a bit farther and explore all the birding hotspots in Amanzimtoti, including the coastal forests of Umbogavango, Amanzimtoti Bird Sanctuary and the trails at Amanzimtoti Sports Centre, as well as the lagoon habitats of the Amanzimtoti and Illovo Rivers.
For more information or to book a weekend away please visit http://www.elpalma.co.za/
5) A subscription to Bird Journal – Calvin Harris
Lifelist management is not spoken about enough in the birding community! By this I mean, everybody does it, but we all have our own ways of going about it. Some keep handwritten lists on their fridge doors, others have detailed spreadsheets, some use Birdlasser - I use Birdjournal. What is Birdjournal, you might ask.... Well, it’s a user-friendly resource to keep track of all our various sighting and lists including mammals. I love this software because unlike many other platforms it installs natively onto your PC i.e. you don't need the internet to access it. It syncs to an online cloud storage account which allows you to use the accompanied mobile application anywhere in the world. This software allows you to pair your sightings with your own photographs to keep a log of all the species you have seen and photographed. Having solid, easy to use life list management software adds a whole new dimension to the hobby and that is why I think this will be an amazing gift for the birder in your life!
For more information please visit https://www.birdjournal.com/
6) A Sasol Birds of Southern Africa 5th Edition Field Guide – Adam Cruickshank
A good field guide is an important tool for any birder, and the new updated Sasol Field Guide is one of the best on the market currently. Many people would argue and say that all they need is an app on their phone, but there is something special about holding a physical copy of a field guide in your hands. I have many well used field guides on my bookshelf, and every spot of dirt, every crease, every coffee stain, and even the ‘doggy eared’ corners of the cover tell a story.
The guide was written by some of the top bird experts in the country and their passion for birds shines through on every page. Yes, this guide has the most up-to-date species accounts around at the moment, but what makes this a winner for me, as the plates which have stunning illustrations. Faansie Peacock’s illustrations of sea birds are some of the best that I have seen in any book. The species accounts have enough information to satisfy the expert birder, while at the same time being simple enough for the novice birder to understand. Many of the plates have hand diagnostic pointers that help the user to pick out key features on the bird that they are looking at. The ‘bird-call’ feature allows one to access bird calls, by scanning a barcode which links the user to a free downloadable call app. This is a high-quality field guide that should be on the bookshelf of any serious birder in Southern Africa – which is why I feel that it would an amazing gift for the birder in your life. (read our full review of this guide https://www.thebirdinglife.com/post/review-sasol-birds-of-southern-africa-5th-edition)
For more information please visit https://www.sasolbirds.co.za/
7) An Indigenous tree from Roodeplat Idigenous Nursery – Calvin Harris
Birding and Botany go together like cell phones and airtime, you cannot have one without the other. Our friends at the Roodeplaat Indigenous Nursery are a great local business to support if you would like an indigenous tree to help you attract birds to your garden. Should you wish to get an indigenous tree for your loved one for Christmas, we have made a few suggestions as to which tree to consider. As the nursery is based in Gauteng, I will be recommending tree species suited to Gauteng's soil and climate conditions.
Halleria lucida - Commonly known as the Tree Fuchsia. It is a small evergreen tree that will grow up to 4 or 5 metres tall by 3 or 4 metres wide, and it provides nectar and fruit as well as attracting insects for insect-eaters, whilst also providing nesting sites.
Pappea capensis - The Jacket-plum or Doppruim is one of many South African’s favourite indigenous trees. It becomes a medium sized, well-shaped tree with a rounded crown. They may or may not drop their leaves in winter. It can be planted with other trees or on its own as a feature shade tree. Protect young trees from the cold. Drought hardy. These trees provide nesting sites and tasty fruit. This tree is also a larval host to at least 3 butterfly species in Gauteng, including the Pearl-spotted Charaxes, which will attract insect eating birds.
For more information please visit http://www.largetrees.co.za/
So that concludes list number three of our Christmas wish-list – please let us know your favourites!
Be sure to follow The Birding Life on Facebook and Instagram to stand in line to win daily prizes between the 16th November-15th December 2020 in our #TBLChristmas2020 giveaway. Everyone who enters any of the daily competitions also goes into the draw for the grand prize, which is a pair of Vortex Diamondback 10x42 Binoculars.