I started my birding journey later in life during a difficult time in my life. Birding provided me with a great distraction to help take my focus off many of the challenges that I was facing. I started off with the birds that were around me and eventually ended up traveling to some amazing places to add more ‘ticks’ to my list.
I was born in Zimbabwe but moved to South Africa when I was 5 years old, I am based in Amanzimtoti on the Upper South Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Most of my birding is done within my local patch and area which is called Sapphire Coast. I have been privileged to get to see some amazing birds in this area – on many mornings I am fortunate to have a small flock of Red-headed Quelea that feeds on my feeders in my garden. I enjoy finding areas that others may not have visited and discovering the birds there are.
I have a passion for bird photography. I don’t have the budget to travel to some of the places people travel to see and photograph birds, so I have tried to get photos not just of ‘special’ birds but of the normal birds that I get to see on a day to day basis.
I am passionate about conservation and look for ways to create awareness around various organizations that are making a difference in this area. I was part of the committee that organized the Wagtail Conservation Festival in Amanzimtoti. I am a proud member of Birdlife Port Natal and served on the club committee for just over 2 years.
Current life list for Southern Africa - 549 species.
Favourite species - African Black Oystercatcher
The bird I most want to see – African Pitta
Favourite birding spot – uMkhuze Game Reserve
Dream birding destination – Botswana
I have been keen on wildlife and birding since as far as I can remember. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where we would take annual trips to the Kruger National Park. In those days the wildlife was the main focus, but the birds were certainly not overlooked and I can remember seeing all the iconic bird species of the Park. When I got married to my wonderful wife in 2007, the Kruger was an obvious place to spend our honeymoon, and what made it more special is she had never been before. There is something very special about taking someone to the Kruger for their first time.
Speaking of holidays, I try to get away as often as I can. My wife and I have been fortunate to travel to many places around South Africa, as well as Europe, South East Asia and extensively in Australia. We had a beautiful daughter in 2017, and now we get to share the joy of showing her our countries magnificent wildlife. One of my goals as part of The Birding Life will be to promote ethical eco and avian tourism destinations and operators that offer high levels of service at a good value.
I have a BSc degree from the University of Natal and have been working for 17 years in the field of software development for Intelligent Transport Systems, Urban Traffic Control and SCADA systems.
Current life list for Southern Africa - 528 species.
Favourite species – Purple-crested Turaco
The bird I most want to see – Racket-tailed Roller
Favourite birding spot – Pafuri, Kruger National Park
Dream birding destination – Okavango Delta and Caprivi Strip.
My earliest memory about my interest in birds was when I was given a small paperback book about the garden birds found in the greater Durban area. I rediscovered this book a few months ago to find that at the age of 8 years old, I had already started writing down the list of birds I saw on the back cover. Ever since then I’ve had an interest in Birding, but I can now say with confidence that I am passionate about it! I’ve lived in Durban, South Africa all my life and have been lucky enough to travel to many places in the world to observe birds. I am a qualified Teacher, but very soon after completing my studies, I entered the world of commerce.
I also have a love for sports and have completed 10 Dusi Canoe marathons, 1 Comrades marathon and have also managed to run from the top of Sani Pass in Lesotho down to the Sani Pass hotel in a 21km race called the Sani Stagger. I am married to an amazing women who has supported me through thick and thin and continues to back many of my outlandish ideas and dreams.
A pet project of mine is to aim to rid the island of Zanzibar of the alien invasive House Crow (Corvid splendens). Along with a local bird guide on the island, we are coming up with the means to combat the spread of this destructive species. This ties into one of the three C’s of The Birding Life, namely Conservation.
Current life list for Southern Africa - 606 species.
Favourite species - Violet-backed Starling
The bird I most want to see – Malayan banded Pitta (because I dipped on it in Thailand)
Favourite birding spot – Sani Pass and Sappi Stanger wetland
Dream birding destination – Papua New Guinea
In 2015 I went on a holiday to the Kruger with a friend of mine and out the blue I said to her, “When we go out on game drives, I want to add another dynamic to our trip. Birds!” Without even knowing it, my love for birds was born, but it was only in 2017 when I found my passion for photography that I really started to pay attention to the feathered creatures I was taking pictures of.
Since then I have received my qualification as a field guide from FGASA and have decided to specialise in birds. My current focus is on the Fynbos, Karoo and Forest birds, but the plan is to eventually become a specialist in all the Southern African Biomes.
I try to get out into nature as often as possible and have in the process found out I have a love for plants, especially Fynbos and succulents. I have now started photographing those too.
When I’m not birding or photographing everything I’m running my company.
Apart from my field guide qualification, I also have a Bcom in Business Management. I am an avid swimmer and have done the Midmar Mile a whopping 14 times. I also enjoy reading and learning something new each day.
VAUNEEN KERR WILSON
My love of nature started early, having lived on the Serengeti from birth till 3 years old, and then in Swaziland before moving to South Africa.
I have a Diploma in Medical Technology ,as well as a Diploma in Agriculture from Cedara Agricultural College. I started birding seriously in 2014 via the photography route.
In 2017 I decided to do a qualification as a field guide from the Wilderness Leadership School.
After early retirement in July 2018 I became a Tour Manager for Golf and Game ,doing mainly Safari tours to Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Kruger Park.
Current life list for Southern Africa - 587
Favourite species - Narina Trogon
The bird i most want to see - Pippin
Favourite birding spot - Nibela Lake Lodge
Dream birding destination - Colombia