It seems that Covid and lockdown have encouraged birds to wander far from their usual habitats and they are popping up on branches all over the place! The Telegram group that notifies interested parties of a rare bird sighting has pinged on an almost daily basis, making those whose lives are devoted to tracking down rarities dash from pillar to post before said bird moves on, and causing extreme anxiety among those who are confined to an office and have to wait for the weekend to make the 150km trek to, say, the field just outside Bredasdorp. I have it on good authority that one such lady makes life so miserable for her colleagues that they send her home early so that she can get there before dark. I kid you not. I met her on a grassy knoll this weekend, where she had been sitting since early morning waiting for a bird to exit some shrubbery. She would stay until dark just in case.
We have been extremely fortunate in chasing down the rarities, and have had the pleasure of spending hours in the fresh air and sunshine in various parts of the Western Cape which we would never have bothered to go to in the normal course of life – all rather off the beaten track. How marvellous to stand at the side of a country road and inhale the sea breezes up the West Coast, or stand in the shadow of the imposing cliffs of Rooi Els listening for the call of the Cape Rockjumper. Freshly ploughed fields reveal rich, dark soil awaiting the seeds of our staple crops and the winter rains to yield lush green landscapes and full silos. Spotting a new fynbos species is as rewarding as a rare bird sighting and a great deal easier to photograph. I lack the eyesight required to spot LBJs from afar and have to rely on others to point out which tree to look in, and then I still have to zoom in with the camera, by which time the bird has flown. The cameras sported by mega birders are colossal and perhaps can be compared to the infamous sports car metaphor, but there is no doubt that the more expensive the equipment, the greater the satisfaction when sorting the hundreds of photos of the same bird later on. We all get ‘camera’ envy!
Many birders simply use scopes or binoculars, and I have to say I am leaning that way myself, as my camera skills with birds leave much to be desired and rather actually see the bird than try to look through a tiny window. The price of high quality scopes falls very little short of six figures and so it will be binoculars for a while!
Feature image is a Lesser Noddy.