This morning I am sitting at the swimming pool reflecting on some of the missed opportunities to be with the birds. At the water feature there is a Yellow-fronted Canary having an awesome time in the running water, who can blame it when the temperature is at 34 degrees Celsius. There is a Cape Turtle dove and dark-capped Bulbul drinking water and in the trees, waiting, are some Spectacled Weavers, Cape Whiteyes and Yellow throated Petronia. A pair of Amethyst Sunbirds is chasing each other around in the Hibiscus tree while a Greater Double-collared sunbird is busily stealing the nectar for which they are competing. Around me I can hear Neddicky, Red-eyed dove, Black Cuckoo and Black-headed Oriole enjoying the summer's day. Overhead a few Lesser-striped Swallow, Greater -striped swallow, Barn swallow and White-rumped Swift are doing aerobatics that would put any World War ll air dog-fight to shame. In the distance there are calls of Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-crowned Tchagra and a Laughing dove is mournfully calling from the tree above my head.
Of course when I went to senior school there was no longer time for me to cultivate my interest in birds, especially since there were many other exciting beings to follow around; darn puberty and all that accompanies that frustrating and confusing stage of one's life. After senior school, sadly, there were once again too many other exciting interests to pursue with friends and no time for 'wasting' on birds. I met George who had suffered Polio at a young age and had no use of his legs. We had a common interest in Classical music and I spent many Sunday mornings with him listening to concerts, operas and - just music. One day during conversation he mentioned that he would love to go camping. I did not need a second invitation and we immediately set about preparing for a camping weekend. The following weekend took us to a beautiful remote campsite about 2 hours drive from home. It had all one could ever wish for, most exciting were the amazing rock pool at the bottom of a waterfall and the abundance of birds. Yes, you have it right, I was in my element and we visited this campsite many more times. Sadly, it was soon discovered by others and became commercialized to the extent that all the charm was lost. It was just the catalyst I needed to renew my interest in birds and I spent hours looking for birds in the veld, bush and vleis while George made himself comfortable around the pool.
My parents moved to a farm in the Natal Midlands and while visiting them I became aware of the abundance of birdlife in the Drakensberg foothills. The neighbouring farm was a Catholic retreat for nuns and was entirely run by these most beautiful, gentle people. There, I found my very first 'bird book'. It was a 4th Impression of the 1940 publication of "Roberts Birds of South Africa" printed in 1944 and when the nuns saw my interest in it, they insisted that I have it. Such were their giving natures. I spent many hours with this, highly treasured, book and started identifying the birds on the farm and the more I identified the more others I found. I decided that this could be a most interesting lifetime hobby, which could occupy many idle hours.
My dad took me up to the top of a neighboring farm, where there is a very large man-made lake and vast marshlands. There I became privy to one of the biggest, at the time unrecorded, flocks of breeding Wattled Crane, an endangered species. Well I remember days of trudging through the marshland in my gumboots and drizzling rain or mist following the cranes. It became an obsession and every time I went to the farm, I would spend most of my days with the cranes, counting eggs in the nests, monitoring the chicks and fledglings and witnessing the growth of the population of this flock of birds. Memory eludes me now but at the time of my interest in these regal birds, there were supposedly only about 100 left in Southern Africa and here I was in amongst 40 - 50 of them. It was during these mountain excursions of mine that I came across another bird on the endangered list, the Bearded Vulture.
The first time I saw one, the only identification I could think of was a Condor, because in the misty conditions and from a distance I would have sworn that this enormous black bird stood at least 4ft high. From reading Louis Lamour and Zane Grey Westerns, I believed the Condor to be the biggest and most feared bird in the whole world. Hello, I was only 18 at the time. Imagine my consternation when I arrived back at the farmhouse and consulted my treasured book, only to discover that there is no such bird in Southern Africa. I tried to describe the bird to a number of locals but to no avail (I was trying to learn Zulu at the time), until I met Gerard who could spoke reasonably good English and he told me that it was a "Seoli" and with the help of my trusty book I found it. What I saw in the book did not even closely resemble the bird I saw in the grey misty light. I did, however, consequently see the bird on a number of occasions, both flying and on the ground which confirmed the identification. Later I started identifying Cape Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Yellow-billed Kite and other raptors around the farm.
My interest in birds was now growing at an alarming rate but I was still ignoring the Cisticolas, Larks, Pipits and other small birds. It would be years before I started recognizing the importance of the whole spectrum of the bird genus. By now, thanks to the lake and marshes I was noticing the ducks, waders, grebes and herons in the area. Looking back, I regret that I never noted my discoveries. The necessity of making notes only manifested itself many years later. I believe that, although my interest in birds was not documented in the beginning, I nonetheless, gained immense pleasure and knowledge from those years
K Myburgh is a successful Internet Marketer who works from home generating a healthy Income and building a strong Passive Income. As an author, he writes articles on subjects about which he is passionate. Being an ardent and passionate nature lover, one of his favourite past times is being involved with birds. Currently he is an observer in the second Bird Atlasing Project and an active member of the Cape Parrot Project.