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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:36 am 
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Good idea DD ! On many previous drives I have felt a bit uncomfortable asking the driver to stop while I check a second or third interesting bird sighting, knowing that most of the group would prefer to be looking at a yawning lion. The only drawback I can think of is whether the activity would be popular enough. Still, it wouldn't hurt to have a trial run. I agree that for some birding enthusiasts it would be a reason alone to come to the Kruger for a holiday, as many already do for the annual Big Birding event.

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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:43 am 
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I'm pretty sure that if there are enough people in a group, Sanparks will oblige with any type of drive. When I did the sunset drive at Olifants in September, there was another drive specially booked by a private group. I'm not sure if it was birding, but it was definitely photography enthusiasts. How I wanted to be on that drive... (though we did see 2 leopards and AWC on ours)

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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 10:53 am 
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Hi DotDan,

I think this is a wonderful idea and although we are far from experienced birders would definitely try to include a camp which could offer this option.
On a sunset drive in the Park 2 weeks ago we had a guide who failed to stop for any of the birds at all.

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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:03 am 
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I do feel there are enough people that visit the park that would love to do something like this.

It is actually frightening when one realizes how many Bird guides exist outside the park in places like Gauteng, Pretoria, KZN etc but in KNP there are just NO options for birders other than self drive.

I would love to rather go do a 3-4 hour hike with a bird guide in Kruger than do one here in Jozi for instance.

The point on photography is another good one and I believe that photography and birding goes hand in hand :wink:

I seriously believe that KNP does not cater currently for birders at all, and I think that if they do some market research, they will realize that there is a booming market for these type of activities .

The fact that so many foreigners come to KNP on a yearly basis and not be able to fully appreciate everything there is to our wonderful ecosystem is frightening.
SA has over 900 species of birds recorded to date, of which Kruger has +- 500 of those species.


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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 12:04 pm 
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I also think there would be a market for this. SO and I are relatively new to birding but would certainly be interested. :D
Also the point about night drives being geared towards big 5 findings, I have had mixed drives, some guides charging off to where they know there is a lion kill and other guides who did, indeed, stop for the smallest of creatures or birds.

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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 12:51 pm 
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Before going to South Africa I did not give birding many thoughts other than "what a nice bird" kind. On the Forum I have got bitten by the birding bug and with the quantity of birds that you have in SA it is never boring and I am looking forward to my next trip where birding is going to have a primary space.


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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 1:28 pm 
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I have no problem with your basic idea, but I have to disagree with your premise that there is no room for birding on current night drives.
Most guides will stop for the nocturnal birds, especially birds such as owls.
I don't think any guide worth his / her salt will drive past one of these magnificent creatures.
They may start ignoring night jars after they have passed nr. 6. This may annoy a serious birder!

I must agree, that on a drive there can be pressure to see the cats.
Many people do a night drive and in fact come to a national park, mainly for that reason.
Even the other members of the big 5 seems not to impress!
Many people will also let the guide know that he will be measured by his success in this, both before and even after the drive. That is sad!

But a good guide should try and keep balance and manage this pressure.

I think that birders should maybe inform the guide beforehand that they are interested in birds. They may be surprised at how much the guide actually knows!

Specialised bird drives may also be an even better option.
But remember that there is a severe limit on resources.
There are only so many guides and vehicles available at any given time.
It will be difficult to run on the long run if it is not integrated in to other activities and if it is not supported by the birding community. Training of existing guides would in my opinion be a better option.

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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 2:02 pm 
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:hmz: Imberbe is spot on.

All the guides I have asked on the numerous night rides have been accommodating with my request to stop for birds, and I have got quite a few lifers on night rides.

I know a lot of nightriders are big 5 verskrik (besotted) but I make my request known at the start of the drive and there is invariably somebody else who agrees. It is part of the total experience and those with narrow sightings requests have to endure it.

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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 2:29 pm 
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@ Hardekool :|
Imberbe wrote:

Specialised bird drives may also be an even better option. But remember that there is a severe limit on resources. There are only so many guides and vehicles available at any given time. It will be difficult to run on the long run if it is not integrated in to other activities and if it is not supported by the birding community. Training of existing guides would in my opinion be a better option.
\


Training of current guides was my opinion and the idea from the start:

Quote:
I don't think its necessary for a dedicated birding guide to be employed as such, but perhaps one or two of the current guides could perhaps get a course into birding and be on hand for when a birding drive is booked.


Ai... I see I still have so much to teach you mods... :twisted:

And the only reason they stop for Owls, is because the people might actually start to cry if the owl is run over... and in my experience, the current guides have no training in how to deal with crying guests.

IMO lets not mix the two drives up here... this is solely meant for birders and people wanting to experience SA's bird life.


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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:19 pm 
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No real difference between this and normal drives either, as one can also see nothing or everything.

IMO, some homework might need to be done here, to establish with roads have more nightjars on them and which area is good for which owls..

The S41 near Satara, I have seen on 2 occasions now, is really good for Nightjars just as the sun go down and I found Giant Eagle Owl on the road on both these occasions...

The problem one has in asking the driver to stop is that the other 15 guests immediately look around and you hear the gossip about everything from a Leopard, Lion on a kill to Cheetah jumping over the moon, and the looks one get after they find out it was for a bird, hell not even my wife can give me those looks :lol: :lol:

Remember this type of drive does not necessarily have to be restricted to night drives ,as birders know, the dawn chorus is the best time for birding. Overseas guests that might want to do some birding whilst they are here would enjoy a 3 hour 5am - 8am guided drive. Yes, they can do the self drive option, but for most guests it would be easier with a guide on board helping with the ID's etc..


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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 3:40 pm 
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DotDan wrote:
No real difference between this and normal drives either, as one can also see nothing or everything.

Yes and no. There are a lot more nocturnal mammals - species and individual animals - than nocturnal birds. Also, one can often see diurnal or crepuscular animals during the drives, whereas diurnal birds will not be seen at night.

DotDan wrote:
The problem one has in asking the driver to stop is that the other 15 guests immediately look around and you hear the gossip about everything from a Leopard, Lion on a kill to Cheetah jumping over the moon, and the looks one get after they find out it was for a bird, hell not even my wife can give me those looks :lol: :lol:

Yup, that's why I rarely ask to stop for birds (or trees, rocks, plants etc) on guided drives :(

DotDan wrote:
Remember this type of drive does not necessarily have to be restricted to night drives ,as birders know, the dawn chorus is the best time for birding. Overseas guests that might want to do some birding whilst they are here would enjoy a 3 hour 5am - 8am guided drive. Yes, they can do the self drive option, but for most guests it would be easier with a guide on board helping with the ID's etc..

Very good idea I think. I imagine this type of guide would have to be more specialised though, about on par with private/freelance bird guides. Otherwise I'm not convinced they'd add value in terms of help with identification (i.e. I personally wouldn't be prepared to pay for it). I think specialist bird walks would also have a market, but again a specialist bird guide would be required.

My dream guiding role is as a specialist bird guide, but I'm not good enough (yet).

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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 6:46 pm 
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Jumbo wrote:
DotDan wrote:
Please give some of your thoughts regarding this, as I would love to send any feedback on to the relevant people at Sanparks and see what they say :wink:

Awesome idea, DD!!! :thumbs_up:
This is most definitely something I will support! 8)

Me too. Great idea, DD :thumbs_up:
As an overseas visitor who only really does any birding when in SA, I'd love the chance for seeing nocturnal birds, and not only in KNP. This might be a good option for KTP as well? :hmz:


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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2009 11:00 pm 
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DotDan, I think your idea is a brilliant one.
I would certainly take advantage of a night birding drive.
Maybe this could be tried at one camp, like Punda or Shingwedzi, to see how popular it is.
A camp offering this may draw people just for that opportunity.
Special dawn birding drives would also be good, as in a well-guided group you are sure to see things you would miss on your own.


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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 9:12 am 
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Ever heard of Kruger's Big Birding weekends? ... That will give perspective to you regarding what can be achieved from a drive primarily geared to birding.

And BTW, a BBW probably packs in 6 to 8 hours of expert-guided bird viewing during the hours of darkness! (Not to mention the 16 hours plus during daylight) And that at extremely affordable prices... :wink:

I also have to emphasise what a number of contributors to this thread have already said... if you let the ranger know before hand that you have a specific interest in birding they will first of all accommodate you and secondly they will surprise you with their knowledge of the birds.

Just as recently as last week Laksman, Skopsie and I booked for the sunset drive at Punda.
We found ourselves as the only guests on board the bush vehicle with Tsepho, our ranger, :dance: and could therefore truly concentrate on birding.
What happened? :lol: We stopped at a great sighting of a young leopard male, and checked out some kudu, impala, a carnivourless buffalo carcass, snakes and Pundaroos as well during our "nocturnal birding trip"... Apart from witnessing a great aerial pennant-winged nightjar display (seeing both male and female birds), we also stopped at the more obliging (from a photographic PoV) white-faced scops owl...

Image
Large view

Image
Large view

Generally, when on a "big 5" night drive I have never shied away from letting the ranger know that I would like to stop at nocturnal birds and actually insisted on him stopping.
He soon got the message... "Big 5" fans on the same drive had huge appreciation for my passion and actually enjoyed what the ranger had to tell them about each sighting.

So, if it is a "birding" night drive, or a "big 5" night drive, all of Kruger's offerings should still be enjoyed...

My point is that I will certainly make use of a night drive geared to birds if it is offered eventually, but in the meantime I do not feel let down with the attention afforded the birds on a "big 5" drive after having made my request to the ranger.
On the odd occasion (like with my mates and I at Punda), an impromptu birding night drive is quite possible.
If you have enough interest from fellow birders, you will be able to even arrange such an excursion by booking out a whole vehicle! :wink:

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 Post subject: Re: Birding Night Drives
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 10:22 am 
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True words JVR...

But I do feel there is a big difference in the south and north drives. As you pointed out, you had the chance of having a drive all to yourselves... In the south that will NEVER be the case.

Lets take the focus away from solely night drives.. Wouldn't you say that there is definitely a demand/market for more birding activities within the park?


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