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Wilderness Birding Experience "The Best"

07 October 2008

The inaugural Sasol Wilderness Birding Experience finished yesterday after 5 days of concentrated bird watching in 17 venues in the Garden Route and Klein Karoo. Hosted by the local SANParks Honorary Rangers and with the help of six volunteer guides the event was voted a resounding success by visiting birdwatchers from all around the country.

Twitchers: Birders (from left)

Peter Ginn, Jeanette and David

Kingwill, Lydia van Rooyen

and Pat Nurse - Picture by

Bob Hopkin

Veteran twitcher 80 year old Lydia van Rooyen visiting from Pongola said that, although she had been attending similar functions in other locations for many years, this first attempt by southern Cape birders was the most professional and friendliest she had ever experienced.

“Although I normally go to birding experiences in the Kruger Park this was far better because there was a much greater variety of habitat and the guides and fellow spotters were so knowledgeable and welcoming” she said.

An average of forty birders participated daily in the event and were treated to talks and guided walks from experts in the field including George-based Peter Ginn who authored one of the most respected encyclopaedias on the subject - "The Complete Book of Southern African Birds".

Unusual ‘spots’ during the event included the African Finfoot, Starred Robin, Knysna Warbler, Narina Trogon and Scaly Throated Honeyguide. Ginn described the latter as a ‘sneaky, underhanded bird’ as it makes a habit of making a prominent call whilst concealing itself from view in dense undergrowth and preventing birders from confirming a ‘spot’.

Highlight of a visit to Voelvlei near Gouritzmond was a view of a mysterious wading bird that defied identification. Peter Ginn said “We were really baffled as the only bird that it resembled was the Chilean Skua that has never been seen in this country and could only have got here by being blown thousands of miles off course. We are still studying photos before we can be sure on that one”.

Co-organisers David and Jeanette Kingwill were delighted with the appreciation of the visitors and only expressed one regret.”Although we are very pleased with the attendance all the delegates were white and we were hoping for participation from other race groups. We often give talks to learners on the environment and birds in particular. Children are usually enthralled with the subject but it is difficult to get through to the parents and our hope is that as the children mature they will retain their interest and join us in future events” they said.

Providing the sponsors continue their support it is planned that the Wilderness Birding Experience will become an annual event.

Twitchers vote 5-day Garden Route sessions tops in the country.