A 06h05 wake-up for Alec was a rude arousal for a teenager, but we had to get him off for a test as soon as possible. His eyes widened as he quickly realised that his holiday was about to be cruelly abbreviated. As expected, the test came back positive and suddenly, along with Alec’s, our busy plans changed dramatically. We would be in isolation for the next five days while we sat out the incubation period before we could be tested.
My mind raced (unnecessarily, I guess, as I really had nowhere to go) until it dawned on me that our five days of isolation would dovetail perfectly with a five-day full protocol SABAP2 atlas card.
So I went birding. There couldn’t have been a better place to do it. The Plett pentad (as I call it) is the birdiest in the Western Cape. And that is an official statistic, as it had the highest single SABAP2 atlas card submission count of 174 species for a five-day period. It was something I knew well, after learning of the record-breaking Western Cape card set by Pretoria resident Pieter Verster in 2018, as he blitzed the pentad while on holiday in Plett with his wife Janelle. The locals were shocked at the time, as he bettered the existing Plett pentad record total by an astonishing 35 species. When Pieter bashes a pentad there are usually no half measures – he is the joint national record-holder (with 247 in pentad 2520_3150 near Crocodile Bridge) and the recently crowned Eastern Cape record-holder with an outrageous 201 species in the Kei Mouth pentad (coinciding nicely with the Sooty Gull twitch).
Although I have never met Pieter in person, we engage regularly on WhatsApp about bird stuff and he and I had another very recent connection. While I was on day four of my Plett pentad bash I was horrified to learn that he had pushed me out of my ninth place in the 2020 Wider Cape Town 150km Challenge as he chased down a vagrant White-backed Vulture for his 329th species of the year, overtaking my 328 proudly accumulated total. I was out of the challenge area for the rest of the year and there would be no retribution for me. Pieter ultimately finished three ahead of me on 331 species. I had let the Western Cape contingent down as a Gauteng resident edged ahead of me. It was at that moment as I sat in my car having logged my 162nd species (a Sanderling, very scarcely recorded in this pentad), that I knew I had no option but to beat Pieter’s record and reclaim what should be rightfully owned by a Western Cape resident.
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Natural fish traps in the Okavango
Sightings In The Subregion: Mid-January To Mid-March 2021
After a midsummer that was so busy with rarities, one might have thought that things would calm down somewhat, but the later part of the season continued to deliver a dazzling list of mouthwatering records. Twitchers were kept fully entertained and on their toes!
Deciphering South Africa’s first Crested Honey Buzzard
Observing Striped Crakes
It's A Calling
Warwick Tarboton is a true naturalist and respected as one of the country’s foremost natural history authors and bird photographers. There is little doubt that he has influenced many people to take their interest in birds in particular to the next level.
Redefining Plett Rage
The call I received from my friend Alastair at 06h00 on a Friday at the start of our year-end holiday was inevitable during the advancing second wave of Covid-19 cases, but it was one I had hoped to avoid. His entire family had just tested positive for the virus and we had just given his son, Alec, a lift from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay to join us for a few days of holiday. Alec qualified uncomfortably as a close contact, having spent eight hours in the car with us and then slept in the same dorm room as all my kids for two nights.
Juvenile African Cuckoo Diet
Juvenile African Cuckoo Diet
The Birds And The Beast
Addo’s bird/mammal associations
A Wahlberg's Summer
Wahlberg’s Eagles have always been close to my heart and when the opportunity arose to photograph a breeding pair at the nest, I grabbed it with both hands. It all started when Marius, my future son-in-law, told me early in 2019 about an eagle’s nest in a thorn tree near the Sand River on the farm where he lives in Limpopo. He sent me a photograph of the two eagles at the nest and I immediately recognised them as a pair of Wahlberg’s. To add to my excitement, one of them was a pale morph.
When you are an ant, the stakes are always high. There are those who would eat you—birds, snakes, bigger bugs—and those who could trample you and your environment in a single sneakered step. These enormous beings may not mean you any harm, but it is impact, not intention, that matters most.
Bonding Through Birds
Kindness spreads through this Kentucky nursing facility, but it starts with feathered friends at a window.
Junco family tree
Meet the many variations of this beloved snowbird and popular wintertime visitor.
The Island of Birds
Imagine an island untouched by humans and without any large mammals. Colorful and strange birds of all shapes and sizes swoop over lush forests and seaside hills.
What is your favorite owl and why?
Readers share special memories and the species they think is most interesting.
At the Edge of Lake Erie
Try these three activities at Point Pelee National Park.
How Birds Get Named
Meet the committee in charge of naming and organizing birds.
Why Birds Do What They Do
The more humans understand about their behavior, the more inaccessible their world seems.
Traveling Back in Time
See ancient and avian sights at Bandelier National Monument.
With traits that appeal to the big three, birds, butterflies and bees, these powerhouse blooms are top options for a wildlife-friendly garden. From easy-to-grow annuals to hardworking perennials, there’s something for every landscape.