You travel a lot in your quest to see different birds. What new destination would you most like to visit or revisit?
One of my biggest dreams would be to get to Papua New Guinea and/or West Papua to see the birds-of-paradise. I have seen the riflebirds in Australia, which are part of the same family, but the truly extravagant birds-of-paradise only occur in Papua New Guinea and West Papua and are very high on my birding bucket list. Having watched so many documentaries about these birds, I cannot help but want to see them for myself. They are just so different from anything else, with their incredible plumage patterns and, in many cases, outrageous breeding displays by the males, that I can’t believe that there are many dedicated birders out there who wouldn’t have them on their list of all-time, must-see experiences.
In terms of places to revisit, any of the countries in the Neotropics would definitely be at the top of my list. That part of the world is without doubt my favourite place to go birding. There are so many of the world’s most legendary species to see there that it is difficult not to want to go back there time and again. I have already visited some of the Neotropical countries a number of times and still get lifers on every visit. At the end of the day, it’s nice to see new birds, but the actual list and numbers become secondary. In fact, I would far rather see some of the incredible species over and over again than add yet another nondescript little tyrannulet to my life-list. How can you not enjoy seeing the incredible hummingbirds, mind-blowing toucans, gaudy tanagers and truly free-flying macaws, even if you have seen them many times before? And what about species like the Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Inca Tern, Sunbittern, Harpy Eagle, Resplendent Quetzal and Hoatzin? The list just goes on and on…
Your worst birding experience?
Dipping a bird always leaves you with a rather empty feeling, whether it is a bird on a dedicated twitch or a resident species that you have specifically gone to look for. Birding can let you experience the full gamut of emotions from the highest highs to the lowest lows and, for me, dipping a species is down there with the lowest of low feelings that I experience while birding.
Of course, dipping comes with the territory and once you start birding it is inevitable that at some point you are going to experience it. I’ve dipped plenty of birds, both locally and abroad, and it’s never a good feeling. But perhaps the one local dip that still hurts the most was missing by just a few hours the Pied Wheatear that turned up at Victoria Falls. I had tried to re-arrange my schedule to get there earlier, but I had a talk commitment in Dullstroom that I just couldn’t get changed, no matter how hard I tried. I had asked the organisers if I could take one of the later timeslots, which would have meant that I could have gone to Victoria Falls first and still got back in time, but they were unmoved. So I had to first give the talk and then rush back from Dullstroom to Johannesburg to catch a flight to Zimbabwe. Sadly, I was too late!
What’s your favourite birding destination in southern Africa?
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