Road-tripping and birdwatching in SA
Farmer's Weekly|December 24 - 31, 2021
Long drives across South Africa offer perfect opportunities for birdwatching, says Muller Janse van Rensburg, who lives in Bethlehem in the Free State. Since he and his family discovered the pastime, their annual holiday has become even more exciting and enjoyable. reports.
Annelie Coleman

FAST FACTS

Birdwatching can turn a tedious road trip into an adventure, and add greatly to the pleasure of a holiday.

South Africa is home to almost 860 bird species.

The objective of birding is to identify and observe birds, and learn more about their behaviour. The birds should not be disturbed in any way.

“I ‘d like to welcome Farmer’s Weekly readers to the wonderful world of birdwatching! Observing and identifying bird species is a relaxing pastime that can be practised virtually anywhere. It’s a healthy hobby that connects you with nature.”

This is according to broker and ardent birdwatcher Muller Janse van Rensburg, who says there are a few basics that every prospective birdwatcher needs in order to locate, identify and watch birds, as well as equipment that can be used to record and identify bird sounds.

BINOCULARS AND FIELD GUIDES

He adds that birding, in its simplest form, calls only for the eyes and ears of a birdwatcher. However, a pair of binoculars is an essential tool for viewing and identifying birds without disturbing them. He recommends a 10 x 42, which offers useful magnification and ensures bright images.

A smartphone provides access to a vast assortment of indispensable tools for birdwatching, such as field guides. He admits, however, that old-fashioned paper is still his first choice.

“A number of field guides are available online, but I still prefer a field guide in actual book form. My family and I derive much joy from paging through our guides, recalling which species we saw where, and searching for rare species,” he says.

‘BIRDWATCHING IS ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN SIMPLY TICKING OFF A LIST OF BIRD SPECIES’

A smartphone also doubles as a camera and recording device, and birdsong apps are available. Janse van Rensburg is adamant, however, that song apps should never be used to call birds, as the basis of the hobby is to view birds without agitating them.

IDENTIFICATION

An often-recommended approach to identifying a bird in the wild is to focus on the following:

• Size and general shape;

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