It was the month of May and the morning of the 5th, it started out like any other morning, with a really early wake-up and many unfamiliar sounds from outside our tents, those sounds were birds. But lucky for the NJ MORE students, those sounds where about to become a whole lot more familiar with the arrival of Massimo Rebuzzi (an SKS Birder) and the beginning of our specialist birding segment in our third semester, a valuable tool leading into Backup Trails.
The days where long and filled with many tricky melodies and very similar looking bids (LBJ’s – “Little Brown Jobs”) but all the students tackled the seemingly impossible task of being able to identify these birds via sight or sound alone. We quickly learnt with a little bit of time, effort and help from our 3 trainers – Phillip Wessel, Massimo Rebuzzi and Tertius van der Walt that we would be able to get to know our feathery friends a whole lot better.
During our specialist birding segment, we got to go to the famous “Bushman’s Gorge“ which was filled with totally epic views and sightings of some very special birds. One that stood out for me was the Mountain Wagtail, which was a “lifer” (first time seeing that bird) for most, if not all the students. We also got permission to go to Marakele National Park where we saw many new birds because of the different biomes it offers. The biggest highlight of that trip was definitely seeing Cape Vultures in one of the biggest breeding sights for them in the country. And not to mention the beautiful view from on top of the Kransberg mountain at the Lenong Viewpoint.
Many of the students found development in their passion for birding and took quite a liking to it. I think everyone left there with a greater appreciation for birds and knowing way more than what they went in with.
On behalf of all the students, we would love to say thanks again to Massimo Rebuzzi for taking the time out of his schedule to assist us with our training and hopefully see you again in the future, hopefully with a pair of binocs, a bird book and another lesson on LBJ’s.
Words by: Stohm Lewthwaite