Let’s Chirp with Tim Cockcroft

Excitement brings birders back for more

HERE FOR SUMMER: It was a good season for viewing red-backed shrike in the Ndlambe area Picture: TIM COCKCROFT

WELL, here we are… another new year and more birding to be done.

I trust you had a good holiday, whether you went away for stayed right here in good old Port Alfred. I had a very busy season indeed… in fact, one of my busiest ever.

There is something about birding in our lovely town that draws people back for more! One of my clients was 13-year-old Chris from Johannesburg, whose enthusiasm was quite infectious! He had a tour with me, then only a few days later, he asked his mom to book another tour with me and was back for more. He was so excited to have seen his first Narina Trogon, mountain wagtail, dark-backed weaver and many, many others.

It reminded me of when I started birding at just nine years old. I never had the privilege of having a guide show me all the new birds I wanted to see, so he was blessed indeed.

Another highlight was guiding somebody who was working on his “big year” list. For those who don’t know, a Big Year is when somebody deliberately sets out to see as many different birds as he/she can within a calendar year, often competing with like-minded friends. This client’s tour started out with a Knysna warbler, a very special bird for him and a “lifer”. Various other birds were added to his year list during the course of the day, ending with a spectacular Narina Trogon sighting.

And finally, although by no means a rare bird or a new bird for me, a personal highlight for me during the season was several sightings of red-backed shrike – more than I have seen in previous years. The red-backed shrike is a non-breeding migrant from Europe, spending our summer here. It occurs mainly in open thornveld and the male is easily recognisable by the grey crown, black mask and reddish back. The female is not quite as colourful, lacks the mask and is lightly marked below. Always good to see!

That’s it for this week, folks. I hope you will have a fantastic birding year ahead!

Tim Cockcroft


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