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Questions my grand kids asked me: Why do you love birds Grandpa?
There is no doubt that someone who almost always wears a pair of binoculars around his neck and looks at any bird that appears in sight is somewhat obsessed by birds. This is something that other people find difficult to understand, especially my family members and even the grandchildren.
Let me explain why I love birds.
Firstly I must admit that I am a nature lover. The beautiful world that we live in has always fascinated me and I have always enjoyed being out in nature. Growing up on a farm outside Pretoria I spent many hours exploring my world.
Collecting bird’s eggs was one of my first hobbies. The amazing colors of different bird eggs captured my imagination. Add to that the many exotic birds that appeared on the stamps that I collected and you can understand how my imagination was further stimulated. To add to this interest was the aviary that we (my Dad and I) built on the farm and how we captured some of the beautiful colored local Waxbills and Finches in traps and using bird lime. Keeping Racing Pigeons was also an activity that stimulated my interest as I marveled that these birds could find their way home over great distances.
Visiting the Kruger National Park as I grew up stimulated my interest in nature and at that stage I have to admit that the big five caught my imagination, relegating my interest in birds to second place. At the same time the beautifully colored Rollers, the very large Bustards, the colorful Storks and the majestic Eagles that we often saw kept my interest going.
Dating members of the opposite sex distracted my interest to girls for a while and so birds of the feathered kind again took second place. For many years I was just too busy finding my place in the world and so my family, sport and work seemed to demand most of my time and energy.
It was only after I retired from many years of earning a living that I again seemed to have the time to pursue my earlier interest. The activities of the local bird club in East London and some time to again visit the game reserves in South Africa provided the stimulation to begin birding in earnest.
Digital photography and the ease of taking reasonably good photos of birds provided a further challenge. No longer did I rush from one sighting of the big five to another. Rather it was the smaller animals and especially the birds that now fascinated me. Even in our own garden a bird bath and a feeder brought many of the local bird species close enough to view at my leisure. Sharing this interest with my wife added to the excitement.
Becoming a “Citizen Scientist” as I work on listing bird species in several areas as part of the SABAP2 (South African Bird Atlas Program) adds interest to my hobby. Working on the committee of the local bird club as educational coordinator further stimulated my interest and so on an annual basis I organize an inter-schools bird quiz and a beginner bird I.D. course.
Walking at the nearby Nahoon Estuary and Nahoon Point Nature Reserves with my wife and even with you our grand kids is a real joy. Occasionally I just slip away to spend an hour at the bird hide at the Nahoon Estuary.
On rare occasions I manage to get away to the beautiful Gubu Dam near Stutterheim for some fly-fishing, but it is really the birding that I do in the forest area and on the dam that I really enjoy. Hearing the call of the African Fish Eagle as it patrols the water or watching the Grey Crowned Cranes as they do their mating dance stirs my soul. At the same time finding a Malachite Sunbird in the Fynbos vegetation or a Dark-capped Yellow Warbler in the reed beds is just as exciting.
Yes there is no doubt that I love birding and as I travel along the road of life birds have become an important part of nature that I study, enjoy and appreciate. Perhaps as I get involved in this hobby I am also making a difference in our world. Here we as humans take so much for granted and often even neglect to look after the environment. Birds are a special part of God’s creation and so we need to look after them so that you as young people can get as much enjoyment out of them in the future as I have in the past and present.