Could 2019 be YOUR big year?

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Could 2019 be YOUR big year?

african fish eagle


“Wow, who makes that sound?” A visiting foreigner friend asks one evening. Such a distinctive call, most South African’s will be able to blurt out the answer at once. Of course the African Fish Eagle is a firm favourite call for many, associating its call whilst visiting an area with water, usually on a relaxing holiday.

The question is would you be able to identify the call of a Drakensberg Rockjumper? For the most of us, probably not. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to casually mention the calls of birds, when amongst friends, much like we do with various animals

birds and beyond

Drakensberg Rockjumper by Martin Taylor

There are many opportunities for you to learn more about our feathered friends, their plumage, calls and habitats by joining one of many tours available.

Take a peek to see where:



Birds and Beyond is such a company to contact when visiting the Southern Drakensberg region, you can start your day heading towards the mist belt forests in search of the Cape Parrot, or perhaps head up Sani Pass seeking out the Fairy Flycatcher. Did you know the Fairy Flycatcher only weighs 6 grams, that’s a teaspoon of sugar!

Should you be looking to catch a glimpse of the Acacia Pied Barbet, then head to Albert Falls Dam to view these endemic birds. You will be able to do so without a guide on their 4 kilometer Nyoni Bird trail, ensure you have your handy bird guide book.

With the natural biomes of the Blue and Wattled Cranes having fast disappeared by the 1990’s, a group of concerned conservationists looked to start a specialized group in the foothills of the Ukahlamba-Drakensberg Mountains understanding the decline of the cranes, educating landowners and communities on the need to preserve these birds and their natural habitats and recover the population. One can visit the Hlatikulu Crane and Wetland Centre, near Giants Castle, to educate yourself further on the plight of the crane and the rehabilitation that is currently taking place.

Hlatikulu Crane and Wetland Centre,

Image by C Van Rooyen

Should you wish to get further involved in offering your time towards research and are interested in conservation, then make contact with The KZN Crane Foundation. The KZNCF requests volunteers assistance over certain periods of the year in assisting with their research, you would need to dress up as a crane, be fit and withstand all forms of weather in tracking the young cranes.

Whilst visiting the Free State, one has the opportunity to visit the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme which is surrounded by 8000 hectars of nature reserve. With 300 bird species having been recorded in the area, four of South Africa’s critically endangered species have been sited: White winged Flufftail; Wattled Crane; Rudd’s Lark and Eurasian Bittern. The reserve is also home to the threatened Oribi. The Ingula Nature Reserve can be found North-East of Van Reenen.

Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme


Head to the Eskom Ingula Visitor Centre to learn more about the Pumped Storage Scheme and the conservation of birding habitats taking place in the reserve in partnership with Eskom, BirdLife SA and MiddlePunt Wetland Trust.

 Falcon Ridge

Image by Mark Du Plooy at Falcon Ridge

For the younger ones of the family, a visit to Falcon Ridge in the Central Drakensberg and The African Bird of Prey Sanctuary on the Lion Park Road, outside of Pietermaritzburg, will educate and encourage your little ones to become conservationists and understand the depleting habitats our birds face.

African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Why don’t you have your BIG YEAR and see how many birds you can site in 2019? Can you beat the World Big Year record set by Arjan Dwarshuis of 6,833 species? Give it a try.





Lori Voss

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