(This article originally appeared in the 100th edition of “The Kite”, the official newsletter of the Tygerberg Bird Club and is loaded here with the permission of its Editor. - Ed.)
“Everyone should know the names of their neighbours and household visitors. If you know the names of all the species in your neighbourhood, you will soon become interested in all the other forms of life around you. The excitement of being aware is to define the particularity of it – and to detect its infinite differences. You become aware of life itself and what is being lost” - ROBERT BATEMAN
This was the quote that opened the introductory thoughts of a brilliant course that some Tygerberg birders were indeed fortunate to attend. For those who are acquainted with Anton from Birdlife Overberg, you will know that he is a captivating and entertaining speaker, passionate and highly regarded in birding circles.
Although we were initially overwhelmed with the two day program schedule, it was broken down into 30 to 45 minute topics that were illustrated with spectacular photographs and amusing anecdotes which made the week end fly by! We even had an opportunity or two to wander around Intaka Island and test out our new skills.
What the course did not do: make us ornithologists; focus on technical terms and scientific jargon, or teach us about global species. Rather it assisted with developing our confidence and help us grow to enjoy our hobby, identify our local species through the “local is lekker” approach, and use available technology on an ongoing basis.
The course manual is one that we can use and refer to on a daily basis, filled with practical principles, highlighting the differences in some confusing species, and interesting information on birding tourism, conservation projects and very useful contacts. We also received fabulous pocket pamphlets for the common birds of various habitats of the Western Cape, beautifully illustrated, and can be tucked into the back of our field guides. Birdlife Overberg prints these in partnership with sponsors, and they are mainly distributed as part of their educational program.
This course is highly recommended for anyone in beginner status, family, friends, students, and everyone will come away inspired, and as Anton indicated, “welcome to the wonderful world of birds”. A useful website to put on your favourite list: www.westerncapebirding.co.za, and if you haven’t visited Intaka Island yet, go soon. It is a small miracle in the heart of Century City. www.intaka.co.za