The sixth annual Tankwa Karoo Birding Bonanza weekend, hosted by the SANParks Honorary Rangers Boland Region, was held from 31 March to 2 April in the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Guests were welcomed on Friday with goody bags, and the excitement grew at seeing old friends once again. Registration was followed by a delicious finger supper and sponsored bar. The 24-hour birding game started at 18h30 after the contestants were placed into teams of 3 to 4, each with a BLSA birder. They then went out into a fantastic desert sunset to look for night birds.
Almost everyone was up and ready by 5h45 as the sun came up on Saturday, and for the first time since the event began, not one team came in before late afternoon as the birding was so good. There was a strange buzz amongst contestants and guides alike, but everyone was tight-lipped. By 18h30, all forms had been handed in, and we all settled down for drinks whilst the judges retired into chambers to conclude the team sightings.
The gala dinner kicked off at 19h30, and prizes totalling R 34 000.00 were distributed to teams and members for most birds spotted, rare bird sightings and special stories (not necessarily birding related, but to do with something seen during the 24 hour game). Sunday morning Colin de Kock presented a slide show on bird ringing and a very funny quiz, and by lunch time everyone was once again on their way back home. By all accounts this year’s Tankwa Karoo Birding Bonanza was a resounding success again. More than two thirds of the birds on the Tankwa List were spotted, and several contestants expressed a desire to return next year.
In the days after the event, the Northern Shoveller, a rare Northern American bird spotted by contestant Charles Britz at the Oudebaaskraal Dam, had attracted hundreds of SA and other birders anxious to see this lifer rarity in the flesh! Many of these have found this single bird in what seems good health and stunning breeding plumage!