The Cape Town storm (or #StormCovfefe, named after Donald Trump’s recent infamous Twitter typo) dominated the attention of the Western Cape the past few days. It took the terrible, terrible fires and property damage in Knysna to finally distract people from the destruction closer to home. While most predictions for the storm probably overestimated the amount of rain and wind that we were to experience, it was nevertheless a notable event. Apart from the ubiquitous large trees blowing over and the associated damage, there were scary scenes along the beachfronts with large waves flooding roads, and a number of people lost their lives in electrical fires. It was a truly miserable day, and I was very aware of the privilege I had of a warm, safe, dry shelter. It would have been an unbearable day for those not so fortunate, of which there are many in Cape Town.
When my birding friend, who moonlights as a meteorological enthusiast, Bryn de Kocks, posted about the massive front approaching from the Atlantic, my first thought was not drought relief, but, selfishly, I thought about birds. The storm had passed some notable South Atlantic islands, which are home to a number of pelagic bird species that would cause quite a stir in South African waters. In large storms such as this it is not uncommon for birds to be blown in quite close to the Cape. Often they are exhausted and spent from the forced journey, and they retire to the nearest shore to recover, which they sadly often don’t manage. So it was with anticipation that I set out to Cape Point the day after the storm. Firstly, it was a good opportunity rescue any stranded birds, and secondly, to find a rare bird that I would otherwise not likely see in the region.
Dominic Rollinson picked me up early and we set off. We arrived at Cape Point just after sunrise in order to do a seawatch from a well-known spot. We were joined by Cliff Dorse, who had taken a half day off work to enjoy the post-storm birding. With the wild conditions offshore, many pelagic birds had pushed closer in to shore or even into False Bay to shelter, and were now heading out again past Cape Point. We set up two scopes and enjoyed the unbelievable scenes otherwise reserved for dedicated pelagic boat trips 30 kms offshore. There were thousands upon thousands of birds, mostly close enough to identify to species. There were three species of albatross, at least one species of Giant Petrel and four other petrels, two shearwater species, and many, many Antarctic Prions. We enjoyed these scenes while trying to find something properly rare, but it was only the more usual species it seemed. We then moved on to Olifantsbos to walk the shoreline looking for tired/dead seabirds. Dom headed north, and I took the south section. Neither of us found anything, which is a good thing for the birds but disappointing for us. However, we both mentioned on the ride back how much we enjoyed our respective walks. Time spent out in nature is never wasted!
I stumbled upon a shipwreck that I was unaware of, which I couldn’t resist photographing. This area was once called the ‘Cape of Storms’ before it was changed to the ‘Cape of Good Hope’ (an attempt to redress what the King of Portugal considered bad advertising for prospective settlers). The recent storm was a reminder of the wild nature of our coast, and this is why our shoreline has the highest concentrations of shipwrecks in the world. I learnt later that this is the Thomas T. Tucker, an American steamer that ran aground because of thick fog and a faulty compass. My encounter with this wreck and the photographs I managed with my cellphone are the main reason for me sharing this experience – it’s just another reminder that this city and country have so many hidden gems and places that I am yet to explore!
Suspended by a high-tech carabiner 110 m above a steep-sided canyon, hurtling along at 60 km/h on a cable only as thick as your thumb, heading straight for a rock face on the other side of the gorge with only a leather glove and friction as your brake system… Sound like fun to you? Hell yeah!
The Cape Canopy Tour zipline in Grabouw is an absolute must-do. Situated in the UNESCO heritage site of the Hottentot’s Holland Nature Reserve, it is an adrenalin-packed experience with the added bonus of raw exposure to nature. The impressive mountain range is beset by a diversity of plants that is unmatched on the rest of the planet. The Cape Floristic Region is the smallest of the recognized biodiversity hotspots, and also happens to be one of the hottest too. The zipline course takes you through one of the prominent gorges, and gives you unbeatable views of this dramatic and gorgeous setting.
I hate gift shopping, and I often go the route of paying for an experience or meal wherever possible as an alternative. So when Rebecca’s birthday came around this year and I was stumped, a suggestion from her friend Isabelle that we do the zipline was an obvious choice! I had a standing agreement with the managers at Cape Canopy Tours that I could complete the course for free, since I was part of their nature guide assessment team and we weren’t able to finish the course that day because of weather complications. I was worried that I was cursed, when on my second attempt we encountered dense fog over Sir Lowry’s Pass, but my fears were allayed as we burst through the clouds and were greeted by beautiful blue skies in Grabouw.
The experience starts at basecamp, where you are shown a safety briefing and kitted out with your (not-so) stylish helmet and harness gear. From there it’s a 30 minute 4x4 drive up to the top of the course. Don’t be surprised if you end up in someone else’s lap during the transit – the road is very bumpy, and you get to know your fellow adventure seekers on a very personal level in that short trip. From there it’s a short hike in to the first platform, and then 11 ziplines of absolute bliss. This course is the highest, longest, and fastest in the country, and I am certain that none rivals its setting either.
The whole experience is very slick. The guides are hilarious, forever cracking jokes along the way and keeping spirits high. Safety is always paramount, and at no stage of the experience are you not clipped on to a safety line of some sort. The base is kitted out with a coffee bar and barista, free wifi, ice creams and other snacks, and when you return from your trip you are served a fresh and delicious pie (there’s a selection of choices, vegetarian too) homemade at the Peregrine Farm Stall nearby. The reception staff are friendly, and check-in is done on one of an army of state-of-the-art tablets mounted on the reception desk. The assistant manager even took the time to advise us on the best local wine farms to do tastings at. We tried Almenkerk and Iona, and couldn’t leave either without buying a bottle.
The only downsides to the experience are the bumpy ride up and down, and the price tag (R695 per person standard rate). While it is on the high end, it is certainly an experience that you will remember and savour for a long time, and you are sent a free video link of your trip as a souvenir. I can highly recommend doing this course at least once. If you have done the course before you can repeat it for free within 3 days of your birthday, which is an offer I will definitely take up in the near future!
The Champions of the Flyway is much more than just a Big Day. At the heart of the event is the conservation of migratory birds moving between Africa and Eurasia, a staggering 30 million of which are killed by illegal hunters and trappers across the Mediterranean each year. Funds raised for COTF 2017 were in aid of Doğa Derneği, BirdLife’s Turkish affiliate. Teams from all over the world gather in Eilat, Israel at the peak of spring migration to compete for the titles of Champions (race-day winners), Guardians (fundraising winners), and Knights of the Flyway (raising the most awareness and embracing the COTF spirit). A total of 19 international teams and 19 Israeli teams competed this year on March 28th, including two teams from South Africa: the Birding Ecotours Youth Africa Birders (Andrew de Blocq, Jessleena Suri, John Kinghorn, and Werner van der Walt) and the Birding Africa Black Harriers (Callan Cohen, Faanise Peacock, Ethan Kistler, and Dominic Rollinson).
Each team is set a goal of raising €3500 (roughly R50 000), and is asked to use their networks to create awareness around the migrant bird slaughter. Due to the generosity of the South African birding community, my team, the BE YABers, managed to reach our fundraising goal with 5 weeks to spare, and ambitiously doubled our target to €7000. We entered the media space to spread awareness and canvas for funds, including articles in the Cape Times, UCT’s home page, as well as an interview with 567 Cape Talk host and birder, John Maytham. We even took to begging at street lights in dignity-destroying outfits – something which really flourished over social media!
We arrived in Israel just over a week before race day, using this time to familiarize ourselves with the species and lay of the land. Luckily, the spirit of the race is cooperative and friendly, with teams helping each other to find birds rather than hiding information. A Whatsapp group was set up including at least one member of each team, and this constant stream of gen kept our phones buzzing for a full 10 days. Using this info and a list of important sites we explored and planned our race day route, driving 4000 km in the process. Come midnight at the start of race day, we were first team off the line!
Each team is required to begin in Eilat, but for the daylight hours teams generally choose between a north-south or south-north route. We decided on a north-south route, which involved more driving but included some spots in the extreme north that host species unique to that area of the designated playing field.
At sunrise we were in Nizzana, getting off to a good start with MacQueen’s Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser, and Little Owl (of the subspecies lilith which is being proposed as a full species), which are all near-impossible birds elsewhere. We then wasted little time in getting to Yeroham Lake where we ticked some water and forest birds, the highlights being Syrian Woodpecker and Purple Swamphen. Further south near Sde Boker there is a memorial to Israel’s first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion. The beautiful forested garden here is a huge attractant for birds migrating over the desert. We ran into the COTF media team here, who interviewed us and followed us into the valley below to get some race footage. We spent around 40 minutes with them - more than we’d budgeted - but it was important that we contributed to the race’s public output. Highlights here were Long-legged Buzzard, Eurasian Griffon, Egyptian Vulture, and Steppe Eagle.
We sped south again and began our trek through the desert. While most of the Negev is sandy hills and plains, old watercourses sometimes blossom into vegetated ‘wadis’. Birds on passage often stop at these oases to rest and feed, and it’s essential on race day to visit a few. Sylvia warblers in particular are drawn to these spots, and at Wadi Niqarot we picked up Blackcap, Lesser and Common Whitethroat, and Rueppell’s, Subalpine, and Sardinian Warblers. We also added the locally rare Trumpeter Finch and Sinai Rosefinch. Yet further south, after 125 kms of non-stop desert, we visited Neot Samader for the local rarity, Hume’s Leaf Warbler, and some other tough birds at the sewage works (Eastern Stonechat, Ortolan Bunting, Desert and Black-eared Wheatear). The Uvda Plains, which in the days leading up had been very productive, were empty. After an hour’s walking we added Spotted Sandgrouse and Northern Wheatear, and then turned back towards Yotvata fields. This was when disaster struck.
You can blame it on youthful exuberance or time pressure, but the crux is that we took a shortcut along a sandy track and got stuck. We were not able to push it out alone, but one of the other teams, the Art Birders, answered our SOS and came riding to our rescue after losing an hour of precious daylight. This required us to rethink our remaining route, as we couldn’t visit every site we had planned to. We raced through K19 and K20 sewage pans, the IBRCE (International Birdwatching and Research Center in Eilat) and the adjacent salt pans, and reached Eilat’s North Beach for sunset.
We found ourselves at 144 species as dark fell. We reckoned we were at least 15-20 species short, mostly because of the delay. We were physically and emotionally exhausted, and the temptation to head north again for owls and nightjars was not enough to overturn the need for sleep. We handed in our checklist and hit the hay, very happy with our day’s birding but even happier to be counting sheep than birds. Here is a selection of the species we saw on the day and throughout our trip, all captured by John Kinghorn.
At the awards ceremony the next morning our immense efforts in fundraising and creating awareness around the cause were rewarded with both the Guardians and Knights of the Flyway titles. We raised €8700 - 250% of our original goal. The Champions of the Flyway were the Artic Redpolls team from Finland with a course record 181 species, following the same route as us but without delays! The Black Harriers, did well to place tied 6th overall with 163 species, and we came in a commendable 11th.
Sharing the stage with all the winners and the representatives of Doğa Derneği was an emotional experience, and we all got the feeling that our efforts would make a real difference to the conservation of migratory birds. Jonathan Meyrav, Dan Alon, Itai Shanni, Noam Weiss, et al. - we take our hats off to you for such a well-run, exhilarating and impactful event. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of you who supported the South African teams, and can only encourage you to open your hearts and wallets to the teams competing again next year.
On our way back John, Werner, and I had an 11 hour layover in Cairo. We decided to brave the chaos and make our way to the pyramids to tick that off our bucket lists. Needless to say, none of us will ever complain about South African traffic ever again. In Egypt every single car has scrapes and dents, and for good reason. The lines delineating the traffic lanes are not rules, not even guidelines - they're treated as decoration. At one point on a four-lane highway there were seven cars abreast. One each in a lane and three more on each of the lines, all around a foot from each other, and traveling at 60 kph. Absolutely ridiculous. But the pyramids themselves were awesome to see, even though the whole site is now just a swindling and money-making scam, with one vendor taking you on to the next, and so forth. No historical tours to explain this wonder of the world's significance. But we did indulge in horse and camel rides - and they are a fine platform from which to enjoy the spectacle...
Family holidays are becoming more precious as we kids are growing older and becoming more independent. We very infrequently have our whole family together any more except around holiday times. Chris is based on medical campus, I am often away for odd trips, and my dad is having to travel more than he’d like for work purposes. So the (nearly) two weeks over Christmas were set aside for quality time.
My family has developed quite a penchant for cruises. We did our first cruise over Christmas to Mauritius four years ago and we all enjoyed it. Lauren and my parents did a longer cruise from SA up to Italy last year too. There are plenty activities to keep you busy (if tanning and swimming are not enough already), professional theatre shows after dinner, and for the duration of your time on the boat there’s not a smidgeon of cooking or cleaning to do, which really makes these trips great for proper relaxation.
We booked another Christmas cruise this year. Coincidentally, friends of ours, the Meyers, had also done so. When we worked this out we organized to sit together over dinner. It was great to sit with friends rather than other arbitrary passengers. It wasn’t a joint holiday, but it was really enjoyable to come together at the end of the day over a meal and swap stories.
The cruise departed from Durban, so we organized to fly up a couple of days early to visit the KZN cousins down at their vacation home in Bazley Beach on the south coast. I managed to get my first sunburn of the summer, which I guess meant the holiday had officially started. We spent our time on the beach, swinging clubs at the driving range, tasting craft beers, playing FIFA, and just generally enjoying each other’s’ company. I even squeezed some birding in around the golf course and Bazley itself, scoring four new bird species for my southern Africa list, and many other firsts for the year.
After a bear hug from cousin Caitlin that made me wince, we headed back up to Durban to board the ship, which we managed after nearly four hours spend standing in the sun in queues. How they haven’t perfected a boarding system that makes it comfortable I can’t fathom… However, the frustration was quickly forgotten, and we settled in. As opposed to our ‘el cheapo’ accommodation last time, my mom had pestered the MSC agent until she gave us a special deal on a balcony suite. The room was basically more spacious, had the addition of a TV (which was never watched), and a small balcony, which had a great view as we were high up portside on deck 10. The ship itself is just gargantuan. It can accommodate 2450 passengers (excluding crew), is 274 m long, it has three onboard restaurants, six lounges, three pools, a basketball court, a mini-golf course, a disco, and a theatre. Just climbing the many flights of stairs to get around is a workout, but the ship also has a small gym onboard which my brother and I made use of.
Our first port of call after embarkation was Portuguese Island, and we reached it overnight. Portuguese Island is just offshore from Maputo, the Mozambican capital, and is separated by a small channel from the better-known Inhaca Island. MSC hosted all the guests onshore at a big beach party, with volleyball, beach soccer, a beach kitchen, drinks and ice cream bars, etc. There was also the option to go on a number of excursions. We tried to go snorkeling, but that was all booked out, so we decided to explore neighbouring Inhaca Island for a few hours. The Meyers joined us for a walk through the town. There isn’t too much do except laze around drinking beers and cocktails or swim in the beautifully warm seas, which suits some people, but our two families weren’t really feeling it. I splintered off from the group to try do some birding, although by that time it was after 11 am, and above 30°C and high humidity. Inhaca Island is described as a birdwatcher’s paradise, but there was little to show for it. Indian House Crows and House Sparrows dominated. The local bar owner says they’ve culled over 2000 crows on the island, but the birds were still rampant. I took a walk down the western coastline but achieved little except to sweat through my clothing within five minutes. I had maybe six species on my list after an hour and a half, so I stripped down to my underwear (the beach was deserted) and took a dip in the tropical water. I headed back towards town, and after rehydrating with a few 2M beers I joined the line for the boat back. However, as I waited I noticed the tide moving out and a few shorebirds appearing nearby, so I left the queue to investigate. The birding finally picked up as the low tide exposed the shoreline. Many of the shorebirds were common species that you can expect to find even as far south as Cape Town, but two stood out as they were completely new for me – Lesser Crested Tern, and Greater Sand Plover. The latter I’ve been searching for the last few months in the West Coast National Park as there is a vagrant bird hanging around, but to no avail. So I was glad to become familiar with the species here, and there were five or six running about. Originally I had the Sand Plover down as my 600th species for southern Africa, so I celebrated with yet another 2M. But after getting back on the ship I perused my list and found a few that I had added by accident, or added on call only before I knew you had to see the thing to tick it. So my list took a hit of 5 species, landing me back in the nervous 90s. Inhaca Island is very beautiful, and I left feeling like there was still plenty more to explore. I would definitely be keen to return one day if circumstances allow. I tried to snap some photographs of this very photogenic location, but my only wide angle lens was on my iPhone, so that had to do.
I’d expected we’d be pushing north east across the channel between Mozambique and Madagascar. That route would have provided the opportunity to see a whole raft of new species, including exciting things such as Frigatebirds, Boobies, Noddies, Tropicbirds, and others. As it was, MSC were trialing another island further north, so had diverted their course to test out boat-to-island logistics, denying me a shot at those seabirds!
We had a full two days at sea before stopping again, so we took the opportunity to work on the suntans. A highlight along this stretch was the Crossing the Capricorn party, where ‘King Neptune’ is invited onboard to be given a key to the ship, and for him to grant permission for the vessel to cross the Tropic of Capricorn. The passengers who choose to be part of the ceremony all sat around the edge of the pool and had to go through a number of trials to please him before this happens. My father reprised his role of the last Christmas cruise as King Neptune, and condemned everyone to kiss his son (an octopus), be showered in champagne, and covered in a series of tomato paste, cream, milk, and cocoa powder before relenting. The pool goes a murky grey after everyone jumps in and cleans off, and they have to drain it, clean it, and refill it. In the meantime, bizarrely, King Neptune and a couple of staff led the parade in a rendition of YMCA, before retiring back to the depths of the Indian Ocean.
Our next scheduled stop was at Mozambique Island. I had a quick look on my bird app to see what species I could perhaps nab while I was there. There was a mouth-watering collection of possible birds, even though the island is outside of the official southern African listing area as it is north of the Kunene River. I managed to wangle myself onto one of the first transfers onto the island and immediately began traipsing around. The island is only 3 x 0.5 km, so it was very walkable. Filled with hopes of exotic birds, I braved the 35°C heat and humidity. But my efforts were mostly in vain. It took me a full hour to find something other than a crow and a sparrow. I did manage to find a Barn Owl in the cemetery, which is always a nice bird to get good views of, but otherwise the birding was futile.
The island itself is a UNESCO Heritage Site. This is mostly due to the significance it held as a Portuguese settlement along the all-important trade route. Vasco da Gama is credited with ‘discovering’ the island, even though there was an advanced local civilization already inhabiting it when he arrived. The Portuguese built the fort of San Sebastian, which still stands today, even though it has clearly been left to rot and ruin and its only function is an excuse for tourists to entertain themselves while visiting. In its heyday the fort was instrumental in holding off Dutch invasions, and maintaining the Portuguese hold on the trade route to India for over 100 years. The locals still use the same traditional fishing ‘dhows’ that da Gama was so fascinated by when he happened upon the place. One has to wonder why less labour-intensive and efficient fishing methods and vessels had not been introduced. Of course, there’s a matter of tradition, but you have to imagine that over hundreds of years that people would have modernized if they had the means. The town is littered with the ghosts and vestiges of colonial rule, including a number of statues to obscure and famous Portuguese navigators, a clash of African and European architectural styles, and, of course, the language.
The island is in so many ways a microcosm of greater Africa. There is so much potential for growth, but overcrowding, mismanagement, and lack of resources has stifled any prospects of prosperity. There are clearly areas that are meant for tourists to see which are well kept, colourful and well run. Areas not so close to the popular beachfront and landing area told a very different story. It was very clear that poverty, unemployment, and lack of education were rife. Many people lived in absolute squalor is broken down mud and thatch shacks densely packed up against each other. Probably 70% of the local people I saw were children under 12. The further you moved from the tourists areas the more blatant and unapologetic the begging became. I felt very out of place. A white male, DSLR camera with telephoto lens slung over one shoulder, a spotting scope and tripod in a backpack, and iPhone in the pocket, traveling through a community of impoverished black Africans where the bread winners probably don’t earn the value of those possessions even in a matter of a few years. But you still got the feeling that most people were welcoming or at least curious about my presence. Walking through streets of Cape Town or Johannesburg would never result in so many friendly waves, smiles, and greeting of ‘Amigo!’ I felt safe at all times, and even appreciated by locals who depend almost entirely on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods. I was invited to play soccer with a group of local kids, which I declined because of paranoia about where to put my belongings safely. But I wish I hadn’t worried, as I would have treasured a game with them, and my valuables were probably as safe on the side of the makeshift field as in my hand. I, by complete accident, managed to achieve what the Dutch had failed to do with a full blown naval assault. I had wanted to photograph the southern hemisphere’s smallest chapel at the back of the fort, but didn’t fancy paying the entrance fee to explore the fort itself. So I walked along the rocks on the coastline to try get a glimpse of the chapel. I eventually found that once I reached the chapel I was in fact inside the fort’s walls, thereby completing my stealthy invasion of the military installment that thwarted the entire Dutch fleet. I was incredibly disappointed at the state of the place, and after a few photographs I made my way back to the queue for the boat back to the Sinfonia.
Our last two days were full days at sea, and also happened to be Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Our penultimate day was spent between quizzes, lectures, meals, and bridge playing. At midnight the kitchens opened up a jaw-dropping buffet. I mean this in the figurative and literal senses of the word. The food is so beautifully presented that you almost don’t want to eat it, but the quality and quantity of treats requires you to almost dislocate your lower mandible to shovel it all in. Unfortunately, I managed to slip on a wet floor (probably helped by the bubbly) and sprained my ankle quite badly, which cut my celebrations short. I was promptly whisked off to bed being plied with painkillers and with my ankle strapped.
Christmas Day was a bit of a dud because of my reduced mobility. I managed to hobble my way down for breakfast through some considerable pain, but otherwise most of the day was spent seawatching from the balcony. This wasn’t a bad way to spend the time, though, as for the first time on the trip we had some bad weather with large swells and gale force winds. While passengers on board were getting ill and hating it, the birds were thriving in it as they finally had some natural wind-generated power for their soaring flight. I only saw Great-winged Petrels all day, but watching these acrobats of the ocean skies cruising effortlessly across 12 foot wave faces will never get old…
The injury withstanding, it was a very special trip, and a wonderful way to spend a family Christmas. All that remains is to wish everyone who had the stamina to get this far a very blessed Christmas and New Year!
I was doubting my sanity before the day had even begun…
As my family turned off the television and headed for bed at 10.30 pm, I was getting up and preparing for the day ahead. The messages starting to come through on the Whatsapp group:
“Everyone up? How much sleep did you get?”
“2.5 hours. Not nearly enough.”
“I haven’t slept at all…”
It was clearly going to be a very long day for some of our team!
You may have read my recent blog post about our Cape Big Day that we attempted just a few weeks ago. That was a challenge we set ourselves to beat the record of 216 birds in a day within the Western Cape, and we also used it to raise funds for Birdlife SA. This latest adventure was as part of the nationwide Birding Big Day (BBD), held annually on the last Saturday of November. The day entails teams across SA going head-to-head to try record the most species on the day, with the only restrictions being that you may not be more than four birders, you cannot move beyond 50 km of your chosen midpoint, and the majority of your team must agree on the identification for it to be included. The event is run by Birdlife SA, who in conjunction with the free-to-purchase app BirdLasser have for the last two years made a live feed available for people to keep up to date with their favourite teams’ progress. This has lent an added “race” feel to the day, which has helped to make this past BBD the most successful yet. Over 300 teams competed in 2016, making this a huge event on the SA birding calendar.
Our team was made up of Garth Shaw, Nick Fordyce, Jess Suri, and me. Together we made up Team YAB #UCTsweesmustfall. The YAB stands for Youth Africa Birding, a movement to encourage youth birding which we were representing, and the hashtag being an obvious reference to the recent protests, substituting in swees (as in Swee Waxbill) for fees. We are all UCT students (Nick is a recent alum), so we added that in as an identifier of our student status and the region we were working. Garth and I had done the Cape Big Day together, while Nick and Jess had visited me in De Hoop for BBD in 2015. Our total last year was 151 species, which was a good total, however our level of intensity was nowhere near what we intended this year. The 2015 attempt was characterized by long stops enjoying the more interesting birds and fantastic landscapes we visited, and (probably one too many) drinks in the Klein Karoo with Ronnie himself at Ronnie’s Sex Shop (if you aren’t familiar with it, Google it before you judge us!). This year was to be more in the mould of the Cape Big Day – fast-paced, relentless, targeted birding. We hoped to beat our total of 191, but really we hoped to achieve what we had failed to do on that attempt – record 200 species in a day within the Western Cape. We were limited this time round by the restrictions on search area as part of the official BBD, but as a silver lining this meant more time spent focused on birding and less in the car. Any which way you look at it, we had a monumental challenge ahead of us…
We began our day just after midnight in Simonstown with a sleepy African Penguin. This species unbelievably wasn’t recorded by any teams last year, so we served some restorative justice for this iconic South African bird by making sure it was not just our first tick for the day, but also the very first bird recorded for Birding Big Day 2016 overall!