IMAGES: Appreciating the miracle of a bird egg. | Struggling through flooded mushitu forest in Zambia. | Birding Namibia’s Fish River Canyon. | A brief rest on a sound recording trip in Malawi. | Artwork of Fynbos Buttonquail from Chamberlain’s Waders. | A glorious miombo woodland sunset. | Preparing a study skin of a Common Moorhen. | A Zeiss promotional shot from long ago, ha!

Faansie Peacock* started birding when he was five, and has been trying to quit for about thirty years. It doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen, so now he makes a living as a professional birder. He has written and illustrated a bunch of books about birds: Pipits of Southern Africa (2006), The Chamberlain Guide to Birding Gauteng (2008), Chamberlain’s LBJs (2012), Chamberlain’s Waders (2014) and two editions of Faansie’s Bird Book (2018, 2023). He acted as the scientific consultant for Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa (2010) and editor for the Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (2015).

His latest baby is Firefinch App – a celebration of Africa’s wild landscapes and the flying things that inhabit them. The app is a “fireside recap of a day spent in the bush with friends” and features thousands of Faansie’s illustrations and sound recordings. He spends most of his days writing about birds for Firefinch, but he has also written loads of scientific papers, blog posts (read them all here) and magazine articles – you can catch his articles in every month’s WEG/Go! magazine. He loves telling stories about birds, and has spoken to thousands of people about more than thirty birdy topics.

Faansie previously worked as the Curator of Birds at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (formerly Transvaal Museum). Here he was responsible for looking after a collection of about 60 000 bird specimens. One of his day-to-day activities included dissecting and stuffing birds – some of the more interesting species were Taita Falcon, Sooty Tern, River Warbler and European Honey Buzzard. He was also responsible for presenting behind-the-scenes tours, databasing, art exhibitions, Night at the Museum events, genetic sampling, research and, sometimes field work (even if only to capture pigeons that flew into the building).

Faansie has birded in Madagascar, Spain, Thailand, Australia, Israel, Malawi, Brazil and lots of other places across the world, but his favourite birding spot is West Coast National Park – in fact, he lives within walking distance of this park, in the town of Langebaan. He says it’s really difficult to get any work done when there is always something in the garden that distracts him: rain frogs, snakes, tortoises, antelope, a fox, and, of course, plenty of awesome birds!

Faansie met his wife Ronél when they were kids – for their first date in high school, he took her to see a Red-chested Flufftail. On their wedding day, she pointed out a Dusky Lark at the wedding reception. Two juvenile Peacocks were the inspiration for Faansie’s Bird Book. You can identify a Peacock by its heron-like posture, Spectacled Weaver-like face pattern and eagle-like nose. Plus the trusty pair of Zeiss binoculars always hanging around his neck.

* Yes, that is his real name.