Don’t be in too much of a rush to add lifers. The more you’ve seen the more difficult it becomes to see new ones.
Visit a dam to start out. Waterbirds are big and obvious, easy to see, and not too difficult to identify.
Bird hides are great for close-up views. But if you get bored, wander around a bit. Follow your nose (or your ears!).
Listen for alarm calls that small birds make when they find a predator such an owl or hawk. But be careful – it might be a snake!
Keep a list of your sightings. This is a great way to remember and celebrate your time spent in nature.
Listen to experts, but make up your own mind. Don’t tick birds because other people said it was a so-and-so.
Travel as much as you can!
Keep your binoculars somewhere close where you can reach them quickly – you never know when something cool is going to come past (but it’s usually when you least expect it).
Here’s an easy rule that some birders forget: common birds are more common than rare ones. The chance of finding a rarity is very, very small. A mystery bird is more probably a variation of a common species than a new mega for the country.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes – that’s how we learn!
If you use a camera don’t worry if your pics are not award-winning. As long as you can see the ID features, that’s perfect!
But if you don’t have a camera, don’t worry. You don’t need one for birding (I almost never use mine).
Remember that the birds’ safety comes first. Don’t bother them or chase them too much. You’ll be able to tell when you’ve crept up close enough.
Make birding friends by joining a bird club, or a nature club at school. Interacting with other birders is fun and a great way to learn!
LBJs can be difficult. But if you know their calls it’s much easier. The QR codes in the book will help you.
As your parents to take dirt roads, and look out the window. Not only will you see cool birds but you’ll get to know our beautiful part of Africa.
Have fun! This is what birding is all about.
Tips for making birding fun (parents)
Don’t underestimate your kids! They have extremely sharp senses and a learning capacity much greater than an adult’s.
Repeat and be patient. Birding should gently grow on them, not be forced. And it should always be fun for everyone.
Hard work can make a sighting even more special. See how it goes, but respect their physical and emotional limits.
Remember, they are still kids. It is unreasonable to expect young children to sit still for hours, or not to have noisy fun.
Celebrate special milestones, like your child seeing their 300th bird species.
Discover together. There is more lasting significance in experiencing something new in parallel with your child, rather than teaching them. Let them teach you.
Encourage independence. If you feel it is safe, let your child go on a bird club outing without you, or go for a nature walk alone. Let them drive on a quiet farm road.
Get them their own proper headlamp.
Always listen with genuine interest to any reports. “Today at school, I saw a…”
Sometimes it’s better to let an excited misidentification slide.
Choose off-the-beaten-track places for family holidays. Less tourists, more birds, better memories. I guarantee you’ll love it.
Get dirty. Jump in. Wade through. Climb up. Dig down. Don’t worry about the clothes or the car.
Play games. What does that bird sound like it’s saying? Can you guess which bird I’m thinking of? What nickname can we invent for that bird?
Forget the clock. Go birding at night; get up at 02:00. Skip school and go see a special bird on a Wednesday.
Always make sure to take enough snacks and water along.
Don’t baby your kids – Africa is not for sissies! And don’t be on constant lookout for danger. Rather choose a birding spot where you won’t feel stressed.
Technology and social media are not necessarily bad, but beware of looking at your phone instead of looking in the trees. Phones are great entertainment when a birding day becomes a bit too long.
Keep a special list of birds with your kids and put it up on the fridge. Perhaps birds we’ve seen in the garden, or bird nests we’ve found. The key is “we”.