Birding Big Day

Team Hamerkop are from left: Duncan McKenzie, Johan Eksteen, Lourens Grobler and Ehren Eksteen

Birdlife South Africa’s 35th Birding Big Day took place on 30 November 2019. This is the one time in the year where the otherwise sedate world of birdwatching turns into a rivalry of note. Hundreds of teams enter this bird-spotting race where as many free-flying bird species as possible can be recorded in 24 hours from midnight on Friday 29 November to midnight on Saturday 30 November.
Team Hamerkop that consists of Nelspruit birders Duncan McKenzie, Lourens Groblers, Johan Eksteen and his brother from Pretoria, Ehren, have for eight years included Mountainlands Nature Reserve as one of their hot birding patches. As Birding Big Day is a race against time they fly to the reserve with a helicopter and focus on recording birds that inhabit high lying grasslands.

Team Hamerkop flying in

Common Quail. Photo by Warwick Tarboton

Knysna Turaco. Photo by Warwick Tarboton

Chorister Robin Chat. Photo by Warwick Tarboton

Bar-throated Apalis. Photo by Warwick Tarboton

They managed to tick the usual suspects while grass-wacking with their binoculars clutched to their eyes: Bar-throated Apalis, Common Quail, Quailfinch, Plain-backed Pipit, African Pipit, Wailing Cisticola, Lazy Cisticola, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Wing-snappping Cisticola, Chorister Robin-Chat, African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Buttonquail, Cuckoo-finch.
Team Hamerkop then departed to a very popular birding spot, Pegglars Forest which borders Mountainlands. There they recorded the following birds: Forest Canary, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Terrestrial Brownbul, Cape Robin0Chat, Blue-mantled Crested Flycathcer, Olive Sunbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Orange Ground Thrush and Cape Batis, Knysna Turaco, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Black Cuckoo and Brown Scrub Robin.

While on the move the competing teams log their sightings on the mobile app Birdlasser which gets automatically updated. The Mpumalanga leaderbord shows that 497 species and 6306 birds were recorded in the province during the competition. To cap it all, team Hamerkop has earned their wings by being placed third in the province recording 311 unique species.
To learn more about the Birding Big Day visit

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