Birdwatchers around the country will be gearing up for a special Birding Big Day this year - BirdLife South Africa has challenged its best birders to break the 300 barrier. Only the most dedicated birders with the most cunning plan of action can hope to achieve the incredible feat of spotting 300 different species of birds in a 24-hour period within a 50km radius.
For many years, the total number of birds spotted between midnight and midnight on the last weekend of November in BirdLife's biggest fundraiser of the year hovered between 250 and 260 species, but in 2001 a quantum leap was made. A team working in and around the Kruger National Park, consisting of Gus and Mike Mills and Paul Funston spotted 282 species.
This set the benchmark for some serious competition, and last year the Rubber Ducks, a team led by Hans Schutz, spotted 293 species in the Haenertsburg area. Top birding names like Geoff Lockwood and Ian Sinclair have been invited to participate in the 300 challenge, and BirdLife is hoping that on November 26, they will be able to get radio stations to publish the competing tallies from the top teams.
Amateur bird watchers can also take part in Birding Big Day, and there is even a category for people to spot the most species in their own garden. Entry to the competition is free, but teams are expected to raise money for BirdLife South Africa, who use the funds raised for several projects related to bird conservation.
These include programmes to help threatened species and their habitats, training programmes for a variety of ages and backgrounds designed to increase conservation awareness, and a multitude of other projects related to bird conservation.
There are a variety of sponsored prizes to be won, including weekend getaways, bird books and CDs, binoculars and birding outings. For more information, birding tips and entry forms, contact BirdLife South Africa on (011) 789 1122 or visit their website www.birdlife.org.za.