By Janke Strauss and Melissa Wray
In the Kruger National Park
Between January 27-28 2006 Over 600 Birding Enthusiasts From All Over SA took part in the West Rand Honorary Rangers' 8th Annual Birding Day.
MOPANI - Over 600 birding enthusiasts from all over South Africa descended on the Kruger National Park for the West Rand Honorary Ranger's 8th annual birding big day on the last weekend in January.
The birders were accommodated at a number of camps in the park, and the Kruger Park Times joined the weekend at Mopani Camp. Renowned bird watcher and illustrator Geoff Lockwood joined the party at Mopani, ensuring no bird would go unidentified.
When the birders arrived at Mopani they were pleasantly surprised to find their bookings upgraded, their fridges stocked with snacks and drinks, and a 'goodie bag' awaiting them on their beds, stocked with gifts from the various sponsors. Sasol is the main sponsor of this annual event.
After getting in the first few hours of their birding trip on Friday afternoon, the birders were treated to a special surprise dinner arranged by the Mopani staff, held at the Mooiplaas picnic site outside of the camp.
Driving into the picnic spot, candles lit the way to the set tables, ice cold drinks and fabulous food. Saturday was an early kick-off. At 03h30 everyone was awake and ready to go, binoculars polished and camera lenses on for some serious birding. Three vehicles departed from Mopani on set routes, with Geoff Lockwood astounding everyone in the 20-seater bus with his vast knowledge of birds.
Just before dawn, tea, coffee and rusks were served in the riverbed while everyone waited for the dawn chorus. After that, the next stop was at Mooiplaas picnic spot, where it was decided that despite the early start everyone was ready for another four hours of birding on the Capricorn route.
Finally returning to camp, after a bit of down-time Geoff led the birders on a tour of Mopani's rich bird life. The unstoppable birders then took a quick two-hour drive, just to spot those extra few birds.
Despite the weekend being full of fun and laughter, some serious birding saw a total of 235 species counted. Prize giving was held at 19h00, where everyone got a prize - some big and some small, but all worth it.
After the prize giving everyone tucked into dinner, hungry from a hard day's birding. Most of the goodbyes were said after dinner, for Sunday morning was an early start and a long drive home for most.