Kruger Gives Wings To a Passion For Birds

© Shem Compion

Geoff Lockwood has birding in his veins, and his fascination with birding began in the Kruger National Park (KNP). He first visited Kruger with his father when he was five years old, and distinctly remembers the trip - they were charged by an elephant and he thought that they were going to die then and there.

His real interest in birds was sparked on another visit to the park, this time on a school trip in standard four (grade six). As part of his school project, he had to write a report on the trip. He particularly remembered the birds, and began his career in bird illustration by including with his project a sketchbook containing pictures of the birds that he saw.

This began a life-long career as Geoff kept on sketching and recording birds, first as a hobby and then professionally. He soon found that birds were present in all placesĀ and not just the national parks.

During high school Geoff sometimes found it hard to explain to his friends that he would rather spend his time birdwatching (of the feathered variety) than doing the other things that the average high school adolescent would do during their spare time.

Geoff compares himself to a trout in water. When an opportunity arises he will grab it. Bird watching is now Geoff's career. He has worked for Delta Environmental Park for about 25 years, and he and his wife have made a home for themselves there.

Delta specialises in environmental education and environmental impact assessments. Geoff is their birding expert, spending most of his time undertaking the bird-related aspects of the environmental impact assessments the firm performs for the construction of new developments and parks.

He works on about 30 assessments each year, where he makes proposals to the developersĀ regarding the bird life on the proposed projects, and how the project will affect both common and rare bird species.

Geoff is president of their bird club, the Rand Barbets Bird Club, which is involved in birding countrywide. Geoff also does two birding tours each year with American groups.

When asked about his 'big five' bird species in the KNP, he listed the following - Pel's fishing owl; the beautiful wattleeyed flycatcher; the bateleur that is a welcome sign that you are finally in Kruger; the thick-billed cuckoo, which he missed taking amazing photos of because one day he felt his camera equipment was too heavy to lug around; and last but not least the white crowned lapwing.

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