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  • Writer's pictureBushwise Student

The Balule bird nerd

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

BY: Brendan Davis PHOTO BY: Brendan Davis

Camp manager blogs are written by our current students who each get a chance to lead and manage a group (of their fellow students) for a period of one week.

One of the most underestimated and underappreciated classes in the animal kingdom is the Aves. I was one of the many people who had lived my life completely unaware of the intricacies and enjoyment that can be found in this vast group of animals. 

Growing up in Johannesburg, the only association I had with birds was not positive, thanks to the hadedas that habitually sit on the rooftops of houses at 6:00 every morning, shouting their awful call and ensuring that every person within a 100-metre radius does not get another minute of sleep.

When I enrolled at Bushwise, I had no idea that a whole new world was about to open up for me. Arriving at Andy’s Camp on Balule Private Nature Reserve, I could not have told you the difference between a barbet and a bulbul! With my goal being to work hard and learn as much as possible to become a great field guide, I sat down with a bird book and started learning about these fascinating creatures.

Before I knew it, I was going on game drives looking to the sky rather than on the ground. I would sit on the deck of my room for hours on end looking through my binoculars at whatever would appear in the riverbed below. 

The highlights of my day would consist of watching a diedrik’s cuckoo float around the bushveld feeding, or enjoying a woodland kingfisher sit on his early morning perch, calling at the top of his lungs to contribute to the dawn chorus. 

Birds contribute so much to the ecosystem and have an infallible ability to make any drive or walk entertaining, especially when the mammals are not showing face.

The students made a bird group called the Balule Bird Nerds, and we would use our Saturday mornings to go out on bird walks or drives with the trainers. The most species recorded in one day was 66. 

All sightings throughout the course were logged on BirdLasser, which contributes to the tracking and monitoring of species movements. I started at Bushwise on 8 January with zero birds on my bird list. And only five months later, I’m sitting on a healthy 199 birds. My goal is to now work towards obtaining the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA) Regional Bird Guide Certificate, specialising in savanna bird guiding and then continuing towards the SKS (Birding) Qualification. 

If you are ever heading on holiday to the bush, or anywhere for that matter, I strongly recommend taking along a bird book and seeing what species you can identify and enjoy! 

I can’t thank Bushwise enough, and Jack and Lindi Hutchinson in particular, for the wide scope of knowledge I have gained during my time with them. While birds have been the focus of this blog, I can safely say that whatever topic piques your interest, Bushwise will help you feed your passion. Take the leap and start doing what you love!

Find out which animals pique your interest by joining one of our field guide courses.




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