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Kingswood for the birds

By Jennifer Stern

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Kingswood for the birds

By Jennifer Stern

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4 min read

There are so many great reasons for living on Kingswood, and there is something for everyone, no matter your interests or energy levels. And birding is one of the less upfront and in-your-face options, but it’s one that more and more residents are coming to appreciate. It’s an activity that can be enjoyed at any level – and at virtually any time.

While it is mostly a solitary activity, or one undertaken by small groups of close friends or family, it is also a great way to form part of a larger community, and make friends with like-minded ‘twitchers,’ as keen birders are fondly called.

Kingswood is particularly lucky to have access to Peter Ginn a local George resident. Peter is the author of 12 birding books, one of which in particular – The Ultimate Companion for Birding in Southern Africa – is well worth buying. Not just because it’s a great book with great info and excellent photos (which it is), but also because the proceeds of sales go to The Unlimited Child, a non-profit organisation that distributes educational toys to crèches to enhance early childhood development in South Africa. And, if you ask him nicely, he’ll sign it for you.

But birding is about birds, not about books, and Kingswood is a brilliant birding destination (and the best part of that is that you’re already here!). Also, birding is one of the most fabulous minimalist pursuits ever – no expensive equipment necessary – and you will almost certainly be aware of the more common birds.

The lovely, slightly wild-eyed Egyptian Geese are the most solicitous parents, carefully herding their broods of fluffy goslings around the estate. It’s a bitter-sweet experience to watch the families grow, as they have large broods of up to 12 adorable baby geese – but that’s a careful strategy, as these little fluffballs are very vulnerable, and most couples manage to raise only two or three to adulthood. It’s sad, but it’s the way they’ve evolved. And then there are the highly decorative and slightly batty Guinea Fowls. They look great as they wander around the grounds and the golf course, and it’s immense fun to watch them when they try to impress a bird of the opposite sex – they run around in crazy circles, showing off how fit and healthy they are (and also how crazy, but there’s a reason that ‘birdbrain’ is not a compliment). You also can’t miss the Lapwings. Previously called Plovers, these birds are very visible and very vocal.

We get two varieties on Kingwood – crowned and blacksmith – and it’s quite tricky telling them apart. They both like to hang out on the golf course, and will both complain bitterly if you get too close – and that’s when you can tell them apart. The Crowned Lapwing sounds like a grumpy old man saying ‘whaaat?’, while the Blacksmith Lapwing emits a cry that sounds like a blacksmith banging on a piece of metal, ‘ping, ping, ping’. And you can see a huge variety of lovely waders and other waterbirds in the wetlands and rivers on the estate. One particularly stately bird you can’t miss, and that has recently been seen on the estate, is the African Fish Eagle – a big, handsome black bird with a bronze sheen and a snow-white head and throat. And you don’t have to see it to appreciate it. The haunting cry of the Fish Eagle is one of the iconic sounds of Africa, and you can hear it from your home.

And, on the subject of hearing, if you are a light sleeper, you may wake in the night to hear a gentle ‘hu-hooo’. If you do, it’s worth quietly sneaking outside in your slippers to see if you can spot one of the resident Spotted Eagle Owls. (They are spotted even if you don’t spot them.) And you have to love Hadedas, who have the most recognisable call of all birds – although it’s not exactly melodic.

As described above, you don’t need any equipment, really, but just the teensiest bit of gear can make birding so much more rewarding. A pair of binoculars and a good bird book are really all you need. And perhaps a notebook and pencil. And, of course, a sunhat and sunscreen. With binoculars you can appreciate the detail of smaller birds – you will never tire of watching iridescent sunbirds snacking on nectar in your garden – and a good pair will enable you to get a much better look at those secretive owls that perch on trees outside your window at night – just to tease you. Owls are fantastic animals to have around, so there are plans to build some owl boxes to encourage new families to move into the estate. These boxes are safe places for owls to nest, and to bring up their families, protected from wild and domestic predators.

If you have admired birds from afar, but have never really taken birding seriously, you will be pleased to hear that Peter is so happy to share his extensive knowledge about birds that he started a birding club for Kingswood residents. There are – at present – only about 25 to 30 members, who used to meet once a month to discuss sightings, but that’s been put on hold for a while, as we carefully consider the direction the pandemic will take in South Africa.

Should you wish to find out more about Kingswood Birding Club, please contact the HOA.

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1 Comment
  • Pietman van Heerden
    Posted at 11:50h, 09 Nov Reply

    What is the corect hight of an owl box?

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