/Family takes the year off to go birding in South Africa

Family takes the year off to go birding in South Africa

A family of four, who had their fair share of navigating the difficulties of 2020 like the rest of us, gave 2021 one look and said: ‘nah’.

Now, Craig and Christine Widdows, who are avid birders, are travelling across our nine beautiful provinces with their young children in search of as many of the 800+ bird species occurring in South Africa as they can find in one year, all for a worthy cause.

‘Given the significant impact that the global pandemic has had on our tourism sector, we are using our journey to raise funds and support for the Community Bird Guide Training Project run by BirdLife South Africa,’ the Widdows write on their website.

Christine is an occupational therapist who put her career on hold to pursue her other passion. Craig is an ecologist with a passion for our feathery friends, as well as community development.

‘The Community Bird Guide Training Project… has successfully trained over 200 individuals from historically disadvantaged communities to become professional bird and nature guides. The goals for this project are to enable individuals and communities to benefit from avitourism and empower them to become successful entrepreneurs with sustainable livelihoods. By supporting these community guides, we also support their families and broader communities,’ they add.

And so, they took to the open road, armed with binoculars and, evidently, exceptional photography skills.

We got a hold of them between lurking in the grass fields and scouting out trees.

What are the birds you hope most to see on this journey?

All of them! We do have a few favourites, namely pennant-winged nightjar, Cape rockjumper, sooty falcon and southern white-faced owl.

How many have you seen this far?

At the two-week mark, we have already seen 277 species including some specials such as green barbet, rosy-throated longclaw, black coucal and caspian plover. Having the kids in tow does further excitement into the mix.

Tell us some of the highlights from your journey thus far. 

There have been many stand-out moments in the first two weeks, however, meeting the incredible BirdLife South Africa Community Bird Guides has been the best for us.

Hearing their amazing stories and seeing them in action has been inspiring and their patience and kindness towards our kids in the birding experiences has been really heartwarming.

A funny story is when we were exploring Ngoye Forest in KZN, and Craig spotted a fantastic visual of a Grey Cuckooshrike, possibly the best visual of a lifetime. But instead of carrying his camera, he was holding a very heavy, sleepy two-year old on his shoulder, much to his disappointment he missed the shot but got to share the moment with his son. These are classic birding with kids moments which make birding entertaining, to say the least.

Take a look at some of their fascinating sightings and memories to kick off the year – and it’s only January!

A thick-billed weaver

A malachite sunbird

Mother and son taking in the sunrise.

The Widdows’ children are aged four and two.

A peaceful moment in nature.

Red-billed oxpeckers

For more information or to get involved, follow them on Facebook or visit their website.

Pictures: Craig and Christine Widdows

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