Hello and Welcome!

Birding newbie? 

Absolutely! I've yet to look through a pair of bins at a bird, or to go on a bird specific day out, so this is absolutely day 1 of my birding life.

But you won't be a newbie long, and then the blog will be badly named!

Well, I'm not so sure...I think it's good to always retain that "beginner's mind" that Buddhist monks famously talk about. So even when I've been at this for a few years, I'll be making every effort to still be a newbie.

Zen Buddhists?

Yeah, don't let that worry you. But if it sounds interesting, you can find out more a bout me and my slightly odd worldview on my other blog. But don't let that distract you. I won't be pushing anything down anyone's throats.

So, any plans?

Well, I'm glad you asked! Yes, I have plans, but for them to make sense, we'll need just a little background.

Safari so Goodie

Two years ago, my wife's youngest son decided to get married, and his wonderful wife-to-be decided that the big event had to be in South Africa. Now, he's from Manchester (UK), and she's from Devon (also UK), and we still live in Manchester (still the UK), so to say we were a little put out would be put it mildly. However, Katie had spent her gap year in ZA, and it's what she really wanted, so fair do.

Now, it's quite a long way to go for a wedding, so Katie went about designing a two week holiday for close family, to do a little touring around ZA before the wedding, and a few days chilling afterwards.

It turns out that Katie should be a professional tour organiser, because what she came up with was absolutely fantastic, and turned out to be the holiday of a lifetime. Seriously. And I have travelled. A lot.

Anyway, this trip started with three days of safari at Naledi Camp, just outside the Kruger National Park. When I heard of this, I was a even more put out, because I have never fancied safari. I couldn't tell you why, it's just never appealed, even though I love wildlife.

Long story short, those three days were truly magnificent. So much so that Pat (my wife and I) just booked another safari trip, this time for two weeks in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Practice for The Big Trip

I just gave the game away.

That's the plan. Don't get me wrong, I've been on the edge of getting into birding for may years. I recently just discovered, for example, that I signed up to a large and popular birding forum eleven years ago, posted a 'Hello' post, and never went back. Work took over, and the moment passed.

I just reactivated that account (Dharma66 at BirdForum) and will try to get involved.

So anyway, the plan.

Naledi is a fairly dense scrub region, with some very mellow animals, so we were able to get very close, which was good, because we had no binoculars, pretty regular cameras, and absolutely no background research. Even so, we were able to get within a few feet of basking lions, a few hundred feet of elephants, drive right through a water buffalo herd etc. So it really was great.

But the Okavango is somewhat different. In the thousands of square miles of the delta, the largest variation in ground level is two metres. Yeah, two metres!

That makes it quite flat. And it's mostly grasses, and we're going in the dry season. So it's going to be very flat and open, which means many sightings are likely to be in the distance. Which means binoculars and long lenses.

And we don't want to be learning how to use those in the back of a safari vehicle. By the time we get there, we both want to be 100% comfortable scanning and sighting with binoculars, and I want to be 100% comfortable using my camera for wildlife.

And, basically, I figured if we can get to the point that we can spot and identify an LBJ from a good distance, we'll probably be ok spotting elephants from 200 yards!

Add to that the fact that the delta has an abundance of amazing birdlife, and it will add an extra dimension to our trip as well.

The safari is booked for the first two weeks of October, so we have nine months to prep. Not as much as would be perfect, but far better than waiting until there's two weeks to go then digging out the camera and trying to remember what the buttons do...

What Next?

Two things:
  1. Buy binoculars.
  2. Get out and do some birding.

Which maybe gives me a couple of good topics for my next posts!

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