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Popular Birding Book Takes Flight

I was fortunate to chat with Duncan McKenzie after the newly revised Second Edition of Robert’s Birds of Greater Kruger book was released! Hearing all his exciting stories and laughing at his birding banter was beautiful.  

Duncan has been a basic and advanced Birding instructor with EcoTraining for the last 13 years and has been assisting with the Birding in the Bush courses for the previous three years. EcoTraining is proud to be associated with him and his work. Duncan is a trustee of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, a small group of dedicated entrepreneurs and scientists who volunteer to contribute towards Ornithology in southern Africa. He got invited to revise the Robert’s Birds of Greater Kruger book a few years ago. 

Many long days of birding

Duncan spent roughly three years of hard work and dedication revising the book.

“I also spent many hours in the bush and between the pages of research papers from observers and other contributors doing this complete revision of the first edition.”

He did this on top of his full-time career, which is an excellent achievement for him and ornithology in the region. Leading the Birding courses in pristine areas, such as Makuleke and Karongwe, allowed Duncan to collect data and document sightings for the book.

“The best experiences are at the pans in Makuleke; it’s the best birding experience you can have in Kruger,” says Duncan. 

Unique new features

The book is unique, including beautiful illustrations of over 60 bird tracks. Duncan spent time with birders like Bruce Lawson and Ross Hawkins because they observed bird tracks in the bush. 

“I don’t look at bird tracks. I couldn’t tell the difference between an ostrich and a sparrow,” said Duncan jokingly in our brief meeting. Well, maybe I can. Being involved in the guiding industry for so long, I can see the value of including tracks from a training perspective.”

He continued that there are three techniques for identifying bird species: their appearance, vocalizations, and tracks.

Some of Duncan’s good friends and colleagues in the industry donated the illustrations of the bird tracks to the fund. Various other artists and illustrators were involved, but Ingrid Weiersbye, a very talented artist also part of the trust, was responsible for all the new bird illustrations. 

A rewarding opportunity

Duncan acknowledges that the most rewarding part of the project was the opportunity to have unrestricted freedom in revising the book. He could think outside the box and include all new things, such as the bird tracks. Almost the entire book was revised and is fresh and new – from the introduction to new chapters, habitat descriptions, checklists, distribution maps (based on data from the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2), illustrations and photographs. Since the book’s first edition in 2009, the species accounts have increased by more than 40 species! 

The team’s most challenging task was compiling the confirmed rarities, unconfirmed records, and potentially occurring bird lists. Duncan studied many old publications and had to go as far back as 1967 to the very first bird list produced for Kruger (compiled by Prozesky and Pienaar) to compile these lists. 

Contributors

One of the co-authors, Hugh Chittenden, assisted by laying out the plates of which bird species would appear on each page. He also had to select illustrations from the team’s collection. The other co-author of both editions, Ian White, was involved with a lot of the proofreading, editing and support. 

A deep sense of pride

When asked how he feels seeing his name on the book, Duncan said relief was the strongest emotion. “But also, I have a deep sense of pride in having been part of the project and being able to contribute in the way I had.” He said he is also super proud to have his son’s name in the book. 

The nice thing about this book is that if you are birding in the Kruger, it eliminates the birds you’ll probably not find. You don’t have to sift through all the birds from the Cape, the Karoo, the Kalahari, and Namibia. It will also be super beneficial to our students who do any of our courses in South Africa, such as our Birding in the Bush course or our Professional Field Guide course. 

Join EcoTraining on our next Birding in the Bush course and discover your internal love and fascination for the beautiful birds of Africa!

Sign up for our Birding in the Bush Course today! 

For more information on our Birding in the Bush Course, contact [email protected] or call +27 (0)13 7522532

Birding BIG Day

Birds of a feather flock together. Whether an advanced birder or a beginner, we hope you can spread your wings and join us today for the Birding Big Day. We are at Karongwe, where EcoTraining’s instructors, Berenice Fouche and Craig Beaton, divided our students into two teams: the Walking Group and the Driving Group. They have a couple of hours and one goal, finding as many birds as possible!

About the Author:
E-learning (Keisha)

E-learning (Keisha)

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