13 December 2008

For the birds

Many years ago when I first met my wife, I was still a wild at heart country boy. I had grown up on farms and in the bush and was passionate about wildlife, more particularly the mammals.

At this stage I was also trying to impress my new family.

My mother-in-law was an avid bird watcher and would often point to a variety of birds in the garden, which she had identified. I would nod my head wisely (typical man speak) and say nothing, because I had no idea what the names of these birds were. I was not totally ignorant as far as birds were concerned, because I could identify the more common ones, like guinea fowl.
From my reaction and background, she assumed I was quite knowledgeable.

One day she pointed out a bird she had been trying to identify and asked if I knew what it was. "Yes," I replied, "a tweety bird."

Let's just say that amidst much laughter, I was exposed for the fraud that I was.

To make amends and brush up on my bird knowledge I went out and bought, Roberts Birds of South Africa, which in those days was the definitive guide on the birds of Southern Africa.

I have since become an avid birder, but sadly, my knowledge of bird names is still sadly lacking. My edition of "Roberts" still talks of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and South West Africa (Namibia). Not only that, but in the past 26 years, many species have been reclassified - in fact 100's have been reclassified.

I was getting very rattled at Addo recently, when trying to tick off birds in a bird checklist I had just bought. I then discovered seven pages, at the back of the checklist, devoted to the new names. No wonder the real "experts" gave me strange looks when I knowledgeably pointed out certain species.
What this means is that many of the birds I have featured on my blog have new names. Just goes to show that knowledge is changing all the time. It also means that I will have to get the latest version of "Roberts" and start the learning process all over again.

This Crowned Lapwing, which up until two weeks ago I called a Crowned Plover, has made her nest in the middle of a busy car park at a factory in Uitenhage. They do that. I have put rocks around her nest, to make her more visible.


Ed T. said...

Wow, great photos, great blog. Landscapes and animals that you don't get to see all that much of,... Thanks!

Kitt10's said...

Good on you for helping to protect her nest. Over here in Australia and New Zealand they also seem to favour living in the industrial areas. I also enjoyed your account regarding the birdwatching.

Firefly said...

This whole thing of changing the names of birds that have names similar to birds elsewhere in the world is sommer for the birds. Why do we have to change the names of our birds. Probably because of this whole name change thing in SA. To me a plover will stay a plover

Steve said...

Hello there! i've recently read your blog and really enjoyed it. I love animals, and it's my dream to go to Africa some day. I really like your pictures!

It would be cool if you checked out my blog at

Awesome blog!

Anna said...

Hey Max-e me too I was ignorant of all birds, except the white storks which always we had a lot, lol. BTW me too I became a bird watcher in the last couple of years, and I tell you I got to the point that birds were coming to me, amazing how many species there are....Anna :) btw these are nice photos

J and Z said...

I just found your blog through blogs of note and guess what I am watching on my TV?? Out of Africa! No lie! Karin and Denis are watching a lion....and backing up....

Your blog is beautiful and I would like to add it to my blogrolll.


Anonymous said...

When I lived in Africa I used to love to pull up to a field, wind down the window of my car and watch and listen to the wonderful air display of the lapwings. I do agree with Firefly, why do they have to change names of birds, flowers, local names are great and should be left alone.

Marmsk said...

Sorry left my head in the other room, change Africa to England, although I did live in Africa and I did not mean to be Anon.

Digital Flower Pictures said...

Hi Max, congratulations on the Blogs of Note selection. You deserve it.

The same thing happens to plant names, they are constantly changing. Sometimes they change back to what it used to be. I try but it is hard to keep up sometimes.

kehinde olafeso said...

i always been interested in things like this, but i just never had the time, one of these days i will definitely get into it. nice pics by the way.

Anonymous said...

you're blog is so interesting and I love the pictures!
Africa sounds so exotic

LoveLight said...

I can't say that I know anything at all about birds, but I can say I enjoy your blog, your pictures and your witty story about why you became a "birder."

Thumbs up! Congrats on Blog of Note.

Jeanne said...

What - it's not enought that every town, city or village with a name that has any significance in terms of our non-indigenous history has to be changed, now we are changing bird names too?! ;-) World has gone mad indeed. Can I still call her a kiewiet?? I remember these guys running around on UPE campus and on various golf courses, going ballistic when you inadvertently approached their nests - well done to you on trying to make her nest more visible!

jason said...

Your blog really made me think. The picture is great and keep em coming