It’s for the birds

Mary WalkerThis Saturday, if you happen to be out driving on one of the dirt roads in the countryside and you find yourself behind an annoyingly slow car, your patience and restraint will not go unappreciated.  The CAR Project is having its summer day out and in various parts of the country slow cars will be driving along routes away from the main roads.  No, this is not a vintage car rally!  In fact, for much of the time these cars will be parked at the side of the road and the occupants will be out of the cars and standing on the veld grass verges, staring off into the distance; with binoculars glued to their eyes, and paper and pencil handy.

These are CAR Project volunteers, made up of many hundreds of persons around the country.  And a carload of ladies from Clarens will be among their count this Saturday.

The Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) Project dedicates two days each year, one in late July and one in late January, to a mass bird count, where specific bird species are counted in a certain type of terrain subject to specified criteria.  Sounds too much like work?  No, of course not!  It’s a fun outing in your own car, with your own padkos, and with something challenging and satisfying to do along the way.  And at the end of it you are contributing to a national ornithological database.

The type of birds CAR focuses on are of the large terrestrial variety.  These could be storks, secretary birds, bustards, cranes and so on, that spend a large part of their day walking on the ground, or standing feeding.  They often frequent farmlands and are easy to spot and record.  CAR has in excess of 20 such species that they monitor through this project, and more than half of them are listed as endangered.

The project has been ongoing for over 20 years and an enormous amount of information has been gathered about their status.  CAR is interested in how these birds use farmlands, what factors have an impact on their survival and what might increase their survival rate in these habitats.  There is a high level of cooperation and participation on the part of farmers, who play an important role in bringing this information to CAR and in the long-term survival of the birds.

Twitchers tend to be viewed as eccentric, and this is borne out by Clarens News’ own weekly columnist.  But ordinary bird watching can be a rewarding and fun outdoor pursuit that everyone can enjoy and even benefit from.

There are quite often visitors to Clarens who ask about bird walks.  There are even Clarens townsfolk who express interest in bird watching.  It appears, however, that our town doesn’t have anything specific to offer tourists or residents that properly fulfils their interest.

Clarens News is willing to facilitate the establishment of a Bird Club or a Bird Interest Group or something similar.  We feel sure that there are members of our community who would be interested in getting involved in birding activities, and so we invite any interested persons to contact us with their input and ideas.

To the Clarens ladies heading into the veld on Saturday for CAR – voorspoed and good birding!