I haven’t always been such a bird nerd!
When I met my husband he would frequently point out birds on the farm, marking them in his book and noting the date and place. Then we went on a trip to Botswana and the Caprivi strip in Namibia and he asked me to photograph some birds so he could look them up and mark them off later. We ended up doing this together and soon the seed was planted.
I’ve always loved the Kruger National Park and its been my chosen break away so many times. We stay only about 30 minutes away, so I’ve actually gotten into the habit of sometimes just going on my own for a day to relax and take photos. As a wildlife artist its an easy excuse – I’m working am I not? I do need reference material and its much more fun working from my own photographs!
It was a trip to the north of Kruger that sealed the deal though. I kept hearing a bird calling in camp and the sound haunted me through the days. Its a call I’ve often heard at home and just about everywhere we travelled in Kruger. I couldn’t find the songbird though. Driving back we decided to stop in at Mopanie Camp and as soon as we hit the raised wooden walkways the very same bird called from the thicket next to us. To say that I went a little crazy is perhaps an understatement. I frantically scanned the dense brush and branches for movement, calling my husband over to help me search.
Then, appearing out of nowhere, the black and white bird flew over my head and perched on a thick branch and started singing. I rejoiced! Finally I could put a name to him and it was easy to find the Puffball with its characteristic shrike-like features and bright red eye. In that moment I became birder!
As a hobby it was difficult to start – there were so many birds I hadn’t even ever noticed. The various LBJ’s (little brown jobs as the birders call them) still stump me, but eventually you learn to distinguish between their different body and beak shapes to at least put them into a family. The eagles with their various morphs and difference in colour depending on location and age also challenge my limited birding experience, but I’ll learn.
The most fun has been taking my own reference images and being able to work on a bird series that includes prints.
I’ve also been lucky enough to be asked to do a few bird commissions that include this African Crowned Eagle. Painting and drawing birds has quickly become my favourite subject.
I am hard at work to expand my series of birds of Southern Africa and a new addition will be available soon. Another two bird art commissions are also on my waiting list.
It makes me so happy to have the opportunity to create paintings and drawings in a subject that I am passionate about.
If you love birds as much as I do and would like to chat about creating something special for your home, let me know!
In the meantime my birding lifelist is now on 274 – which is still very little!! Watch this space – a trip to Kgalagadi is coming up and I’ve promised myself I’ll exceed 300 before the end of this year!