Birding and Photography Introduction – Garden Route Jan 2023

Birding Garden Route
Garden Route Birding. Birding and photography introduction

My clients, a couple from Johannesburg, met me in Sedgefield at 6h00 on Tuesday morning. I prefer to start early in summer when birds are active. The weather forecast predicted high temperatures and strong winds for the early afternoon. Birds do not mind light rain, but wind tend to discourage them and then they are not very active and not easy to detect.
Travelling to our first destination took about 20 minutes and a slight breeze was blowing as we walked towards the water’s edge where some waders were visible.

My client’s bridge cameras were only used in auto mode before, resulting in slight confusion as we started out.

My first lesson and tip to beginners are always to know their camera settings. We continued the introduction with my SLR Canon 7D Mk2 which made it easier to explain the basic principles.

Once you know your camera and how to adjust the settings, the principles stay the same and therefore it would be easy to apply these basics with their own cameras once they know and understand the settings.
Grey mist clouds caused unfavourable light conditions but were still good enough for what we intended.

Our first object was a Common Greenshank, slightly too far to take good images. As we continued, some White-fronted Sand Plovers ran up and down the water’s edge, giving my clients enough opportunity to practise with different shutter speed and aperture settings. Some foam and debris on the high tide mark left some interesting patterns on the sand which came in handy for a nice background and overall composition.

More opportunity allowed us to test tripod skills and quick change of settings as skittish oystercatchers with a chick became restless and uneasy as we moved closer to their comfortable space. However, the black birds, moving against the light sand and green dune vegetation allowed for good practise.
We moved around the birds to ensure we do not scare them. We then came across some low flying gulls where we could practise some in-flight shots with different exposure compensation settings as they cross dark areas and then flying against the light cloudy sky with some blue patches. These conditions allowed for multiple background scenes as the mist started to clear up.

The high incoming tide made it impossible to reach the terns which are normally in abundance.

After a good start we drove off to find some great coffee at my favourite coffee shop just outside Sedgefield.

Fortunately, my clients were already used to the very unpleasant driving conditions on the corrugated gravel road which leads to the hide at Rondevlei. At Rondevlei hide, we were able to take a few far shots at different species. Again, this was good practise time but lacked opportunity for close photography. We managed to see species such as White-breasted and Reed Cormorants, Cape Teal, African Swamphen, Red-knobbed Coots, Common Moorhen, Red-billed Teal, etc. The low rainfall during the last few months causes low water levels on the lake. When water levels are that low, birds are too far from the hide and makes photography more challenging.

Driving towards the Brown-hooded Kingfisher trail, we briefly stopped at the stream where Rondevlei connects with the rest of the lake system (Langvlei). We saw a Fish Eagle catching a fish, too far for a good shot, but still exciting. The wind started to pick up and there were notable less birds than normal. Apart from a few African Spoonbills flying over, some Common Moorhen and White-throated swallows, we did not see much.

At the Brown-hooded trail we took a quick walk to the stream. The wind was now blowing strong, and we did not see or hear any Knysna Turaco. The Peregrine falcons were also absent, and no other raptors were visible in the sky. We heard the usual Bar-throated Apalis, Cape White-eyes, Sombre Greenbul, Terrestrial Brownbul and saw some Paradise Flycatchers. On our way back to the car, we were entertained by a Helmeted Guineafowl that decided to walk slowly ahead of us.
All in all, a great morning’s birding filled with good fun and meeting great people.


Gallery images of practise shots taken by my client.

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