Ranger Dean – a personal passion for birdwatching

If you allow them, birds will give you a window to secrets from another world. A fresh vision that could give you a new perspective on life -  in the bush and moving ahead.

Ranger Dean - shares his personal passion for birdwatching in his own words.

It is reported that Fidel Castro and Agatha Christie were devoted birdwatchers. And that Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney don’t travel with their birding- binoculars. Even Albert Einstein was fond of planning a morning of birdwatching. As intriguing as famous birdwatchers are - the good news is that you don’t have to be a millionaire rockstar or a rocket scientist to enjoy the simple miracle of nature and birds.

Morukuru Family Madikwe is recognised as a premium destination for big-five game viewing, and many guests come for the thrill of outstanding wildlife sightings. However, you might not know that The Madikwe Game Reserve is home to some 350 species of birds, making it a real birding paradise for experienced “twitchers’, bird-nerds or those who are keen observers of our feathered friends. Our backyard of 75 000 hectares of wilderness includes the Marico River basin, open grasslands, dense bushveld, rocky outcrops and mountain ranges offering a varied bird-friendly habitat.


Imagine waking up, taking a breath of crisp summer air and tuning into a wonderous chorus of our little avian friends. If you are a newfound birder or a knowledgeable pro, Madikwe presents fabulous bird sighting opportunities.


As the seasons change from one to another, different species come to the fore. When birdwatching on the reserve, you need to be watching keenly not to miss the action. Now that winter is behind us, look out for small flashes of colour, sounds, speed, nest building and egg laying

Some of my favourites to look out for are:

  • Crimson-Breasted Shrike
  • Meyers Parrot
  • Green-winged Patilla
  • Grey-headed Bush Shrike
  • White-throated Robin Chat
  • Blue Waxbill
  • Kori bustard
  • Pale Chanting Goshawk
  • Various vulture species
  • Tawny Eagle
  • Sand Grouse species

These are just a selection. I could add many pages to this list.

The best birding opportunities present themselves early in the morning. I advise guests to  avoid the midday heat but to try again in the afternoon. There are endless possibilities, and patience is key. If spotting nocturnal birds such as owls, nightjars, and thick knees is what you’re after, night time birding can also be very rewarding. The highlight for me is always the Pearl-spotted owlets.

Although spotting and watching birds can be done with the naked eye, a pair of binoculars is a great advantage. For those just getting started, a pair of 10x40 Bushnell Forex will be more than sufficient to help find new species. A good bird book will also be of great value, and two recommendations are the Roberts Birds of Southern Africa or Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa. Either is an excellent resource to have in your backpack.

As we head towards November, I’m excited about the migration many species set out on. This time, in particular, is productive and busy for the avian world. One such exodus that I look out for is that of Red-billed Quelea, which make their voyage in the thousand. I count myself lucky to have had the privilege of watching the flight of a couple of hundred to maybe even a thousand fly over a large open plain. Having the chance to see something like this is a lifetime memory.

Something else to note is the sighting of rare species that don’t normally occur in our region of Southern Africa.  Unfortunately, some species from around the world stray far away from their normal migratory routes. For example, rare species like Great White Pelicans, Flamingo, Lizard Buzzard, African Skimmer, Open-Bill Yellow Morph and Crimson Breasted Shrike have all been spotted in the Madikwe, and down at the Eastern Cape coast near Gqeberha, there have been reports of sightings of American Golden Plovers  - which is very unusual.

Every bird has unique traits. Every bird makes me smile. I embrace every chance to catch sight of any of my little feathered friends - especially the Speckled Mousebird, the Arrow-Marked Babbler, the Short-billed Crombec, the Natal Spurfowl, the Mocking Cliff Chat and the Meyers Parrot. All of these make for a fun day out in the bush.

Besides your binoculars and your bird books - don’t forget a good hat and sunscreen!