Thursday, February 11, 2016

Dullstroom Fantasy Birding Competition

This is a guest post by Nikki Benson (Birder extraordinaire)

New Years in Dullstroom
(And the First Fantasy Bird Competition)

For the second year in a row, we spent New Year’s in Dullstroom. We rented a huge house on a game reserve in the middle of nowhere. Dullstroom is one of our favorite places in South Africa. Most of the accommodations are in the middle of nowhere and have lots of animals. It’s a great place for game viewing, fishing, relaxing, and it is apparently a great place for boring birds.

As you all know, Dawn and Paul are OBSESSED with birds (apparently they have been doing it for the last 80 years. I say 80 because birding is for old people who don’t leave their rocking chairs and stare at birds in trees).

Since birding makes me want to snooze, Dawn and Paul created a Fantasy Bird Draft (exactly similar to Fantasy Football) for Dullstroom. To put it simply, they listed the birds in categories of rarity and listed each of them with a point value.  They did this because this is the one activity we don’t have in common, and anything turned into a competition will grab my attention. On draft day, Paul created a spread sheet with the list of birds and we started our lists. I should also add that Paul and Dawn did a reconnaissance trip in Dullstroom with a bird guy before our New Year’s trip. It is stuff like this that makes me question our friendship…

We split up into teams, and for those of you who might not know our blended family dynamic; Paul and I are the “Mean Spouse Team,” and Kent and Dawn are the “Nice Spouse Team.” Dawn gave us these names, but they are inaccurate. Paul and I are competitors and like to win, while Dawn and Kent give out medals and hugs for participation.

When we arrived in Dullstroom, we started competing immediately. The Bird Gods (or just competitive talent) were clearly with the Mean Spouse Team, as we spotted a Blue Crane, some (whatever color) Heron, some Sugar bird and a Cape Vulture. Kent and Dawn spotted a Secretary Bird, which I will admit, is the only interesting bird out there. Dawn won’t admit this, but she is impressed with the knowledge I brought to our Fantasy Bird competition. I bought a bird book and highlighted my list of birds, printed out an 8-page document of each bird in its natural habitat so that I could easily identify them, and purchased an awesome pair of binoculars. In conclusion, Paul and I dominated.

 Secretary Bird

Because money is not fun to win among friends who we basically share a family budget sheet with, I created the perfect punishment. I downloaded some of Dawn’s professional images, I cropped them (which I guess is frowned upon in the professional photographer world, but we won so who cares), and pasted our faces on t-shirts which are now mandatory to wear on every family vacation, or until the next Fantasy Bird competition.

Now, back to not caring about birds until the next challenge...

 African Pipit

 Black Headed Heron

Levaillants Cisticola 

 Sentinal Rock Thrush (female) / Cuckoo Finch

 Amur Falcon

 Jackal Buzzard

Greater Double Collared Sunbird 

Buff Streaked Chat

Side Note: We had grandparents in town to babysit our kids, in case anyone thought we were bad parents that weekend. We definitely ignored our children more than we should have, but we don’t half ass competitions among our family.

 Baby Owl (from a Raptor Center)

 Cape Eagle Owl (from a Raptor Center)

Secretary Bird

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