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African Barred Owlets Search at Kariega

Lindy Rushmere
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Kariega Birding

As a nature-lover I have always appreciated birdlife, but on a recent trip to the Eastern Cape I was lucky enough to take a trip with two passionate and experienced birders to Kariega Game Reserve in search of the African barred owlets. The outing opened my eyes to the world of birding, where ‘twitches’, ‘lifers’, ‘jizz’ and ‘stringer’ are legitimate words (see definitions at the bottom of the blog) and instead of searching for lion and elephant on the game drive we had our eyes firmly fixed on open sky, twigs and branches!

Kariega Game Reserve: Sought after Destination for Birders

Head Ranger Jason Friend was our guide and, as a passionate birder himself, he knew exactly where the African barred owlets usually nest. It was not our lucky day and we ‘took a dipper’ with regards to the African barred owlets, but were not disappointed, as the overall birding experience was spectacular.

As a birding newbie, I started my list with the following ticks: common fiscal, black headed heron, crowned hornbill, African green pigeon, African olive pigeon, South African shelduck, blacksmith lapwing, three banded plover, lazy cisticola, brown scrub robin, cape longclaw, collared sunbird, hammerkop, African hoopoe and the Knysna turaco. The ‘megatick’ of my day was a BOP – the crowned eagle!

African Barred Owlets Often Mistaken as a Baby Owl

Mid-way through the morning I gathered my courage and admitted to my birding companions that I had actually seen the barred owlets on a previous visit to Kariega, but in my ignorance had exclaimed, “oh cute, look at those baby owls!” This is actually quite a common mistake as the African barred owlet is only 20 cm long when fully grown.

For me, the highlight of the morning was discovering that Kariega Game Reserve is an IBA or important birding area, with much to offer passionate bird lovers. If you are one of them you should consider a visit to Kariega particularly as we hope to launch a Kariega Big Birding Day in 2017 – watch this space.

Important Phrases When Speaking with Birders

By the end of our adventure I was hooked on birding and had grown my vocabulary… substantially. These are the most important phrases to understand before departing on your first birding expedition.

  • Twitcher: Passionate list-keeping birder who goes after rare birds found by other people.
  • Stringer: Probably the most insulting term in birding, referring to a person that often identifies birds incorrectly and adds them to their life list.
  • BOP: Bird of Prey.
  • Mega: A very rare bird.
  • To dip (or a dipper): To miss seeing a bird which you were looking for.  
  • Jizz (or Gizz): the overall impression given by the general shape, movement, behaviour etc. of a species rather than any particular feature. 
  • LBJ: a Little Brown Job. 
  • Lifer: A first-ever sighting of a bird species by an observer; an addition to one’s life list.
  • List: a list of all species seen by a particular birder. 
  • Tick: An addition to a list, indicating ticking that species off that particular list.
  • Megatick: an extremely good tick, by virtue of the bird being very rare or very difficult to find. 
  • IBA: Important Birding Area. 

If you are interested in birding and would like to find out more about our planned 2017 Big Birding Day please email me on You are welcome to share your comments about your birding experience at Kariega as a comment below or on our Kariega Facebook page.