Coast KZN

19 Apr 2021

Crowned cranes spotted near Kuswag Skool

Bianca Lalbahadur (South Coast Sun)

A group of uncommon visitors recently made their way to Amanzimtoti and avid bird watcher, Chris Hoffmeyer, was fortunate enough to capture pictures of the magnificent crowned cranes.  These birds are usually spotted near the Umkomaas River and near the airport, however, a flock of them have been spotted near Kuswag Skool for about three weeks. The Kuswag deputy principal jumped at his chance to study them.

“I was in my classroom and I saw a crowned crane sitting on a rugby pole in Kingsway High. I didn’t have my camera with me so I used the school camera and walked up to the birds very slowly. I was lucky enough to get really close to them and take pictures of them mid-flight. There are five birds in the group. Four of them are paired up and there is one loner. I feel very privileged to have seen them here since it’s a rare spotting in the area.”

Chris has worked at the school since 1994 and started teaching in 1988. He started birdwatching when he was in the South African Army and since then his passion grew.

“I spent a lot of time in the bush and my love for birds grew there. I also was a teacher in Richards Bay and would visit the Mzingazi Lake when playing golf. I saw that there was a lot of birdlife in the area and they fascinated me. I would plan outings and picnics to the area often. I bought myself a pair of binoculars and started bird watching more frequently. I was a guide in Hluhluwe Game Reserve many years ago, where I moved around with a parks board guide who educated me about nature and birding.”

The 57-year-old also recently visited Wakkerstroom where he saw more than 100 different species of birds.

“The grassland birds are often difficult to spot due to their camouflage. Quite often I have to put on my hiking boots and go look for them. The most important thing to have is a proper pair of binoculars. I only later started taking photographs because it’s important to share the hobby. If you can capture what you have seen and share it with others, it creates awareness. It encourages more people to get involved. It’s also important to be willing to travel to different areas with birdlife. Wetland birds are a totally different experience.”

His favourite area to spot birds is mainly the Eastern Cape because of the many rivers that attract different birdlife.

“I use an app to identify the different bird calls. Birds of prey are the most difficult for me to identify through their calls. It is an exciting hobby and I encourage others to take it up.”