Birding couple travels to Africa
Jane and Larry Wilson watched from inside the tour bus as a wild cheetah crouched on a tall tree stump in the Serengeti, stalking two warthogs with its eyes.
“That cheetah was obviously thinking he was going to have a feast,” Jane recounts. “And as we’re sitting here watching this, he leaps off and starts chasing these two warthogs, who are not going to outrun him.”
Then, in a surprising turn of events, the warthogs stopped, looked at each other, and turned around. “And the next thing you know, they’re chasing this cheetah!” Jane says. “That’s when, after having been there for three weeks, it hit me that we were in Africa.”
Larry and Jane aren’t likely to plan a trip around museums and cathedrals. But offer them a chance to add a “new” bird species to their lifetime list, and they’re game.
“Birding has taken us to some unusual places,” says Larry, who met Jane when he was stationed in Germany with the Army. “We’ve climbed mountains, crossed continents. We’ve been to more garbage dumps than you can imagine—there’re all kinds of good birds at garbage dumps and sewer plants.”
Their most recent birding adventure took them to Africa, one of the world’s top birding sites. Kenya alone has more than a thousand inhabitant species of birds, an astounding fact when compared to the Audubon’s estimate of roughly 650 bird species in the continental U.S.
Armed with binoculars, a digital recorder to track their sightings, and the help of an experienced guide, Larry and Jane identified 630 different species of birds and checked off 615 “new” birds on their lifetime list during their tour through South Africa, Lesotho, Kenya, and Tanzania.
“When we were first birding, we couldn’t tell a plover from a sandpiper,” says Jane. “But you get where you can look at a bird and know immediately what sort of group of birds it’s in, and then you start narrowing it down.”
One of the most memorable birds from their trip was the lilac-breasted roller, a bird so prolific that it soon became a “trash bird.” “But it’s one of the most gorgeous birds I’ve ever seen,” Jane says of the strong-beaked, multicolored bird.
The trip wasn’t just about birds though, says Jane, who, with Larry, is already making plans for a return trip. “Birding gives us a great excuse to get outdoors, explore, and continue learning together. We fell in love on a camping trip, so it’s no surprise that we find this so enjoyable.”