Reflections from an Ornithologist

Kerstin Kober
6 November 2015

It’s been a couple of weeks now that I left the beautiful Valley, and it took me really this long to digest all the great experiences and impressions I gathered during my two weeks of voluntary work with the Nature’s Valley Trust. What a fantastic time I had!

I arrived on the 10th October in the Valley - springtime! Coming from the misty shores of Scotland in autumn, the nice warm weather was highly welcomed. As an ornithologist, I was primarily interested in looking at birds – and what a fantastic place this is for birding! As soon as you step out of the door you’ll be surrounded by some of the most amazing species I’ve ever seen. My advice: never ever (ever!) go out without your bins and a bird guide!!!

The fantastic team of the Nature’s Valley Trust was very kindly integrating me into their different work projects, so I got to gain a lot of different experiences: 

One morning we were mistnetting in the Fynbos and extracted colourful sunbirds, cheaky little white-eyes, puffbacks etc., while the sun slowly rose above us. Locals dropped by to join us - the project is well integrated into the local community – and everybody got the opportunity to get their hands on some birds and release their favourite species.

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Kirsten holding a Cape White-eye just before releasing it

For hours on end we were searching for white-fronted plover nests, eggs and (even better!) chicks on the beach. I learned (well, at least I tried) to interpret the little plover tracks in the sand and realised how vulnerable their nests are to being stepped on, being abandoned because their parents get chased away by dogs or simply to be eaten by the numerous predators.


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Kirsten holding a White-fronted Plover chick, one of the first hatchlings of the season

I experienced an outdoor lesson for a group of schoolchildren in the program “adopt a beach”, a part of the extensive educational program provided by the Nature Valleys Trust to the schools and the local community. Wow, the enthusiasm of these kids!

I was taken on a “flower walk”, an ongoing program to monitor the plants flowering over the course of the seasons in the Fynbos. A wonderful way to experience this extraordinary habitat with the surprising diversity of plants, insects and birds!

In our spare time we did little hikes and trips into the surroundings, experiencing a penguin release, humpback whales frolicking close to the beach and the tasty cakes at Thyme and Again at Plettenberg Bay. Yummy!

Kirsten says: 'Thank you so much to the entire team, you all made my time in the Valley wonderful experience! You are really a great bunch, keep up the good work!'