Birder Etienne Marais on scooping the Southern African Year List challenge and using the Fujinon KF8X32W binoculars

2021 turned out to be a big year for Etienne Marais, managing to top the Birdlasser Southern African Year List challenge using Fujinon binoculars.

As long as I can remember, birding has been all about challenges. Many birders record the birds recorded by keeping lists, for example, a garden list, a holiday list or a list for birds recorded in their home province.

My personal lists go back more than 30 years, and since the advent of the Birdlasser app, I have taken part in the Wider Gauteng year challenge and the “big mother” of all challenges: the Southern African Year List challenge, running since 2016.

The Birdlasser app has automated the process of participating in regional challenges. All you have to do is log your birds on the app, register for some challenges and the app automatically keeps tabs on your list and updates the website with your total, even showing the live leaderboard.

I am privileged to get around as a guide and tour leader to Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and all parts of South Africa. This, of course, helps to build a big year list for Southern Africa, and I am usually close to the top of the Southern African Birder leaderboard.

But in 2021 I was lucky enough to have ended ahead of the chasing pack with a year’s total of 759 different birds spotted – 30 ahead of the next participant.

Since 2020 I have been equipped with the modest but very capable Fujinon KF8X32W roof prism binoculars. I love the fact that they are so handy and rugged with pretty good optics as well. Having birded with a large number of birders carrying much more costly binoculars, I never for one instant have felt at a disadvantage in terms of what I can see and identify, even for a bit. Light and handy, the Fujinon KF8X32W makes for long days in the field without hardly noticing the bins!

As we enter the third quarter of 2022, I’ve already recorded 700 species for the year and with more trips to Mozambique and Namibia still to come, I’m optimistic of getting close to my 2021 number.

Etienne Marais

Find Etienne online here.

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