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Friday, December 23, 2016


Each page an utter delight – with clever interpretations of birds’ names. (Review by Caroline Smart)

I am spending Christmas and New Year in my sister and brother-in-law’s lovely home at Kosmos on the shores of Hartbeestport Dam. It’s aptly named Grebe’s Cove and this was an opportune time to review Dr Jack's Third Illustrated South African Byrd Book as both my sister and brother-in-law are avid bird-watchers.

With an entertaining foreword by journalist and author Andy Capostagno from Lidgetton in KZN, each page is an utter delight – with clever interpretations of birds’ names. With its comical cover, the book features a collection of cartoons that lampoon birds on the basis of their common names but also turns to the renaming of a number of southern African birds for fresh inspiration.

The cartoons created much laughter from the family including the Curlew Sandpiper blowing away on bagpipes; a Black-Faced Waxbill holding a lit candle; a Collared Sunbird being arrested by a Copper Sunbird, and a Cape Shoveller armed with shovel and Cape Coloured accent. Then there are the Spotted Thick-Knee and Water Thick-Knee; an African Spoonbill complete with billed spoon and cauldron; a Bat Hawk a la Batman; an African Grass Owl getting considerably stoned and a Red-Billed Buffalo Weaver doing exactly what its name says. Another cartoon receiving amusement from the birdwatchers was the Martial Eagle in full Colonel attire and attitude!

My favourites are the Garden Warbler in operatic voice, the European Bee-Eater with a bee frantically speeding away; and a Trumpeter Hornbill tooting its own trumpet.

Making a comment on the fracking controversy, there’s the South African Shel(l) duck sporting a Shell company logo. And the Scarce Swift is so scarce, you can’t even see it!

Dr Jack is an active birder based in the Mpumalanga Lowveld and assists the Lowveld Birding Club with illustrations for their newsletters. Along with fellow Eyewitness News cartoonist Curtis, he won the hotly-contested Cartoon Category of the 2016 Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards.

This humorous book follows the earlier successful publication of two similar books by Dr Jack. The publicity material notes that the book is “targeted specifically at South African twitchers, as well as more relaxed bird watchers and nature lovers in general – the perfect affordable gift for the birder who already has everything else.”

I couldn’t agree more – it’s an excellent and affordable Christmas present.

Dr Jack's Third Illustrated South African Byrd Book is published by Struik Nature and Penguin Random House South Africa in A5 paperback at RRP R120. ISBN 9781775845539. – Caroline Smart