Diving for the birds
Two birdlife conservationists overcame their fears and took to the skies to raise awareness and funds to protect Plettenberg Bay’s feathered creatures.
Dr Mark Brown of the Nature’s Valley Trust, and Elaine Reed of Elaine’s Birding and Wildlife Products hatched a plan to skydive to do just that for a conservation programme, Garden Route Birds.
The programme, a social mediadriven response to the June fires, was initiated by Plett local Rozanne Fleet.
Fleet was concerned about the 18 000 hectares of fynbos, forest and farmland destroyed during the fires and leaving many birds with no food or shelter. She then sent out a plea on social media for assistance and to encourage locals to place bird feeders in their gardens to provide food and water for these displaced birds.
One of those who responded to her call was Reed who initially wanted to supply her with 85 feeders and ended up sending more than 400 suet feeders, fruit feeders and nectar bottles, as well as nesting boxes and copious amounts of suet food.
But Reed felt she could do even more and volunteered to jump out of an aircraft for the cause. This was a quite a brave move by Reed as she is terrified of heights.
The Nature’s Valley Trust has been providing advice on responsible feeding for the programme and helping to educate followers about the birds now visiting their gardens.
Skydive Plettenberg Bay got on board with the plan and sponsored two jumps. As Fleet had skydived several times in the past and the initiative had been well supported by the Nature’s Valley Trust, Brown was volunteered to join Reed on Sunday 24 September.
“It was completely insane. It was something I never thought I’d do, but it turned out to be a wonderful experience,” Brown said.
The jump also enabled him to have a bird’s eye view of the intensity of the fire damage, he commented.
Brown said the money raised would go towards a new project of the Nature’s Valley Trust, which involves the colour-ringing of sunbirds and sugarbirds in several gardens in Nature’s Valley, Plett and Knysna. “This will enable valuable collection of movement and visitation rate data at sugar-water feeders. Funds raised from Sunday’s jump will go towards covering the costs of setting up this new project.”
Fleet said a special thank you to the pilot and owner of Skydive Plett Shaun Smith for sponsoring the skydives.
“People can help not only by donating, but by liking our page, inviting friends, sharing and engaging with us. They can also introduce others to the fact that you can really enjoy the birds in your garden. And all this continued engagement creates awareness that in turn helps to conserve our birds,” Fleet said.
For those who want to make donations, the bank details are: Nature’s Valley Trust, Standard Bank, account no. 001913859, branch code 004205.
Dr Mark Brown of the Nature’s Valley Trust, and Elaine Reed of Elaine’s Birding and Wildlife Products before their jump out of a plane to raise awareness and funds for feeding birds.
Elaine Reed (left) from Elaine’s Birding and Wildlife Products with Dr Mark Brown of the Nature’s Valley Trust and Rozanne Fleet who started the Facebook page Garden Route Birds.
Dr Mark Brown, seen here during the last moments of his “insane” jump with instructor Jeff Bergh said it was something he never thought he would do.
Elaine Reed nearing Mother Earth with instructor Reinier Lombaard after her first-ever jump from the sky – overcoming her fear of heights for a good cause.