Monday birding with Learn-the-Birds.

October 19th 2020

We would like to thank you all for your support of Learn-the-Birds, and in particular we would like to thank those who have made contributions to keeping our free webinars going, as well as those who have supported our masterclasses. We hope you will enjoy this  weekly newsletter, which we have now called “Monday birding with Learn-the-Birds”, which is meant to keep you abreast of developments and events for the week, and give you a peep at what is on the horizon. If you do not wish to receive our Monday newsletter, you can unsubscribe at the bottom of this email.

Apologies for only sending it on Tuesday. I (Derek) left on Friday morning at 4AM for 4 days at Lekgalameetse watching and photographing Narina Trogons and only got back late last night. There was no Internet there, but there were Trogons!

Monday Birding

This is the third issue of Monday Birding from Learn-the-Birds. Slowly, we are ramping up the capabilities of the Learn-the-Birds site. We will endeavour too send it every Monday, but there will be times when we may not be able to. This week, Derek – the technogeek who usually presses the send button – is away in Lekgalameetse looking for Narina Trogons and other special birds, so some of you may get it on Monday, and some may only get it Monday night or Tuesday. This is because there is no Internet connectivity at Lekgalameetse, except for one spot part way up the mountain, but there are Trogons, and that is infinitely better than bandwidth.

This week’s events

Wednesday. October 21st is a very special day for Learn-the-Birds supporters, because it is the day we have the amazing Harriet Kemigisha presenting a webinar on Uganda’s Birding Hotspots. This event had to be rescheduled from the 14th due to family-related challenges beyond anyone’s control. But I can promise you, this webinar is worth the wait.

Uganda has a total of 1066 bird species as of 2020, an incredible avifaunal diversity for a relatively small country. Some groups, such as the turacos with an amazing 10 species, of which the Great Blue Turaco is commonly encountered in Uganda. Surely one special is the difficult to find Green Breasted Pitta which Harriet rediscovered in 2005. With an abundance of marshy areas, water birds and waders abound, including the bizarre shoebill, which is related to the hammerkop and gets its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill. Then there are localised species such as the African Green Broadbill, which you can only see in Bwindi National Park. A striking species is Doherty’s Bushshrike, as is the Bar-tailed Trogon that is found in high-altitude forests.

Harriet takes us on a journey of Uganda’s amazing bird richness across a number of national parks and conservation areas. She is Uganda’s first female Bird guide, so a real pioneer in her own right. Harriet’s passion for wildlife and birds started when she was a little girl growing up with her grandfather at the edge of Kibale National Park. In 2005, Harriet rediscovered a species of Pitta (Green Breasted Pitta) that was one of the most hard-to-get species of Pitta in the world, and poorly known to Ornithologists so the news spread around the world about the species.  If you are interested in birding in Africa, this is something not to be missed, and Harriet will make sure you enjoy every moment.

You can register at

Uganda birding hotsport thumbnail

The following day, October 22nd, Dr Derek Keats will be back with another free webinar, “Basic evolutionary biology for birders”. Having taught evolution as part of his first year undergraduate course for more than a decade, Derek will bring some evolutionary biology concepts to our understanding of birds.  This will be particularly useful for people who want to understand how some of the features of the birds that we love to see and hear came to be. Don’t worry though, we will keep the concepts simple, and hopefully you will have a bitter understanding of our avifauna afterwards.

You can register at

Evolution for birders

These are just two of the many free webinars on birds and birding that you will find on If you wish to make a small contribution to keeping our free webinars going, you can do so at

Coming up next week

On Wednesday, October 28th, Derek Keats will be back with his first Masterclass out of three that will be held on free and open source software tools for bird photographers. If you attended the webinar on the same topic, you will already know that you do not need to buy software to do professional grade management, processing and editing of your photos. This one is entitled “Introduction to managing and processing your bird photos with the free Digikam and Darktable”. It is enough to get you started using these tools.

Derek will introduce you to finding and installing these tools, as well as setting them up for your photography workflow, and doing the most common edits. We will cover:

1. Shooting in RAW
2. Downloading and installing Digikam, Darktable, and the GIMP
3. Establishing your photography workflow (you want to do things in a consistent way for speed and ease of operation)
4. Downloading from your camera
5. Organising your photos post download (review, delete, organise)
6. Tagging, captioning and adding descriptions to your photos
7. Getting started with Darktable (what you need to know)
8. Core Darktable features and how to use them
9. Publishing your photos
10. Wrapping up – what else can you do?
11. Question and answer

You can register at

Thursday, October 29th, is very special because Jurgen Beckers – co-author of the book Birdwatching in Columbia – will be with us talking about “Birding in Colombia”.  Colombia is the country with the highest biodiversity on the planet. It also boosts the highest number of bird species. Some 20% of all the World’s birds occur in Colombia, which is also home to an incredible 75 endemic species. Jurgen Beckers will provide an introduction to Colombia, give an overview of the main regions, and explore the top spots for birding as well as look at some endemic hotspots. He will also explain how and when to organise a birding trip to Colombia in an inexpensive and relaxed way.

Jurgen has led tours for nearly 20 years in Colombia and apart from that he explored new areas resulting in discoveries of new and rare species for the country, such as the Orinoco Softtail and Cocha Antshrike. Now he is focussed on a new reserve that he has established in the Andean foothills. Jurgen co-authored the book “Birdwatching in Colombia” with Pablo Florez, published in 2013.

This is one not to miss! You can register at

Webinar recordings

A lot of people have expressed interest in rcordings of our webinars. A couple of things complicate the recording of webinars:

  • The content of the webinar belongs to the presenter, not to Learn-the-Birds. Some speakers prefer not to have their webinars posted online as they wish to do them again at a later stage. We have to respect their wishes, and always will.
  • When we are setting up a webinar, there is a lot going on behind the scenes, and we sometimes forget to click record (Derek is the lead culprit here!)
  • Once a webinar has been recorded, there is a lot of editing to be done before it is ready for posting online. This can take up to an hour, and Learn-the-Birds is keeping us very busy these days!

For webinars that we will make available, they will appear on our YouTube Channel which you can access at (apologies for the spelling error in the URL in last week’s Monday Birding).

Please be patient, if a webinar is to be made available it will appear there, and also will appear in its own blog post on the site.

Learn-the-Birds website

As you may have noticed, we have had a few glitches with the Learn-the-Birds website. When I (Derek) started building the site, the intention was to go live at the end of September. However, opportunities presented themselves in early August, so we went live on August 6th, nearly two months early.  There were not perfect tools available to do exactly what we wanted, so we have been working with the developers of WP-EventManager software to adapt their software – designed mainly for physical events – for our purpose. Their team has been very good to us despite a few bugs along the way, and I wish to appreciate Priya and Sapna in particular for putting up with my panic attacks when we have faced bugs. If you have enjoyed Learn-the-Birds, behind the scenes Priya and Sapna and the WP-EventManager team have been enormously patient and helpful.

Having said that, we had a serious issue this week that led to the loss of all registrations before Oct 11th. If you registered for any or our upcoming events before that date, the URL that you got in the email will still work, but if you want to get the reminder notification, please can you register again. Touch wood!! – I hope that we have worked out all the major bugs and we now have a tool that does what we want.

Our YouTube Channel

Our YouTube channel is up at (again, apologies for the spelling error in the URL last week).

Currently the plan is to have four kinds of content there: how-to videos for contributors to Learn-the-Birds, recorded webinars (noting what we said above), marketing videos for our events, and additional recordings that we make make for other educational purposes.

Please note that with the permission of some of our contributors, some webinars may appear on our YouTube Channel for a limited time only, and this will be noted in the text under the video.

As they say, please remember to like and subscribe our YouTube channel when you visit.

News and blog articles

We have started putting up blog posts when there are new videos, so you can also find them on the blog. More on the blog in the next Monday Birding.

One more thing, if you would like to write a post for Learn-the-Birds, we would love to have it. Please get in touch with us at

What else is coming up?

During the first two weeks of November we are also teaming up with Nature Newfoundland and Labrador (Nature NL), to bring you an exciting webinar entitled “Birds of Newfoundland & Labrador: Perched on the Edge of North America”.  Canada’s eastern most province and home to some of the best and most accessible seabird colonies in the world) to bring you a series of webinars covering some really exciting topics starting in November. This webinar is presented by Jared Clarke, who we first heard on the American Birding podcast, and just thought “we have to have him on Learn-the-Birds”. This is going to be informative and entertaining I promise. The webinar will be offered twice, once on the 5th at 10:30 PM SA time, 6:00 PM Newfoundland time, and once on the 12th at our current usual 7:00 PM SA time. As we become more global in our approach, expect to see other timezones, including some that are in the middle of the night for us in SA.

We have more exciting free webinars and reasonably priced masterclasses in the works, and they will begin to appear on the site over the next few days. So keep watching the site, we may take you to Colombia, Uganda, Iceland, Tanzania or Newfoundland and Labrador!


Thank you again for your support, especially to our wonderful contributors who have presented webinars and masterclasses.  Please spread the word among your birding friends.  And if anyone wishes to contribute to the costs of keeping free Webinars going,  you can do so at We are committed to having at least one free webinar a week, subject to the availability of speakers of course.

The Learn-the-Birds team

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