The St Francis Bird Club has placed a bench on Shore Road, overlooking the Kromme River, in recognition of Yvonne Bosman, a well-known resident of St Francis Bay.
Yvonne was presented with the bench as a surprise on Friday morning early, when she went to Shore Road to watch the birds feeding in the shallows near The Cove, one of her favourite birding spots.
Members of the Club also presented her with a gift to express their gratitude for all the work she has done since she founded the Club with some friends, nearly 28 years ago.
After Yvonne moved to St Francis with her late husband Vic Craig and family, she joined Bird Life Eastern Cape. At that time (1990) she did not know much about birds at all but had been inspired by a talk about birds at a Garden Club meeting.
On her first local birding trip she was told to be ready at 5 am. She had never been up that early before! This did not deter her or her husband and so began what would become a lifelong passion for both of them. Her interest and enthusiasm led her to start the St Francis Bay Bird Club.
Since the first meeting on 5th March 1993 (which involved birding at the St Francis Golf Club), she has brought both serious and social birding to St Francis Bay. Over the years she has shared her knowledge generously and inspired birders to join the birding fraternity, to learn more and to contribute to birding science, something she has been doing, herself, for many years.
She is a recognised citizen-scientist in this field. Many longstanding friendships have been forged through the Club.
In 1994, Jean and the late Chuck Cook started assisting Yvonne in her duties whilst Vic, with his charm, secured access to farming and other nearby properties for the purpose of Club outings Jean is still a devoted member of the Club, 27 years later.
Yvonne met her second husband, the late Peter Bosman, through the Bird Club when Peter and Madeline Bosman joined as members in 1996.
Another great friendship bond was formed and, after both were widowed, Yvonne and Peter decided to tie the knot.
Yvonne, over the past nearly 28 years, and helped by her informal and later formal committees, has organised many day trips and longer excursions for the benefit of the Club members. She is always willing to assist others, and imparts her knowledge gently and beautifully, where needed and asked for.
Some of the larger outings became rather stressful but, no matter how errant the birders were, Yvonne was always willing, able and ready for the next birding outing.
In her time in the Chair, she inspired members to join the Co-ordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC), the South African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP 2), to be part of Co-ordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) and to get involved in windfarm monitoring.
Data collection on the numbers of birds in windfarm areas, which is co-ordinated by Maggie Langlands (Vice-Chairperson of the Bird Club for many years), has resulted in the co-operation of windfarms in mitigating the environmental impacts of their activities.
This involvement in citizen science started when the Club was asked to participate in a nation-wide survey of African Black Oystercatchers, between 11 and 18 March, 1998.
This striking bird was in danger of dying out as its breeding season coincided with the height of the holiday season in December, and
beach activities disturbed the nesting birds.
The survey was headed by Professor Phil Hockey at UCT. His proposal was to ban vehicles on beaches and run awareness programmes along the South African coast, where these birds nest.
This project has been one of the most successful in saving a species from extinction and it was the Club’s first, but not last, collaboration with UCT.
Yvonne was awarded the Tony Dechant Memorial Award by Bird Life Eastern Cape, in 2017. This award was made to Yvonne for her services to birding, that went “above and beyond the call of duty”.
The Bird Club is very happy that Yvonne will remain a member of the committee, in the role of Vice-Chairperson, so that she can mentor some of the committee members who are taking over her tasks.