I would frequently see Crowned Hornbills (Lophoceros alboterminatus) flying across the school campus while I was teaching. My upstairs classroom gave me a good view of their slow flight with the characteristic agile, pronounced dip after every few wing beats. Their arrival during July and August heralded the longed for winter break. How I wished then that I could see them in my garden too.
These seasonal winter visitors began to appear in our garden more often from about 2016 – I had retired by then and probably had more opportunities to observe them in the garden. Given that they mainly forage in trees, where they eat insects, seeds and fruit, they tend to be difficult to spot – and even more difficult to photograph!
My best views of them have been while they have been feeding on the flowers in the Erythrina caffra – probably because these trees are bare of leaves at this time of the year. One surprised me yesterday by posing on the telephone cable.
I had been watching birds in the garden and was just about to leave when I saw a longer than usual tail showing through the tangle of dead creepers and shrivelled Tecomaria capensis leaves. Anything out of the ordinary requires a closer look, so I retreated indoors – from where I could see it was a Crowned Hornbill. What a co-operative bird it was to remain in place while I raced upstairs for my camera and tried to focus on it through the window. The angle was very awkward indeed and so I have done my best through the none-too-clean window panes of my study. You can clearly see its dark brown plumage, white belly and orange bill with a casque on the upper mandible. Its yellow eye glints in the light.
The Crowned Hornbill then had a good scratch before flying away.