A FEW BIRDS IN THE KAROO NATIONAL PARK

Having previously experienced an abundance of birds around the camping area of the Karoo National Park, I found it disappointing this time that sparrows ruled the roost. Granted, there were House Sparrows, Cape Sparrows as well as a few Southern Grey-headed Sparrows that kept a close watch on the tents and caravans at the site – always ready to eat a crumb or two. Now and then a Southern Masked Weaver would muscle its way among the sparrows as did a few Laughing Doves. Red-winged Starlings flew overhead and we could hear the calls of Hadeda Ibises in the early morning and late afternoon. It was also fun to hear the familiar calls of the Red-eyed Doves and a pair of Bokmakieries perched in the treetops near our tent and sang lustily to each other.

The bird list provided by the Park is enticing and spending only one full day driving around the area is not sufficient to do it justice. I saw a few Speckled Mousebirds flying across the road as well as several smaller birds that could be both heard and seen from afar. Most were neither easy to identify nor to photograph as they tended to fly off as soon as our vehicle stopped or as I had almost got my camera focused! This Rufous-eared Warbler was difficult to focus on as it kept moving between these branches:

Some of the more co-operative ones were a pair of South African Shelducks in flight:

House Sparrows:

Familiar Chat:

Laughing Dove

Of course the Common Ostriches were easy to spot as we drove around the park – there were plenty of them too. It is interesting to note that these birds are able to regulate their body temperature via their long necks and their large wings. They also use gular fluttering to cool down on exceptionally hot days.

We plan to spend a lot more time in this beautiful place during our next visit!

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HOUSE SPARROW

An often over-looked, ‘taken-for-granted’, bird is the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). It was introduced to this country around 1900 and is regarded as a naturalised import from Europe and India. As the scientific name suggests, the House Sparrow favours human habitation and is frequently seen in car parks picking up crumbs or feeding on squashed bits of food. I once saw a pair of them swooping down from the rafters of a large supermarket to peck at the freshly baked bread rolls. This one was finding food on a street.

I do not recall having noted a House Sparrow in my garden, but then visits from the indigenous Cape Sparrows are rare too. Innocuous looking they might be, yet these birds are widely considered as an agricultural pest in grain-growing areas and as a general nuisance because they compete aggressively with indigenous birds.