Far too many tourists drive about seeking one species of animal after the other in their quest to chalk up as many as they can – even driving past elephants, zebra and kudu because of a “we’ve seen them” attitude – with eyes peeled for the ultimate prize: the sight of a lion. We see bored faces in vehicles as the day progresses, listless looks of bafflement when a passing vehicle asks what we are looking at and we respond “birds” or even tell them what bird we might be looking at. “Birds,” one might say or simply give a nod of the head as they move on in their quest.
Watching out for birds in any game reserve adds to the enjoyment of the environment as a whole. Here are a few of the many seen on our recent trip to the Addo Elephant National Park:
A ubiquitous Common Fiscal. Note how it is holding on to the twigs to keep it steady in the stiff breeze.
A young Olive Thrush perching inquisitively on our picnic table. Notice that it is still covered with speckles.
Cape Bulbuls, such as this one abound in the rest camp.
Large flocks of Pied Starlings can be seen all over in the park.
It is always fun seeing Speckled Mousebirds fly across the road or to working their way through bushes as they look for leaves, berries or flowers to eat.
Beautiful Malachite Sunbirds show flashes of metallic green as they pass by in a flash.
Who can resist the delicate beauty of a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk?
How fortunate it was to find a Greater Striped Swallow at rest!
One can almost be guaranteed to find a Bar-throated Apalis at the picnic site.
Lastly, for now, is a Sombre Bulbul (now called a Sombre Greenbul!).
What a rewarding month this has been for watching birds in my garden! A flock of Bronze Manikins (Lonchura cucullata) were the first to fly onto my list. I love watching these tiny birds fluttering like leaves from branch to branch; nestling close to each other at the seed tray; dropping so lightly onto the ground; and seeming to move everywhere in groups. I often see them sitting on the edge of the bird bath shortly before sunset, taking turns at dipping their beaks into the water and flying up to perch in either the Pompon tree or Plumbago growing nearby.
I have mentioned before that the Klaas’ Cuckoo is making itself heard calling stridently across the valley. These days we hear the calls from early in the mornings and at intervals throughout the day.
A most welcome visitor to the garden this month is the Malachite Sunbird. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to skip us this season when I caught sight of its magnificently irridescent emerald metallic sheen and long tail flitting among the scarlet flowers of the Erythrina caffra and the orange tubes of the Golden Shower creeper and Cape honeysuckle.
This morning a Knysna Lourie (also known as the Knysna Turaco) flitted silently through the tops of the trees in the front garden, affording me a beautiful view of the sun highlighting its bright red primary feathers as it flew into the fig tree and out of sight.
A Bokmakierie paid a rare visit to the feeding table only to be chased off by one of a pair of Forktailed Drongos that have commandeered this as part of their territory. It is interesting to observe that while the drongos tend not to take food directly from the table, they are adept at stealing food from the beaks of other birds in mid-flight! Many a weaver has flown off with a large titbit to eat elsewhere and has been robbed of its booty in this way.
The Pintailed Whydahs are out in force now. I counted ten of them in the garden yesterday, only three of which were females. The males are changing into their black and white sartorial splendour, the length of their tail feathers seemingly increasing by the day.
My August list is:
African Green Pigeon
Black Sunbird (Amethyst)
Cape Turtle Dove
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Southern Masked Weaver