AN UNINVITED GUEST

Jack’s picnic site in the heart of the Addo Elephant National Park is a good place to stop for lunch and enjoy a break from driving. Each picnic site is separated from the next by a thick hedge of Spekboom and other indigenous plants, so one does not have to wait long to get close-up views of a variety of shrub-loving birds. We were able to admire a Bar-throated Apalis – a bird heard all over the park, but which is not easily seen whilst one is driving.

It wasn’t long before a Southern Boubou made an appearance.

A pair of Cape Robin-chats came to investigate the pickings.

We are always pleased to see a Sombre Greenbul (I still think of it is a Bulbul!), which is another bird more easily heard than seen when one drives through the park.

These birds have become accustomed to the regular arrival and departure of humans, for they appeared in quick succession to comb the gravel for anything edible the previous party might have left in their wake. Within minutes of our arrival they had retreated to the dense cover of the surrounding shrubbery as we settled down to enjoy our food and conversation.

Shortly afterwards I became aware of the Cape Robin-chats calling loudly behind me – I recognised the alarm call from the many times I have heard it in our garden. One of the pair spread its tail feathers out widely, while the other ruffled its feathers as if to increase its size.

The Southern Boubou emerged from the undergrowth, making a harsh grating alarm call, while the Bar-throated Apalis danced frantically along the top of the Spekboom hedge, snapping its bill and wings – it too was clearly agitated. Something untoward was happening.

I looked up in time to see a Boomslang launching itself from the shrubbery onto the roof shading our picnic table – far too fast for me to focus my camera! We could see no sign of it on the roof, so we continued our picnic until I looked up again and saw its sinuous length squeezed into the space between the roof and the wooden slats below it.

Some of our party felt it was too close for comfort

We decided then than it was time to pack up and continue our game viewing drive.

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SOUTHERN BOUBOU

They skulk around the undergrowth and occasionally appear at the feeding tray once the other birds have gone; I often hear their lovely boo-boo duet and may see one or other of the pair perched higher up in one of the trees; I seldom manage to photograph them in my garden though and so these photographs have been taken in the Addo Elephant National Park. The bird in question is the Southern Boubou (Laniarius ferrugineas).

Here one has emerged from the thick bush at the picnic site at Addo to filch a piece of ham that has fallen from the table. The rich buff wash on its belly suggests that this is a male. The meaty meal fits in with its natural diet of invertebrates, reptiles, nestling birds, small mice and even fruit – I occasionally see one pecking at the apples I put out on the feeding tray.

This one, on the other hand, is probably a female.

Although one might mistake it for a Common Fiscal from the back – because of the white bars on the wings – it does not have the same hooked bill, which is clearly visible in this photograph.

The bill and the markings of the Southern Boubou are very clear in this photograph.

Here is another view of the female.