Last month I shared some of my animal pictures from Kruger with you which I hope you enjoyed. This month I am writing about some of the smaller birds that we came across during our journey. They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, in a wonderful range of colours, and with an extraordinary variety of beak shapes, all designed for a particular feeding purpose. The Cardinal woodpecker shown was so completely absorbed in drumming a hole that it had no idea that I was standing about a metre away from it. Other close encounters, included seeing the spotted eagle owl nesting on the ground from about 5metres away, and on another occasion, three barn owls staring down from the rafters inside a refuge. (Two are shown) Egyptian geese were the main geese seen on our visit and were encountered them at virtually every stop. They were extremely noisy, and often seen flying in groups along the Sabie river. Colourful starlings were also very common, particularly the iridescent blue/green Cape glossy, and the noisy show-off red winged starlings. On two occasions we saw a magnificent purple breasted roller just lazing on the branch of a tree after feeding on a large cricket or grasshopper, and also we heard the call of a superb red breasted oriole, a sound which echoed through the canopy as we stood in a clearing. The sunbirds with their sharply curved bills for foraging in flower heads were also spectacular, and were relatively easy to get close to, as they were concentrating so hard on getting to the pollen in the flower head. The red collared and orange breasted were the most common sunbirds we saw during our stay.
It was also strange looking up at the open branches of trees at the edge of a cliff and seeing small bright yellow birds. My immediate thought was that they were yellow hammers, but in fact they turned out to be canaries which I had never seen before in the wild. Another spectacular yellow bird was the village weaver bird which builds its spectacular layers of nests on branches, often quite close to buildings, and as its name suggests, does so in colonies of perhaps up to twenty nests. They are easily recognised as they weave their nest with strands of reed from the under side, often adding to one, two or even three nests from previous years. They were extremely busy at several locations where we saw them, and they were concentrating so much in their nest building, you could get really close up to them.
We also visited an ostrich farm during our visit, and it was fascinating to see them close up, and learn about the industry that has grown up around them. I loved however our encounters with them in the wild on the low veldt, when they could be seen moving slowly and very well camouflaged in amongst the winter vegetation. The male birds with jet black plumage often had several females in tow who were extremely well hidden in this unique habitat. This was not so for one of the real surprises of our visit, the encounter with 3,000 South African Penguins, on Boulders Beach near the Cape of Good Hope. It was extraordinary to see this large colony of birds in close up, a species that I normally associate with the Antarctic, sunning themselves on a very sandy beach amongst huge granite boulders, and fishing in the adjacent clear blue waters. They are a unique land based colony which were once very endangered, but are now breeding extremely well in this popular area near Simonstown. Next month I’ll share our encounters with a wonderful variety of long legged waders, storks, herons and birds of prey with you.
Please note that David Cummings shall be given a fund raising talk on the Wildlife of Kruger, Garden Route and Cape Point National Parks in Christleton Parish Hall at 7.00pm on Saturday 23rd February. The proceeds are to help the Jennie Marsh Trust build a new school in Uganda. Tickets will be available from him on 332410 or from the back of Church.
Orange breasted Sunbird
South African Penguins
Spotted Eagle Owl
Roller Purple Breasted
Red Breasted Oriole