VOICES CALLING IN THE WILDERNESS
Wilderness (W. Cape) got its name a long time ago, and the rest Camp
at Wilderness NP today gives few associations to actual wilderness or
wildness: beautifully manicured lawns, landscaped water-parties,
nicely and tastefully spread out chalets and forest huts. Cape
Weavers nest in many of the trees and the absurdly tame Helmeted
Guineafowl roost in them, while a Rock Pigeon broods her young on top
of the fridge on the porch of our forest hut, and hisses venomously
at us each time we take out the milk.
No "praying" nightjars here at night either, only the harsh bustle
of the weaver colonies and the decidedly unlovely crowing of the
guinea fowl. There is another constant background souns, a kins of
peeping, which I surmise emanates from some kind of frogs. Also the
walks are full og frogs sounds, and I greatly missed Adam Riley's
On the forest walks the dominant voice is Willie, the
Sombre Bulbul. Shouts of "Willie!!" sound around us all day, but the
bird itself usually keeps skillfully out of sight. All clear
full-toned calls that sound like they may be duets we ascribe, maybe
somewhat overgenerously, to the Southern Boubou, another stalker, bu
onet prone to suddenly forgetting that he is a skulker for a while
and then showing itself freely; he looks just as smooth and "clean"
as he sounds.
A much more raucous voice is that of the Knysna Louries:
clearly, having made a bird of such beauty and elegance, the Creator
must have reckoned that would have to suffice, and it would be
overkill to give this bird a mellifluous voice too! The louries here
usually play hide and seek and only show glimpses of their
startlingly red wings when gliding to the next tree. But now and
then, especially early in the morning, they pose openly in a large
fig in the Rest Camp, so that one can fully admire their exquisite
lines and colours.
A common voice here, as most places in the Cape, is Jan Frederik,
the Cape Robin. He sings a variety of short phrases, all seemingly
starting on the same tone, and reminds me strongly and
nostalgically of the Blackbirds of my Dutch youth. I also saw
Chorister Robins here, but am as yet unable to recognize their song.
And then there are all the exciting and exotic voices I can not
identify! I have by now learned the high "whisper-whistle" of the
Yellow-throated Warbler, as well as the short abrupt shouted
strophes of the Bar-throated Apalis. I think I heard the "snapping"
of the Bleating Warbler today, but never actually saw the bird
itself. And I am quite sure that the bird that speeds up its song so
drastically on the way that at the end only a dry rattle come out,
must be the famous Knysna Warbler!
And of course I recognize the Fishing Eagle, the "water-bottle"
sound of Burchells Coucal, and the sharp calls of the kingfishers,
that have lent their names to the trails here. But that still leaves
a lot of "voices calling in the Wilderness', some very characteristic
indeed, that remain just that. Some other time!!
Wim Vader, c.o. South African Museum
Cape Town, South Africa
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