birding-aus (Fwd) african impressions

Subject: birding-aus (Fwd) african impressions
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 08:28:50 -0200
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From:          Self <MUSEUM/WVADER>
Subject:       african impressions
Date:          Mon, 15 Nov 1999 09:31:19 -0200


                                LAZY DAYS AT BONTEBOK NP 

                Two nights in what is strangely called a "charaban', a 
caravan-cabin combination, in Bontebok National Park near Swellendam, 
W. Cape. Riet and I are here for holidays,  and definitely not for 
"power-birding", so what follows are mostly impressions from the Rest 
Camp, lawns with spread Acacia and riverine vegetation next to the 
Breede River. W
                We did do a game run, of course, gazed at the 
Bontebok, Rhebok and Mountain Zebra, admired a stately Black-bellied 
Korhaan, saw the Black Harriers hunt over the veld, and marveled at 
the song of the Clapper Larks: he flies up with a series of bursts of 
loud wing clapping and finishes up the performance with a long 
double-whistle, while parachuting back to his bush. But mostly we 
lazed around the cabin.

                In the Sweet Thorn next to our charaban a pair of Fiscal 
Flycatchers has its nest; this provided excellent opportumities to 
study this species, as they were very tame. But at the same time the 
flycatchers attack every other bird that comes too near, and "too 
near' is quite widely interpreted. A Cape Weaver male also has 
adopted our cabin (and even tries to drink from my beer when my back 
is turned), as has a Cape Robin (the dominant voice in the morning 
chorus here, with the ever active doves), and a Rock Pigeon pair, 
that lives on top of the caravan.  Overhead fluy Greater Striped 
Swallows and Alpine, Black and Little Swifts, and on the lawns 
cruise small and some surprisingly large turtles. Small fawn-coloured 
Striped Mice timidly assess the chances of getting something from the 

                The sound decor is, as ever here in Africa, dominated by the 
here mostly Cape Turtle and Redeyed. Quality-wise the duets of the 
Southern Boubou win first prize, as "voice of Africa" the Fish Eagle 
is unsurpassed, but for sheer raucous sound-power nothing beats the 
Hadeda Ibises. 
                I still struggle a bit with the songs and calls of the 
smaller birds: there are (at least) Bully, Streaky-headed and 
White-throated Canaries around, as well as Bar-throated Apalis and 
Tit-Babblers. A touch of the tropics is provided by the aggressive 
Pin-tailed Whydah with its incongruous "little-boy voice", by the 
glowing Red Bishops and Yellow-rumped Widows, by the jewel-like 
Malachite Sunbird, and certainly also by the Acacia Pied Barbet: 
barbets for some reason always evoke the tropics to me.

                While I write this, a Cape Robin forages ar my feet, and the 
of the Cape Weaver overhead falls on my table. A sudden commotiion 
draws my attention, in time, to a largish Pofadder on the lawn not 
two m away: the snake disappears in the thornbush, probably on the 
hunt for Striped Mice.

                At dusk, a Giant Kingfisher sits on the stake in the river 
where we 
swam earlier, the Spotted Dikkops call from way off, and overhead 
the Fiery-necked Nightjar prays its "Good God, deliver us". Lazy 
days at Bontebok, too quickly passed!

                                                        Wim Vader, South 
African Museum
                                                        Cape Town, South Africa
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