birding-aus African impressions: Wilderness

Subject: birding-aus African impressions: Wilderness
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 08:56:06 -0200

                        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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