birding-aus (Fwd) african impressions: tsitsikamma

Subject: birding-aus (Fwd) african impressions: tsitsikamma
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 08:22:14 -0200
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From:          Self <MUSEUM/WVADER>
Subject:       african impressions: tsitsikamma
Date:          Thu, 18 Nov 1999 08:19:24 -0200

                FOREST HUT 18, TSITSIKAMMA NP

        At the Storm River Mouth rest camp in Tsitsikamma NP, W. Cape, one 
lives close to a most impressive Indian Ocean, and the drone of the 
waves is always there, even in the forest huts, that are tucked away 
in a thicket of coastal woodland. Kelp Gulls ceaselessly patrol the 
shore and the camping sites, and Cape Wagtails are all over the 
place. I also found a Common Sandpiper in a small pol above high 
water, and of course there are cormorants galore on the offshore 

        No Rock Pigeons nesting on our hut this time, but we still had an 
active bird nest, as a pair of Dusky Flycatchers was feeding small 
young in a net on the back of the hut, quite unconcerned by our 
presence. It gave me a great chance to admire their very 
professional-looking, unhurried style of fly-catching::..look around, 
fly up, snap!, and compare this to the frenetic scrambles of the 
Lesser Double-collared Sunbirds that also were hawking for insects in 
the clearing behind the hut.

        Also around forest hut nr 18 Willie the Sombre Bulbul was 
omnipresent, while small roving bands of Cape Whiteeyes came through 
frequently. Early one morning I heard the unmistakable raucous voice 
of the knysna Lourie, and later that day a Diederik Cuckoo called 
from "our trees". Olive Thrushes scratched in the fallen leaves, and 
Bar-throated Apalises sounded off in the shrubeery.

        But for me this will always remain the Chorister Robin place! While 
I sat still in a chair in the clearing behind our hut, watching the 
flycatchers, a male Chorister Robin flew in and perched on a dead 
stick out in the open, less than 6 ft away. Here he proceeded to 
compose his varied song phrases. I use the word "compose" advisedly 
(though no doubt biologically quite incorrectly), as that was so 
absolutely the impression I got. The bird sat absolutely still, and 
"tried out" a new phrase sotto voce: the bill remained closed, but 
one coukld see the throat-feathers move slightly. He then repeated 
this phrase a few times, with very minor variations, before switching 
to an entirely different, often amazingly different, motive. Every 
now and then a phrase "met with the composer's approval", and he 
would sing it out loud a few times, before trying out another one..I 
heard at least  10-15 entirely different phrases in this half hour 
of private concerto. It was one of those magical moments that happen 
so rarely, and it made forest hut nr 18, Tsitsikamma for ever 
synonymous with the Chorister Robin for me.
                 And also it made me dislike the Afrikaans name Lawaaimaker Jan 
Frederik as quite misleading, however much I in general prefer the 
pithy and descriptive Afrikaans names to the "designed by a 
committee"-feeling English  names of  many South African birds.

                                                Wim Vader, co South African 
                                                Cape Town, 
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