birding-aus (Fwd) African impressions

Subject: birding-aus (Fwd) African impressions
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 1999 09:10:05 -0200
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From:          Self <MUSEUM/WVADER>
Subject:       African impressions
Date:          Mon, 22 Nov 1999 09:07:25 -0200


        I stayed overnight in Robertson, a quiet small town full of 
jacarandas, and arrived at the gate of the Vrolijkheid reserve near 
Macgregor as early as 8 o'clock. (Early for me, that is; I know i 
should have been here two hours before!)

        This is a very different landscape from the mountain fijnbos of Sir 
Lowry's Pass  The vegetation is much scantier and thornier, and 
there are even veritable coppices of Sweet Acacia, while various 
succulent Euphorbia, numnumbushes and botterwood are much to the 
        The weather was glorious, calm and warm, thus ideal for birding, but 
a lot of pesky small flies made it difficult to stand still. Much 
fewer flowers, also fewer lizards, but lots of turtles, both on land 
and in the large dams.

        The most conspicuous birds in the morning were the Karoo Robins, 
especially as the pairs apparently could never meet without  a small 
ceremony of calls and wing-flapping. That ardour decreased with the 
increasing temperature, it seemed. There also ought to be various 
larks, eremomelas, and Rufous-eared Warbklers in the dry stuff, but 
I never saw any of them, possibly because I left the drier areas 
till too late
        Instead I walked the Heron trail, and stayed a long time in the two 
hides overlooking various parts of the large dam. What a peaceful 
scene! At first I only saw a heraldic Darter sharing an islet with a 
large fat tortoise close by, and a family of SA Shelducks with 6 
largish young paddling at the opposite shore. Then a Spoonbill flew 
in and started foraging, and a pair of coots came out of the reeds. 
The longer you look the more you see: Common Sandpipers on one little 
beach, a Three-banded plover on another, and even a large shaggy 
mongoose (Water Mongoose?) eating something dead, half-hidden in the 
background forbs. None of the birds reacted to him at all! Not even 
the Blacksmith Plover, who otherwise would not tolerate any 
sandpipers or plovers on "his beach" at all; neither a Kittlitz 
Plover nor a Greenshank got the chance to land anywhere---the 
Bontkiewiet harrassed them till they left in disgust. He did not 
react at all, however, to the ducklings, the spoonbill, or to a Cape 
wagtail. Why this difference?
        Somewhat later a pair of Moorhens ventured out of the reeds, and a 
small Black Crake sprinted across the open area from one clump of 
reeds to the next one.
        In the other hide, things were even quieter, although here a small 
group of Springbok and a few ostriches came in to drink. The path to 
this hide led through a sizeable thicket of Acacia. Here there 
clearly were birds, but they were not all that easy to watch. SoI I 
walked that stretch 10-15 times, and very very slowly  birds started 
to show themselves. First only Cape White-eyes and Karoo Robins, so 
Titbabblers, then a Pied Barbet, a pair of Crombecs, looking like a 
cat got their tail, and a Bar-throated Apalis shouting its little 
song-ditty.Theno some different-looking Prinia's turned up, close to 
the border of the reeds: less spotty, long wispy tails, Namaqua 
        And on one of the last runs I had the good fortune to watch 
and listen to the Fairy Flycatcher, a dainty bird that certainly 
lives up to its name. As so often, once I had seen it once, I could 
watch three in a row quite well, and in rapid succession.

        I spent 5 hours in the reserve, met nobody at all. Maybe I saw not 
all that many different birds either, but it was a miost satisfactory 
day anyway.

                                        Wim Vader, c.o.South African Museum
                                        Cape Town, 
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