In South Africa: Collared Sunbirds, Dark Chanting Goshawks, and Fork-tailed Drongos October 13, 2010Posted by Jenny in nature, travel, wildlife.
Tags: Arrow-marked Babbler, Cape Vulture, Collared Sunbird, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Fork-tailed Drongo, Hamerkop, Hooded Vulture, Lilac-breasted Roller, rhino horn, Saddle-billed Stork, Southern Pied Babbler
For an introduction about my recent trip to South Africa, go here. All photos in this post are from Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise noted.
I never would have been able to compile a bird list for Kruger National Park and its surroundings if it hadn’t been for Klaas van der Westhuizen, who seemed to know everything about birds, plants, and animals in the area. It was he, for instance, who alerted me to the danger of disturbing the nest of the Hamerkop. According to the myth of the Khoi San, he said, anyone doing so will be struck by lightning. This took such a hold in my imagination that I started pestering him with silly references to “the bird that causes people to be struck by lightning.”
Klaas was fond of the idea that people from other parts of the world think many forms of nature in Africa are frightening. He was endlessly amused by the notion of “Africanized killer bees,” and laughed when I brought along a hiking stick on our walk near Arnold’s place to fend off stray leopards. (One had indeed been spotted not far away—not recently, though.) From Arnold’s ample selection of hiking sticks, I picked out a medium-sized one so that I could at least deal with a medium-sized leopard, I told him.
Klaas and Carol van der Westhuizen and I were guests of Arnold Van Dyk and Sonja Myburgh at their vacation house on the border of Kruger. During my visit and in writing this post, I leaned heavily on the expertise and helpfulness that each one of them offered me.
I fell in love with the names of the birds nearly as much as the sight of them. And I did get some good views through Sonja and Arnold’s high-powered binoculars, but I realized from the start that it was hopeless for me to try to photograph birds with my camera, which has an inadequate zoom.
The name “Dark Chanting Goshawk” is pure poetry, for instance. The name derives from its breeding season song, “which consists of chanted flutes and whistles,” according to Wikipedia. The article also makes the interesting observation that the bird’s flight is “stiff and mechanical.”
And who could not love the name of the Fork-tailed Drongo? It somehow put me in mind of another bird name that I love, the Elegant Trogon, a resident of the southwestern U.S. The common element is that we not only have a bird with a funny-sounding name (drongo or trogon), but we actually have a particular subvariety of it—there could even be other kinds of drongos or trogons.
Another bird with a wonderful name was the Southern Pied Babbler. Klaas told me that in Afrikaans, this bird is known as the Witkatlagter, or the “White cat-laugher.” He could not explain, however, whether the bird has a call that sounds like a cat or whether it simply likes to laugh at them.
We saw the beautiful Collared Sunbird…
the Saddle-billed Stork…
and another type of Babbler, the Arrow-marked one.
On the final morning of my stay, Klaas and Carol drove me through a southern section of Kruger using the unpaved Randspruit and Burne roads above the Crocodile Bridge checkpoint. Along the way we spotted vultures sitting on the carcass of a rhino.
Sadly, we could see through the binoculars that the horn had been removed. There was no way of knowing whether the rhino had been killed for the horn, a pricey commodity on the black market, or whether the horn had been removed after the animal died from other causes. There could be no more diabolical means to kill off an animal species than to promote the idea that one of its body parts has medicinal value—a belief completely untrue.
We saw two species of vulture there:
Thanks to Klaas, I can also list the following that I saw:
Blackheaded Oriole, Emerald-spotted Dove, Oxpicker, Egyptian Goose, Woolly-necked Stork, Blue Waxbill, Cormorant, Common Sandpiper, Greenbacked Heron, Great and Pied Kingfisher, and Fisher Eagle.
And Sonja pointed out to me the Lilac-breasted Roller sitting perched on the very top of a thorn tree, with its feathers of many colors that suddenly added a tiny rainbow to the drab palette of the savanna.