Tag Archives: African paradise flycatcher

Birding in Tankwa Karoo National Park

Last week I blogged about our camping trip to the Tankwa Karoo National Park.  As I said, we were blown away by the beautiful scenery, but that isn’t the only charm of this tiny arid park.  The bird life is also exciting and Rob was able to get some nice photos of the local avian residents.  So, before I start, let me ask you this – when is a tent not a tent?  When it’s a bird hide, of course!  Rob took his camera and wandered off along the dry river bed near the campsite, hoping to get photos of birds and animals, while I sat reading in our tent.  Imagine my surprise and delight when loads of birds came into our camp.  They didn’t see me and I had a wonderful couple of hours watching them unnoticed from our tent.  When Rob came back he immediately set up his camera and captured the shots that follow.

Southern double-collared sunbird

Most campsites have resident birds that are relatively tame, and this site was no exception.  A beautiful Familiar chat was quite at home around the tent, as was his constant companion, a Cape bunting.  They seemed to hang out together which was rather nice to watch.

Familiar chat

At times they were joined by two other buntings and happily pecked around on the ground for crumbs and insects.

Cape bunting

Two of the more colourful visitors were a Bokmakierie and this female African paradise flycatcher.  She came back often and wasn’t put off by the clicking of Rob’s camera at all.

African paradise flycatcher

Acting as if they owned the place was a pair of Cape spurfowl.  They wandered around and at times even got under our feet.  What beautiful feather markings these birds have.

Cape spurfowl

It being the Karoo, it wasn’t surprising that we were visited by a Karoo prinia.  These rather shy birds are not that easy to photograph as they flit about restlessly and hardly seem to sit still for a moment.

Karoo prinia

We placed a bowl of water on the ground hoping to see the birds drinking or bathing, but in spite of the heat and the desert-like conditions they weren’t interested in it at all.  It wasn’t in vain though, as we were soon visited by a field mouse that spent ages slaking its thirst.  It was so enchanted by this unexpected new water source that it disappeared into the bush and came back later with three more of its family.  They all drank as if they hadn’t seen water for years.  We tried this in the Central Kalahari once and our generosity had unintended consequences.  We had lots of birds drinking and bathing, but we also had a visit from a puffadder that wanted some water as well.  Not wanting to encourage snakes, we moved the water a long way from the campsite itself.

Karoo lark

Karoo larks, robins and batis’s were also spotted from out tent.  Later in the day we took a drive to a rather large dam where there was an abundance of waterbirds, but we couldn’t stay there for very long as there was no shade and the heat was a bit over-bearing.  If SANParks wanted any suggestions for improvements at Tankwa, I would happily recommend they erect a small shelter at the dam where people could sit in shade and watch the birds.

Next week I will chat about our drive up the stunning Gannaga Pass.

Callfinder© – A winner from SAPPI

What would life be like if we were unable to get out into nature to rejuvenate and restore our minds and spirits?  I can’t imagine actually.  For me, getting out into the garden or into the bush and watching the birds and wildlife is an integral part of my life.  So imagine my delight when my family (thanks Pete and Lauren) gave us a wonderful tool as a Christmas gift.  Not just any garden or household tool, but a nature tool!  An innovative tool that teaches you about the birds and their calls and actually helps you call them to you.  Let me tell you more …

African Paradise Flycatcher

SAPPI (originally South African Pulp and Paper Industries Ltd) is big in conservation in South Africa and they are a major contributor to education and knowledge in the field of birds.  Together with other sponsors they have collaborated with birding experts to bring out the amazing Sappi Birds of South Africa Callfinder©.

Sappi Birds of SA Callfinder

Not only did we get an informative bird book with beautiful photos, but it came with an electronic device that communicates with the photo of the bird and plays its call.  How neat is that!  This of course adds an entirely new dimension to birding and should be an absolute boon to beginners and experts alike.

A nifty device - Callfinder

We tried ours out in the Kruger National Park with mixed results.  We had seen an Indigobird on a tree in the distance and couldn’t make out the colour of its beak and legs, which obviously is key to identifying it.  We decided to play the Callfinder© to see if we could match the call it was making.  Rob pointed the device at the photo of the Village Indigobird and its call rang out.  Imagine our amazement when the bird flew right up to our vehicle.  We were able to identify it immediately.  We unfortunately thought that we’d be able to call all birds with the device, but the majority weren’t quite as obliging as the Indigobird.

Magpie Shrike

We have by no means tried every photo in the book, but on our trip we found quite a few birds that came closer on hearing a call, and they were :  Magpie Shrikes, the African Paradise Flycatcher, White-crested Helmet Shrikes and a Grey-headed Bush Shrike.  The Magpie Shrikes were most successful – we were trying to photograph one, played the call and about twelve flew up to our car.  So it looks like the Shrike family is the most curious of the lot.  The Grey-headed Parrots shrieked back at us on hearing the call and we were able to locate them in the tree above us.  Such fun!

Grey-headed Bush Shrike

I doubt whether it was the developers’ intention to call the birds to one, but it does happen and great care has to be taken not to distress the birds by playing their calls repeatedly. The calling of birds needs to be done judiciously at all times.  This is a wonderful tool for identifying their calls and committing them to memory for your field trips.

This fabulous book and Callfinder© will really help folks learn more and aid them in identifying all those birds that have previously been labelled as Unidentified Flying Objects!  And I certainly hope that my blog helps boost their sales – they really have brought out a winner in my humble opinion.  Well done Sappi!