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