At Londolozi we have at last had a proper change into the summer season this year. The cold icy mornings where blankets and hot water bottles were essentials a few months back, have changed to mild evenings and hot mornings where short sleeve shirts and pants are now the norm. The first real rains fell a couple of weeks ago and the stark soil is showing signs of new life. A certain magnetism controls the creatures, which are naturally drawn to the wilds of Londolozi and they continue to mesmerise us with their presence. A few lucky rangers and guests have had glimpses of impala lambs as the herds scurry around them, trying to hide them from plain sight; Wahlbergs eagles are nesting and the prepossessing wildflowers are spreading their petals like a butterfly in its chrysalis, waiting for the opportune moment to show itself to the world.
Along with all these exciting changes, the appearance of the summer months also means the arrival of a bird that truly makes my heart skip a beat or two…
A little while ago we drove out of the camp and were lucky enough to see a beautiful leopard as she walked through the bush, searching for unsuspecting prey to satisfy her hunger when all of a sudden, we heard an all too familiar call. My excitement reached boiling point when I realised that one of the most gorgeous birds at Londolozi had made its long awaited appearance. We drove off, leaving the leopardess to make a much needed kill but now we were in pursuit of a different quarry.
What we were seeking was a bird with electric blue feathers on its back, wings and tail and a pearl white belly. We drove around looking skywards, searching and hoping. Eventually our diligent gazes, which attempted to penetrate through the thickest of trees, rewarded us with the best and most eagerly awaited sighting of the day. The Woodland Kingfisher!
Don’t get me wrong, a leopard is something that people come from all over the world to see and one of my favourite sighings, however, sometimes the smaller animals or birds can be the things to completely capture your attention and keep you enraptured.
Everyone in the vehicle stared at the mesmerising colours of the bird as it sat on the branch of a tree, belting out its distinctive, trilling call. We found ourselves fixated on the little bird and its meticulous calling process for about five minutes. The males do this to announce their territory and will sit on a very similar perching spot just waiting for unsuspecting insects to crawl or fly by, which they’ll then swoop down on and catch. Contrary to its name, the Woodland Kingfisher doesn’t fish for its food, although some species of Kingfishers do.
After a little while, the bird flew away but it left everyone quiet and a distinctive feeling of peace had settled over the vehicle. Sightings like these really make me appreciate the moments that we have in the bush. Sometimes its best to just relax and let nature do what it does best; the result being that it leaves everyone in awe.
The arrival of the Woodland Kingfisher at Londolozi, from the Northern parts of Africa, signifies the summer months and new life. This bird to me is the epitome of the most beautiful season in the South African bush. Bright colours abound and a cacophony of bird calls can be heard wherever one goes and newborns feed on the fresh green grass and sprouts, whilst trying to avoid the prowling predators. The summer season is indeed amazing and it all goes hand-in-hand with the arrival of one of my favourite species of bird, the Woodland Kingfisher.
Written by Werner Breedt, Londolozi Ranger