Birding is a huge component of a wilderness experience, or at least it should be.
With almost 350 bird species having been recorded at Londolozi, it’s safe to say that you’re going to be seeing more than your fair share of little feathered creatures when you come on safari here. Although it’s invariably the Big 5 that steal the show, the day-to-day life of a bird is every bit as danger-fraught as that of a lion – perhaps more so – and by just taking a small amount of time to stop, look and observe the behaviours of some of the more common avian inhabitants when out on a game drive, you will likely develop a far greater appreciation of what the area has to offer.
Some of the birds occurring in the region are unmistakeable, like the Ostrich (the world’s largest bird), or the Martial Eagle, an incredibly impressive raptor weighing 4 kilograms and with a wingspan of over 2 metres that is capable of catching and killing small antelope.
At the other end of the ease-of-identification spectrum are the smaller nondescript species. The LBJs (little brown jobs) make up a significant number of these but dotted amongst them are the females and juveniles of some of the more obvious species (which often look very different to the archetypal males), some obscure migrants, and the occasional vagrant that flaps in from where it usually occurs. Every month or so a cryptic bird rears its head that has the rangers and trackers arguing for a morning about what species it is. A quality photograph usually helps the identification process, but sometimes a slightly obscured picture of a few feathers through the branches are all we have to go on. And thankfully the bird world – indeed the natural world in general – is full of surprises.
White-browed Sparrow-Weavers, usually found far to the west of Londolozi in much more arid areas, have recently been discovered nesting near the Sand River. Their arrival is almost certainly a result of the drier times experienced in the wake of the drought of 2015 and 2016.
When the drought was actually upon us, a flock of flamingoes flew over one afternoon, and if my memory serves me correctly, some pelicans were seen resting on a clearing in the heart of Londolozi, although I didn’t see them myself.
My point is that one should never just rush into an identification as the bird world can throw anything at you. Take the time; look at the beak, the leg colour, the size, the feathers… there are many, many factors to take into consideration before finally pronouncing on a species, especially if one isn’t 100% sure..
Which brings me to the real point of all this.
Every few weeks we are going to be posting a Bird Challenge. We will post a photograph of a bird that is readily identifiable, and you have to tell us what it is in the comments section. We’ll reveal the bird’s ID in The Week in Pictures on the Friday after it was posted.
Today’s opener is a fairly simple one that most birders will be able to get. Waterbirds can be fairly tricky, but today’s bird is one of only three members of its family that have officially been recorded at Londolozi:
Have a crack at it, let us know in the comments section below what you think it is.
We’ll have some more cryptic ones over the next couple of months. There’s one in particular that I’m looking forward to posting some time in the next few weeks that needed a lot of referencing to arrive at an identification that we still aren’t 100% convinced of!
Start with the one above though, and we’ll go from there.