Usually it’s a case of stopping to look at a bird that leads you to find a predator. This time it was the other way round.
Londolozi alumnus Byron Serrao, co-owner of Africa Revealed was steering his Land Rover carefully through the Sand River when something blue and slightly out of the ordinary caught his eye.
We’ll let Byron himself take you through the full story:
Londolozi is a place that I hold very close to my heart , it was home for 5 years, and it is always a privilege to return! I love taking people there on safari, and no matter how often I go, there is always something different and special to witness.
This particular trip had too many exciting moments to count.
I always try to ‘introduce’ my guests to as many different aspects of wildlife and nature as possible. Now Jim and Mike are not avid birders, but I feel I am slowly getting them more interested in our feathered friends. They do however enjoy giving me rather difficult requests, like mating pangolins, hunting Honey badgers and African wild dog pups catching a ball. Needless to say we have many laughs on drive and a lot of fun.
One morning was extra special in terms of birding. Even Mike and Jim realized it was a rare sighting when I called it in over the radio (no one responded!). We had just left three lions (two Birmingham males and a lioness from the Ntsevu pride) in the Sand River.
As we were making our way out of the tricky sandy terrain, something caught my eye amongst the reeds. I immediately recognized that this bird was different, and not something I have seen before. I reversed the vehicle and grabbed my binoculars. And there it was, probably the rarest Kingfisher found at Londolozi. The Half-collared Kingfisher.
I had never seen one of these birds before, but I recognised it from scrolling through bird apps and paging through books for many years. This beautiful Kingfisher is an uncommon resident, and is near-threatened, so to see one hidden in the reeds of the Sand River was a real treat! This species will feed on fish, little river crabs and a variety of aquatic insects, making this habitat perfect for it. It can easily be confused with a juvenile Malachite Kingfisher as their colouration is similar and the juvenile Malachite also has a black bill, but the Half-collared variety have far more blue on their heads.
I was overwhelmed with excitement, and had to try calm myself before I managed to get a few quick photographs of the bird. I even persuaded my two guests to enjoy the bird for a short while, but I think they were just being polite, and allowed me to enjoy the moment.
A big thank you as always to Jim and Mike, for always returning on safari with me, and we look forward to many more great sightings. Hopefully the pangolin and Honey badger show up next time!
That’s absolutely incredible, I’ve never heard of one being seen in Londolozi or Mala Mala!!
I have been lucky enough to see these birds on the Vaal River, Wilderness and most recently in Nature’s Valley. It really is a special moment when you see one!
Amazing, once in a lifetime sighting Byron. Very special.
Not only were you able to see this amazing bird, but you took THE best images of it was well! Incredibly happy for you!
I saw the photo and immediately thought ‘malachite kingfisher’. After I read through your story and looked at the photo more carefully, I could see the differences. What a treat for you and your guests. I love it when a guide, who has seen so many species and so many interactions, still gets excited! Don’t ever lose that. May you see many more of the world’s beautiful birds in the future! Thanks for sharing your photos!
Beautiful birds are one of the best sightings at Londolozi. Colors are amazing
Wow, what a sighting! Lucky you!!
I, too, thought I was looking at a Malachite Kingfisher. But when I read your article, I looked more carefully and could see my error. Thanks for the great images, Byron!
after a lot of safari’s the attention goes to birds , so many species and colours !
Beautiful bird. Bluer than the kingfishers we have in California, and those I have seen in Borneo.
Amazing sighting! You must have binoculars for eyes to spot this Kingfisher, albeit it’s very colorful. The red feet, rust and blue feathers and that intense malachite blue head. I freely admit that birds are not at the top of my viewing list, but that may be because I’m not experienced in identifying them, nor do I own a really long lens for capturing them. I do appreciate their beauty and hope during my next trip, I become a better birder! By the way, pangolins and honey badgers are on my bucket list as well!???
Wow! That’s so beautiful – we’ve only ever seen this bird at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden ??
Nice blog Byron! Glad you are doing well and finding your customers new and interesting things. Hope to see you on drive again soon.
Amazing. Well done Byron Serrao. Was Judas with you? Nevertheless, we can never take the bush for granted. Thanks for sharing.