I read Fin Lawlor’s post from a day or two ago, and funnily enough I had written a very similar post totally independently. Spending time at a waterhole, I remembered how much enjoyment can come from sitting and observing.
Driving down to a small waterhole that I would normally not stop at unless something significant was there, my guest requested that we stop as she had seen a bird she wanted to photograph. It was a grey go-away bird. The waterhole is small and shallow and doubles as a mud wallow that rhino and elephant often frequent to lather themselves in mud. A large Schotia brachypetala tree grows out of a termite mound on the edge, casting shade over the water and the bank where we had parked.
As we sat we started to notice other birds all coming down to drink. The beautiful blue waxbills who were soon joined by a golden breasted bunting, with their respective exquisite blue and bright yellow colouration. A flash of red caught our attention as a group of fire finches came down to bathe, fluttering in and out of the shallow round pool that had been created by the heavy front foot of an elephant.
Some movement brought our attention to a slender mongoose resting in the morning sun on the other side of the waterhole that had been there the whole time. This elusive mongoose is usually only glimpsed crossing the road ahead as one drives along. Out of the bush hopped two scrub hares that started feeding with two Egyptian geese on the vegetation at the water’s edge.
A brown-hooded kingfisher flew in treating us to a flash of turquoise on the wing. It landed and we managed to get a good look at its beautiful red beak. The slender mongoose then came down to the water to have a drink next to the two hares that had now been joined by a third, while another seldom-seen bird, the large black bellied bustard, appeared from behind a bush, pacing nervously up and down keeping a beady eye on us. We then heard the sound of Natal spurfowls making their way to the waterhole; a mother sounding her contact call keeping all her chicks together. As they appeared from the undergrowth a squirrel bounded down to the water to have a drink next to them.
The grey-go-away bird that had initially brought us to a stop gave its namesake call, “goooooooway”, as two yellow billed hornbills flew into the trees around the waterhole, landing next to each other. The male and female pair began their duet; a repetitive, crescendo call while bobbing up and down, lifting their wings, looking like an old couple bickering. As spring has sprung, this “bickering” will only strengthen their bond for the upcoming breeding season.
As we sat I could notice my guests’ senses heighten as they began to become more aware of what was around us. Someone commented on the sound of bees all around in the tree canopy. We lifted our binoculars to see the worker bees out collecting nectar as they pollinated the marula flowers.
Before I knew it three-quarters of an hour had passed without us moving, without the drone of the engine, without us searching, and without a feeling of haste, yet we had witnessed a wonderful diversity of animals. I am not saying everyone must stop and wait for a leopard to appear, as little excites me more than tracking and finding one. There is, however, a great richness of spectacles to marvel at, all around us in nature, all the time, and if we have the patience and appreciation to stop and take it in, that richness will only deepen our experience out in the bush.
Filed under Birds Wilderness teachings Wildlife
It is amazing how much happen around a waterhole. The best is the peaceful feeling when you just sit still and observe what goes on around you.
I really appreciate a guide who can say “let’s stop and listen to the Bush”. If all you are going to do is race around hoping that something jumps out in front of you, you are not experiencing a real safari experience. Nature is miraculous, but don’t get in a hurry or you miss the important things. Great example here, Rob. By stopping, you saw all kinds of creatures and behaviors because you gave yourself the time to really ‘sense the Bush, the sights, the sounds, even the smells’. Love it!
This is a nice blog Rob. You are right about sitting quietly and watching what is around you. We are usually in too much of a hurry to see the big stuff and miss the amazing smaller facets that make nature whole. You have some beautiful birds in Africa and you sure were lucky to see so many in one spot. Thank you for sharing with us.
Nice blog, Rob! You made me want to be sitting at that waterhole with you and your guests watching that amazing variety of life!
I love this post!! It’s fantastic to watch what appears if you just sit by some water and wait. It doesn’t always deliver, but when it does…!
Great that you saw firefinches, a slender mongoose and BH kingfishers all together!
It would be lovely if patience could be dispensed like a cup of coffee, tea or other beverage prior to a game drive. Need I say more…..?
Rob, nice compliment to Fin’s article, sometimes it’s the smaller things in life that bring us the greatest pleasure! Jo Ann still giggles at the thought of the go away bird’s hilarious call.
Great post, Rib. Thanks for the reminder that small things in the bush are worth watching. Aloha.
Thank you, Rob, not only for this great post but also for the several times you paused at special places and waited for wonderful things to happen during our rides with you.
Rob – you know how I love the birds. Thank you for this beautiful tribute
Best mindful advice ever. Thanks for the reminder Rob
Lovely to see my favourite “Powder Ruffs” and I hope you can show me some
Blue Wax-bills when I visit in November – Like tried to kid me that they were flying past but I would rather see them on the ground!!!
I have to agree with Darlene and we would also love to be on “Listening to the Bush” Drive. I was in the KP once and we stropped watching some birds – drivers stopped to ask what we could see and when I answered they drove off.!!