As much as international travel is still limited, there are some guests that we have noticed returning to Londolozi.
The first I noticed arrived from somewhere between Finland and Western Russia; we haven’t been able to determine exactly. The second is almost definitely from western Russia, based on a number of observations. I have caught wind of a third guest – from central Africa – that was seen at a nearby lodge, heading in our direction. You may be wondering how these guests managed to get here with all the restrictions in place? I’ll tell you who they are:
First Guest – Wood Sandpiper:
Our first visitor – a wood sandpiper – travelled right past the Londolozi camps and into the central parts of the reserve before it was even noticed. They typically leave Europe in late June and begin an overland trip towards southern Africa, where they arrive from August. They don’t intend on breeding during their stay (as many guests do) but rather take advantage of the abundance of resources on offer during our warmer period. Once the cold starts setting in again they decide they’ve had enough and depart for Europe again around March.
Second Guest – Common Greenshank:
Common greenshanks do not breed in Southern Africa either. They are quite widespread worldwide but a lot of the individuals that visit South Africa are from western Russia. They are said to increase their body mass by about 70% prior to their long journey, most of which is completed in several long flights of up to 2000 kilometres each.
Third Guest – Yellow-billed Kite:
Yellow-billed kites are the third guest that has made an appearance in the reserve already. Although we have not yet seen one over Londolozi itself, we expect to any day now. Interestingly the individuals of this species that arrive around August/September are breeding migrants from within Africa, whereas large numbers of non-breeding yellow-billed kites arrive later in the year (around December) for a shorter period.
For the rangers and trackers at Londolozi, the arrival of migratory birds is an exciting event. Although nobody will admit it, there is a quiet competition amongst all of us to try and tick off each species before everyone else… We have even gone so far as to print a list of all the possible species that could be seen in the area, which is stuck onto the wall in the rangers’ room. We note down whether a species has been heard or seen, by whom, where and when. It’s also a great record to keep as a reference over the years. For example, the common greenshank was seen at least two weeks earlier this year compared to 2019. For those keen on having a head start, there is a research programme tracking common cuckoo migration from Europe. It looks like one or two have already made the leap from Europe into northern Africa!
To the untrained eye, the arrival of migrant birds goes by very much unnoticed. Their arrival represents so much more than their mere presence, though. It means we have passed the peak of winter and we are headed for warmer days. It means our days are lengthening and soon, clouds will start building on the horizon. Although we have not yet welcomed back guests of the human kind, we know that the arrival of the migratory birds symbolises change. We hope that soon we will all be together again, guests and staff, enjoying the beauty of Londolozi.