Along with the many reasons why so many of us love this time of year, one of the main reasons for me is that the landscaping around the camps consists of a great variety of indigenous aloes. In the harsh landscape of winter, these unique plants create beautiful scenes with flowers in all vibrant shades of red, orange, and golden yellow. The colours attract the attention of not only the staff and our guests but also some very special and equally beautiful visitors: the sunbirds.
For me, sunbirds are some of the most beautiful birds in Southern Africa, with very fascinating beaks that inject right into the flower of the aloe in search of their daily dose of nectar, it can be very fascinating taking some time of your day to just stop and watch them go about their business.
At Londolozi we see four different species of Sunbird on a common basis:
- Collared Sunbird,
- Marico Sunbird,
- Scarlet Chested Sunbird
- White Bellied Sunbird.
One not so common but geographically does range into the area is the Amethyst Sunbird making it possible to see five of them in around Londolozi.
During the peak of winter, the aloe flowering is in full force and the hive of activity around them is palpable. A number of sunbirds weave in and out of the aloes, hopping from one to the next in search of the delicious nectar. Accompanying them are a host of bees and other insects and birds. As a spectacle, it is something magnificent to witness. However, we know bird photography in general, can be a challenge as the little critters hardly sit still for long enough before fluttering on elsewhere. One needs to do things in a certain way in order to get the most out of the sunbirds, as they can be relatively shy, flying off into the thicker vegetation at any slight disturbance.
How to get the most out of time with the Sunbirds?
- The best time is the early morning as the sun is up enough to warm things slightly but still soft to cast its golden light and activity is at its highest.
- A larger lens helps (option to hire from the photographic studio)- allowing you to sit slightly further away and wait for them to return.
- A tripod or monopod comes in handy to help keep the larger lens stable for sharper images and the prevention of fatigue from holding it up.
- The correct settings- A shallow depth of field helps to accentuate the sunbirds and aloes against a blurred background. Fast enough shutter speed so that the images are sharp.
- Patience- either choosing to focus on one aloe with the hopes that the birds land on that aloe, or attempting to follow the birds around (frustrating, I tell you).
Enjoy a few pictures of some of our resident Sunbirds:
Sunbirds thrive in the winter feeding on the copious amounts of nectar available from the aloes. Turn the clock to the summer when the aloes are no longer flowering, the sunbirds then rely on a number of different insects and spiders as the predominant food source, while feeding on the nectar of the odd flower that’s available.
Such stunning birds definitely do brighten up the dull winter landscape and are by far my favourite. Make sure to look out for them while walking on the camp paths this winter season.