‘Twitching’: The obsessive world of extreme birdwatching
My favourite time of day in camp is the afternoon. With guests out on a drive, this is often the time that the rest of the staff take a bit of a break, other than the distant hum of music, laughter or the odd clanking of gym equipment coming from the Wallow (our staff gym and pool area), the village can feel rather still and peaceful. As a ranger I am not often in camp at this time, so when I am I take the opportunity to enjoy this stillness, often by just sitting on my veranda admiring the birds. One afternoon I decided to grab my camera and take a short walk through the camps, starting at Tree Camp and ending at Pioneer Camp, I was looking forward to seeing what I would come across, and I wasn’t disappointed.
My first find, which was just as I stepped out of my room, were some Bronze Mannikins clumping up together in a Buffalo Thorn tree settling up for the day.
As I got to Tree Camp I heard a very loud call of a White-browed Robin-Chat that’s sounded as if it was right on the deck so I quickly went to go and investigate. To my surprise, I found that it was not on the deck but had somehow found itself in the dining box (the small indoor dining area reserved for intimate dinners or inclement weather) and had got trapped there. The call sounded so loud because of the acoustics of the room. I then spent the next ten minutes attempting to free the bird, trying my best not to frighten it too much. Eventually, it managed to get out and flew off into the nearby shrubbery – much to my relief.
The walk from Tree Camp through to Founders was filled with many birds, from a variety of sunbirds higher up in the trees to Terrestrial Brownbuls whisking through dry leaf litter under the lower branches. Along the way, I stopped for a brief moment to try to take a photo of some Terrestrial Brownbuls but was quickly distracted by the quiet chirping which lead me to a wonderful discovery…
Two sunbird chicks (type unknown just yet) in their nest with their heads peeping out just outside of Varty Chalet Three!
Here are a few photos of some of the other birds along the way that I managed to capture:
As I was approaching Pioneer Camp I heard a small rustling in the bush, I looked down to see a Green-Backed Camaroptera hopping about just a few metres from where I was standing. I could not believe how close it was to me! I guess the fact that it is around camp so much must make it fairly used to being in the presence of humans, so instead of flying away it just continued to hop about as I sat and watched it for a while. This was one of my favourite moments of the afternoon.
Shortly after that, I got to Pioneer Camp Deck, just as the sun was about to set, and the light was starting to fade, where I saw a few more sunbirds (White-Bellied, Scarlet-Chested and even a Marico Sunbird), and a few Little Bee-Eaters just to round up my stroll through camp. All in all, it took me just over an hour, as I often found myself lost in the little world of all the wonderful creatures I came across. To be honest, if it wasn’t for approaching darkness I would have spent even loner exploring my way through camp.
Next time you find yourself wandering the paths between the camps, notice all the creatures that live in and amongst the shrubbery as you walk. It’s amazing to know that so much life is right there, just out of sight, if you slow down and look for it.