Prior to being a Camp Manager at Founders, or a member of staff at Londolozi, I was only confident about knowing the difference between an ostrich and a chicken. That was the extent of my birding. But I am happy to say that through some exposure to the staff birders and all the birds this region has to offer, I have managed to gain some insight and knowledge to the bird life at Londolozi. I am now also the proud owner of a pair of binoculars and a bird book – that’s when you know the safari-bug has bitten.
My, dare I say “birding career”, started at Founders Deck where guests would enquire about the bird species flying above or wading below, I tried to act confident while I had little to no knowledge of what they were pointing at. It was then that I realised I might need to learn about a bird or two.
I had taken it upon myself to learn at least three types of birds in the hopes that the next time a guest was around in the absence of a ranger, that I would be able to assist with their bird orientated questions.
It only made sense to go for the most common ones first, and given that the Sand River is just north of the Founders Camp Deck I was able to quickly and confidently identify my first three. The others took more time but with my bird book in hand and some patience from my birding mentor Ranger Shaun D’Araujo, I was able to make a little list of the birds I have seen from the Founders Camp Deck:
1 & 2.The Pied Kingfisher and Giant Kingfisher
The Pied and Giant Kingfishers are the only Kingfishers (found here at Londolozi) that actually catch fish! Although part of the same family, these birds differ hugely in terms of size with the Giant being the bigger of the two. I learnt these two birds by the Pied’s hovering technique at eye level to the Founders Deck and the loud harsh calling of the Giant Kingfisher.
3. The Hamerkop
This one was by far one of the easier birds for me to identify given the shape of its head, which is described in the Afrikaans name Hamerkop, directly translated to “hammerhead”. These brown birds with their big heads spend most days on the rocks.
4. The Fish Eagle
We currently have a nesting pair just opposite camp and often from the deck I can hear the characteristic call as they fly along the river- a call which most people associate with Africa. Personally, this is one of the easier Eagles to identify given their colouring; a white head and chest and brown body plumage.
5. The Lesser Striped Swallow
I only discovered these birds at the turn of the season, as they are migratory. At the start of our summer (August-October), these little birds make their way back to Londolozi where they start building nests out of the mud from the banks of the Sand River. These birds are much like myself, always busy and sitting still very infrequently, so it was hard to take note of their appearance so I learnt them by their behavioural traits.
I hope to grow this list to 10 in the very near future. My current bird count stands at 63 and my goal is to have it up to 100 come the new year – I’ll let you know how I get on.
Have you seen any of the above species on your visit to Founders Camp?