My favourite simple joy is to get up early, go out on a game drive into the bush in time to watch the sun come up. There’s no better way to truly appreciate the beginning of a new day than to be surrounded by raw nature, listening to the dawn chorus. Hearing close to thirty different species of birds acclaiming the new day. I often encourage my guests to simply sit in silence for a while, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the moment.
Click play on the link below to listen to a sequence of different birdcalls from Londolozi in Summer.
After a short while, it becomes apparent that one of the key elements that transforms the beautiful scenery of this reserve into a rich wilderness experience is the birdsong. I like to think of it as the soundtrack of the bush.
It can easily be overlooked, but can you just imagine what it would be like without any birds? How different would things be? What would you hear?
Each bird species has its own unique repertoire of sounds. Some are loud, deep and booming like that of the Southern Ground Hornbill, and some are light and jovial like that of the Black-crowned Tchagra. Many bird calls are very complex and cover a large range of frequency and pitch. Most of which are very difficult for us as humans to mimic. The reason for this is that birds have a special vocal organ at the bottom of their windpipe. Simply put, this gives them the ability to have two voice boxes that they can control independently. Herein lies the secret to them being the musical maestros that they are.
The amazing thing is that the symphony of bird songs and calls of different birds paints a highly detailed auditory picture. By simply listening to the calls of birds, we can find out so much about what is going on around us. We can start to single out and tune into just one bird. Try and learn when or why it makes certain calls. It’s much like familiarizing yourself with each piece of a puzzle so that you know where it fits into the broader picture.
Not only is the song or call of a bird an indication of its intention, but can also tell you whether there is danger close by. Some calls can direct us to food or water sources based on the localized habitat of some birds. Others can give us an indication of what vegetation is like in the area and even about the overall climate and weather patterns of the area. What is astounding is that you can obtain all of this information, with your eyes closed! By just listening and being aware.
Quite a number of times, tracker Terrence and I have been on foot following tracks and were alerted to a leopard’s exact position by the calls of various birds. Simply by noticing and being aware of their alarm calls. Magpie shrikes, Rollers, Wahlberg’s eagles, Grey go-away birds, Francolin and Spurfowl are a few good examples of birds that I’ve seen alarm at leopards.
Learning and understanding the calls of different birds can be both fun and challenging. It is a great skill to have and a really powerful tool in the bush. It definitely contributes to getting the full experience when on safari. The birds have taught me to always stay curious, and to always try understand why something is happening – no matter how small.