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.
Matt the sounds of these different bird calls is so absolutely beautiful and calming. I would love to hear that everyday when I walk outside. It’s true birds do warm when there is danger. We have the Cape Robin Chat here by us. He warns us when there is a snake in our yard. He makes an alarming call and then we go and look , there is a rinkals in our yard. Many a time he has warned us.
This is also something I like best about being on a safari: the awakening of all the birds and their different calls to greet a new day. It’s just wonderful!
Thank you for the great audio! It’s fantastic to be able to listen to all these African bird songs here at home.
Quiet listening is a skill many people find hard to do let alone master. Matt, you have mastered this skill. Thank you for sharing. I love to listen to the birds.
Thank you for this relaxing, much-needed pause! We have kingfishers, orioles and robins in the EU although different. Spurlfowl may be less colourful but not less interesting!
Matt, Thanks for a great reminder of how birds are such an important part of the guests experience, and the ability of trackers and rangers to understand what is happening around them! The Soundcloud recording is fantastic!
I miss the sounds of the bush a lot. That is one of the reasons the Sunday vlog is so nice!
So thank you for this blog!
Love this post, thanks! It reminded me of a trip I took to the Amazon many years ago where I made recording in the jungle during the day and at night. And while I have many lovely photos from that trip, listening to those tapes takes me back in an equally if not more powerful way. 💗
Thank you for this! The birds are so often overlooked and they are a crucial part of our world. Sitting here in Carefree, AZ, USA, I played the lovely soundtrack while listening to our native spring chorus. I am sure there are a few confused gila woodpeckers, roadrunners and such! “Who are those noisy new guys in the neighborhood?”
Since this morning was a bit too chilly to open my windows and enjoy our local morning birdsong, I especially appreciated listening to this one while eating breakfast and reading the blog. Thank you.
Thanks for the beautiful audio Matt, it took me right back to when I was there last month – I particularly loved to hear the Woodland Kingfisher – and also see them with their gorgeous colouration.
Loved your blog Matt as I have always enjoyed the sight and sounds of birds having grown up in the Lowveld. I miss the diversity and those glorious early mornings when Africa wakes up. Now I try to entice as many of the birds that migrate or live in Malta to my garden. Sadly it is difficult as hunting here has a huge impact on some of the more rare birds and often on a walk in the countryside all on hears are sparrows and Sardinian warblers.
Thank you Matt. The audio was wonderful and I will replay it over and over, it’s so calming. The photos of the birds you included are lovely.