One aspect of being a ranger and spending time out in the wilderness is that we are exposed to many different aspects of the natural world. One of which many of us find fascinating is the world of birding. Through this passion, a number of us spend significant amounts of time in search of various birds and once we see a particular bird we are able to tick them off the list and add another number to our life lists of birds that we have seen. Therefore seeing a bird for the first time can be a memorable experience.
The Lowveld of South Africa is full of different bird species, most of which we would have seen at some point during our time here, but every now and then there is another random bird that is not common here that pops up and these encounters are often exciting. Whether it’s the vibrant colours of a tropical bird or the unique features of a bird of prey, discovering a new bird species to your eyes can offer a sense of wonder and appreciation for the diversity of life.
One of the most significant aspects of bird watching is the ability to observe these creatures in their natural habitat. Seeing a new bird for the first time can provide a glimpse into its world and behaviour, and offer insights into its role in the ecosystem. It can also be an opportunity to learn about their unique features, such as their beak shape or feather patterns, and how they have evolved to adapt to their environment.
For some bird watchers, discovering a new bird can be a lifelong pursuit, and they may spend years travelling the world to see different species. Even for those who may not be avid bird watchers, encountering a new bird can be a special moment. It can offer a sense of connection to the natural world and an appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us. In a world where we are increasingly disconnected from nature, taking the time to observe and appreciate the birds around us can offer a much-needed sense of grounding and perspective.
The past two weeks have been an exciting time for me as a birder, with the sighting of two new and unique species that I had never seen before. In fact, if I’m not mistaken there haven’t been many records of these two species here at Londolozi at all.
Fulvous Whistling Ducks
The Fulvous Whistling Duck is a striking bird that is identified due to its bright, cinnamon colouration and unique whistle-like call. Driving around a bend in the road to the sight of this “new” species for me was a very exciting moment. Its cousin, the common White-faced Whistling Duck is often seen on the banks of most water sources here at Londolozi, but a second glimpse at the Whistling ducks caught tracker Freddy and my attention, we had spotted something new to the both of us. Freddy has been at this for many years and he was yet to see a Fulvous Whistling Duck here.
African Pygmy Goose
The other new bird to my list is the African Pygmy Goose which is one of the world’s smallest waterfowl and is known for its vibrant colours. Probably one of the more beautiful water birds I have ever come across, this bird had been on my to-see list for a very long time. Despite their small size, they are known for their speed and agility, making them a challenging bird to spot in the wild.
Knowing very little about the behaviours of the geese, after a little research I’ve learnt that these geese are different to most others. They fly in and out of trees almost parrot-like, clinging to the bark to inspect possible nesting sites just like Woodpeckers. They nest usually in tree cavities, near or over water where their chicks can flutter towards the floor with a saver water landing.
Seeing these two unique species of birds has been a reminder of the incredible diversity of life that exists in this area of Africa. Both of them, especially the African Pygmy Geese were an extreme surprise to me, Tracker Freddy Ngobeni and our guests. We are unsure of the exact reasons why these birds turned up randomly, but I have a sneaky suspicion that there is some correlation to the unusual weather patterns that we experienced in the lead-up to these sightings. The heavy persistent rainfall and extremely wet conditions may have thrown these birds off course or could have just resulted in them settling here for a short period as the abundance of surface water was attractive. Sometimes it’s these extremely unique sightings out in the bush that can make a stay at Londolozi just that much more special. Until the next amazing bird pops up, we will keep a close eye out.