For years before 1989 I wanted to see a Bufftail – a Buff-spotted Flufftail. I heard plenty, but saw none. First at Hella Hella; Then in 1989 we moved into our first home in Westville and there was one in our yard! We heard him all the time!
But still I didn’t see him. It grew into an obsession. Seeing this little day-old-chick-sized bird was a real desire. I stalked around the garden, lying still for ages as he stopped calling whenever he detected my presence. I lay at the nearest window with a searchlight, bufftail calling within metres. All in vain; the bird’s caution and patience far exceeding mine.
I’ve written about my quest before. We stayed in River Drive for fifteen years and have been in Elston Place for thirteen. Here we also hear a flufftail but not as often nor as closeby.
And now a friend moves in to a new home and – less than two years after moving in – films this from his balcony:
Aargh! Rob Davey!
Here’s the Bufftail hoot again – from xeno-canto.org – sharing bird sounds from around the world:
. . and here’s one to show how small they are – thanks, birdlifetrogons.blogspot.com
*** I haydid – is a Friderichs-ism. Bobby – from ‘Slunnin – used to say ‘I haydid!’ in mock displeasure when things went skew-wiff. Eg: ‘I haydid when my fridge gets carried out the back door!’ – another divorce . .
Fresh out of that Hole in Wyoming we landed in Seattle and immediately headed for the hills. Or the sound. Puget Sound. I’m a bit allergic to cities, so we picked up a little rental car – would you believe a Toyota Tercel, with all-wheel drive and six forward gears . . what? I’ve said this before? OK, I did enjoy those cars.
We drove onto a ferry in Anacortes and disembarked on Orcas Island. We looked for a place to stay. I had something in mind – the thing I usually have in mind: cheap. And we found it, right on the other side of the island. Ah, this is good value, I thought. Aitch was fine with it. She liked the laid-back friendly approach they had. We were determined to avoid boring same-old places and anyway, she was always a great sport and tolerated me and my frugality. Hey, it was a lo-ong honeymoon. We had to stre-etch things. This was week four of our 1988 honeymoon.
Years later I read a Lonely Planet review: There are resorts, and then there’s Doe Bay, eighteen miles east of Eastsound on the island’s easternmost shore – as lovely a spot as any on Orcas. By far the least expensive resort in the San Juans, Doe Bay has the atmosphere of an artists’ commune cum hippie retreat cum New Age center. Accommodations include campsites, a small hostel with dormitory and private rooms, and various cabins and yurts, most with views of the water. There’s also a natural-foods store, a café, yoga classes ($10), an organic garden and special discounts for guests who arrive by bike. The sauna and clothing-optional hot tub are set apart on one side of a creek.
Ours was a cabin. We paid $10 for the night. Camping and the dormitory were cheaper, but hey, I’m no cheapskate. Our cabin was called Decatur and was luxuriously made of packing cases and a double layer of plastic sheeting in the windows. Cosy and warm. Seriously.
We’d seen a sign ‘Hot Tub’ on the way in, so we went looking. Walking down the path to where the bath house overlooked the Pacific, the sign said ‘suits optional’ and we realised that meant bathing suits, so we happily hopped in naked as we were the only people around.
Getting ready to leave, Aitch froze and I started laughing: voices, coming down the path! Aitch ducked back underwater, as we were joined by two couples who shucked their clothing and joined us. The view as they clambered down the steep metal stairs! You almost had to avert your eyes. We had a long chat, they were from Seattle and ‘South Africa? Optometrist? Did we know Rocky Kaplan?’ Well, actually I did know of him. ‘Well he has reduced my short-sightedness so much; I’m now only wearing a three eyeglasses!’ OK.
By the time they left up the steep metal stairs – the view! you almost had to avert your eyes – and Aitch could finally emerge from the steam, she was wrinkled like a prune.
Then it was back on the ferry, island-hopping our way back to the mainland. Next we were headed for Texas, the Gulf of Mexico! New birds and warmer climes. Except we wouldn’t get there . . .
“To a person uninstructed in natural history, his countryside or seaside stroll is a walk through a gallery filled with wonderful works of art, nine-tenths of which have their faces turned to the wall” – THOMAS HUXLEY – English biologist
“Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dishonest, distrusting and – above all else – envious. I know many who are generous, witty and delightful company – but they’re no fun!” – BILL ODDIE;
“I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment…and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn” – HENRY DAVID THOREAU, author, poet & philosopher – I once had a pigeon shit on my shoulder while collecting money for charity – shaking a tin – outside the Jeppe Street Post Office In Johannesburg; does that count?
“God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages” – JACQUES DEVAL , French playwright
“If you bird, you will see stuff” – THE ORACLE, birder
“A weird screechy howl, which rises in a nerve-shattering crescendo, to peter out like a cry of a lost soul falling into a bottomless pit” – AUSTIN ROBERTS, original author, Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa – talking about the Manx Shearwater? or me when dipping out yet again on an African Broadbill?
“I don’t GO birding. I AM birding!”– FAANSIE PEACOCK, birder – (always! I agree with Faansie, an amazing birder with the best possible name for one!)
“Use what talents you possess: The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best” – HENRY VAN DYKE, American author – who hereby gives me permission to sing in the shower and while driving . .
As British birding weirdo Bill Oddie rightly said: ‘Bird-watchers are tense, competitive, selfish, shifty, dishonest, distrusting, boorish, pedantic, unsentimental, arrogant and – above all – envious’.
Driving down SinJim avenue one morning I had to brake for a Fruit and Nut Vulture perched on the busy tar road! Right here, on the way out of Westville towards the Pavilion shopping centre, where St James crosses the Mkombaan river! Looking for all the world like a lost kalkoen.
In thirty years living in Westville, seldom venturing forth without my binocs I had not seen a Palm Nut Vulture here, never mind one dodging traffic.
So I had a good chuckle when I reported the sighting to the birding fraternity. The response was immediate face palms: 1. Oh, we often see them! and 2. Everyone knows there’s a pair that nests in Westville!
Oh. OK. Um . . 1. Not. and 2. Um, not.
I sent the response to Palmiet valley doyenne Jean Senogles and we had a hearty laugh and skinner about ‘birders!’ especially newbie birders! Us birders who have birded for half a century can still allow ourselves to get excited over interesting sightings. In the competitive game, not so much! Shut up, I’ve already seen that one!
You need to kick back with Binocs, Beer, Telescope on Tripod and – lately – Camera to do your front porch birding justice, and I have just the chair for it on my porch – a Lazy Boy thingamiebob. Newish . .
An Argentine-African United Nations veterinarian writes a lovely blog he calls A Bush Snob Out Of Africa. In it he has a feature called Spot The Beast in which he shows a picture of a cryptic or camouflaged creature and invites you to find it. Then he zooms in to reveal an insect on bark, or a mantis, a leaf butterfly or moth, a frog, even a cheetah hidden in grass. I love it.
So go back to the picture above and see if you can spot the dragon or dinosaur sharing my chair today. Only then scroll down:
While I’m at it, I may as well mention some other lizards I have seen . .
A snake? About the size of an earthworm . .
Maybe Peters’ Thread Snake Leptotyphlops scutifrons – known to be found in the Durban area.
Jess and her two mates giggled away the weekend looking for big beasts. Elephants was what they were after, but they stayed in hiding. Eventually we were placing bets on seeing elephant poo! not even the whole animal! Still no luck. We saw lots of rhino and a a few buffalo instead. Plenty antelope and lots & lots of birds. Beautiful.
Evenings they watched movies while I read Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything (again!) and listened to the nightjar.
Mkhuze is very dry, so all the animals from miles around crowd the waterhole. Mudhole, really – very little water. Amazing that just a few miles away at Nsumo Pan there is miles of shoreline and clear blue water, but we saw very few animals there. Just hippos.
Dunno if it was this visit or another, but in walking around the camp I saw the bluest bird I’d ever seen – and it was a Black Cuckooshrike! I would have confidently asserted to you that Black Cuckooshrikes are black. Well, usually, but have a good look in bright sunlight:
Tom back in civilization had a ball too. His weekend was very different to ours: beach, shopping mall, KFC, two movies, a home in Durban North with dogs and pet pythons. Plus he was given three shad his host had caught. He brought them home, scaled them, filleted them and fried them with fresh-cut potato chips. Delicious! Quite the chef, my Tom!