Finally got round to making a collage of some of the birds we saw up in Zululand a few years back. Aitch and I went for a breakaway luxury weekend. It was dry – very dry – and the lodge had a water feature running right under the sundeck. Every bird from miles around (as well as all the animals) had to come here to drink.
It was perfect! Aitch was not so strong, so we chose to skip the game drives and ensconced ourselves comfortably on the deck, binocs, camera and telescopes handy. Tea or beer or coffee or gin would arrive at regular intervals. Mealtimes we walked ten metres back into the dining room!
Today’s the third morning I’ve watched an urgent, furious ruckus in my front garden. A bird screaming its head off while furiously chasing another like a fighter jet in hot pursuit. So fast that I couldn’t get a good view as the target dashed in and out of the copse of trees and shrubs. I was facing into the sunrise which meant even when I got a half-decent glimpse it was of a silhouette with his beak open, screaming like a banshee. Interesting! Made me late for work!
I figured it was a black-collared barbet, and if so that would be a hole-nest parasite he’d be chasing – which would be a honeyguide. But I needed to see. Yesterday I got a good view of the pursuer: Red face and throat, stout beak. That was him alright.
Today I got a glimpse of the suspect: White outer tail feathers. Most likely a Lesser or Scaly-throated Honeyguide. I’ll try to make sure, but I don’t think he’ll be sitting still in plain view anytime soon. I wonder if it’s the male, and while the barbet is doing his over-zealous patrol, his lady friend is plopping her egg in the hole nest?!
I’m on their side – I hope they lay their egg in the barbet’s nest so a luta (the struggle) can continua!
Tom is at Lungelo’s but he has to be at Kip McGrath extra maths at 8am so I call him and remind him to be at the gate at 7.15 sharp. Lungelo stays in the Westville Prison grounds.
He’s not that wide awake when I get there and protests at having to wake early AND do work IN THE HOLIDAYS! Do I understand the concept of “HOLIDAY”?
We’ll stop at Spar and get you something to drink and eat and you’ll be OK once we get there, my boy. Well, I’m going to sleep straight afterwards and can I have a Monster energy drink please?
Outside Kip he eats his smoked beef slices and sips his Monster. I watch a black-headed oriole and a golden-rumped tinker in the trees around us.
When its time to go in he says Please don’t let anyone finish my Monster. Put it in the fridge for me. (He’s going to walk home).
Take it with you and sip on it while working, I suggest.
I heard a cry on high as I parked on the roof at work. Glancing up I saw two crows cartwheeling, freewheeling, locking claws and spiralling like a propellor high above me. What a magnificent display of flying excellence!
Buzzing around above and below them was a drongo, divebombing and harrassing them, cheeky little blighter. They ignored him and carried on exuberantly showing off. Wow!
Isn’t that amazing!? I said to my 74yr old carguard as she shuffled up asking “And now?“.
I pointed out the birds.
“Yes”, she says off-handedly, “Those two parents are teaching the young one to fly”.
I made a fat sarmie like they make you on a Wilderness Walk in Mfolosi: White bread, tomato and onion, all thick-sliced and buttered, lots of salt and black pepper. Took the binocs to the stoep and munched, washing it down with tea (ignoring the notion that Greeenpeace has just tested a bunch of teas and found many have traces of pesticides).
There was movement at the birdbath (there always is). Great! A female Black Cuckooshrike! She’s beautiful!
Also a Redcapped Robin-Chat, a Dusky Flycatcher, two sunbirds, hadedas, toppies & white-eyes as always – and these Purple-crested Touracos.
Made me completely forget I was dodging my day-off chores.
So I’m playing in an optom tournament at Umhlali in the 80’s. Golf.
Short hole. I drive the green.
Walking off the tee I spy a flash of yellow in the reeds (did I mention it was a water hole?). Something about it is a bit different, so I out with my binocs: It’s a brown-throated weaver – a first for me (or a “lifer”).
I calmly sink the putt.
This second birdie helps me almost break 100 for the round.
Aitch and I went to Mombasa in 1995 and checked in at a hotel on Diani beach. The next day I walked the crowded streets of Mombasa looking for a cheap hired car:
While Aitch chilled on the uncrowded beach and pooldeck, no doubt quaffing ginless gin&tonics. She used to do that! Tonic & bitters. Ginless! I know! You’re right. Search me. Where’s the medicinal value?! The personality enhancing factor?
I found a lil Suzuki jeep. Marvelous. I could turn round from the drivers seat and touch the back window! Almost.
Back at the hotel I went for a walk, leather hat on my head, binoculars round my neck. An old man came cranking along slowly on a bicycle, swung his leg high up over the saddle and dismounted next to me.
Ah! he said I can see you are English. I didn’t contradict him. You are looking for buds, he said, also in a way that made me not argue. There are no buds here, he said emphatically. If you want to see buds you must go to the west, to the impenetrable forest. There are many buds there. And he put his left foot on the pedal, gave a push and, swinging his right leg high over the saddle, wobbled off. After a few yards he had a thought, slowed, swung off in the same elaborate dismount and came back to me: But in this hotel over here you can see some peacocks in the garden, he informed me re-assuringly.
Ah, thank you sir. Thanks very much, I said, wishing him well and thinking of Kenya’s 1100 species of birds – eleven percent of the world’s total. The USA has about 900, and the UK about 600.
Travelling Advice We also got pessimistic advice on the roads. We were on our way to Tsavo National Park the next day and we wanted to avoid the main road to Nairobi. We’d heard it was crowded with trucks and buses and we’d rather avoid that. On our Globetrotter map I found a little road south of the main road that showed an alternative route via Kwale, Kinango and Samburu.
No you can’t; No, not at all; There’s no way, says everyone. Even the barman! The bridge has been washed away by cyclone Demoina, they say. This was a bit weird, as Demoina had been in 1984 and had mostly hit Madagascar, Mocambique and KwaZuluNatal, well south of Kenya.
Usually I can eventually find ONE person to say Don’t listen to them, the road is FINE, but this time I was stymied. No-one would say Yes! So we headed off along the road toward Kwale anyway. Aitch, what a trooper, was right with me in adventurousness. We’ll see new places, was all she said.
As we neared Kwale a minibus taxi approaching from the other direction did a strange thing: They actually flagged us down to tell us Stop! You can’t go this way! The bridge is gone, Demoina washed it away! Thanking them kindly, we kept going.
And they were right: The bridge over the river between Kwale and Kinango had indeed washed away. But there were recent tyre tracks down to the river which we followed. Below and just upstream of the wreckage of the bridge we stuck the Suzuki in 4X4 and crossed the low river. Then we stopped for a break, parking our mini-4X4 under a beautiful shady tree on the river bank:
And we were right: Besides being devoid of traffic, the road surface was mostly good, sometimes great:
THEN: The honeymoon ended, we ran out of detour and got back onto the main Mombasa-Nairobi road at Samburu: Aargh! Every so often a blob of tar would threaten to cause damage. Huge holes had the traffic all weaving from side to side so trucks seem to coming straight at you, but its quite safe. Its rather like slow-motion ballet. Cars and trucks went slowly, the only vehicles ‘speeding’ – probably up to 60kmh – were big passenger buses with their much better suspension.
Thanks to Google Earth we can find the place where the bridge had washed away. Here’s the new bridge and new road on the right, with the old road on the left where we crossed the drift yellow (yellow arrow) and that beautiful tree we rested under:
Then we got to Tsavo! I’d wanted to visit Tsavo since I was ten and read books by Bernhard Grzimek and others! Well, here I was, thirty years later!