Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pygmy down!

I ask you, Legion of Fans (LOF), is this not the cutest little thing you have ever seen in your collective lives? Couldn't you, to plagiarise my blogging friend the Crabmommy, just put him on a roll with mustard and eat him?

This is a Pygmy Kingfisher - more about him, and how he found his way to making a nest in our tea towel, shortly.

Apoligies, once again, in the meantime for the lack of blogging activity. As attentive readers would know, I have been hard at work finishing off the structural edits to my top-secret second non-fiction book. More on that in due course. Now I'm back to the comparatively easy job of cranking out another 140,000-word novel. Piece of piss, as we used to say in the army.

Mrs Blog and I have been having many adventures these last couple of weeks, in between edits, so I have no shortage of material to blog about. You'll just have to be patient with me as I get around to writing it (and getting back to my novel, which is foundering around page 135 at the moment). The next few posts have a distinctly conservationist theme to them, so get read to be alternately enraged and moved to tears (of joy, of course).

But back to the small but perfectly formed kingfisher (or fish-kinger as one of our young Zimbabwean friends calls them).

The Pygmy Kingfisher is, I believe, relatively common, but I rarely see them. I've maybe seen two or three in the last fifteen years of travelling around Africa. It's similar in size to the spectacularly colourful Malachite Kingfisher, but the Pygmy is no slouch when it comes to plummage, either. To give you an idea of size, he would fit easily into the palm of a short person's hand.

So, LOF, imagine my surprise when this little fellow landed, literally, at my feet while I was editing away. Unfortunately, he did not stop of his own free will - he flew into a window at the lodge where Mrs B and I were staying at Biyamiti Bushveld Camp, in the Kruger National Park.


And I do mean ouch. For a tiny bird he made an almighty clang as he sped, headlong, straight into the verandah's glassed wall. Mrs Blog came a-running and we rushed to his side. It looked initially, like he was dead on arrival on the tiles.

We knelt down and gently touched him... no movement.

We were heartbroken, LOF. Such a beautiful little bird, and it was a shame that the first time I'd got to see one up close he was, well... dead.

But not so! He raised a tiny wing. We suddenly went into rescue mode.

He opened his little beak, but no sound came out. "He just opened his eyes!" I exclaimed (hence the exclamation mark).

"Not this one," Mrs Blog said. She was looking at the other eye, which remained closed. How, I wondered, if he ever recovered would he fly with one eye? Badly? In zig-zags?

Mrs Blog fetched a clean tea towel, as you do, and we gently scooped Captain Peter "Wrong Way" Peach Fuzz the Pygmy Kingfisher into it (you either get that reference or you do not. This post will be long enough without footnotes).

I'd decided to name him because as we carefully moved Wrong Way to a lounge chair Mrs B informed me that she had heard of people raising injured birds as pets (in fact, now that I think about it, I wrote a book about a guy who did that - called Part of the Pride. The Lion man, Kevin Richardson, started on birds and moved on to lions).

We had some mini visions of Wrong Way accompanying us on our travels in Broomas, perhaps perched atop the camera box or sitting on the dashboard in the tea towel nest that he seemed quite comfortable in.

"This eye's open," Mrs B said.

And so, too, was the one on my side. It's the rainy season now, as I have mentioned, so there were no shortage of bugs around, including many thousands who, like Wrong Way, had sconned themselves on the verandah light the night before. I began scooping these up, so that as Wrong Way regained consciousness we would be able to begin nursing him back to health.

"Beak's opening again," Mrs B said.

Wrong Way sat there for about 15 minutes, lapsing in and out of consciousness. We hovered aorund him, and the maid came, and said, "Shame," before adjourning to sweep up some bugs.

Perhaps it was time for his feeding. With dead grasshopper in hand I knelt by Wrong Way's side and reached out my hand.

And he flew away.

Just like that.

Have a nice day. We did.


ali g said...

Typical bird...never any gratitude is there?

Anonymous said...

You've got a maid with your new Landrover???
Now that's very posh..
didn't get one with my new Discovery 4..maybe was because not knowing didn't ask the dealer for one..damn!

tonypark said...

Anon, I never go anywhere without my maid.

"Mrs Blog! Faga lo Zambezi Lager lapa, hey. Faga moto!"

DADFAP said...

Cool Blog
Even cooler bird,
Have you advanced to 136 yet?

Trin said...

Tony - good blog, apart from the entree suggestion that is. What a beautiful little thing.

I'm with anonymous - maid???? and here I was thinking you rough it unless on safari or visiting townships.

Ali G, most birds will never stick around if you dont treat them right.

Timepilot said...

Sawubona N'kosi Park, Kunjane Wena?

Zithini ezintsha apart from the bird? Uyakuthanda na KNP?

Sorry, just joshing, but reading your comment I see you've picked up the most important phrases - just the wrong beer IMHO - should read "Faga lo Windhoek, jahela!"

You're in my favourite part of the world - have you seen the big tusker Machuchele yet?

Tony Park said...

Timepilot we tend to give the big tuskers a wide berth as the otherwise fearless mrs blog has a bit of a thing about elephants. (strange, but true... probably stemming from a couple of non-mock charges we've had in Zim).

I agree with you re Windhoek, especially since I can't actually get Zambezi in south africa (or even zimbabwe, very often).

Ah, myself I am preferring the Windhoek Draught rather than the lager. It comes in those lekker big 500ml cans, which are perfect for the African bush. (and now in 500ml dumpies, as well).

DADFAP the tote is now 149 and rising. I am on fire.

Tony Park said...

PS: Trin, I wasn't serious about putting the kingfisher on a roll with mustard... though perhaps sauteed with some red wine and onions...

Steve said...

Jan 15 2010
1630: Land
1700: Open 1 x Windhoek Lager
1702: Finish 1 x Windhoek Lager
1704: Open 2nd Windhoek Lager
1707: Finish 2nd Windhoek Lager
1710: Lager 3rd open Windhoek
1715: .................

Timepilot said...

Eish Tony, that's a wee bit of a shame because Machuchele and his two askaris are a decent sight - in the dry they tend to water down near the low water bridge at Shing.

I've never had a problem with them in the 3 "meetings" we've had unlike with some of the other bulls there. Had to make a very quick scrambling retreat down the dirt road along the Shingwedzi river when a "young" bull came out of the bushes and just went straight for us, ears back and trunk under!!

And I must admit, the Windhoek draught is a very nice drop - and I do like the big cans :)

Trin said...

That's exciting reading about Machuchele and the others. I would be with the otherwise fearless better half as far as elephants go, although I LOVE to hear/see/read about them. It would be truly amazing (and no doubt spine tingling to a whimp like myself) to actually see one in the flesh outside of a zoo. Does Machuchele translate into an English word?

PS: Tony, no Cianti???

Timepilot said...

Hi Trin

Machuchele means "Lead Dancer" and was named after a long time employee of the KNP who was known as a "doer". He is one of the "emerging" tuskers in KNP.

I love elephants and spend hours watching them. In fact, during this years trip to KNP we were stopped watching a small pride of lions which were quite far away and doing nothing, and both myself and the SO ended up turning around and watching a small here come down to the river to drink rather than the lions! The people around us thought we were nuts :) If you want some nice ellie pics drop me a line and I'll email you some.

Les said...

Hi Trin
There is a book out called "The Elephant Whisperer" I have not read it yet, but it looks good,maybe you should look into it.

dozycow said...

The Elephant Whisperer is a beautiful book Les - you're in for a rare treat when you read it. I couldn't put it down it was so wonderful!!
If ever I make it to Africa then one of the first places on my list to visit is Thula Thula so I can see Nana & her herd.
Your photos sound wonderful Timepilot & I would love to see them too if it's no trouble.

Timepilot said...

I agree with DC, it's a superb book.

DC, my SO's brother went to Tula Tula in April - not the same place anymore (way to "gimmicky") and for most people the way the elephants are now "called" to the gates is a bit off putting. Things have changed a bit since the time of the book!

No probs with the pics - I'll zip some and email.

ali g said...

8 sleeps to go..have developed this incredible thirst for Windhoek beer on arrival at Kruger..
Sorry Steve..they may all be gone by 15 Jan...but will leave some empty bottles laying around for you as a mark of respect.
Trin I know what you're saying & concur..treat the birds right 2 birds in a bush are much better than one in the hand anytime.....well that's what my ole granpappy used to say anyway...

DADFAP said...

Hey Steve, is 3 the best you can do?
Must have been in the Army and not the Navy!

John said...


Guess what I just Mogadishu International Airport?

An 'oke'reading 'Ivory'...dangerous reading, in dangerous locations!

You giving out any clues on what this next secret non-fiction book is? Stop playing with the LOF...

Muriel said...

Heya Tony and Mrs B: I stand! I feel quite like li'l ole Peach Fuzz, back on the wing after months of immobility. I'm just beginning to catch up on ether-contact so have quite a bit to read through of yours, but this was a good one to start with. Ta. I'm going to try to kickstart salma again too, so visit there when you've finished rescuing cute wildlife, kay? x

tonypark said...

Glad to hear you're still with us Muriel.

John.. thanks for that.. ah, yes, London, Paris, New York, Mogadishu...

(now, if only I could get the books into London,Paris and New York...).