Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Winged Wednesday

I know you all come here for the pictures rather than the articles, but how many of you are into birds (the feathered kind, Ali G)?

Here are a few random feathered photos from the trip so far:

These chirpy little fellows are red-billed oxpeckers. I took this pic in the Kruger Park some time in the last couple of weeks. Their job is to pick ticks and other parasites off mammals, such as buffalo (which is what these ones are riding on), rhino, giraffe and other assorted grass eaters. At the same time, they act as an early warning system, chirping to notify the host animal if there's a predator in the area. In Swahili this bird is known as Askari wa Kifaru, which means "guard of the rhino". See, you learn something every day.

And above, we have the Lilac Breasted Roller, which is probably the first bird any visitor to southern Africa gets to know. It's common as muck and gaudy as hell. My kind of bird.

True twitchers might appreciate this chap (or chapess) above. It's a Crowned Hornbill, and it's the first one I've seen in 15 years of touring the dark continent. The yellow billed (of Lion King fame) and red billed hornbills are far more common. I bagged this beauty on a drive from the luxurious Tinga Private Game Lodge recently.

Come on, who can resist a penguin? These cute as a button little Burgess Meredith impersonators live on Boulders Beach, Cape Town, which is, like, the world's smallest national park or something. I visited this colony with the incredibily fortunate and damned-fine people who made up the inaugural Silent Predator Safari tour, in September. You, too, could be snapping penguins and many other creatures great and small with me if you have the guts and the bucks to join me on one of my tours (sign up for the newsletter, top left, if you think you have what it takes...)

And finally, a serene shot of a cormorant, taken from above, at the lighthouse at Cape Point. Let it not be said that I don't take you from one end of Africa to the other (this is the southernmost bit, and some time ago, you may recall I was blogging from Libya, which is up the other end).
MTC (mammals to come. Soon. Promise)


Kathleen said...

Great to see you featuring birds:) I work for British Antarctic Survey doing data tracking of sea birds. Always good to see people promoting the feathered kind. An interesting point on your first pic. There is a discussion going on in scientific circles about the relationship they have with the host animal. It looks like they may actually be drinking the blood of the host not just taking off tics as previously thought. Great blog!! I live in SA and visit Kruger every chance I get you are so lucky to be able to spend so much time there.

ali g said...

beautiful pics of the feathered birdies. the cormorant pic with the ice blue beneath is super.
We are being besieged by hundreds of different birds at the moment with the drought getting such a grip here.
Galahs, sulphur crested cockatoos, king parrots, lorrikeets, choughs,magpies, pointy head pigeons, indian minors, ducks and cormorants all winging in to eat the grass and greenery that just by itself is slowly retracting due to lack of water. but whatever... nice to look out the window and see them all grouped together in the bit of greenery still available to them while the water from our quickly emptying dams still holds out..

Trin said...

Nice to see some photos, along with the commentary - it's good to learn a bit about what you are seeing, rather than just looking at pictures. I'm with Ali G re the cormorant pic.

Ali, what is a chough? I've never heard of that bird. We seem to be inundated with crows at the moment - which would be my least favourite bird.

How many sleeps now? As you can see by the time - I am suffering insomnia myself as we speak.

Where are you at the moment TP and what are you up to - R&R or working - or a bit of both?

KBP: where are you?

ali g said...

Choughs [pronounced 'chuffs'] large black birds with white underwings, curved beaks and red eyes. prefer to walk in a group than fly as not very strong flyers anyway. very social birds... heaps outside at the moment ripping up the garden once again that I replaced yesterday after their last onslaught.
Call them the 'Heckle & Jeckle' gang as they delight in throwing all the mulch off the garden onto the grass...little bastards..least it covers the holes in the lawns that the mongrel galahs are making.
Forgot to mention the geese before aka the 'craponators'
37 sleeps to go but who needs to go to Africa? It's a jungle right here.
Lady Chatterley just checked this before posting and she said to tell you that the choughs are 'sweet'......hmmmm

tonypark said...

Thanks all and Hi Kathleen. That's very interesting about the oxpeckers drinking blood.

Drop me a line via the contact section of my website or the email address at the top left of the blog next time you're heading to Kruger.

Ali G, you bird spotter, you. YOu'll have to get a bird book for your trip to Kruger.

Trin, I'm working hard on novel number 8, and will soon be doing final edits on number 7, and more edits on non fiction book number 2! In short, I'm busier than a one legged man in a bum kicking competition at the moment.

Karen Bessey Pease said...

Absolutely spectacular photos, TP! My pal Jack in Brisbane gave me an Australian bird book for my birthday last summer, and so I can quickly look up all of Ali g's feathered friends. Now I'll need to get one of African birds!

We have a beautiful blue heron in our frog pond (we call 'em shit-pokes, as opposed to green herons, which are shite-pokes) and it has returned (or its progeny) every year for fifteen years. We grow some excellent frogs here in Maine!

Hi Trin. :o) I've been busier than girl in a nose-picking contest? Heck...that man's a hard act to follow.

Writing, working, getting lip from teens, and practicing for a charity show I'm doing in 20 sleeps! Would rather be counting down to Africa!

Treacey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Treacey said...

Ooops, sorry about that.....
Hi TP and Mrs Blog, hope you haven't needed any trips to the hospital yet. We all know how addictive Africa is (and I'm missing it heaps) but may I say how delighted we were to see whales, dolphins (porpoises?) and even a seal, and two resident ospreys, while on holidays on the NSW south coast in October. While the other half is exploring Malawi we are conditioning a new family member, Prince (no, not love symbol) who is a gorgeous Cav King Charles, soft and friendly (like me?). Just another ploy to keep me home in Oz. Drink some Savanna for me.....
Hey, if you become even more famous, will we commentators become famous too, by association? Love T xx

tonypark said...

Hi Treacey. Great to hear from you. I thought we all were famous already?

Will try to keep the old man off the Spiced Gold when we see him for lunch at Afsaal on the 17th.