A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to some birding friends of mine…. I call them My Bird Nerds. These are the guys I turn to when I need help identifying a bird. What’s great about them is that they have their own network of Bird Nerds so if I stump them, they send it on and eventually we get an answer.
Anyway while chatting to them the discussion around larks came up and how I was still battling to identify them. Gareth, my bird nerd friend says to me, “You’re in the best place for “larking”.” And he was totally right so I decided to go birding the following day along one of the many dirt roads in the area here in Oudtshoorn.
As we all know larks are up early, so we had to be up early. There we went to do the +-85km loop with our coffee, cameras and binoculars.
We had a very slow morning. I was expecting to see a lot more lark activity, but the weather was acting very strange for the area. There was an intermittent drizzle in the air. For those of you who know this area, you know, that is not normal.
Our first spot for the day was a lifer for me. Great start. Rufous-eared Warbler. Not the easiest to photograph as they are extremely busy little guys but I did get a half decent shot of them.
Our morning was filled with some of the usual sightings like, Southern Fiscal, White-backed and Speckled Mousebirds, Ring-Neck (Cape Turtle) Dove, Cape Sparrows and Familiar Chats. Bearing in mind the time of year we were spoilt with juvenile activity as well. Adding a whole different dimension to bird identification.
As the sun started fighting its way through the strange weather we came across an open patch of land with dozens of Sisal trees (Agave sisalana) or in Afrikaans the Garingboom. Although not indigenous to South Africa the birds love it. We must have spent about 20 minutes just watching all the different species. We watched the Malachite Sunbirds chasing each other around protecting their territory. It was so great to see.
As we progressed along the road we encountered dozens more of these trees. In fact they almost lined a large portion of the road and what did surprise or rather fascinate us was the amount of Malachite Sunbirds. Males, female, juveniles. We probably saw at least 40 to 50 of them throughout the entire day. It became a, “oh don’t worry, it’s just a Malachite Sunbird again.” kind of day. How truly blessed we were.
Another surprising sighting we had was the volume of swifts and swallows that were out. It’s amazing how many you don’t even see with the naked eye. Although it took us some time and quick reflexes we were able to identify a number of them, namely the Alpine, Little and White-rumped Swifts and Greater, White-Throated and Pearl-Breasted Swallows