What happens to a non-birder in the company of a group of dedicated birders? This non-birder learned a lot! The first thing I learned was that if I didn’t see the one bird everyone was focused on after considerable explanation and searching, I should turn my gaze elsewhere because there is always something else to admire, be it bird, mammal, insect, or plant. The next thing I learned was that my iPhone 7+ was not up to the task. Even with an auxiliary tele lens that I had purchased just before the trip, my attempts at bird photography were beyond laughable.
Initially I dismissed the bird list provided by IBO and Mammoth Safaris, who put the trip together. One person in the group was the self-appointed E-bird documentarian, keeping and recording careful notes on what birds the entire group saw and all the statistics the E-bird app relies upon. Most in the group used the E-bird app to help identify birds and record their own sightings.
Several days in I hauled out the most expensive app I’ve ever purchased and decided I ought to at least try to use it. From then on, Roberts Bird Guide 2 became my friend. Having the bird guide handy helped me to look up the bird I was supposed to be seeing so that I at least knew what I was missing. Then, I often recognized what everyone else was oohing and aahing over. The next step was to add birds to My List on the app. Despite my late start, I managed to lay my own eyes on 231 distinct species of bird. And they were BEAUTIFUL! (Of course, for context, I would guess that the average bird count for each of my companions was around 600 birds!)
Birds of particular note:
African Fish Eagle: remarkably similar to America’s national bird, the Bald Eagle.
By Charles J Sharp – Sharp Photography, sharpphotography.co.uk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67684429
Secretary Bird: amazing, approx. 4′ tall, on the cover of the Roberts Bird Guide.
By Yoky – CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4383914
Village Weaver: These very social birds captured my heart. The males invite their chosen females to the nest they’ve constructed of grass. If the female disapproves of the nest, she knocks it down. “Do over, buddy.” If she likes it, well, you know the rest of the story.
By Charles J Sharp – Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53930240
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater: about 8″ of beauty. Actually, there are nine varieties of bee-eaters and they are all magnificent.
By Charles J Sharp – Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55652042
Cape Glossy Starling: Puts European starlings to shame.
By Charles J Sharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography.co.uk, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=68112335
Malachite Sunbird: Breeding males with full plumage almost 10″; female 6″. This is an species with huge variety, all stunningly beautiful.
By Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland – Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11357756
Saddle-billed Stork: These guys took my breath away. Almost as tall as I am.
By hyper7pro – Flickr: Saddlebill Stork, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16552233
Crested Guineafowl: Ok, I did manage to pull off a photo of one of these. They are about as easy to capture as our common Spruce Grouse, aka Fool’s Hen.
I would be remiss if I did not include the ubiquitous Drongos, both swallow-tailed and square-tailed.
Up next: Mammals!!!!