Thursday, 8 August 2013

Table Mountain's cute but Kruger steals the show!

Rush-hour traffic [Polokwane; Limpopo]
Brave the shake, rattle & roll [cable-way] or, in winter, the long, wet, windy, winding, walk to the top of Cape Town's Table Mountain & touch the bi-polar clouds racing here, then there; confused. Look towards the Atlantic, swivel left and enjoy man's ingenuity & architectural splendour. Space-challenged neighbours pass a cup of tea back & forth across the *payshio railing (*patio / balconette [a very small balcony or viewing deck]).. Rotate a touch to your right and behold Robben Island, the seat of South Africa's political past. A twitch further right - 'The Waterfront'. 90 degrees more & stare into the wind-induced, tear-filled eyes of the seething, red-jacketed multitude, well within your personal space, swiveling in synchronized unison, huddled, sheltered, cowered even - out of the wind... Cute!

Be adventurous; be daring; be bold & take the road less traveled, north; far north! Plant yourself at Kruger's Pafuri & swivel this way, that-way, any way. You decide. Nobody dictates your visual or auditory experience here. It's a smorgasbord of sensory delight. This is no hop-on, hop-off cliche. This is the Kruger National Park & this is Africa.

In the event that I 'fall off the boat' & my life-jacket springs a leak next pelagic off Cape Town's southerly point, let me say this; Pafuri isn't what it used to be, far from it. She's still in care. Early-season floods uprooted the local fauna & turned 'the camp' to mush & kindle.

Notwithstanding the natural calamity, there are very few spots in Kruger more wilderness-like than Wilderness' Pafuri Camp (ie: 'the camp'). Sadly the camp remains closed & more's the pity. Give me a pick & shovel; a two-night stay, once a year, for life & bob's your uncle, up she'll go! [To all my Wilderness friends..]

Crested Guineafowl - more numerous than ever before
By default then we were obliged to stay further afield, further south, at Punda Maria, a second cousin at best. A second cousin, that is, until you've walked the Flycatcher Trail, up the hill and behind the aging infrastructure.

Ignore the sewage pipe & look up. Swifts, spinetails, swallows, saw-wings, bat hawks, hawk-eagles, falcons, kestrels, eagles, buzzards, kites & vultures entertain; some perform the matinee, others the late, late-afternoon show.

Close your mouth & look down. Sunbirds, bulbuls, greenbuls, sparrowhawks, scrub-robins, robin-chats, nicators, flycatchers, hornbills, helmet-shrikes, shrikes, bush-shrikes, batisises, thrushes, starlings & guineafowls support the artists overhead. An after-dinner stroll to the hide which overlooks a natural pan presents buffalo, elephant, lion & leopard up close & personal. Hyena and jackal serenade the night. Enjoy repeat performances the next day & the day after & the day after that & the day after that that &...

Retz's Helmet-shrike [juv] - very cool
Retz's Helmet-shrike [ad] - also very cool
Arnot's Chat - [like me the male has the white-cap]

Since Punda Maria is such a hardship why were we there, again? Two reasons. First & foremost we wanted to revisit the Mahonie Loop or the S99 for the seriously uncool; a gravel track around the bend & back, behind the camp and a must for any aspiring birder. Secondly, we wanted Arnot's Chat & Dickinson's Kestrel for our 800 Challenge & our 700 Challenge respectively. Any birder worth their tuck speaks in tongues & on bended knee whenever the Mahonie Loop is up for discussion. Atypical habitat, high rainfall and a topographical mish-mash account for the very many specials this area has yielded in the past. Pennant-winged Nightjar perform at late-evening leks. Orange-winged Pytilia, Southern Hyliota, Racket-tailed Roller & White-breasted Cuckooshrike are also seasonally regular here & nowhere else.
Dickinson's Kestrel

Since we were out-of-season we concentrated our efforts up the road, rather than round the bend, for Arnot's Chat & the equally localised, if not more impressive, Dickinson's Kestrel.

Arnot's Chat is first heard, then seen. An unobtrusive tssssp breaks the reverie. Another tssssp a few yards left swivels the eyes, left... Tsssssp on the right jerks the attention right back right & seemingly emanates ghost-like from the very depths of the mature Mopani woodland. Drag your eyes away from the canopy, drop down to half-mast & if you've paid your dues, there he or she tsssps. Magical! Wonderful yes but not nearly as sublime as the little, wide-eyed, non-birding boy who after inquiring why we had stopped to look at trees beamed broadly at his Arnold's Chat. A birder born! Come down from your mountain & listen to the silence. Tomorrow is in good hands, thanks to Arnold's Chat.

No comments:

Post a Comment