Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Said the Bishop to the actress...not today luv!

African Broadbill - False Bay
Sunday morning's vigil from the Bishop's Seat, in the drizzle, from high on the aerial boardwalk in Eshowe's [KZN] Dlinza Forest, had me contemplating the world from tear-infused eyes rather than from rose-tinted glasses. What, in all honesty, were we doing this for?

The toothy-cold weather would, no doubt, have had the bishop cooling his heels but undeterred we found ourselves on the trail of another of this country's forest denizens, Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon...
Aerial boardwalk - Dlinza

Dlinza boasts four (4) local pairs. Finding a pigeon in scarp forest poses an interesting challenge and whilst stumbling around the many trails clad in decayed leaf-litter and cloying mud is considered an honest pursuit, it won't bring the pigeon to pie. These are sneaky beasts which spend their time in the tree-top extremes. Craning your neck vertically for a ventral glimpse is a pain in the neck... Take the aerial boardwalk, sit quietly in the canopy and wait for the birds to come to you! Easy? It would have been had Alisha not forgotten to pack a jacket. She took mine, which is fine with me, as I was told.. If chivalry [ie: self-preservation] is a dying art it persists in isolated & remotely located locales..

African Broadbill - pre-somersault routine
With frozen brassies & speaking in incoherent soprano we locked-on to two singleton males in a two-hour vigil as they sheered across gale-force winds. Our cameras warmed their lenses back in the car rather than on our laps; a financially astute decision if nothing else. Whilst more than a little remiss at the lost photographic opportunity it's tough to find the trigger-finger coated, as it was, in black-ice. For interest the slippery-slope against which I scrambled whenever I peeked sideways at the thermal jacket sitting next to me, was ice-clad too.. but I digress...

Green Malkoha - False Bay
You'll recall my cosy contemplation from the recycled bench on the Bishop's Seat, a lifetime away from our suite in Richards Bay...If Sunday was Cape Town in winter, Saturday wasn't. Saturday was, in fact, almost perfect. Perfect barring, perhaps, the post-script photographic disaster of two terns and a 'pelagic' visitor, a tooth-grinding eventuality in sea-salt & windblown sand-haze.

From my vantage point in the clouds it occurred to me that the five (5) hours we had spent on the beach near St Lucia & in the shade of the Dumbass Dutchman* whilst waiting for two regionally rare terns to return home to roost, was a likely precedent for irrational exuberance. In sequence, rather than in paralleled thought, it also occurred to me that the Humpback Whales, a few hundred yards offshore, alongside which bobbed the Advantage, the whale-watching boat for which the Dumbass Dutchman* waited patiently, were actually the star performers of the early afternoon. A pity we hadn't paid closer attention...

Yellow Weaver - hard at work. 
The whales and much later an unexpected Southern Giant Petrel, usually found further out to sea in these waters, alleviated the grinding boredom. Even so, we'd shrugged-off past experience & for our misguided intent had paid the price in sun-block and an unsolicited nasal sand-blast.

We'd seen the Sooty Tern some months before, at the same venue and were therefore reasonably assured of its habits. As before the Sooty returned to the tern-roost from dune-side interests rather than from directly out to sea & just before sunset. The Damara Tern, another regional surprise, seemingly fished the shallows down-coast before doing the same near where we sat & also at last light. We'd become emotionally involved and for our extraordinary lapse had spent half-a-lifetime in the baking sun...

One last thought occurred to me before I straightened out for the knee-jangling descent to the forest floor below. Had we not observed, from handbook images, that the African Broadbill preferred usnea-species for its nesting material, we would not have stopped under the tree in which hung the same material and as a consequence we would surely have missed the pair nesting close-by.

On a more serious note iSimangaliso field-staff had chased and failed to apprehend poachers intent on harvesting juvenile fish in the St Lucia lake. Notwithstanding, they had, in fact, confiscated the illegal gill-nets and had returned to shore filled to the gunnels. The St Lucia lake is one of very few marine sanctuaries and is therefore a critical breeding ground for fish. The 200-meter-long nets had been set the previous night in an organised commercial assault. This act of ecological violence accounted for an estimated 1000 Spotted Grunter juveniles, a sad indictment of organised greed! When will the madness end?

iSimangaliso Wetland Park - field-staff at work
By net's end this vehicle was loaded..

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