One of the positives of the lock-down as a result of COVID-19 pandemic is the BirdLasser LockDown Challenge. The objective of this challenge is to record as many bird species over the lockdown period observed from the comfort of your house using the birdlasser app. As of today, the 30th of March 2020, the top birder – Adam – has recorded 148 bird species, with the app allowing you to keep tabs on all birds recorded and the species logged by each birder. Incredibly, the species count is standing at 554. Admittedly, the location of the birder makes a huge difference as certain species simply do not occur in certain areas, but to have recorded almost 150 different bird species in less than 4 days is quite remarkable!
Two of the more common birds you can expect to see in your garden are the hadeda and the Egyptian goose. The hadeda, or iNkankane in isiZulu, is quite an interesting bird, which I fear we don’t take nearly enough notice of, other than to curse it when it calls rautiously, a loud ha ha ha de da. The hadeda belongs to the ibis family, and occurs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, with a notable increase in numbers and distribution range as a result of the introduction of trees in areas where there were previously none. It is monogamous, although it is often found in large groups, particularly in areas where there is soft soil, where it uses its long bill to hunt for, amongst others, insects, spiders, earthworms and snails. Prey is located more by touch than by sight, with the beak being incredibly sensitive which enables them to detect small vibrations made by prey as they burrow or swim through the soil.
Egyptian geese, also known as Nile geese (named for their place of original – Nile Valley) were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians. Its name is, however, a bit of a misnomer, as it in fact belongs to the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae, displaying characteristics of ducks as well as swans. It is found throughout most of Africa, especially on golf courses and dams, and is incredibly aggressive, often chasing away other birds and using its wings to batter rivals into submission. Egyptian geese feed primarily on grass, seeds and leaves, but will also eat locusts, worms and other small animals.
A noticeable absentee from my list of birds seen to date is the yellow-billed kite. These are one of the most common birds of prey in South Africa, although they are migratory, arriving in Southern Africa in August before the rains, and leaving in March / April after the rains. Unfortunately, it looks like they have made their way back home, ignoring the lockdown period!
Love from Thanda Safari.