Wild and wonderful Waterberg

2011-04-09 00:00

MY Sabie family have relocated to somewhere in the middle of the Waterberg. It’s pretty far away from anywhere — Johannesburg is about three-and-a-half hours drive away. But it’s a great challenge for them and a wonderful new and exciting holiday destination for me! There are many different birds and plants for me to ooh and aah about and there are lions and buffalo and elephants to keep the adrenalin pumping. This is my first visit so I am excited about everything.

At home in Maritzburg the Black-eyed Bulbul is the cheerful omnivore, but here it is the nasal yek-yek of the Yellow-bellied Bulbul that demands attention. The beautiful Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike calls from early morning and foxes me every time as I know someone who has this as their cellphone ring. The echoing rat-ta-tat-tat of a Bearded Woodpecker drumming from a high dead branch, while the early morning air is still and uncluttered by human noise, accompanies my early morning coffee.

Cape Robins are rare here and the bathers in the birdbath are White-browed Robins and Blue Waxbills and Jameson’s Firefinches. By now you can imagine I’m fairly jumping with excitement; this is real holiday stuff. A pair of Southern Black Tits are positively bossy and don’t allow any other birds to bathe with them. The dear little Cape White-eyes are as gentle as I know them to be and wait their turn. A determined figure then strides purposefully across the lawn, a Kurrichane Thrush. So well-known at home, the local birds have the same proprietary air and this one has already learned that mealworms come out of the plastic bowl on the stoep. Although my daughter hankers after “her” Sabie Cape Robins, this friendly “Kurri” is helping her settle into her new home.

A drive through the valleys and hills that make up the Waterberg seated in the back of a game-drive vehicle made me feel rather regal; if we had met anyone I might have given a real “queenly” wave. A pair of African Hawk Eagles, so very white and so very black, behaved beautifully and allowed us to view them from all angles — I don’t know this bird well at all, so needed time to look at the book and the bird and then back to the book. Temminck’s Courser stood quietly at the side of the road and Kurrichane Buttonquails flew with hectic speed in front of us.

Evening is heralded by the raucous shrieks of the Natal Francolin and the softly melodious call of the White-browed Robin. As we stood with sundowners in hand, a Fiery-necked Nightjar called that wonderful call-of-the-African-night call.

They live in trees, so I feel I can mention them in this column — the enchanting Lesser Bushbabies. There are really no words to describe how unbelievably dear they are, their long fingers, their big ears, the way they can bounce from bough to bough as if they have no weight. They come each evening to our cocktail hour — lucky us.

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