A new year time for ‘listing’

2008-01-19 00:00

New Year is a wonderful time for “listers”, and I am an avid “lister”. January 1 is the moment to bring out a spotless new year list, hopefully the beginning of a record-breaking year when we see the most bird species ever. The first couple of days are frenetic as all the common and garden birds queue up to be entered. This is when Hadeda and House Sparrow take on their own importance; when even a less-than-exciting Indian Myna brings squeaks of delight. Last year we totalled a rather poor 389, and so have resolved to take more holidays and get out and about more in 2008. Now there’s a grand New Year’s Resolution! Must get to the Kruger Park, the Western Cape or just down the road to Durban, all in the interests of adding to The List.

Today we joined a Botanical Society outing to a farm in the Boston district. Fantastic array of wild flowers, great gathering of friends, old and new, but the cherry on top was the handful of ticks on The List. A Black-winged Plover strolled casually over the rutted district road, a colourful Bokmakierie trilled from a roadside perch and Pied Starlings crowded on to a country telephone line. A Long-tailed Widow shared a fence with its Red-collared cousin, and a Reed Cormorant flew fast and straight — it knew exactly where the next wetland was. We could barely wait to get home and enter today’s date against their names.

Then there is the monthly garden list. This starts on the first of every month and somehow the first day of the first month of a new year has some added importance. I’ve been at home a lot these past few weeks, giving me a great opportunity to make a garden list, and even birds just passing through on their way to wherever it is that birds go, get added to the list. It’s like recording the rainfall or the temperature; it gives one a chance to boast and prove points and generally annoy those that make grandiose claims only to discover you can prove them wrong. So get listing, it really is great fun.

Parenthood sits heavily on our male Kurrichane Thrush. He is such an attentive father, never moving far from his spotted youngster and delivering a seemingly endless supply of tasty morsels. The spotted one has learned how to bathe now, the splashing is a little more violent and noisy than the adults so you can tell who is bathing just by listening, but he emerges wet and cleaner and his preening skills are coming along nicely. But when it comes to finding food — well, why bother when dad is so good at it? I hope he realises that any day now childhood bliss will end, and the loving, food-providing father is going to raise a wing and say “Enough! Find your own, and while you are about it, find your own territory as well!” Oh dear, nature can be so cruel.

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