The Three Sopranos

The willow tree is full of leaves again and spring is fast turning into summer. This week, walking has been limited to before seven in the morning, as the heat of the day arrives soon after. Ocean and river swims are starting to beckon instead.

With the unfolding of the spring season comes new birth though. My favourite bird around here, as previously mentioned in the article Birds and Bulls on my blog, is a particular Willy-Wagtail. And while in Aboriginal folklore, the bird is considered a stealer of secrets, I trust this one and do enjoy our friendship immensely.

Her nest this season was built on a railing in the carport, with the van receiving a dollop of bird droppings daily for a short time. But patience was warranted and rewarded well when three little heads peered out over the top a couple of weeks ago.

Their growth from this moment was phenomenal. Two days after their heads reached the top of the nest, they were struggling to fit in there and were standing on each other. The following evening, when sunset is always enjoyed on the verandah, all three were on a railing near their nest, but no longer in it. It was too dark under there to take a photo. But I stood and marvelled at them in delight. It was their first outing from the nest and I was there to see it.

Grabbing a camera the following morning, I was surprised to not even have to go the carport. All three were on the fence in front of the cottage. Their first day of flying had happened and like a proud mother, I stood and watched them in joy.

Since them I have watched them in the trees down near the creek. But they also hang around the verandah a decent amount too. As their mother trusts me, they have learned to do the same.

Willy Wagtails have two sounds. One is like talking. It sort of sounds like ch-ch-ch. The other is singing. It uses the talking when threatening other birds. They are highly territorial and will harass birds much bigger than themselves, like kookaburras for example. But they also use it when talking to each other at times.

Then there is their song. Without drawing notation it sort of goes, one, two three-four, five, with the three and four like a half note. The notes ascend to three, and then descend. I was just sitting here whistling the sound in order to describe it. But one of them has come to the fence to help and is now singing it for me instead, much better. In fact, there are many more notes than five in the run. But that’s as many as I can explain in order to copy their song in a whistle.

For the first week and a half, the babes didn’t sing. They would fly along in front of me when I walked, but with no singing. Then a couple of days ago it happened. I heard them sing.

I was delighted to see that they enjoyed their vocal discovery as much as I did, so much that they couldn’t stop singing once they started. Hearing one of the babes start its singing at 3.30am the following morning, even beating the kookaburras who are always the earliest risers, only brought a smile to my face in the midst of sleep. Its solitary song of joy rang out through the night, accompanied only by frogs who were busy singing their own delightful songs by the creek.

This morning the whole family of Willy Wagtails came to visit. They blessed the cottage and its surrounds with an orchestra of perfect harmonies, as they sang and sang. It was joyous.

There are three new singers in the world now and that is definitely a joyous thing, three more songs to be heard, three more singers adding to the world’s existing chorus.

It’s like having my own version of The Three Tenors, though they’re definitely not tenors. I should call them The Three Sopranos. Yes, very fitting, The Three Sopranos and Their Fluffy Feathers.

Unless you are blessed with being able to live in nature almost completely, you may not even know that some of the birds you hear are singing for the very first time in their lives. But every bird has to have a first song.

So if it’s spring in your world, do consider you may be hearing an absolutely brand new tune. Or when spring comes around in your country, do keep it in mind. Many of the birds that look like all of the others of their breed, may in fact only be a few weeks old and are breaking into their very first song ever.

Whatever songs they’re singing to you though will be joyous.

So along with The Three Sopranos and Their Fluffy Feathers, I thank you for visiting today and wish you good luck with your Willy-Wagtail whistling.

Zambia Bird Watching & Game Viewing Treat

Travel Suggestions for Bird Enthusiasts & Safari Seekers!

Zambia has it all: incredible wildlife, dazzling scenery, and is home to some of the most notorious holiday destinations in the entire world! From the unique and splendid Victoria Falls, to a few of the finest safari holidays such as South Luangwa National Park, Lake Kariba and Kafue; by choosing this trip you are for sure about to embark on an adventure to be cherished for the rest of your life!

With an estimated 740 bird species, the country is simply a Garden of Eden for bird lovers! The vast combination of miombo woodland, grassy dambos, forests and wetlands is ideal terrain, which guarantees excellent birding opportunities throughout the year. In fact, Zambia is believed to have one of the highest species-rich bird concentrations on the African continent!

In this 11 day Safari and Bird Watching Extraordinaire Combo you will travel across the country and be privileged enough to encounter a rich diversity of wildlife. Expect to see lions, elephants, buffalo, zebra, Red lechwe…and so much more!

Are you ready for the time of your life?! Zambia here we come…

Day by Day Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival at Lusaka International and transfer to Chaminuka Game Reserve Lodge, just outside the city. After a delicious light meal lunch, you have the choice between two activities: an afternoon around the reserve (which offers game drives, bush walks and horseback safaris), OR a trip to Kalimba Crocodile Farm. Either way, expect to see lots of birds and wildlife (Chaminuka has over 300 species of birdlife), or huge numbers of hungry crocs!:)

Day 2: Breakfast at Chaminuka and drive to Lower Zambezi National Park, opposite the famous Mana Pools Reserve in Zimbabwe. Stay at Sausage Tree Camp & canoeing in the afternoon. Incredible photo opportunities for birds, and thrilling close encounters with hippos, crocodiles, and thirsty animals along the river bank! Birds of Interest: Trumpeter hornbill, Meyer’s parrot, Lilian’s lovebird and Narina Trogon!

Day 3: Early game drive and transfer to the shores of Lake Kariba. Afternoon Sundowner Cruise around the lake, beverages and light snacks included. Overnight at Spurwing Island (Zimbabwe). Bird Must Sees: Spurwing Geese of course, the majestic Fish-Eagle, the African Darter, and the Gymnogene (African Harrier-Hawk). Also be on the lookout for the abundant wildlife of the area where elephants, masses of hippos, crocs, buffalo and waterbuck are kings!

Day 4: Morning game drive in the Matusadona National Park, and continuation of the journey down south to reach “The Smoke That Thunders”: Victoria Falls, one of the world’s greatest natural wonders! Visit of the falls and accommodation at The Royal Livingstone Hotel (5 Star British Old Style; been there, simply extraordinary), known as the “grand old lady of the Falls!” Breathtaking view of the Vic Falls, and private trail only 10 minutes away from the heavenly site. Make sure you have your raincoats ready as it will most likely be a “wet” experience!;)

Day 5: Wake-up call at 6am for a short visit of the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, ideal for rhino sightings. After a typical “bacon and eggs” breakfast you will be heading for Zambia’s oldest and largest national park: Kafue! Truly a bird watchers paradise, with approximately 481 species ranging from aquatic birds to land specimens.

Accommodation at Hippo Lodge, in thatched chalets or rustic safari tents overlooking the Kafue River. Extraordinary game viewing in the Busanga plains, which flourish with red lechwe, puku, the solitary and rare sitatunga, roan and sable antelope, zebra and dozens of other fascinating animals. Cat species such as lion and cheetah are also quite common! Interesting Bird Species: the endangered wattled crane, the Fulleborn’s longclaw, African finfoot, Pels fishing owl, Bohms bee-eater and half-collared kingfisher.

Day 6: Full day inside Kafue National Park. Birding safari and river cruise included in the program. Game drives and walking safaris are also a possibility. Fancy a rejuvenating hot spring dip in a unique sand bottomed Jacuzzi? Anything is possible at Hippo Lodge! Your wish is our command!!!

Day 7: Game drive until 9 am, breakfast at Hippo Lodge and departure for Lochinvar National Park. Lochinvar has outstanding birding prospects, with over 420 recorded bird species in a little more than 428 square kilometers! That’s almost one bird species per kilometer square!

Overnight at The Lechwe Plains Tented Camp. Excursion highlights include a unique mokoro (dugout canoe) outing, questing for Kafue lechwe and sitatungas! Watch Out Birds: pink backed and white pelicans, African skimmer, Baillon’s crake, osprey, secretary bird, etc.

Day 8: Early departure by charter flight to the Bangweulu Swamps in the northern region of the country! The area is home to the endemic Black lechwe and is one of the last refuges of the amazing Shoebill, a very large stork-like bird. Your stay for the night will be Shoebill Island Camp, which offers a panoramic view of the floodplain!

Days 9, 10 & 11: Last but not least, our final destination sends you to my favorite Zambia safari destination: South Luangwa National Park! By fact, many experts view it as one of the top wildlife game sanctuaries in the world!

Accommodation at the luxurious Mfuwe Lodge! Each chalet has its own en-suite bathroom, and a splendid deck overlooking one of the lagoons. The lodge also has an open boma for special dinner nights, and a campfire area for late and chilly evening chats under the starlit African skies!

Typical birds of the area: yellow and saddle billed storks, open billed storks, black headed herons, ground hornbills, hammerkops and carmine bee-eaters!

Activities:

– Upon arrival: Light lunch, afternoon nap and night game drive. The Luangwa Valley is well-known for its remarkable and busy animal life after dark. Keep your eyes open for unusual species such as African civets, genets, porcupines and bushbabies! Also of interest are foraging hippos, hyenas and leopards (awesome area for these elusive cats)!

– Day 10: Early game drive, copious breakfast and walking safari around the lodge area. A second night drive is encouraged, although it is up to you really!

– Day 11: Packing up and en route for Lusaka International Airport!

How Wild Bird Feeders Are Made to Ensure Bird’s Safety – Part 1

Wild bird feeders are containers used to feed wild, migratory birds. The same may be said of individuals who feed such birds. Those settings in which the birds are fed could also be referred to by the same term. Manufacturers use caution while making bird feeders, as they are also meant to guarantee the safety of avian visitors and to protect the food as well.

To begin with, bird feeders are organized into different categories, depending on important factors; one being the protection of the food from squirrels. The frequency at which squirrels gain access to the wild bird seed has resulted in many squirrel proof feeders being manufactured that have rendered their interference obsolete.

To solve this problem, some bird lovers have simply opted to get separate squirrel feeders. Apart from the threat posed by squirrels, another element that is important is the positioning. It is with such a concern in mind that the wild bird feeder designs and styles are all geared towards giving the bird an easy time while feeding. In any case, it is only when it is properly positioned that the bird can get the best out of it.

Many people feed the wild birds for different reasons. For some there is joy in watching the different species of birds congregate. Further, bird houses may also be exquisitely set up; not just wild bird feeders. It is not just seeing them feed that thrills the onlooker.

It is actually all of the activity and behaviors during the feeding process that is of great interest, as well as the striking beauty of some species. Setting up a feeder will almost guarantee that you will spot some birds before the day is done. Given that the intricacies involved in making a bird feeder are many, it is almost a given that the price of a feeder will be, on average, slightly high.

An advantage of setting up a feeder is that there will be more than one bird at a time feasting on the food. In fact, during certain times it is possible that an entire flock will descend on a feeder with the solitary aim of devouring the entire stock of food present.

Several measures need to be employed to ensure that the birds feed successfully. For one, the wild bird feeders must be made in such a manner that they defy any kind of weather. Anyone wishing to see all the birds feeding at the same time is encouraged to make use of a circular bird feeder. To further enhance their survival, cleanliness must not only be observed but also assured, as well as making sure that an abundant supply of wild bird food is available.