Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Day with the Birds in the Garden at River Bend Lodge

It was with great delight that, last Friday, whilst walking up from the kitchen back to reception, that I spotted a Cardinal Woodpecker, perched on a tree trunk. I froze to watch. Soon another one appeared…one flew off and the other crawled into a hole in the tree trunk. Wow, a nesting pair of these special little birds in our garden!

Cardinal Woodpecker at the nest

A plan was borne immediately.

I set up my Canon 7D with a 300mm lens with a 1.4 Extender attached, on a tripod. Using my wireless remote I could sit a discreet distance from the tree and still take photographs of the bird’s swopping nesting duties.

I thought it was going to be easy!!

The first day I sat for over 9 hours….watching a hole in the tree. The first time the Woodpeckers swopped the area was in bright sunlight with dappled shade.
 The delete button came into play.

The second time the changeover took place the late shift staff were coming on duty and one of the Chef’s, Siya, was enquiring what I was doing….well no prizes for guessing what happened!

The third time it was just way too dark.

The day was not a waste however.

Sitting and watching the activities of the birds in the garden makes for some really interesting observation…and the realization that watching the smaller creatures can teach us much.

I jotted down some notes the whole day , and here are just some!

“After two hours sitting here I have witnessed Brown Hooded Kingfishers feasting on any of the Water Crickets who dare poke their heads above ground level. We had intended poisoning these little pests who keep disfiguring our lawn. We will have to find a Plan B….we do not want to impact on any birdlife in the garden.

Brown Hooded Kingfisher

I have also witnessed two rather invasive birds making a visit to the Woodpeckers nest….quite a lot of intimidation it seems….what are they, and why?” They spent a lot of time acting like inspectors of some sort!”
(These were later identified as Black Tits)

“During the hours between 12 and about 2.30pm everything seemed to be very quiet. A pair of African Hoopoe’s are raising their young in the base of one the large Pepper Tree’s in the garden The longer I sit here the more accustomed they become to me…sometimes looking for grubs within a meter or two from my chair”.

African Hoopoe

“A pair of Cape Robin Chats have a nest within a few meters of where I am sitting as well….it is very well concealed and I don’t want to try and find it for fear of disturbing them. Getting a photograph of these beautiful little birds is difficult….they a re always on the move”.

At the end of the day I had no photograph of the Cardinal Woodpeckers…..after sitting that long.

The Glossy Starlings were constant companions

I rethought my strategy…and spent some hours every afternoon staking out the nest. Finally after a wait of around 16 hours altogether I managed to get something with which I could share….an acceptable image to show the beauty of this creature.

Cardinal Woodpecker

It was during one of these ‘stake outs’ that I also witnessed the very intimidating (for the Woodpeckers) visit of 5 Scimitar Billed Woodhoopoe’s….it must have been very unnerving for our smaller feathered friends!!

(apologies for the quality of this image)

Scimitar Billed Woodhoopoes

In the coming weeks I hope to bring you more images as we, hopefully, witness the raising of some young Cardinal Woodpeckers in our garden!

The last time I was as patient in ‘staking out’ a bird was back in March this year when I witnessed a Yellow Billed Kite sharing some of a meal from a Lion kill!! That day I sat in my car for 8 hours…and was handsomely rewarded.

Yellow Billed Kite....with a morsel from a Lion kill!!

(To view a larger version of these images just 'click' on an image. All photographs the property of River Bend Lodge)