Just a little birding

This morning our Internet was down at home, so I decided to put on hold everything I am working on, and head out for a little birding. As I'm recording all the birds that I am seeing in Namibia this year, this would be a good opportunity to really get started.

I was a little late...I think I only left home around 9h00 or so. I saw a Helmeted Guineafowl (I can actually hear them now, as I sit here and type) on my way out, but not much else on the way there. I headed to Windhoek's water treatment plant (Poo farm). With all the rain in the last week, the birding is...amazing!

I love getting out there alone. You can set your pace without being worried about what others want to do. You can also crawl through more black-thorn (Acacia malifera often called the wait-a-bit bush). You can step in places that you don't with others...it is a water treatment plant. Most of the water down around the pools is actually because of the rain, not the other stuff.

A new list is always fun. I had started writing a few birds down for my big year, but since I hadn't actually 'gone birding' up until now, I rolled it back. I wanted the fun. It just isn't the same seeing birds in people's back yard.

Normal stuff, normal stuff. You write down fast to start with. You basically spend your first 20 minutes not so much birding as writing your list. African Darter, Red-knobbed Coot, Little Swift, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Laughing Dove....

Ah, a Hamerkop flew in. I like those. I once prepared a little talk on them when I was training to be a ranger at Phinda in South Africa. Living in the desert, I don't see them all the time, but on occasion, in the Naukluft mountain's gorges, one would catch a glimpses of this strange bird. So, it's perhaps not special to everyone, but I like them.

Out over the last pools the birding was just great. I wrote more. Tried to study some of the reed Warblers without much luck. And then, overhead an Osprey came over. It looked huge. We really don't see them that much in Namibia, though I have seen Osprey at the water treatment before. I saw this same bird a number of times during my two hour walk around the place.

Lots more. A Little Bittern...seems to be a good place to see these guys. A Diderick Cuckoo. Lots of color from the Bishops in full or partial breeding plumage. Heaps of Greenshank. I can't remember seeing such a lot together before. Common Scimitarbill. They are always nice to see.

In some of the thick grass around one of the ponds I spotted a bird that you couldn't mistake for anything. A bird that should really be a vagrant, but it gets lost so often, that you end up dismissing their vagrant'ness. The African Jacana. I have seen them at Sossusvlei, hundreds of kilometers from the closest lily pads they are so fond of walking over. But, I love them too.

Wood Sandpiper to finish a good outing to the poo ponds. I had toped 50 birds in just a couple of hours and though I hadn't planned on it, I decided that I was on a role and would just keep going. I drove through town, through the lunch hour traffic, and then on to Avis Dam. It was getting hot and there really was nothing going on. I saw a couple easy birds and then started walking around. Every time I would stop the ants all over the ground would start crawling up my legs. It seems to be like this at Avis Dam, if it rains, the place crawls with ants. So I only lifted my bins for really nice birds...and there weren't that many nice birds. Actually, there were basically no birds around. Only White-browed Sparrow Weavers and Cape Glossy Starlings, the two I already picked up from my car.

But just as I was starting to feel that I was stupid for even bothering to try to go birding at 13h00 in the afternoon I saw a whiteness to a large bush on the other side. African Fish Eagle. I found a rock in the water, stood on it, threw off the ants rushing up towards my shorts. Once I felt free, I lifted my bins. I'm a tallish dude without much co-ordination, but I do have rather good balance, probably helped by years of riding bikes, climbing hills and doing handstands. Today was the reward for all of that. I got to watch the bird nicely for a while, perched on this little rock in the water.

Hopped off the rock and walked briskly back to the car, not intending to do the ants in the pants dance. In the end I had 56 birds for the day, and for the year (I saw everything but Familiar Chat, that I have seen already this year, and I'll see one of those gardening tomorrow.) I got four raptors. A couple Steppe Buzzards were working the one corner of the sewage works, high on a power line beyond the ponds was a Black-chested Snake Eagle, and my majestic Fish Eagle of Avis Dam. I didn't hit anything super special, but to have two Eagles and an Osprey as three of my first four raptors was good enough for me.
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