07 November 2009

Operation Blackcap…(Xumeni Forest, South Africa): October 15, 2009

For our last hurrah in South Africa on our final morning of the tour before out afternoon departures we had planned a visit to Xumeni Forest in particular for Orange-headed Ground-Thrush and Cape Parrot. Although, having seen them a few days earlier we could avoid the incredibly early start usually required for seeing the thrush and enjoy a more leisurely visit. However, there was still one conspicuous gap on our list from Xumeni, and so after checking again on the Wattled Cranes, which were now in better light for us (along with a number of dancing Grey-crowned Cranes too-see photo) we returned there. The gaping hole was from Bush Blackcap, a fascinating bird with a mysterious taxonomic background currently assigned to the babblers (although much more handsome than some others in that often dowdy family). We had already pursued this species three times on the tour, in the highlands of Wakkerstroom, and at the base of Sani Pass where the blackcaps come to breed each year, although are only migrants to these areas and perhaps had not yet arrived for the season. Xumeni though is a place where they are said to be present all year round, and so our hopes should have been a little higher, were it not for the fact we had not got a sniff out of one there just a few days before! Ken and I were both keen to give it a try though all the same. Our first attempts fell on deaf ears, then suddenly a soft warbling was heard-could it really be? A quick burst from the I-pod, and then there it was, just a metre or so away from us, now belting out its rich song at full volume, after which we simply could not get rid of it, (not that we wanted to!) See photos.

We then made our way back to Durban, where a flash of crimson wings along the way proved to be a gorgeous Purple-crested Turaco gliding over the main highway, a nice parting shot to end an extremely enjoyable time spent in South Africa. It is a beautiful country filled with spectacular landscapes, pretty flowers, bold game, and wonderful birds. I long to return there soon…

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