Bundox River Lodge…Time to take flight?

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In waters blue, where ripples play, The pied kingfisher reigns today. With wings of black and white arrayed. A piscivore supreme, it takes to flight, In search of prey from morning light. With keen eyes fixed on the liquid sheen, It hunts for fish, sleek and serene.

 

 

Recently, Travel & Things undertook a Lowveld road trip that included 3 Sun Destinations™ properties. Bundox River Lodge was the final Lodge on that trip. These are just some of the bird species I got to see while I was there…

 

 

 

Like the staff at Bundox River Lodge, this Yellow-billed Stork bent over backwards for me.

 

 

 

Not a feather out of place? Well, it seems that this Tawny Eagle has at least one that will affect the wing aerodynamics.

If there are no trees to nest in, they will utilize power pylons or similar structures.

 

 

 

Lessons from the Bush: A Tale of Mystery, Patience, and a Mocking Cliff Chat

Sometimes even the most adept birders find themselves stumped, as was the case on a drive while I was at Bundox.

It is a common scene – a bird perched on a tree stump by the side of the road, captured in a moment of serenity. The field guide, a repository of avian wisdom, can often identify the species almost instantaneously. Occasionally, even those with limited birding knowledge, like me, can join in this satisfying task. But on this particular day, a mysterious bird perplexed not only me but also the guide and tracker.

The enigmatic bird, engaged in a display of self-care, continued to primp and preen just off the road, oblivious to the intrigue it had sparked. Armed with birding apps, the group attempted in vain to unveil the identity of this feathery enigma. Frustration mingled with curiosity as the collective knowledge of the group failed to penetrate the mystery. The bird seemed to mock their efforts, preserving its secret with an air of quiet dignity. ( The word ‘mock’ turned out to be a clue that eluded the three of us)

Undeterred but frustrated by the lack of identification, we completed the drive and returned to the lodge, determined to unveil the identity of the elusive avian visitor. The camp manager, a custodian of local knowledge and wildlife lore, was presented with a picture of our still unidentified species. While she acknowledged having encountered the bird before, even her seasoned expertise fell short in unravelling the mystery. The bird had left an indelible mark, not just by its physical presence but also in the minds of those of us who were now invested in trying to ascertain the species.

In a final act of desperation, a picture and a plea for identification were dispatched to a birder friend of mine.

The anticipation was almost palpable as we waited for a text message to arrive, breaking the silence and dispelling the uncertainty. The mystery bird, it was revealed, was a Mocking Cliff Chat – a species regularly found in the area.

The eventual resolution of this avian riddle bore witness to a valuable lesson that resonated beyond the original sighting and game drive.  In the bush, where every rustle and chirp contains a lesson, the incident highlighted the humility inherent in the pursuit of knowledge. It served as a reminder that even the most seasoned experts can be confounded by the intricacies of nature and that the true essence of exploration lies in the continual process of learning.

The Mocking Cliff Chat, in this instance, lived up to its name with an emphasis on ‘mocking.’ Its elusive nature challenged the presumptions of the seasoned guide, tracker, camp manager, and me. Yet, in the face of this challenge, the group was united by a shared curiosity that persisted beyond the borders of immediate understanding.

This incident served as a microcosm of the broader lessons that nature imparts to those who listen and are willing to learn. It underscores the importance of resilience in the face of uncertainty, the value of collaboration in the pursuit of knowledge, and the beauty inherent in the mysteries that grace the natural world. Each participant in this encounter, whether a seasoned guide or a novice enthusiast, found themselves humbled by the realization that, in the grand tapestry of the wild, there is always more to discover.

 

 

 

Goliath Heron marching along the bank of the Olifants River.

Did you know?

Herons are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Herons have specially adapted neck vertebrae that allow them to strike at prey without moving their bodies.

 

 

 

A Woodland Kingfisher is one of the Kingfisher species that does not eat fish. Their usual diet consists of a variety of insects, arthropods, snakes and frogs.

 

 

 

A Pied Kingfisher on a tree branch not too far from my accommodation. I did not realize how territorial this species is and I was able to watch him as he spent most of the day on this branch, leaving only to seek out something to eat.

Here are some Pied Kingfisher facts that might be of interest…

It is the only black and white kingfisher.

It is the largest of the ‘hovering’ birds. (The ability to stay in one place while flying, much like a helicopter).

One of the Kingfisher species that DOES feed on fish.

Capable of reaching a flight speed of up to 50 km/h and able to swallow prey mid-flight.

 

 

 

The river in front of my luxury tented accommodation was populated by either these Yellow-billed storks or elephants. Both made for awesome sightings.

Interesting facts…

They have one of the fastest swallowing reflexes thus enabling them to catch moving prey in water very quickly.

They can snap their beaks shut in just 0.025 seconds.

 

 

 

Standing in the fading light of the late afternoon sun, this Yellow-billed Stork reminded me of the Dylan Thomas poem, Do not go gentle into that good night…

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

 

 

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