More from Mark Wilson’s African Diary:
Sunday 10th March
The past couple of mornings I have got up early and gone wandering in the reserve, trying to make the most of this place before I leave. As a result, I managed to see several of the birds that I had been hearing a lot, but had not got a good look at.
These included Tropical Boubou, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Common Wattle-eye, and Brown Babbler. The latter bird I saw two of, wild-eyed and dishevelled, ‘duetting’ on a branch (if that word can be applied to a pair of birds making noises like they are being strangled while gargling with Listerine).
In addition, I saw some birds that I had only heard briefly while out on point counts with Manu, or which were entirely new to me. These included African Blue and Paradise Flycatchers, Yellow White-eye, and a very nice Grey-winged Robin Chat.
I also managed to interject myself into a large group of Stone Partridges, which assaulted me from all sides with a barrage of their calls. These sound like escalating outrage being vented by gossiping old women into a microphone attached to stadium-quality speakers.
This morning, instead of going for another walk, I opened a couple of nets outside the guesthouse, to see if any interesting birds could be convinced to spend a little time with us. I was rewarded with two of the less common sunbirds, (including a stunning male Pygmy Sunbird), a beautiful male Rock Firefinch (one of the this region’s endemic species), a couple of Yellow-fronted Tinkerbirds (like tiny, stubby little woodpeckers), a few bitey Village Weavers, a beautiful White-eye and a pair of Red-cheeked Cordon Bleus.
However, the best bird of the day was the last one. Bearded Barbet is a close relative of the Tinkerbird, but maybe 10 times the size, with a disproportionately large and fearsome bill. I saw one of these shortly after I arrived, and hoped I would get to see one in the hand. My wish came thoroughly true, as while I held it and Emma took photos, I got to see the bird in my hand, and various uncomfortable portions of my hand in the bird’s massive bill.
The last week of my stay will be a week of presentations for (and from) the students. Tomorrow I will give them a talk on oral presentations, an intentionally self-referential exercise that, if I do it well enough, can serve as both explanation and example. On Tuesday each of the students will be giving 5 minute presentations on their project proposals, which they have already worked up in quite a lot of detail.
On Thursday the students will be presenting the results of the Distance/Multivariate Stats project they’ve been working on for the past few weeks. And I’ve also told them that I’m hoping to teach them all a Scottish dance before I leave. There’s the right number of them for either an Eightsome Reel or a Strip the Willow, but I haven’t decided which of these would suit best!
To end with, here are some more pics of birds we caught in today’s nets. Enjoy!