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V is for Flying

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Hamerkop | Mahango National Park

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Hamerkop – Scopus umbretta

This is to any aspiring or life-time-birder who knows his LBJ’s – the Caprivi is an absolute paradise. It has woken (again) in me, that urge to capture (on camera) and identify. I fell in love with the birds of the Caprivi.

 

 

 

Vierkantklip

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Having had a late brunch on Saturday morning at Little Foot Nursery in Swakopmund, we decided to go to the beach as soon as Rocco opened his eyes after his afternoon nap. Dad and Cobus had spent the morning fishing at Vierkantklip just outside of Swakopmund and we were curious to see what they had achieved. Sadly, they had nothing to show. We introduced Mr. H to an endless sandpit and boy, did he have fun.

Below then, a few photos from our hour or two at the beach with Mr Handsome.

Domesticated Turkey – Meleagris gallopavo

Although I mostly remember chickens in my grandmother’s coop, I definitely also remember these unfriendly buggers – turkeys. I never understood why she kept them. They are not beautiful like peacocks, we didn’t eat their eggs and I cannot remember a Christmas turkey either. Unfortunately I can’t ask my grandmother now.

Turkeys are odd birds. Well, that is my humble opinion anyway. The males strut all day long posing to anything female and the females always seem to ignore the males just pecking for food.

Apparently the domesticated turkey is descended from the wild turkey and was domesticated by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica (Mexico) at least 2,000 years ago. (Which makes me wonder if any true wild turkeys are left?)

Turkeys are mainly kept for their meat though I have yet to taste it. (Turkey meat is not traditional in Namibia and who would settle for a turkey drumstick instead of a game steak?) And here are some interesting facts. In the US, males are referred to as toms while in Europe they are known as stags… The females are called hens while the chicks are called poults or turkeylings. In Afrikaans, we call them kalkoen-mannetjie (turkey male) and kalkoen-wyfie (turkey female). Much easier if you ask me! The English name is the result of an early misidentification of the bird with an unrelated species which was imported to Europe through the country of Turkey. Furthermore, turkeys can live up to ten years when domesticated. (Isn’t that fairly short for a bird that big and domesticated?)

Then I found this info on the behaviour of turkeys which proofs my point; turkeys are odd. Young turkeys will fly readily to perch and roost but as they become older they will mostly settle on the ground. Young birds will frolic which has the appearance of play. As turkeys are very sociable, they will become very distressed when isolated. In fact, they are so sociable that when one bird exhibits a new behaviour, chances are the rest of the birds will mimic and soon the whole flock will have adopted the new behaviour. They even ‘recognise’ a newcomer and such a bird will be attacked (sometimes fatally) by an established group. (No new friends for these guys!)

Being this social, also makes turkeys highly vocal. A high-pitched trill can indicate the birds becoming very aggressive. Aggression will further increase in frequency and severity as the birds mature. (Who needs turkeys with teenagers in the house?) Maturing males will display sexually a considerable portion of their time. This involves the fanning of the tail feathers, drooping the wings and erecting all body feathers. (Very much like the one in the photo…) The fleshy modules on the male will become bright blue and red, while the male will also start to sneeze at regular intervals. (Definitely won’t work for me – I prefer healthy, non-sneezing males). Throughout all this, the bird will strut slowly about emitting the characteristic “gobbling” call.

I have to admit, reading and writing all this, have definitely made me realise the similar behaviour of teenage boys and male turkeys… ‘slow strutting’, ‘erecting all body feathers’ and making strange ‘gobbling’ sounds…

Domesticated Male Turkey

Domesticated Male Turkey

Pied Crow – Corvus albus

Pied Crow – Corvus albus

I’ve always had a thing for crows. I can’t really say that I like them; they are a bit odd after all. And then they carry a certain enigma being associated with all things dead or dangerous depending on the angle you look from. And then there was this movie series when I was a teenager, The Crow starring Mark Dacascos … I think that sealed it for me – crows are just strange. (Even the movie, The Crow, has had its fair share of strange occurrences and accidents).

The Pied Crow is a fairly common bird in Namibia but I grew up with them foraging at the school. Nowhere else can they find more interesting bits of food than on a school playground. They are mostly associated with human settlements, but ironically the one in the picture was seen at a waterhole in the Etosha National Park. The male and female are similar in looks. The House Crow is much smaller and has a grey (not a white) breast and neck-band. The White breast of the Pied Crow is rather unmistaken. They usually forage in pairs, but flocks of approx. 300 have been recorded in non-breeding season.

Crows are omnivorous but they seem to prefer plant material including seeds, fruit and roots, and nectar. (The ones at the school must have had a sweet tooth then!) They will also eat invertebrates, such as termite alates, and vertebrates, including lizards, small mammals, bats, snakes, birds, nestlings, eggs and fish. (Ah, so they will eat anything!) And they also don’t say no to carrion. (Maybe the real reason why these birds truly freak me a bit!)

My Roberts describe their call as a loud harsh kraah, and a snoring khrrr…. I’m not so sure about this. To me, they sound rather deathly… something that should only be heard at a funeral.

One good characteristic, Pied Crows are monogamous. And then, what makes them very interesting is their nests of sticks and twigs build by both partners in an isolated tree or pole. Why is this so fascinating? Because you will hardly ever find only sticks and twigs in a crow’s nest. They love all things odd for their nests from jewellery to washing pegs. They have an incubation period of 18 – 19 days and a nestling period of about 35 – 43 days.

All-in-all the crow is not a horrendously bad bird… it’s actually quite a character. Just a pity it is associated with the dark!

Pied Crow

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