Ol’ Pels

A fortnight ago we spent some time in Pafuri (Limpopo Province, South Africa) in the far north of the Kruger National Park famous for its Crooks, clandestine military traffic & its avifauna. We returned there this last weekend on the strength of a single feather we found drifting on the Luvuvhu River (named for the Venda word muvuvhu or River Bushwillow).

On a whimsical leap of faith based wholly on personal experience, a liberal dose of good intent and the desire to add a single species to our 800 Challenge list, we gathered our ‘stuff’ & paid our dues. Was I sure that the feather was from a Pel’s Fishing-Owl? In all honesty, no. That feather drifting 30 feet below could have fallen from a cast of candidates, not least of all an Egyptian Goose, a common resident on my lawn.

If wisdom is an acceptance of our own humanity & perhaps too the realisation that the more we know, the less we know we know, then fortunately we have much to learn for wisdom is as rare as the dodo, a creature lost to irrational excess.

Under a late winter’s sky my old pal Pel’s had me reflecting; a touch upstream from the mainstream. For all money it’s not pretty.

I recently submitted, unwittingly I might add, a checklist to the SABAP2 database inclusive of a single Burchell’s Starling for the pentad nearest Punda Maria (KNP), a species hitherto unrecorded in that area.

Embedded in the program is a ‘garbage-in, garbage out‘ safety-catch; a precautionary rider eliminating a likely misidentity & based on emperical knowledge. Where birds have not been previously recorded the database generates a full ORF (Out of Range Form). Simplistically, the ORF is part of the discovery process to establish legitimacy. I confess my initial response was one of indignation. A Burchell’s Starling is as obvious as the day is long..!! A wise response to a routine inquiry? Not exactly…

Lark-like Bunting – KNP & also ‘out of range’..

By extrapolation, posts on social media sites casting doubt on the veracity of recent sightings, old sightings.. any sightings and the irrational demand for conclusive evidence or in situ declaration of guilt in absentia is a condemnation born of ignorance and is not wise. Dishonest claims are merely echoed shouts when no one cares to listen. It adds nothing of personal value to the dishonest claimant but commensurately diminishes none at all from the community at large.

An unqualified interpretation of intent or agenda is an unsolicited opinion, which should remain unspoken. It’s not our place to conjure up assumption.

Innuendo and or suggestive or subliminal accusation is written-trickery & as ephemeral as a Force 12 gale. It’s an unpolished game of smoke & mirrors which endures; a shallow necklace of hollow victory.

A defensive response to a grossly immature and or irrational accusation is not wise; so too the condemnation of opinion or an image posted on a Facebook group, considered out of bounds or extralimital of the group’s founding parameters. This too is not wise.

The suggestion that the photography of birds has condemned the ‘art of bird-watching’ whatever that is & from someone who should know better, is not wise. Clothes, they say, do not make the man, nor does his glass or accessory elective.

Bohm’s Spinetail – [Pafuri (Aug) KNP]
Keeping a list / not keeping lists of species seen or heard is a personal record of events out in the field, any field. Deriving an artificial hierarchy or sprouting song is an exercise of foolishness. Ship-assisted, wind-aided or carried by flood, hurricane & storm is a self-imposed, introspective limitation on a personal list. To diminish another’s recorded list is never wise. What place have we? This disingenuous pecking order makes us peckers, nothing more.

Condescension, casual dismissal, brittle arrogance, envy and self-styled relevance is as foolish as winter rain & a polygamous short-sale to the highest bidder. This too is not wise.

Dickinson’s Kestrel – a regional rarity

The Pel’s alluded me again but I could have sworn that feather had me close… Reminds me of another shore-based urban Pel’s. Strange & surely not? Play the leaves as they fall..

I offer no apology nor do I make inference however inferred, interpreted or insinuated. Attach little relevance to these words. These are my words & this shoe fits me well. The journey lies ahead. Walk on.



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