To the trees!

Once a year, every year, I celebrate a birthday; another ring on what is becoming a trunk rather than a stem. It’s a collection of hoops Methuselah hisself might envy, quietly of course. This year the family obliged with a surprise, self-drive, busman’s holiday to the mistforest & bushveld biomes of South Africa’s Limpopo province.

Fairyland @ 50x

Alisha’s passion, [she’s a Reiki Master (btw.)], resides in the esoteric; an alternative form of common sense & a non-science far too complex for the uninitiated. Most of it is gobbledygook to me. Rather than tax myself unduly, I look the other way – lest the hex comes a-knocking on her broom. Once in a while, however, the cauldron of mystery concocts a brew not fit for civil society; a diabolical elixir…

Have a look at the ‘Fairyland’ pic at 50x.      Watdat?

Fairyland @ 200x

[ … & yes it floated around for a few minutes, no strings & no it isn’t lens flare or dust in your eye. ]


How ’bout @ 200x ?

Most of it is gobbledygook to me…

 

Anyhoo… What is it about Magoebaskloof that demands a repeat visit? Only the self-loathing enjoys the crick-in-the-neck aftershock of canopy-birding – an up-the-skirts exercise conducted, on foot, from down below. Rain is a constant companion. The local specials are adept at hide & seek almost to the point of distraction. Outside of the dawn-chorus the wind susurrates, detached from reality. Leaves lost in usefulness float down to their compatriots, brittle & brown. It’s an affront; an assault on the senses: rank, damp and squishy underfoot & yet…

… & yet – it’s a jewel; a treasure – a seasonally-neutral trove of marvels no less Fantasia than Disney itself.

Tallest planted trees on earth – Woodbush (near)

The deranged hike the reserve [Kudos rather than for profit methinks]. The rest of us, with our feet firmly on the ground, cap the suffering in the virtual domain. Woodbush [traversed top-to-bottom] is a muddied, winding descent to the bottom laced with moments of YES that is nothing short of tops. Some of the birds are cryptic. Others call incessantly from the verge – perhaps no further than a short, left cross away. Others flash overhead in self-absorbed hubris – cackling in the green as the bulbs fire-off in the shadows of their past.

… & yet – it’s a jewel; a treasure

 

Forest Canary

Owls woo-hoo-woohoo; Flufftails just woo, woo-eee; & we? We love it.

Don’t expect a large bag of goodies but come sharp. The rewards are toothsome.

Woodbush is home to a populous crew of Black-fronted Bushshrike & together with Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, both denizens of The Green, equate to a birding session locally unique. In the late evening or in the drizzle, Buff-spotted Flufftail are conspicuous – never absent. Barratt’s Warbler confound rational thought with their ventriloquism. Cape Parrot – perhaps Woodbush’s most illustrious resident – keeps society in the early sunrise & at sunset.

Barratt’s Warbler (File)

Green Twinspot, African Emerald Cuckoo, Forest Canary, Knysna Turaco, Narina Trogon, Olive Bushshrike, Yellow-streaked Greenbul and Olive Woodpecker are common, cryptic and a concession to effort; if you try hard enough & page through the leaves. Once in a while, an individual holds pose & braves the lens but only once … in a while.

 

Woodbush – summit

I suppose the birding’s easier in winter when the Yellow-streaked Greenbul & Square-tailed Drongo call to the others – a gathering; a party even. Ticking-off twenty species, under those conditions, is fairly 1..2..3. The difference in summer, however, is the cleansing rain and the magnetism of the migrants. There are few candidates more iridescent in a STD sun-off than the African Emerald Cuckoo.

Not all of the Woodbush protagonists are clad in Robin Hood. The Grey Cuckooshrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, White-starred Robin and the ubiquitous sunbirds are a rainbow cast of characters no less graphic than their green contemporaries. In & on the dank undergrowth Orange Ground Thrush, Olive Thrush and Lemon Dove add the earthier tones to the fairyland-palette.

…add the earthier tones to the fairyland-palette.

 

Helix – the underside

Whilst the birding isn’t always spectacular, although the birds themselves usually are; even the birds begin to pall nearer midday & let’s be honest – looking up their trumpets isn’t every citizen’s dream. The scenery becomes less the supporting cast & more the feature. Simultaneously, the smaller denizens of the Mistbelt find their feet; the butterflies, in particular, are a lepidopterist’s dream vacation.

It’s also the best time of day to track the soar – raptors of all shapes, sizes & intent keep an aerial vigil for the strays; & stray they must if the fat on the buzzard is any judge of the bounty.

A hex in its eye..

Tooth & claw feature widely. Winter’s Forest Buzzard is subbed by summertime’s Common (Steppe) Buzzard. A plethora of sparrowhawk sp. & the African Goshawk handle the smallish birds. The Crowned Eagle, Bat Hawk & African Wood Owl host the Samango, various Chiroptera sp. and insects respectively. The circle of life is a perfect hexagon of reliance.

… but it’s the trees; magnificent trees: the marrow of life; perfect hosts – & a remnant salute to what was: ie. before the axe & saw changed their world.

and so – join us: let’s to the trees!

… but it’s the trees – magnificent trees: the marrow of life

For those of you not following our end-of-year Kruger 300 Challenge, [introduced in the next post] we wish you safe holidays, a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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