Enjoying the beauty that nature has to offer is not only found in the most prestigious of private game reserves. Have you ever walked through your local nature reserve or botanical garden and seen what smaller marvels you may find?
I am lucky to call the Lowveld National Botanical Garden my local neighbourhood gem. I recently took another late afternoon walk through and despite the summer humidity, I managed to find some treasures yet again.
The stroll through the botanical garden started off with a familiar sound, one that I have been chasing after for a while now. A high pitched “Hello Georgie” is the call that immediately gets me scanning the dense tree canopies. I have heard this distinctive call of the African Emerald Cuckoo on three occasions now. I have however not managed to locate the bird just yet. I am starting to wonder whether it is another bird trying to tease me by mimicking the call.
The gardens currently ring with the calls of various cuckoos. One that caught my eye is the Diederik Cuckoo. It seemed that the cuckoo was causing havoc in the gardens by staying true to its nature. When I spotted the cuckoo it was being chased around by a disgruntled African Paradise Flycatcher. Most likely the cuckoo tried to attack the nest of the flycatcher pair.
One bird that regularly makes an appearance around the gardens is the Kurrichane Thrush. Some of the individuals can be rather shy and keep their distance, but now and then you may come across an obliging individual.
One of the best ways to locate birds while walking around a natural area is to listen out for a ‘bird party’. There are often different species of birds that will congregate in a certain area and move together for a while. This is most likely due to a concentration of food/insects amongst a set of trees. By approaching slowly and quietly you may be able to get fairly close to the party.
As I neared the lively chorus, a bounty of colour caught my eye. There were three male Violet-backed Starlings that were jostling for position to woo a female.
The iridescent purple colour of the males is so striking that one cannot miss them. The colour will vary from dark to rosy depending on how the light falls on the feathers. The females take on a completely different colour pallete.
One thing that makes this South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) garden quite unique is that it has two flowing waterfalls on either side of the garden. To make it even more special, both waterfalls originate from separate rivers namely the Crocodile River and Nels River.
The prominent waterfall in the garden has carved a deep gorge with flat cliff faces on the opposite bank. Season after season one may find a handful of active Southern Bald Ibis nests on the cliff ledges. The species is currently listed as Vulnerable so being able to see them from time to time is a treat.
After completing the wider circular route through the gardens I made my way back out. I passed through the forest section leading to the gate and something caught my eye. I caught a glimpse of a dove ducking for cover into a seemingly impenetrable thicket. There are three dove species that have eluded me and I imagined that this dove may be one of them. I tried my best to find a gap through the foliage and eventually I spotted what I was looking for. The dove slowly turned its head around to look at me and revealed a solid white face and breast from deep within the shadows. I confirmed that it was a Tambourine Dove which I was able to add to my lifer list as a first. As soon as it realised I locked eyes with it, the dove bolted out the other side and disappeared.