I have arrived in South Africa! My first time on the African continent and, I realized while disembarking the plane, my first time traveling internationally solo. The sleepless 15-hour flight (sans WiFi and outlets and with only ebooks) was a tad grueling, so my first day in Joburg was tinged with a bit of delirium. I arrived at a lovely guest house where I’ll be staying for 3 nights. A courtyard just outside my room is buzzing with bird activity around a feeder and bird baths.
So many new birds and such an ID challenge! I have tried my best to prepare, reading up on birds and mammals of Africa, but it has been interesting trying to learn whole new bird families, while still grappling with the birds of North America! A few of the birds in the courtyard were at least familiar – Red-headed finches have a more vibrant red head than our House Finches, with scalloped rather than streaked underparts, but were easily recognized as finches. The first shocking flash of color I saw belonged to a male Southern Red Bishop, a bird I am familiar with because a closely related species, the Northern Red Bishop, has taken up residence in southern California. On that note, I expect to also see Bronze Mannikins and Pin-tailed Whydahs, both species of African birds that have naturalized in parts of California. I was able to identify a Karoo Thrush – it’s robin-like size, shape, and chestiness led me to the Thrush section of my bird book. Oh, and a Cape Sparrow that looks like a giant version of a House Sparrow, with a more striking black and white head.
As for new families, I was treated to a Crested Barbet foraging on the ground then enjoying its beetle meal on a fence line. This thick-billed bird with a shaggy crest is boldly patterned – speckled yellow and and black and red at the base of its striped tail. Its picture, below, is the only one I managed to take today. But you know there will be lots of pictures in the days ahead! For now, I will reattempt sleep.