Thursday, 2 March 2017

SOUTH AFRICA: Tourist Captures Bird Storm

South Africa's wild spaces are not only teeming with the iconic big five species, but prolific bird life too as this new Latest Sightings video shows.

A group of tourists were treated to what one of them describes as a "once-in-a-lifetime sighting" of a mammoth flock of Quelea in flight. While said to be a common sight in South Africa and the world, these birds are often only seen in an ad-hoc 'swarms' moving across the grasslands.

However for David Fisher, a 41-year-old visitor to the Tamboti lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve in the North West Province - a recent, well-timed sighting has led to what can only be described as mesmerising wildlife footage of thousands of these birds moving in swift formation around the lodge's waterhole.

Fisher says his group arrived at the lodge in the afternoon, and he noted the camp was quiet, however their camp ranger had told them to be ready for the "queleas that had chosen the camp as their nesting ground". He warned us that the queleas would arrive and possibly "bring in the snakes and small predators".

"We didn't think much about it and settled into the camp taking in the scenery and afternoon sounds," says Fisher.

But then they arrived.

"Almost to the minute, swarms of Quelea from all sides started arriving from all directions" explains Fisher.

"The camp came alive, you could not walk anywhere. It was vibrant and the trees felt alive, we could hardly talk let alone sleep. The buzz around us was so amazing we were not willing to miss out."

The group was given the option to forgo the morning game drive the next day, in the hopes that they could see the birds in flight over the waterhole. And at precisely 06:15 the following day, they were rewarded with this footage.

"After being told about their routine, we decided to wake up early and stay in camp."

"Our alarm went off, we jumped into the shower and left our room at 05:45. Walking to the main room, the pathways were again alive. It felt like the birds had not gone to sleep, yet they were chirping in a manner like a pilot prepping his squadron.

"The tone was intense but was gaining in character. We grabbed our coffees and sat down by the waterhole in front of our deck.

Fisher says their ranger had given them insight into the strategy and timing of the birds' flight and after a few mock flights in camp one swarm took off towards the waterhole.

"Instantaneously, every bird and swarm roosting within our camp took flight. Like a coordinated event, the swarms swooshed down on the waterhole taking over the entire area. It was a mass of darkness streaming in from all sides, the noise was intense and consuming.

"We did not know where to look or turn. Every direction had Quelea in flight heading for the waterhole."

The quelea can be seen swarming down in what is best described as "a coordinated managed agenda, grabbing a drink, evading predators".

Fisher says, "We just happened to be privileged enough to get our timing right to experience such an amazing site and capture it on camera.

And yet within minutes of the event starting, it came to an end. In the video footage their guide can be heard saying a similar nesting site had in fact been blow up in Botswana. Thankfully not in South Africa.