At the start of my trip in February 2012, my dear friend Peter Lawson picked me up at the airport, took me to the lovely Karen Bullen's fabulous home perched on a hillside in Nelspruit, South Africa, then picked me up the next morning for some birding. And oh, what birding we had. These are a few of the birds to be had right around town. This is a white-fronted bee-eater. Oh my gosh. I was OK until I saw the blue panties. Then I lost it. Yes, this is my favorite bee-eater. Until I see a Carmine. Or a European. Gah. Turquoise overload.
They just sit around like any robin in the trees surrounding farm fields and you think, "What would I do if I saw this in my backyard in Ohio?"
This was the great fun of birding in South Africa in its summer. Birds undreamt of. My previous visit had been in the dead of the austral winter, in July 1994. No bee-eaters, very few rollers. They were everywhere this time (in February, South Africa's summer).
Some birds were familiar, like these cattle egrets. Cattle egrets are native right here in South Africa, and have only been in North America since the 1940's. No one knows how they got here, but they've become a familiar fixture from Maine to Florida. They don't mind if they're following elephants or Jerseys. Even cooler, cattle egrets are a bona-fide Neotropical migrant in their new home, tracing new migration routes to Central and South America, routes never taken by their ancestors. I use cattle egrets as one measure of the behavioral plasticity of birds.
Cage bird fanciers will recognize this common waxbill. So cool to see birds you're used to viewing as they ricochet around a parakeet cage, living their good lives out in the wild. I love the red bandit mask.
This is a fan-tailed widowbird, and sharp naturalists will note immediately the resemblance to red-winged blackbirds. No relation at all; red and gold epaulets just happen to look sharp with velvet black, and it's a color combo that translates well in damp well lit grassy landscapes. It's a good example of convergent evolution.
That's not a bird, but it was crawling across our picnic table. I wish we had geckos in Ohio.
We could definitely use more lizards around here.
because then we might have hadedas ( a very noisy kind of ibis) as garden birds. Don't miss the pink iridescence on his wing!