SUMMER TIME By Ranger Sean Gilbert

COVER Woodlands-kingfisher--Sean

It’s summer here at Arathusa Safari Lodge, and it’s an especially magical time indeed! The rains have arrived, and with them a whole lot of incredible things. Water breathes life into the bush, all the insects are out in force, the antelope are lambing, and the bush is lush and green.

With this abundance of new life booming, all the predatory species such as leopard and lion are eating their fill on antelope youngsters.

Lavailants Cuckoo – Sean Gilbert

The migratory birds have also made their way back to us, giving us so much more to see and learn.  The first of the migratory birds to return home to feed and breed were the Klaases and Diederiks Cuckoos, as well as the Jacobin and Levailants Cuckoo, whose calls we could hear in the afternoons as early in the year as September. As the days moved on towards peak summer, the rest of our feathered friends started moving in, including species like the barn swallow (which make their way back from England) and the Steppe buzzards (from the huge step plains in Russia). They all travel these vast distances because of the incredible abundance of varied forms of food available, including insects and fruit, coupled with the warm and humid climate. This is truly the perfect place for them.

Jacobin Cuckoo – Sean Gilbert

However, the personal favorite among us guides and trackers can only be the Woodland’s kingfisher, one of the last species to migrate back home. It is incredible to think that one afternoon there wasn’t a single call, but the following morning – literally overnight – they had all arrived. The most unique and perfect TTJJJP TRRRRRRRRRRRR call of the Woodland’s kingfisher was echoing in the cool mornings just at the beginning of November.

Watching these beautiful blue, black and grey birds darting back and forth, opening and closing their wings, displaying their brilliant soft blue colours, is the most rewarding and utterly perfect sight to see for anyone with even the smallest interest in birds.

Woodlands Kingfisher – Sean Gilbert

The Woodland’s kingfisher, contrary to its name, very rarely eats fish, and rather hunts and eats insects (which there is an almost  ridiculous abundance of). It is thought that if they feed on insects they do not have to compete directly with other larger Kingfisher species, like the Giant and the Pied Kingfishers, for the very limited fish food resource. A very clever strategy, I think.

The Woodland’s kingfishers typically nest in a hole in a tree, usually competing for those holes with starlings and barbets. Both parents help to feed and protect the chicks until they are ready to fledge and begin the migration to central Africa for the first time.

Here’s to summer!

Sean Gilbert

Barn Swallow - Sean Gilbert
Barn Swallow – Sean Gilbert
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