18 August 2023

A special morning at the Farm

07 June 2023 - Northern Farm

A heavy mist covered most of Midrand as I made my way to Northern Farm.

I believe we all have a spirit bird, once we have departed, this is probably because I am a birder and supplemented by the touching scene in the movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". My Dad's is a Cattle Egret whilst my mother-in-law is a Ring-necked Dove and they become the connection for us between the living and departed and bring a happy reminder when sometimes their memories fade a little when life becomes all encompassing.

I have been struggling to connect with a bird for my friend Andre Marx. Initially I thought it could be the White-backed Night Heron that we discussed often, but never found the time to visit Cedar Lakes to locate it or was it the Kurrichane Thrush that was the last bird we saw together at the Farm - neither had an emotional connection - so his spirit bird was yet to manifest for me.....

The mist was just as thick after arriving at the farm and there weren't many birds to be seen, although they could be heard singing. A Cape Longclaw was foraging on the side of the road on the way to the quarry.

Cape Longclaw (Macronyx capensis)

The quarry was where Andre and I always started our birding when we visited the farm. When I got out the car, the mist seemed thicker and heavier and I stood in the road contemplating where to go, when out of the mist a single Yellow Warbler flew in and landed in the shrub very close to where I was standing. It appeared to be watching me and then all of a sudden broke into song - in the middle of June! The hairs on my arms stood up and I just teared up as I felt an emotional or even spiritual connection to what was happening in front of my eyes. I wasnt sure if I should sit down to appreciate this special moment, but I picked up my camera so that I could also record and share with others, who knew Andre. 

Suddenly the morning felt a little brighter and lighter, even though the mist was still all engulfing, my question was now answered and Andre's spirit bird for me now is the African Yellow Warbler. I cant remember how long we were 'engaged', but once the singing stopped the Warbler flew back across the road disappearing back into the mist and from where it came.....

The Yellow Warbler was found at the Farm by Andre in 2022 (if memory serves me) and he had great delight in showing it to me when we visited together and on subsequent visits we found it more often than not.

I make no excuse for the number of images below which I hope convey what I felt...

African Yellow Warbler (Iduna natalensis)

My emotions were still high, so I remained in the quarry way longer than I would  normally stay. Amethyst Sunbird's were feeding on the remnant flowers of the Wild Dagga 

Female Amethyst Sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina)

Male Amethyst Sunbird (Chalcomitra amethystina)

A Brown-crowned Tchagra tried it's best to be unobtrusive

Brown-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra australis)

As the sun slowly made an appearance through the mist, other species became active and visible - here a Levaillant's Cisticola

Levaillant's Cisticola (Cisticola tinniens)

I walked down to the small dam through the dew covered grass and found a not so obliging Lesser Swamp Warbler

Lesser Swamp Warbler (Acrocephalus gracilirostris)

A Little Rush Warbler called and suddenly popped out and I had some the best views and photographic opportunities ever of this species, as well as showing me its really broad tail

Little Rush Warbler (Bradypterus baboecala)

Walking back to the car, I had to detour around a Banded Orb Weaving Spider - just look at the minute dew drops on it's web, shining like diamond's

Banded Orb Weaving Spider (Argiope trifasciata)

I found the Spotted Thick-knees in the long grass near where I had parked.

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)

I checked the shrub where the Yellow Warbler had appeared hoping for a second glimpse, but that was perhaps asking too much. 

By now the mist was rising and dissipating, so I continued on feeling buoyant knowing that Andre was perhaps even birding with me. I took a detour on the way to the cattle pens, as I thought I heard an Apalis calling. I didnt find the Apalis, but was rather rewarded with a dainty Fairy Flycatcher which is a great record for the Farm

Fairy Flycatcher (Stenostira scita)

At the cattle pens, an African Pipit was foraging on the side of the road

African Pipit (Anthus cinnamomeus)

I then drove to where we normally stopped for coffee, here a distant Long-crested Eagle surveyed it's domain from atop a Syringa Tree

Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)

I went to check the power lines for Greater Kestrel, finding only a few Stonechat's

Female African Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus)

And Red-knobbed Coot's with young in June! Their young must qualify for the ugliest baby award..

Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata) with young

I drove slowly back to the main dam where a pair of Blue-billed Teal's were close to the side and in glorious sunshine

Blue-billed Teal (Spatula hottentota)

The White-breasted Cormorant's are also nesting on their roost - lots of competition for limited nesting sites

White-breasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus)

The White-browed Sparrow Weaver's were pretty active and vocal at their nest site near the parking and restaurant

White-browed Sparrow-Weaver (Plocepasser mahali)

I then headed home, this time leaving the Farm without a heavy heart but rather with a contended smile.... 

Migrants and invisible Ele's

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