In his ebook Tales of a Tribe, writer Mark Cocker describes an unlucky occasion befalling a good friend. One night time whereas tenting within the Himalayas, the birding good friend hears a Satyr Tragopan calling. He leaves the camp to search for the chicken, and has by no means been seen once more. Non-birders will ask: what has occurred, did they do a search and look arduous sufficient, was he kidnapped by aliens? Birders will ask: did he see the chicken? Sadly, we don’t know.
Is birding a harmful sport, an excessive sport even? In his actually entertaining ebook about his Australian Large Yr, Sean Dooley describes how British birder Mike Entwhistle units the Australian Large Yr report whereas doing a birding world tour. He subsequently leaves for Peru and will get kidnapped and killed by Sendero Luminoso – the native model of Maoists. Phoebe Snetsinger was an American birder who first handed the 8,000 species mark. She died in a automobile accident throughout a birding journey. And one of many first tales in her biography is how her good friend died of altitude illness. Well-known ornithologist Ted Parker crashed right into a mountain in Ecuador whereas surveying birds. And so forth. You could possibly not be blamed to suppose that birders are nearly just like the Kennedy’s: handsome however passing earlier than their time.
All these folks had been legends – I barely scraped previous 2000 in half a century. Nonetheless, I’ve some tales of my very own and it’s possible you’ll discover them amusing, or only a motive to say “Peter, you fool” or learn to keep away from the same destiny. Right here’s my High 3, with one other incident already coated in a earlier publish.
For quantity three we have to journey to Mahango Park in Namibia. This can be a small and really attention-grabbing park in northern Namibia. It has all Large 5 animals and an entire lot of different grumpy mammals. Nevertheless, you might be allowed out of your automobile… offered you might be “cautious when strolling round“. I drove in and went to the Kavango river floodplain. Earlier than leaving the protection of the automobile I heeded the park’s recommendation and checked for animal tracks belonging to any biting, gnawing, mauling, trampling, stabbing or disembowelling species. None had been discovered. I bought out and walked to the river’s edge, and began scanning for birds whereas standing subsequent to a bush. Lengthy-toed Lapwing, Ashy Tit, Black-backed Cisticola, Lizard Buzzard, Meyer’s Parrot and Southern Black Tit had been simply a few of my rewards (these had been my lifers that day). It’s such an ideal place for birds. After about 10 minutes of bliss I heard a grunting sound and on the similar time observed a body-odoury, musky odor. Wanting left I noticed a giant, male buffalo behind the bush. Just some meters away from me. His eyesight clearly wasn’t nice anymore and the wind was in my course so he hadn’t observed me but. An outdated blind bull will do only one factor with any perceived hazard, so I wanted to get out of hurt’s method rapidly and with out getting observed. Now think about a middle-aged birder, tip-toeing backwards by way of thornbush and you’ll perceive what the following 5 minutes appeared like for me. Was it 5 minutes? It appeared a lifetime. Again within the automobile and after my heartbeat had slowed to beneath a thousand beats per minute I began pondering. How did I miss this large beast? There have been nonetheless no tracks to be seen (I double-checked). After which I spotted: he had waded by way of the river…
On one other event I discovered myself within the Chimanimani Mountains on the border between Mozambique and Zimbabwe. My Mozambique venture involved Lake Chicamba Actual – a giant reservoir behind a dam within the River Revué. The reservoir supplies ingesting water to the city of Chimoio and course of water to my consumer. I walked to the water’s edge and observed the large indentations within the shore’s mud resembling dinosaur’s footprints. Having discovered from my Namibian expertise I walked away briskly. Now, not getting eaten by Nile Crocodiles isn’t really my excessive birding instance quantity two. It’s simply the warm-up.
With the work completed I made a decision to spend the remainder of the day close to the lake and the encompassing hills. I went to Casa Msika – a small lodge. I took some drinks to go and walked onto the property. The miombo forest confirmed its finest facet with one chicken celebration after the opposite. Hardly any of the “miombo lulls” – these durations you see completely nothing in any respect. As an apart, exterior Africa “chicken events” are referred to as “combined feeding flocks” – it says all of it, doesn’t it? I ended up scoring 4 lifers: African Dusky Flycatcher, Village Weaver, Whyte Barbet and Zebra Waxbill. The entire was a lot larger with an absolute stonking view of an African Paradise Flycatcher. Then I heard a ruckus. I listened, ascertained the place the commotion was coming from, thought “in all probability birds mobbing some predator, might be an owl, let’s go” and moved in direction of the mob of birds. The next chain of occasions occurred inside a single second. My description could give the impression of agility and athleticism on my half – that might be the improper conclusion to attract. However let’s see what occurred. At the exact same time I noticed the mobbing birds a really giant snake shot out in direction of me and rose up. In a panicky reflex, I jumped up and the snake struck my boot. Whereas nonetheless within the air I noticed the large, gaping black mouth of the snake. The snake shot beneath me into cowl, I got here down and realized a Black Mamba had simply bought method too shut for consolation. Most snakes I’ve encountered are just like the Panamanian snake within the image – rapidly and innocuously shifting within the different course. A mamba is one other matter altogether which warrants its place in my High 3. Respect!
So, aside from giant vicious mammals and venomous snakes, what else can presumably go improper whereas birding? Nicely, right here’s my number one. After ending yet one more water stewardship coaching for a big beverage firm in Accra I had a while to kill. Grabbed my binoculars, placed on my flip-flops and hailed a taxi to deliver me to the Sakumono Lagoon. I requested the taxi to attend on the causeway and walked into the swamp. A sort native particular person supplied to construct me a bridge throughout the primary ditch for a mere greenback. He was nowhere to be seen for ditch quantity two so I waded in, the third, fourth and fifth ditch adopted the identical situation. Spectacular birding was my reward: giant flocks of Black-rumped Waxbill, Yellow-crowned Bishop, and Northern Pink Bishop and displaying/singing Copper Sunbird, Little Bittern and Black Coucal. I additionally observed the water’s origin within the lagoon as being predominantly sewage-derived. Once I returned to the taxi, I will need to have smelled horrible however the taxi driver was extra impressed with the blood gushing from my calves and shins – the leeches had had their bloody banquet.
As soon as I bought dwelling, I began feeling very sick. In my household, we’ve got a convention (in place since 1347 after we survived the Black Demise) of “wait over the weekend and see what occurs”. Nevertheless, the weekend didn’t deliver the required reduction and I used to be now violently unwell – worse than on a standard Monday. Referred to as the household physician, glided by, and bought despatched to the Tropical Ailments Institute with out her taking as a lot as my pulse… Not good for one’s morale, I can inform you. I bought acquired by a health care provider in her early thirties. She inquired what was improper and I answered that “I had been naughty in Ghana”. Her preliminary pleasant look turned to an expression finest described as “you soiled bastard!”. It took me lower than a second to comprehend “being naughty in Ghana” might be construed in an extra-marital method, so I hastened so as to add “I waded by way of sewage”. The look of reduction on her face didn’t match the final assertion however made lots of sense in the entire dialog so far. I described what I had completed, and she or he fortunately began ticking each potential take a look at for each potential tropical illness on her little lab sheet – from bubonic plague to yaws. Her complete manner simply mentioned: that is what I studied for all these years. She was positively joyful and even beneficial me a ebook to learn. After frequently bleeding, peeing and pooping in quite a lot of containers over the following few weeks I really bought higher with out ever getting a analysis. Most likely some parasite I removed on my own however in case it ever surfaces I’m staying near Sigourney Weaver…