Birds – by Franci

For all those who don’t know me, I am very interested in birds. I am the kind of person who will look up at every chirp I hear, and it is literally a reflex now to look up whenever a shadow passes over me. So you can all expect at least one reference to birds in my bits of the blog. I have also decided to include the scientific name of each bird I mention here, in the hope that if I write the names out I’ll be able to remember them. Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to read every single Latin name I throw in here.
One of the first things I realised that I had missed most while at sea, were birds. They are beautiful creatures, each species with its own particular characteristic. The Cape Sparrow (Passer melanurus), chirpy and cautiously bossy, the Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata), with their fly-away-fast-at-any-sudden-movements-even-if-it-is-10meters-away attitude and so many, many more.
My birding instincts went to sleep a bit on the voyage to St Helena, because there aren’t many birds to see and they also all look so much the same. There are only slight variations of white, brown and black so that they look pretty much the same, making it very hard to impossible, to identify different species. My birding instincts opened a sleepy eye when the island became more than just a blob and then became mildly interested as the bird activity increased the closer we came to the island. It woke up and became completely aware of its surroundings when I was able to identify the terns and some brown birds flying around us as ‘I have never seen them before’.
St Helena’s bird population is a very far step down from South Africa. In any Southern African bird book there will be at the very least 800 bird species. St Helena’s bird book contains exactly 20 birds, of which 9 are seabirds. All the seabirds come here to nest like they have always done, but unfortunately 9 of the 11 land birds are introduced species. These unfortunately also include India Mynas (Acridotheres tristis). All the seabirds are pretty cool, but my favourite is the Fairy Tern (Gygis alba rothschildi). This whiter-than-snow little tern has a completely appropriate name. Its beak, legs and eyes are black, contrasting beautifully with its white feathers; a small black ring around the bird’s eyes makes them look even larger. They are the only sea birds that nest inland. They find a suitable hollow in a branch and lay a single egg. The chick when it hatches has sharp claws to help it hang on in high winds. When we can post photos again I will be sure to include my best Fairy Tern ones.

1 comment

    • Derika Volpi on January 29, 2015 at 3:21 pm
    • Reply

    Ek sien baie uit om jou fotos te sien!

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