The Inter-continentals Arrivals and Departures
At this time of the year we await the arrival of the real 'long haul' summer visitors to Amohela ho Spitskop Conservancy. Within the next few weeks we shall greet some familiar old friends who make the long long journey to us.
As our summer approaches and winter cloaks the northern climes we expect more arrivals in the coming weeks and Amohela ho Spitskop Conservancy is their destination.It is hard to imagine the journeys that some of our birds make every year. Some travel in the course of breeding, others to find warmer climates to avoid the grip of winter.
Today with the satellite tracking technology available we too can travel with them day by day, and thanks to Google Earth programmes we can actually see where they are, and that is amazing. An excellent website for tracking many different birds is: www.satellitetracking.eu
Here are just a few of our regulars who undertake these incredible journeys to distant shores and then return again to us every year!! South Africa is a very long way away from anywhere and yet these wonderful creatures spend a large portion of their short lives flying to and fro. Each journey is filled with difficulties as they encounter unfriendly weather, all sorts of danger and then they still have to feed along their route, some birds don’t make it, but the majority do and that determination and spirit is just so inspiring.
Barn Swallows, with a wing span of only 250 mm and weighing in around some 20 grammes, they migrate in huge numbers often with youngsters in tow, mainly from Denmark and northern Europe to avoid the cold winter in that part of the world. Months later they will return to Europe when things turn cold here in South Africa.Our Conservancy is most certainly a designated resting place on their inbuilt GPS because we receive hundreds of these little creatures arriving in "flights" a few days apart before they commence the next leg of their journey further south to the Cape.
Some months later they return during their northbound journey and large flocks fill the air with noisy chattering amid a feeding frenzy, and again we witness the spectacle of hundreds of excited little birds preparing for their mammoth journey on such small wings ...the White storks, mentioned below are veritable giants compared to these brave little creatures yet both species cover the same distance !!
Amur Falcons, always welcome, these attractive raptors with a wing span of 450 mm and weighing in at 350 grammes begin their incredible journey in Siberia, Mongolia and the Amur valley in China flying via India & the Arabian peninsula into Africa en-route to South Africa. At Amohela ho Spitskop Conservancy they gather in large groups made up of dozens of birds which we see on the powerlines from where they hawk insects. They delight us for just a few months until our weather cools and they too flock together in great numbers ready for their long return journey to their breeding grounds .
Steppe Buzzards, this handsome raptor with a wingspan of 1.2 metres and weighing in around 600-800 grammes makes the journey from Russia and Siberia flying through Africa via Suez until finally they reach us. Fortunately they arrive in South Africa in large numbers so although they tend to be solitary we see them very often perched on telephone poles and fences. At our conservancy we have excellent sightings and watch them diving on prey. Occasionally a juvenile will remain here and over-winter but normally they will gather in small groups of a few birds who after a few days of serious feeding then depart for their breeding grounds just before our weather turns cold.We have seen that bad weather in Russia will cause them to delay their departure until the last moment ----they know !!!
White Storks, perhaps the most famous of all intercontinental travellers and during our own travels to Denmark and Germany we have seen these popular huge birds nestled and nesting atop chimneys there. With a wingspan of 1,8 metres and weighing in around 3,5 kilograms they were made to criss-cross the globe, and they have First Class stamped all over them!!
Fortunately for us, they too embark on their journey south every year and being Jenny’s favourite birds the "Welcome Mat “ is always put out ready for them and they never disappoint!
They love to follow the plough when tractors are busy in the lands around us and when we burn fire-breaks or clear old areas of moribund grasses then they join us in their hundreds feasting on insects and small mammals and even snakes.
Flames and smoke don't deter them, in their hundreds they harvest a feast.
When the going gets a little hot ---- they cool off in the dam.
With a 1.8 metre wingspan these giants of the skies are spectacular on the ground and off, they rise to great heights on thermals and then wings spread fully they effortlessly glide away, truly masters of their skies, small wonder that they can cover such vast distances. May they ALL arrive safely.