Namibian Birds through My Lens

Our tenure in Windhoek, the capital city Namibia, is an open door for visiting different unexplored places. Windhoek is one of the top 10 clean cities in Africa. It has a number of photo-opportunity places. The deep blue skies overhead and almost no pollution makes the routine sunrise and sunsets also very splendid. In this less populated city, the birds are ample in variety and number. And they are visible so easily! 🙂

birds-flocks

I use 55-250mm lens with Canon camera to take pictures. I also use the handy and compact Sony digital camera. Here are some birds that I could spot around our house on Eadie Street, around Windhoek city, and the countryside.

Windhoek mornings start with sound of the dawn chorus. 🙂 Especially during winter, the weather is chilled and the Sun is bright. The birds are often found basking on the tree-tops or on the overhead electric cables.

Cardinal Woodpecker

It is found in entire Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. I saw this bird accidentally. Once during late afternoon I went to collect dried clothes from the clothes-string installed in the backyard. I heard some strange sound rhythmically coming from the tree located in the extreme far end of the fence. There were more trees there. I slinked to follow the sound and got to see this beautiful bird!

cardinal-woodpecker

I rushed back home speedily to get the camera and returned with it hoping that it would stay there till I click a couple of pictures. It was too busy to notice the sound of any leaves crushed under my feet 🙂 Indeed, good for me.

Greater Flamingos

We saw them on the west-coast of Walvis Bay. It was the evening and the water at the sea shore was warm. The flamingos were just about 300m away from us; wading their long feet in the water and looking for their favorite fish.

greater-flamingos

Later I learnt this type of flamingo is known as Greater Flamingo in the diction of Ornithology. It has pale pinkish-white body with long neck and pink legs. Its beak seems quite big for its head and has black tip. Its wings are adorned with pink fringe of the feathers.

Gray Hornbill

I spotted it early morning on the backyard tree. Initially I saw a big bird flying steadily in the sky. I prayed it should perch on the nearby tree visibly till I take its pictures. I didn’t know, my prayers would be answered instantly.

grey-hornbill

The bird took two rounds and perched on one of the top branches on the barren tree. It had long shining black bill and a white eyebrow line. I managed to click this picture though I was very far from it. Yes, something is always better than nothing. 😀

Gray Go-Away Bird

I get to see it in acacia tree in the backyard. It appears with smokey grey color. It has whitish crown on its head. It is concolored means uniformly colored bird. It is seen perching on the thorny branches and eating wild figs and breaking seeds.

go-away-bird

It is found on Namibian desert lands such as Kalahari, Caprivi, and also the Kavango region. It is also named as Grey Lourie. It is a funny sight when it frequently raises and lowers its crest while moving around the branches.

Hartlaub’s Gull

It was seen on the see shore of Walvis Bay. It has a thin pointed black bill. Its head, face, and the stomach are white. It has black eyes and deep gray-colored wings, which gradually turn darker at the ends. Its tail is short and black.

hartlaub-gull

Its legs are short and thin. The claws are connected together with wading pads. I spotted it while it was resting on the sea shore and didn’t really bother about my presence around.

Palm Dove

It is also known as Laughing dove. It must have acquired the name because of its call. It has adjusted itself to the city life and it is found in entire Namibia. It has cinnamon-colored body with the hints of grey. During winters it is often found basking on the top of the trees.

palm-doves

During warm daytime, the walls and ground receive a large amount of sunlight. In the afternoon even when the heat goes down, the garden paths are warm. The Palm Doves then sometimes perch on the ground.

Red-Eyed Bulbul

This little fellows are habitual visitors around our house at Eadie Street. It has black head and beak. Its wings are dusky brown. The orange-red colored ring around its eyes distinguishes it from the common Bulbul. It has little yellow patch beneath its black tail.

red-eyed-bulbul-pair

These Bulbuls are found in entire Namibia. Their sweet calls on a quiet afternoon are indeed maddening! Of course, in a good way. 😀

Rosyfaced Lovebird

They have rose-colored face and vibrant green-colored body. Their short tails look deep cobalt-blue outside. But let it start shrieking and one feels like running out of the place speedily…What a combination, beautiful looks and shrill noise! 😦 I did not know its name when I first spotted it.

rosyfaced-lovebirds

One fine morning I went to the High Commission of India’s library and found a book on South African birds. I found this rightly-named bird listed under the lovebirds category.

Scarlet-Chested Sunbird

It has a diagnostic scarlet-colored chest. Rest of the body is shining jet back color. It flaunts brown colored wings. Its beak is long, curved, slender, and grey. It visits a large tree in front of our house during early morning hours and once during afternoon.

scarlet-chested-sunbird

It was very restless indeed; I didn’t ever find this fellow perching stable on any branch. It must be a male because in most of the birds species, male birds look better than female birds. Plus, they are flamboyant too. 😉

Short-Toed Rock Thrush

It is a beautiful bird with very pale blue head, slate blue face, and same colored wings, which gradually become darker at the ends. Its chest and stomach are brownish-orange colored.

short-toed-rock-thrush

When I was setting my camera lens, it noticed my actions and still kept sitting on the branch. That’s like a good bird! 🙂 This bird is found in entire Namibia and northern region of South Africa.

Weaver Bird

Though there are numerous types of weaver birds today on the Terra Firma, I could spot the Lesser Masked Weaver which displays partially black face with yellow rings around its eyes. All Weaver Birds types are almost equal is size and shape. They are as big as a house sparrow.

masked-weaver-with-nest

One needs only two colors at hand: black and yellow; if one wishes to color a drawing of Lesser Masked Weaver. The weavers have short beaks. During spring, the weavers start making their coconut-shaped nests hanging at the end of a long soft branch.

White-Backed Mousebird

It has light grey feathers on the back and it flaunts a small crest on the head. Its short white bill has black tip. The upper part of its body is plain and the claws are shocking pink colored. It has a pointed long tail.

whitebacked-mousebird

These birds are regular visitors in the nearby trees. They live in flocks and chirp with a very sweet sound. When it is evening, a group of Whitebacked Mousebirds hides itself into the dense thorny bush of Bougainvillea that is just outside the bedroom. Every morning, we get up together 😀

White-Crowned Shrikes

This bird is about 10cm long. It lives and moves in flocks. Each flock has about 10 to 20 birds. This bird has a short white beak. Its stomach and head are also white. The upper part of its small black eye is surrounded with the hint of black. Its tail has two short black feathers. The tail looks like a tail of a fish.

shrikes

One morning I saw a big flock of shrikes on the tree-top. Till the time I adjust the camera lens, many of them flew away. Then I could get a picture with only three participants. 🙂

Yellow-Billed Hornbill

Maybe it was a female species of Grey Hornbill. I spotted it on a tree near the swimming pool. It had a yellow bill, but it was not prominent yellow. It flaunted a brown patch under the bill. It moved around the branches slowly and ungracefully, as if with a great difficulty. It perched on a branch for a quite some time and took flight, which looked magnificent.

yellowbilled-hornbill

This is not all. There are many birds out there, which I have not yet seen.

It was not always I could capture the picture of every bird I saw. At times some birds flew away at my glimpse and sometimes I encountered them without the camera at hand. :/ Sometimes my tip-toeing skills didn’t work on dry leaves effectively while following them. And the other times, they just flew away suddenly out of a startle when we both faced each other unexpectedly 😀

But at the end of the day, it is fun to follow their calls and striking colors in the trees. I strongly believe, we all can definitely get to see what we persistently and religiously look for. Hence my quest of bird-watching continues… 🙂

A Lesson of Love with Lovebirds

What is the best lesson love has taught you? This is a debatable question as different answers would come from different people. My son, Nishant took his first lesson of love when he was merely seven years old. Well, I know I have made an adventurous statement, but it’s true. 🙂

It was the time when Arun was posted as Commanding Officer (CO) in the field location of North-East India. I and Nishant were staying back at Pune. After Nishant finished his final exams, we both joined Arun at the field location.

The CO hut was located on a plateau. There was a large rectangular yard in front of it covered with lush green ornamental grass. On the farther two sides, tall trees with wide canopy stood to mark the end of plateau. A large number of birds visited those trees during early morning and afternoons to receive the warmth of direct sunlight. During our stay there, we also patronized a pair of Snow White pigeons. We did not cage them. They daily made rounds of flight over the CO hut and visited the yard to pick corn flakes or popcorn that Nishant used to spread on the grass.

It was just then my little son started taking keen interest in birds. He often tip-toed to go near a perching bird and get upset if it flew away on his appearance. He drew numerous paintings of birds – eagles, lovebirds, kingfishers, sparrows, hens, ducks, pigeons, and last but not the least, angry birds. 😀

Birds DrawingsWhen Nishant’s sixth birthday was around the corner, we asked him what he would like to have on his special day.  He said that he would like to keep some birds as he loved them and always wanted to be near them. I was against captivating any birds; I still am. I like to see birds while they are flying, preaching on the place of their choice, and being free.

After a number of Nishant’s repeated requests and our failures to convince him on how he can have birds around without caging them, we submitted to his insistence and bought him two pairs of lovebirds on his birthday. So happy he was to receive that gift! Barring their caged appearance, they were indeed a treat for eyes. So stunning colors! 🙂 Nishant chose equally meaningful names for them. There was a completely white albino female. He called her Snow White. The other female was white too, with a deep blue hint. He named her as Blue Bell. Out of the two male lovebirds, he named the lemon-green colored one as Green Coat and the other male as Acqua Neck because it had very pretty aquatic-blue color near its neck.

Nishant had tuned all his daily activities with his four little pets. He would take all his meals sitting next to the cage. Before going to bed he would ensure to place the cage next to the bed. He prepared little toy ladder for them using wooden beads, string, and sticks. At night the lovebirds used to sleep by closing their mustard-like eyes. Sometimes they kept their eyes half-open and looked as if they were into a trance. 🙂 Early morning we used to refill their food and water dishes, and place the cage out in the mild Sun. We fed them cuttlefish bones as calcium supplement. They had weakness for coriander twigs and alfalfa. They chirped more during mornings and evenings. Overall, they were keeping good with us.

The existing cage was small, hence we prepared a large cage so that our pet lovebirds can spread their wings to take some brief flights. We tied two small clay pots at the corners of the cage and covered them with lids. When we transferred all the lovebirds in to the large cage, their body language and chirping showed that they were happier than before. 🙂

The days went on and Nishant’s vacation was soon over. We packed our bags and returned to Pune. The birds also accompanied us. We placed the cage in the backyard of the SFA. Because of their chirping, they became famous around. Nishant’s little friends visited our backyard often and it shortly turned into an everyday happening place. We were observing all little lovebirds and trying to understand them. Acqua Neck, the male, seemed very aggressive. He looked like an irritated and unhappy soul. Snow White was quiet. Almost every visitor asked Nishant if she was ill.

Lovebird

I must admit, for the small body and limited features, Green Coat showed a far better consciousness and expressions than all other birds in the cage. He was friendly and he always displayed playfulness. Whenever I or Nishant took millet in pinch and went near the cage, he used to approach us fearlessly and take his favorite food directly from our hands. He never bit. Till the time we took another pinch of millet from the food packet, he used to sit near the mesh and wait with a tilted neck. After 3 to 4 pinches of millet intake, he used to go away by sliding on the bar sideways step by step. We knew, that was his way of showing, “I am done.” Green Coat chirped and squeaked more when Nishant played nearby the cage. Blue Bell was like a matured, sensible young woman. She used to chomp coriander stems till her turn to take food from us came.

We could understand a bonding being taken place between Green Coat and Blue Bell. For few days, we saw Blue Bell going into and out of their pot frequently. Then we found her spending most of the time sitting inside the pot. Like a caring and loving partner, Green Coat fed her coriander twigs and cuttlefish pieces from outside the pot. Their family count was about to increase. Nishant noticed and narrated every small detail about the couple’s affection for each other. 🙂

One fine morning, we opened the top lid of the pot to see four small nestlings. They were without feathers and looked little ugly. Naturally, Blue Bell‘s appetite increased and she remained busy in bringing up her pot-dwelling babies. A few days later, we found four little tiny-tailed lovebirds sitting at the bottom of the cage. They were a beautiful blend of blue and green colors 🙂 I used to think if the new birds would ever learn to fly…And what if Acqua Neck does not behave well with the babies?…But he behaved like a good boy for more than a couple of the following days and we thought everything is going on fine.

To stir the situation, Acqua Neck started harassing Green Coat. He would just bite Green Coat on the neck and stomach. Poor Green Coat would try his best but eventually would fail to retaliate. One rainy night we found Acqua Neck being furious towards Green Coat a bit too much and we decided to keep the two males separate as soon as possible. We took out the old small cage from the loft. I required a helping hand to catch and transfer Acqua Neck in to that small cage. Hence we waited for that night to pass.

The next morning we got up early as usual and opened backyard door. It rained all night and it still was drizzling. We went out to see how the lovebirds are doing. And we could not take the sight! Green Coat was no more!! 😥 He was lying on back with legs in the air and his beak open. His chest was torn and bleeding. His lovely lemon-green feathers were shattered on the cage floor…He must have fought for his life…The culprit Acqua Neck  was sitting quietly in a corner as if he had nothing to do with the matter! We blamed ourselves to have believed in his deceiving quietness… 😦

Nishant was heart-broken to see his favorite pet still…He went to bedroom, slipped his head under a pillow, and started sobbing. Simply inconsolable…He denied taking breakfast or going to his friend’s place. We both were sad. I was also feeling low for being unable to separate Acqua-Neck immediately. The rain had masked the noise of their fight…The day had broken morose but the life had to move on…

There was only one option for me to see Nishant smiling that day: to take him to his most favorite person, Small Aaji. (Nishant calls his maternal granny as Small Aaji and grandpa as Small Aaba. He listens to and follows everything his Small Aaji tells him.) On reaching their place Nishant ran into her arms sobbing and told that his favorite Green Coat lost his life. She wiped his tears and gave him water to drink.

Small Aaba said, “Don’t worry, Nishu. See, your birthday is approaching soon. We will bring you a new green bird, just same as that one.” His tempting offer did not seem to work. :-/

Small Aaji said, “It was a small bird, maybe it was ill?…”

Nishant screamed out of frustration and sorrow, “No, Green Coat was healthy. He died because Acqua Neck tortured him. Acqua Neck is bad…”

Small Aaji said, “There you are, my baby! Your little friend was healthy then he could have escaped from his rival if he wan not confined to the cage…” Nishant understood the gravity. He turned very sad and started crying more helplessly.

She held him close and let him cry for a while. After the burst of his cries gradually subsided, she pacified him saying, “I know, you love birds very much and you like them near you. You can always feed them grains and bits of food so that they come near you. We all can go for bird-watching at nearby places. But you see, birds are happy when they are free. You should not confine the ones you love…”

Then she reminded him of the uncaged pair of pigeons that used to visit his yard the previous year. Nishant listened to her carefully. After their long talk, he started feeling better. He understood he would have liked Green Coat being alive more than being with him and dead. He realized it will not be the same Green Coat, even if his grandfather brings a same-looking lovebird.

That evening we returned to the SFA. Just after we performed our usual evening prayers, Nishant told me that he wants to release all his pet birds. I was not surprised to hear what he said. Just a couple of days later, it was his seventh birthday. On his birthday, he opened the cage and released all his pet lovebirds free.

Birds Photos

Nishant used to follow the sound of birds when he was merely nine months old. Today, he clicks beautiful pictures of birds and does not miss any opportunity to feed them. He continued to love them with a perspective that was changed for better. He learnt the most important lesson of love:

“Do not confine your love. Be courageous to set it free…

If it is meant for you, it will be with you.”  🙂

Sparrow: The Intrusive Friend

It was the day of our trip to Sossusvlei, one of the driest and warmest places in Namib Desert. After climbing up and down a couple of famous huge sand dunes named Big Mamma and Big Dada in Namib Desert, we were gasping for breath and feeling thirsty like anything. We had run out of all the drinking water except one bottle. It was around 2:30 pm. Warm winds were blowing hard and we could feel the scorching heat they carried on our eyes, cheeks, and neck…Our goggles and caps seemed inefficient to keep the bright sun and glare from the shiny sand dunes. We hurriedly went to a nearby cement bench under a tree till the Namibian Wildlife Resort (NWR) van picked us up. There was no slightest glimpse of the vehicle up to the horizon.

No sooner than we opened our last water bottle, a flock of sparrows appeared from above and started hopping around us. It was their natural instinct that informed them about high chances of getting food and water. Their beaks were open. The birds keep their beaks open without chirping for heat dissipation. It is their way to pant and keep cool. We thought of sharing our water with them. But we were short of any cup or deep plate-like container for serving it…We regretted throwing away our take-away plastic food containers. How would the sparrows have water?

We decided to leave some water in the bottle and cut the lower part of it to make a container. While Arun was looking for the Swiss knife, Nishant looked around hopefully for something useful to serve the purpose. Arun shortly came to know that the knife was left in another bag which we were not carrying.

The sparrows were waiting…in a line.

They were needy. They were depended on us for water. And we were feeling helpless. 😥

For a while that quiet waiting moment seemed to halt…What if we could not give them water and they decide to fly away…? No, I was not ready to prepare for this. :-/

Sparrows-med

Sometimes I practically get to see, we all are connected to each other by an invisible string. We all being a part of a Big Plan; visit each other to settle the exchanges we are required to complete. Otherwise we would not have found a plastic container at such a barren place, that to made exactly how we were thinking on making one! It must have been made by some bird-loving tourist like us who left it there for birds. We were so pleased to have saved any more time on preparing a container.

I poured some water in to it and within a moment, all the sparrows gathered hurriedly around it. While they all were having water, we took out some biscuits and dates, and shared them with the sparrows. They were hopping around to collect small pieces of dates and then again returning to the water. Within a few minutes, the small container was empty. I poured some more water into it. It was good to see them coming near us without any hesitation…they trusted in us for we will not hurt them.

Sparrows-drinking-water-med

We were so contended to be able to feed them water, as much as they required. 🙂

Sparrow is a very common bird with basic body colors and requirements. Being a social bird, it is highly comfortable in the company of humans. It holds a special place in the baby poems composed in Indian local languages.

Sparrow is also mostly the first kind of bird that introduces us to the world of birds. 🙂 I remember my mother used to feed a few bits of cooked lentil, flat bread, or rice to the sparrows in verandah while we little siblings used to take our meal. The sparrows used to gather, chirp, and take all our attention. In the bargain, we used to finish all our food without creating any fuss. A house-sparrow used to enter our house fearlessly and fly around in the rooms…It knew where to enter and which window to take exit from. Its favorite activity was to sit in front of the dressing mirror and tap its beak on it. My father had confirmed to us that it was a female sparrow since it spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. 😀 The tack tack sound of its beak and the whistling sound of its flight in the rooms used to break the quietness of those lazy Sunday afternoons…

That sparrow had made its ungraceful nest in the loft near the kitchen, about which there was a little friction among men folk and women folk in the house. You guessed right, the women folk were for keeping the nest in the house, in spite of them having to clear the droppings and hay straws fallen on the floor daily. According to grandma, the social birds choose safest place to make their nests and she had felt privileged for the sparrows had selected our house. She was glad to foresee their family count increasing and being nurtured in our house. Hence she had warned the men and boys of the house not to touch the nest. 😉 and the men folk obeyed her with the curled lips. 😀 Once in the morning we got to know that the nest had four little nestlings. They used to make a lot of noise on arrival of their parents. We daily used to see the sparrow bringing some insects from outside and feeding its nestlings. Soon after few days, we came to know that the nest was vacated and left silent. My mother then cleared it completely. We missed the sound of chirps and wings for quite a few days later.

The number of sparrows has gone down drastically in Indian cities for last few years. We do not get to see them as many as we used to see them few years back…They say, the sparrows are not seen around because of the radiations produced by mobile communication towers…Some experts say, they left even the countryside because of the insecticides sprayed on the crops, and some others say, it is unavoidable effect of modernization that is hampering their lives in the cities. Maybe this highly adaptive bird has migrated to some remote place…Whatever the reason is, I strongly feel they must return and stay around us; for we need them.

Shortly we saw the NWR van approaching us. I emptied the bottle into that container till the last drop falls and packed our bags to board the van.

That day at Sossusvlei after so many years we had our lunch with the sparrows…They accompanied and reminded me of my childhood days for some time. I am so glad that it happened! 🙂