Sunday, 8 January 2012

Birds in Malawi

The current BBC programme Earthflight is stunning (though not quite as innovative as I had thought it was going to be). It focuses on birds across the world and much of the filming is made using cameras strapped onto birds backs. The latest episode focussed on Africa (if you're in the UK, you cansee the programme again here.)

I recently blogged a little about the birds that visited my garden in Malawi, here and this TV programme brought even more memories to the fore.

One of the most stunning sequences in the programme shows the migration of the white stork up Lake Malawi. This is something that I remember seeing myself one year. We were sitting by the lakeshore, and suddenly seemingly out of nowhere a huge flock of large white and black birds flew from the southern end of the lake up towards the north. I watched them in total amazement, I didn't know at the time what they were, it was only watching Earthflight that I think I finally realised what the birds had been. But it was certainly one of those unforgettable experiences, where the name of the species is quite frankly irrelevant.

One other particularly memorable birding moment from Malawi is when I took the school wildlife club down to the weaver bird colony. The students were mesmerised by the male birds who were hanging underneath the nests, whirling round, shaking their wings.

"So the best dancer get's the prettiest girl then?" said one of the students.

I adapted this scene and transferred it to Zimbabwe and it became a scene in my short story Safari Blessings, which you can read here.

The other birds that made a particularly strong impression were the fish eagles who nested on a tree behind our house - a totally awesome bird to have on your garden bird list! There were pied kingfishers that constantly hovered over the lake, whenever I was there (and I was there a lot as I lived just overlooking the lake - you can see my drawing of a pied kingfisher over the lake here.) Around where I lived andon my travels through Malaiw, I also wonderful selection of smaller birds, various sunbirds, various finches, a hoopoe and some rollers once too.

I visited Botswana and Zimbabwe too, where one of the most memorable birding sights was seeing a secretary bird making a nest.

11 comments:

Kay said...

you have lived/are living a fascinating life!!!

sarala said...

Lucky you being able to live in Africa. I have been awed by the storks I've seen in Europe. They are amazing birds.
I had heard of this documentary series and hope I'll see it.

Andrew said...

A lovely post to read..

It's a good series so far and the the flight cameras just add a bit of a link between the real footage.


I was born in South Africa just south of Durban.. my parents came from Glasgow. I was dragged screaming to the UK at the age of two so have no memories.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

In the 90's I was going to visit Zimbabwe, then we postponed for various reasons and then we stopped definitely thinking about it because Mugabe's violence had started...
But I was really attracted by that country and the prospect of its natural environment.

Marvellous photos in your previous post, and a woodpigeon, so nonchalant!

Dartford Warbler said...

We have been enjoying the Earthflight series. Amazing footage which must have been very challenging to make. I will come back tomorrow to read your short story

the cuby poet said...

This time in Malawi sounds such an interesting one. I saw an osprey nesting in a high tree on a tiny island in the middle of a big lake in central Finland once and that is the same as a sea eagle isn't it ?

Crafty Green Poet said...

cuby poet - ospreys are different to fish eagles, though they look quite similar and of course also eat fish...

ashok said...

Happy New year J !

Kat Mortensen said...

I didn't realize you had lived in Africa, Juliet. That must have been amazing.

Our niece, spent a few weeks in Botswana last summer. She loved it!

madhat said...

I love this programme. Missed it this week, but watched the previous week. Stunning scenes of golden eagles.

EG Wow said...

Wow! Lucky you to have seen so many interesting birds!