A Fox, a Bush and a Buzzard

Herd on the Hills, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A rough ridge of the Little River range watching over a quiet herd upon the hills.

Yesterday, for the first time, I saw a fox! I had heard of fox mischief during my childhood but had never actually seen the creature, and so I was stunned to spot one in broad daylight, making its way up a hill, turning briefly to watch me scramble for my camera. The photograph below was the frantic post-scramble result, taken with a hopelessly inadequate lens, as I was set up to photograph landscapes, ill-prepared for the zoom necessary in the moment.

Cape Fox, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

It was, undoubtedly, a Cape Fox (Vulpes chama), also called the Silver-backed Fox, a small animal—about 50 cm (20 in) long, the tail adding a further 30 or so cm (11 in); about 30 cm (12 in) at the shoulder—supposedly nocturnal.

Unknown White-flowered Shrub, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

I also saw a shrub in bloom on a north-facing slope which, like so many species of fynbos1, had been unassuming throughout the year, suddenly to impress in late winter. Unable to come sufficiently close to it, I could not identify it; however, it may be part of the Sutera family—a wild guess, based upon vague similarities with certain species in that family. When next I am in that spot, I shall make the precarious uphill climb and attempt to inspect it properly.

Jackal Buzzard, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

Another sighting (this time, photographed with a more appropriate lens) was of an adult Jackal Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus)—a bird I have photographed many a time, and which I captured in hallmark circling flight, three years ago2.

Jackal Buzzard, 07 August 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

  1. Fynbos (Afrikaans for “fine-bush”, pronounced [feynboss], with the [ey] in “feign” and the [o] in “or”, but shortened)—so named for the relative fine-ness of the shrubbery in the Western Cape province of South Africa—is an extremely heterogeneous heather-like vegetation exclusive to the region: indeed, the province (roughly the size of England) has more plant species than the whole of Europe.
  2. Whilst recording footage for the “Verse One” short film. I shared the unused footage in question to both Facebook and Twitter.

I was fortunate, this week, to photograph an African Harrier-hawk (Polyboroides typus) in flight. It is a large bird of prey, approximately 60 centimetres (24 inches) in length.

African Harrier-hawk, 14 July 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

A Sunbird’s Display (On an Overcast Day)

A Displaying Sunbird, 11 July 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Cinnyris chalybeus

When the Southern Double-collared Sunbird male displays to attract a mate—its chief concern, this time of year (mid-winter in South Africa)—it reveals yellow tufts on its shoulders that are usually concealed. So far, I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to photograph it in this state—somehow, it is either too windy, or the bird refuses to keep still, or (as was the case yesterday) the light conspires against me. This was the best of yesterday’s set, with heavy adjustment to the shadows to make the feathers in question visible.

Bar-throated Apalis Male, 10 May 2017. Copyright 2017 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

© 2017 Forgotten Fields
In 2017, as I began to take an interest in birdwatching, I photographed what at the time I believed to be a Cape Batis male for its black breast band. Today, I discovered by accident (whilst attempting to identify another bird) that it was, in fact, a Bar-throated Apalis (Apalis thoracica). I see now the magnitude of my error, but betwixt the African Stonechat (below, left1), the Cape Batis (below, right1) and the Bar-throated Apalis (below, centre), is it any wonder an amateur would be just a little confused!

African Stonechat, Bar-throated Apalis and Cape Batis, Copyright 1993, 1997, 2002, 2011, Variously Random House Struik (Pty) Ltd, Norman Arlott, F H Chamberlain Trading (Pty) Ltd

  1. Pairs: female left, male right.
Illustration: Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa Universal App., Copyright 1993, 1997, 2002, 2011: Variously Random House Struik (Pty) Ltd, Norman Arlott, F H Chamberlain Trading (Pty) Ltd

My first ever sighting of a Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius), yesterday. It stood in a field on the left side of the road, but upon seeing me, flew gracefully to a field on the right. There, it alighted, then slowly paced up the hillside. At 1.5 metres (approximately 40 inches) tall, it is an impressive creature both at rest and in flight!

Secretarybird, 14 February 2020. Copyright 2020 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Secretarybird, Copyright 1993, 1997, 2002, 2011, Variously Random House Struik (Pty) Ltd, Norman Arlott, F H Chamberlain Trading (Pty) Ltd

Illustration: Sasol eBirds of Southern Africa Universal App., Copyright 1993, 1997, 2002, 2011: Variously Random House Struik (Pty) Ltd, Norman Arlott, F H Chamberlain Trading (Pty) Ltd

Whenever I see birds flying in the V formation, I assume they are ducks or geese. I photographed this skein a few days ago and later upon closer inspection, realised it was neither. Guided once again by the shape of their bills, I believe it to be a flock of Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus).

Glossy Ibises in V Formation, 1 November 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

I also photographed this bird perched on a stalk of wheat. I am unable to identify it; all I can tell, by the shape of its bill, is that it is insect-eating. I suspect it is a Cisticola; perhaps Levaillant’s Cisticola1 (Cisticola tinniens) as I saw it near a river and according to my bird guide, it is found in marshes and grassland.

A Bird in the Wheat, 1 November 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

  1. Update: I am now convinced I have identified it correctly, all my searches confirm it.