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November 30, 2020

Scintillating birds of the Karoo

When we say that the Karoo is ancient, it’s not a mere marketing gimmick. This unique landscape has been shaped over millennia, and the land surrounding Buffelsdrift Game Lodge has the feeling of an old, venerated place. While many parts of SA have been developed and changed by mankind, the Karoo remains more-or-less as it was generations ago. In part, that’s due to the considerable pride her people have in this beautiful corner of the world, and the care for its unique flora and fauna we’ve invested over decades. While many of us think of the ‘Big 5’, and the impressive African carnivores, when we first think of Africa, many of us should look up instead- where some of the most remarkable birds in the world flit happily through the achingly open skies.

South Africa’s most unique landscape- and the birds who love it.

Officially, the Karoo is called ‘arid’, or semi-desert, and this unique niche has always been a difficult one for man, bird and beast alike to fill. We sit on the cusp where winter rainfall changes to summer rainfall- and don’t receive much rain ourselves. We are where the unique fynbos, mountains and bush meet. The Klein Karoo is a landscape like no other, and it shows in our unique bird species.For those who remain with us year-round, you’ll find them shy and retiring. Spotting one is a great feat, even for more common, smaller species. Small populations that can easily move with the rain find the land ideal. We also play host to many key migratory species for the year, arriving to sample our odd bursts of rich food, be it insects, blossoms or seeds, before moving on again to greener, cooler pastures.In a way, man’s presence here has given the local birdlife the perfect opportunity for more nesting areas, more resources and higher quality of life, so there are many species you’ll find clustered around human settlements. These enjoy a unique symbiosis with humans. The Karoo Scrub Robin, Familiar Chat, Cape Sparrow, and Mountain Wheatear all flock where humans live, picking up what we spill and nesting in our rafters. Our gardens host mouseeaters, Red-eyed Bulbuls, Cape Weavers, and Cape Thrush while Rock Martins and Swifts hone in on livestock pastures.

Rapacious Raptors

Of course, it’s not all sweet songbirds. The Karoo is also home to a dazzling number of birds of prey, including the Verreaux’s Eagle and Martial Eagle. The Greater Kestrel, evocatively named Pale Chanting Goshawk, and the Secretarybird all can be spotted in the bush, too. There’s two main owl species, Spotted Eagle Owl and Cape Owl, but we sometimes see others as we venture closer to the Kalahari desert. Sadly our carrion birds are rare. While we sometimes see White-backed and Cape Vultures, many others have been harmed by human activity,

powerlines, superstitions among farmers and other dangers. Other species step into the void, but it’s a sore loss for the ecology of the area. On a happier note, South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane, makes its home in the Kalahari, as do several key Ibis speciesSafaris aren’t just opportunities to spot mammals at play. Whether you’re already an avid bird-watcher, or brand new to the sport, the Karoo is calling you home to experience the wealth of birdlife here in the beauty of the bush. Let the experts at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge craft you a birding experience like no other, with our vast knowledge of the bush, conservation and the creatures that call the lodge home all available at your fingertips.

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