Saturday, February 28, 2009

Eight lifers in fifteen minutes

What do the Hadeda Ibis, African Sacred Ibis, Southern Masked Weaver, Cape Sparrow, Cape Turtle Dove, Karoo Thrush, Speckled Mousebird, and Cape Wagtail have in common? They are birds that we added to our life list in just fifteen minutes walking around the grounds of our hotel in Johannesburg.

What's particularly striking is that our hotel, the Southern Sun, is right at the airport. We are not out in nature; we are at a classic layover hotel -- less than five minutes from baggage claim (and, we hope, from check-in). But the little ring of green around our hotel has attracted a nice mix of birds. (We also saw Common Mynas and, of course, Rock Doves, as well as some swifts and swallows that we couldn't identify specifically.)

Of course, it's much easier to rack up lifers if you travel really far from home. Even the most common birds here are new to us. It also helps to travel near distinct geographic features. Just as lots of birds in the Galapagos are called the Galapagos this and the Galapagos that, so are many birds here named the Cape this or the Southern that.

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