August 2: My ‘Welcome Home’ was a tree full of Hornbills….

After two weeks away from the Kalahari i’m home! And the best sighting on tonight’s sunset drive, happened before I pulled out of the parking area. A tree full of Yellow-Billed Hornbills! Joy. Love. Cookies. It felt a little like a Kalahari welcoming party, even if they were just there to scope out all the hottest food joints.

A Whole Tree Full of Hornbills. Love.

Hornbills don’t have a brood-patch. Most birds have got a special fluffy bit of feathers on their chests to help them to incubate their children when they’re still eggs. It’s called a ‘brood-patch’. Hornbills don’t have one. I already said that.

Instead of a brood patch, a mother Hornbill will pluck nearly every feather from her body to make a warm soft duvet for her eggies. But you can’t just sit down in the middle of the street and pull out all your feathers. It would be both freezing and embarrassing. So mom and dad Hornbill first choose a suitable hole in a tree. Then mom goes inside. Then dad rushes away to find mud so he can totally wall her into her little hole. She’s allowed a tiny hole somewhere in the mud-wall where dad can drop off an occasional snack. But it’s only big enough to deliver little things like worms and seeds, nothing awesome like cheeseburgers or quiche, which dad secretly gorges on while he’s away.

Photographic evidence obtained from Tshokwane Picnic Spot: what dads do when their family is locked away in a dark dark tree.

Eventually, the kids are born and kept warm by feather-less mom’s discarded feathers. It takes weeks and weeks for her feathers to grow back. When dad is finally satisfied that his wife and children are presentable enough to leave their tree-hole, he comes and breaks the wall down. It’s amazing Hornbills survive at all, given all the opportunities for serious error in their breeding plan.

Then there was the rest of the sunset drive. We saw a lot of Eland trying to dream their way over the camp fence and 932 Bat Eared Foxes.

Oooh there’s too much Amarula in my hot chocolate tonight…

Sightings:

Kudu
Eland
African Wild Cat
Black Backed Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Springhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildbeest
Gemsbok
Spotted Eagle Owl
Giant Eagle Owl
Dikkop
Tawny Eagle
Yellow Hornbill
Fiscal Shrike
Kori Bustard
Striped Mouse

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