FROM THE FIELD... Jn Search of Wild Canaries in southern Africa


The Kalahari and the Deserts of Namibia

T he night was freezing. But in the morning when the sun came up. it was hack to tank top and shorts. Before noon we reached the gates of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, paid the fees and entered. There was no road, only

car tracks. We traveled on the sandy tracks lined with dry spiny hush. Reaching Deception Valley late in the afternoon, we set up camp on the site made famous by Mark and Delia Owens' 1974-81 Brown I lyena study - the study described thoroughly in their hook, Cly of the Kalahari. I would highly recommend reading the hook if you love adventure and nature.

I had a very restless night. About '-1:00 1u1. a lion roared in the hack of rny tent. Scared to death, I froze and prayed for the first time in Africa. I could hear footsteps slowly fading away in the stillness of the night. Then I heard another roar, this time more distant. Relieved that the lion went away. I waited for daybreak. I very carefully unzipped the tent and peeked out to make sure it was safe. Don't laugh. I'd like to see you in my place: I made a fire, warmed some

water, and gently woke up the French "royalty." (I didn't use the whistle.)

The sun came up, and flocks of Scaly-feathered Finches Sporopipes sqaniifrons descended into the trees around us. At first I thought they were some species of wild canaries. Looking through my field guide, the markings


of the female Lemon-breasted Canary Seri1111s cttrinipectus looked very much like the Scaly-feathered Finch. The birds made my day.

While sipping my morning coffee and eating my toast, a large bird landed next to me. It was a Southern Yellow-hilled Hornbill Tocleus leucomelas. I le was looking at me. so I threw a piece of toast Lo him, and he ate it next to me. \X/hen I gave him a larger piece, he flew away with it.

After breakfast we left camp to explore the area. \Xie observed many mammals, including rnyx. kudu, and thousands of springboks. In the evening, further south in the Kalahari Reserve, we set up camp. At sunset, several Helmeted Guineafowl Nuniida nieleogris flew up in the tree above my tent. There they settled for the evening. For obvious reasons, I decided to move my tent away from the tree.

For supper we had creamed chicken with onions and rice. Leave it to the French to cook up a tasty meal. Sitting around the fire, while eating our delicious chicken, suddenly our big pot of chicken began moving. A jackal Canis adustus had grabbed the handle and started pulling on it. A gentle thump on his head with a wooden spoon terminated his desire for adventure.