Join the party

go! - South Africa|May 2020

Join the party
Where’s my dad? I just saw him – actually I saw his camera lens sticking out from behind a tree.
FAANSIE PEACOCK

Experience has taught me that it’s easy to get lost in a miombo woodland – a biome that stretches from Zimbabwe and Mozambique up through central Africa in a wide band.

We’re exploring the Dzalanyama Forest Reserve, about 60 km south-west of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. The trees are tall and landmarks are obscured. The vegetation is open so it’s tempting to leave the trail. I scramble up a big boulder for a better view. There’s dad, rubbing his neck.

We’ve been on foot for more than an hour, but so far we haven’t seen a single bird. We scoured the canopies of beautiful brachystegia trees, which are characteristic of this biome. We tried playing bird calls on our phones, and we ran this way and that after an imagined chirp. But there simply aren’t any birds to see.

I’m patient because experience has also taught me that the miombo biome is home to mixed foraging flocks, also known as “bird parties” or – my favourite term – “bird waves”. In fact, these swarms are the norm in miombo habitats.

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May 2020