03 February 2007

Rare Visitor

We had a very special visitor: a Knysna Loerie (Tauraco corythaix).  Loeries are very, very shy; at the slightest disturbance they move away.  As people have moved into the area, built houses, kept their packs of howling hounds, cats that "don't hunt or chase birds, really, I'm absolutely positive!" Loeries disappeared into the depths of the forest.

Knysna Loerie close-upIn the forest they live high in the canopy, and are extremely well camouflaged.  The bird books describe them as green, and, while that's true as far as it goes, their wings have a sheen very similar to satin so that they most commonly look black unless the light is just right.  The underside of their wings is a deep, rich, shimmering crimson -- very distinctive.

They are fruit eaters, and that's what attracted our visitor!  We have a mature grape-vine growing over the west-side pergola.  The vine shades the west side of the house, helping us keep cool in Summer, while losing its leaves in Winter to let warmth in when we do want it.  It creates a transition space between the lounge and outside fireplace, and also gives us some fruit -- the little bit that is left for us by the Cape White-Eyes, Bulbuls and Finches.  No serious loss, since the grapes are not particularly nice eating -- the skin is very tough and sour, though the fruity bit inside is quite nice, having a strongly raisiny, berry taste.  They might make nice raisins, but our climate is too humid for drying fruit.  Happily the grapes also brought us this beautiful Loerie.

Knysna Loeire in the Grape VineThe pictures were taken with an ordinary point-n-shoot camera -- no special lenses or anything else fancy, which should give you an idea of just how close we were to the bird.  This is extremely unusual, as they take fright at the slightest movement.  Please excuse the glare from the window in the pictures -- probably someone handy with the Gimp could clean it up, but I am totally clueless at driving those sorts of programs.

We also believe that there is a connection between the Loeries and Elephants in the forest: When, on occasion, we have walked in Elephant-inhabited areas of the forest, flocks of Loeries make an peculiar (and to my knowledge, undocumented) call which we think warns the Elephants of our approach, enabling them to slip silently away into the deep gloomy growth.

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