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The Magic of the Morning Chorus

Start the day right

Most of the safaris and game drives during my 35-day Practical Field Guide Course started early in the mornings when it was already light, but the sun had not yet risen above the horizon. We would drive in our vehicle a short distance from the base camp and all the people and noises, stop somewhere in the middle of the bush and switch off the engine. And then everyone becomes still; no talking, no significant movements, no rustling with the bag of snacks. We made ourselves comfortable in the seats, some still holding a hot cup of coffee, and started to listen. 

Listen to the bush

At first, it seems to be silent, but then you realize that the bush is not so quiet at all. Especially early in the morning. Many birds are singing, chirping and vocalizing in the most diverse ways all over the place. And this is what they call the morning chorus. You might wonder if there is a point in writing about something that you can only hear. But let me try. It is best to close your eyes to sharpen your hearing. And then you listen, not to the voices in your head, but to the sounds around you. Initially, it is just a mix of noises; however, after a while, one can identify various kinds of sounds.

The music of birds

A telephone ringing on the left-hand side is close to the vehicle. It is one of these old-fashioned ones with a turntable and a cable. It is the crested barbet. Quite far from behind, you can hear a blacksmith forging metal coming from a bird called Blacksmith Lapwing. On the right-hand side, much babbling is happening with no end in sight, which sounds like an argument.

It is a group of Arrow-marked Babblers communicating in their typical manner. Somewhere in the front, behind these trees, it sounds like some liquid is dropping into a water-filled bowl. That is the vocalization of a Black-headed Oriole. Far from the front and a little to the left comes an almost gloating laugh, a Hadeda Ibis calling with its typical Ha-Ha-Ha. And lastly, a medium-sized grey bird in the tree right next to the car wouldn‘t stop telling us to go away, which is why this bird is called the Grey go-away bird. 

The reason for the morning chorus

These are only a few of the audible sounds. There are many more birds to hear, which cannot be described sufficiently in words. Every morning, the birds announce that they survived another night; therefore, their territory is still occupied or available for potential mates. Learning the sounds of different birds can be challenging at times, but the reward of recognizing them in the field is worth the effort. 

My learning experience

When I listened to the calls in a bird app on my phone for the first time, only a few days before I left home to attend the EcoTrainings 35-day Practical Field Guide Course in Pridelands, I could not tell the difference between the calls. They all sounded more or less the same to my untrained ears. So, I gave up and decided that learning them in the bush was better anyway. And yes, it is easier to learn bird calls when you live or stay in an environment where most of them can be heard every day. But what helped me the most was doing it together with my fellow students and the instructors. Some of them already had excellent, memorable links, and for the rest of the birds, we came up with the funniest ideas for remembering them. In the end, one of the most dreaded tasks of the course became one of my most loved. And I will never miss a morning chorus again. 

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For more information on the 35-day Practical Field Guide Course, contact [email protected] or call +27 (0)13 7522532

35-Day Field Guide Practical

Today we join EcoTraining students Debbie, Maurice and Stephane at Pridelands. They started their journey with EcoTraining by enrolling and completing their Online Field Guide course and then decided to come and do their practical component. They came together at Pridelands, where they started their 35-day Field Guide Practical course—thrilled with the real-time experiences and incredible wildlife sightings one can only have when in the field.

About the Author:
Picture of Andrea Schmid

Andrea Schmid

Andrea started her field guide qualification with EcoTraining in the first ever online theory course due to the pandemic in 2020. After borders reopended in 2021, she gained practical skills and experience during the 35-day practical at Pridelands Conservancy. Several trips to southern africa followed, being enriched by the acquired knowledge. She is currently living in Germany working in the medical field, however, the deep love for the South African bush and its wildlife remained.

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