If there is one species of being for whom I break my skin in the garden, apart from for my own sanity, then it is Cichladusa guttata. In the English language, variously across time and Africa’s space, they have been called the Spotted Morning-Warbler, the Spotted Morning-Thrush and latterly the Spotted Palm-Thrush. This then is THE bird here amongst the unkempt ecological renaissance of my “Wilding Wedge”. This morning (19-Nov.14) the pair at my kitchen door step (as pictured below) were singing together loudly at 0525 well before a sluggish grey dawn slid along the southeastern horizon. So today I decided to share with you their modest, yet highly endearing, appearance. This garden is the only place where I keep a bucket list – although in keeping with our civilization’s attitudes it’s actually more of a dust-or-garbage bin list !
They must have outstanding hearing, and certainly they have a splendid syrinx for they can imitate other beings almost as effectively as does any Robin-chat. It gets confusing, as in our garden the current residents seemingly inherited imitated song patterns from their parents, who had first copied the sibilant squealing of one of our puppies some six years ago, and now the new generation has adapted and reworked those squeals to suit the changing times. Similarly they have copied the anxiety call of the Rueppell’s Robin-chats, now sadly extirpated by the recent rapid increase in house cats as our neighbourhood becomes somehow suburbanised.
Endemic to north-eastern Africa the Spotted Morning Thrush is definitely one of my favourites. Should I ever leave tropical Africa this is an avian companion who will for sure be sorely missed. Morning Thrushes touch all compartments of a birder’s heart. To start with they are ‘Range Restricted’ by regional endemicity, then they are retiring birds, hiding behind a typically skulking nature, mind that’s no longer true here at the eco-oasis. Most of all they seem to offer us their platinum voice. A song that incorporates superb antiphonal duetting, employs a ventriloquial voice of such pure liquidity that even the seasoned listener may be rendered speechless! They mould a fabled oven-bird-style cylindrical nest, solely of brick red mud, cemented to a branch, remarkably like those old fashioned disposable earthenware tea cups fondly remembered from the railways of India. Into this cup they lay two usually unmarked sky blue eggs. Added to all of this the Morning-Thrushes exhibit a certain ‘politeness’, a demeanour that is all too seldom achieved in the rough and tumble birder’s world of these precarious days.