5/30/2018

*ZIMBABWE BIRDERS PARADISE*


John Brebner swept his binoculars across over a fissure-ridden rock face that towered over a groove of acacia trees, Candy colored striations of dolomite and quartz ran through -

The tan granite, and human figures painted by Khoisan Bushmen three millennium ago were faintly visible in the facade.

''There it is,'' Mr. Brebner exclaimed, passing the binoculars to me. ''Look through these and you will see the sticks quite clearly.'' I moved the binoculars up and down the cliff, until I zeroed in on a horizontal crevice, speckled with bird droppings, called whitewash.

Inside the opening was a striking sight : a huge, almost speherical bundle of twigs and branches and, balanced on a precipice.

That's a few nearly new eagle nest, only six or seven years old,'' Mr. Brebner told me. ''There's one in the part that has been for 38 years.''

Mr. Brebner, a genial ex-cattle farmer whose grandfather settled in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, at the turn of the 20th century, was leading me through the Matobo National Park, a 163 square mile wilderness 20 miles south of Bulawayo.

Formed some 3 billion years ago, when magma hurled beneath the earth's surface cooled and then eroded, Matobo's is one of the world's geological oddities :

A vast field of granite domes, oval-shaped extrusions known as whalebacks, and blocks of broken granite called kopjes. Between the outcroppings lie swampy valleys, or vlies, fed by rainwater runoff and rich in acacias, mopanis, figs, euphorbias and vegetarian.

The combination of towering rock formations, some of them hundreds of feet high, and thick forests has made Matobo an ornithologist's paradise.

Eagles, hawks and falcons - among them greatest concentration of birds of prey in the world - nest in tall trees or on rock ledges protected from baboons and other predators, and feed on both yellow sported hyraxes and rock hyraxes, known locally as dassies.

All told the national park, which was created in 1926, partly from farmland bequeathed by Cecil John Rhodes, the founder of the  British South African company, which colonized Rhodesia, has more than 400 varieties of birds, ranging from southern to black storks to mocking cliff chats.

The Honor and Serving of the latest Operation Research on Wildlife and Parks continues to Part 2.  !WOW thanks author, writer and researcher Joshua Hammer.

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