Location: Damaraland Camp, Torra Conservancy, Namibia
Date: 25 March 2010
Observer: Chris Roche
Photographer: Grant Atkinson
There are eight lovebird species in Africa - all bright green gems of between 12 and 15cm in size with various vibrant distinguishing colours. They are often seen in quite large non-breeding flocks in some species but can be distrustful and difficult to approach, making close up observation and photography quite challenging.
Of the three species that occur in southern Africa, the Rosy-faced Lovebird (restricted almost entirely to Namibia) is perhaps the most unusual. Unlike all the other species which use the more tropical locales of forest, woodland and savannah, this species is arid-adapted and is more at home in rocky gorges than in equatorial forests.
On a recent visit to Damaraland Camp we decided to spend the last hour of sunset at a remote sandstone cliff just north of the Huab River. There is a small colony of lovebirds that have used the pockmarked holes in these wind-eroded cliffs as nesting and roosting sites for a number of years and we aimed to photograph them in the last of the golden light as the sun descended in the west.
When we arrived at the cliffs there was no sign of the birds and we wondered if they had moved on. We soon found some brightly coloured tail feathers however and shortly afterwards jerked our heads upwards as we heard their characteristic call. Ten or twelve birds had flown in to roost, their chosen site for the night being too far above us to make for decent photos. They were however using a particular bush below the cliff to socialise in before ferrying to and from the roost holes.
We spent the next hour and a half clambering up to this vantage point with Grant getting whatever photographs were possible of the birds as they clustered on the bushes below the cliffs and then moved into and out of the roost holes and other rock crevices. They are spectacularly colourful and charismatic creatures and well worth the time and effort in observation.