Feb 11 – The Waterstone

The Brown Babbler splashing at the 'waterstone'

The Brown Babbler splashing at the 'waterstone'

I’ve been off on my travels again and if I’m not very careful people will be beginning to think that I’m neglecting my business. Not so I cry, as I’ve only been away for a week and I’ve been checking out some of the projects that Leader supports through the African Oyster Trust.

Regular readers of the hmm are likely to know something about the Trust – a small charity that supports nursery schools and clinics in The Gambia – one of Africa’s poorest and smallest countries. It’s always good to visit the projects that Lady Kira Dalton tirelessly develops and works with and you can find out more about the work by going to www.africanoystertrust.co.uk.

Whilst I’m in The Gambia I often relax with a bit of birding. Frequently I’ll hire a guide and spend a day out in the bush. Early mornings are my favourite time as it’s cool and the birds are most active; but sadly on this trip there was no time for such things as the itinerary was too action packed.

However, there was an hour or so now and then to relax in the shade of a bantaba (a West African expression for a shaded meeting and relaxing place) and watch the birds coming down to feed and drink in our compound. It was amazing how varied the birdlife was. Brightly coloured waxbills, sunbirds and mannikins, barbets, thrushes, bulbuls and babblers all came to feed amidst the flower beds and fruiting bushes.

Bronze mannikins perch at the edge of the 'waterstone'

Bronze mannikins perch at the edge of the 'waterstone'

The real draw though, was a little stone bowl raised on a pedestal which the watchmen kept filled to the brim with fresh water. I called it the ‘waterstone’.

Water is a really scarce resource in this part of West Africa. It rains from mid July to the end of September and that’s it. The rest of the year is absolutely bone dry, so standing water of any description is a real draw to birds of all kinds. It was wonderful to watch the different ways that the birds drank. Some like the babblers splashed it everwhere, others like the sunbirds sipped it like nectar whilst the waxbills seemed to gargle it down.

For once in my life I didn’t have to bomb around trying to find the birds. They all came to me because we’d got what they wanted and they knew it would be there every day. Basic marketing I thought to myself. Find out what they want or need and make sure they know about it. I could of course add that any good business needs to make a profit out of the process – and of course my profit was hours of enjoyment and some pretty good colour pictures. I hope you like them.

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