Quela here, Quela there, Quela everywhere….
While Quelea birds are common in South Africa and the world, one normally only sees the ad-hoc 'swarm' moving across the grasslands, but never for this amount of time concentrating in one spot.
David Fisher explains this phenomenon to LatestSightings.com: “It was the first, and probably the last, I will
get to see this happening. The fact that our lodge had become a nesting ground for all swarms in the vicinity was mesmerizing!
We arrived at the lodge (Book here) just after a delicious lunch, and the camp was now quiet. We had however been told to be ready for a group of Quelea who had chosen the camp as their nesting ground. We didn't think much about it and settled into the camp taking in the scenery and afternoon sounds. Our camp ranger warned us that the Quelea would arrive and that that it may bring in the snakes and small predators, such as serval. We didn't think much of his warning, but then they arrived...
Almost to the minute, swarms of Quelea from all sides started arriving from all directions. The camp came alive, you could not walk anywhere. It was so vibrant that even the trees felt alive. We could hardly talk let alone sleep. Our ranger then said, if you want to experience the Quelea in full flight together, let's delay the morning drive and all meet on the patio at 06:15 in front of the waterhole. The buzz around us was so amazing we were not willing to miss out.
Our alarm went off and we jumped into the shower and left our room at 05:45. Walking to the main room, the pathways were alive again. It felt as if the birds had not gone to sleep and were chirping in a manner like that of a pilot prepping his squadron. The tone was intense but was gaining in character. We grabbed our coffees and sat down by the waterhole in front of our deck.
Our ranger had given us an insight into the strategy and timing of their flight, but literally at 06:15 after a few mock flights in camp, one swarm took off in flight towards the waterhole. Instantaneously, every bird roosting within our camp took flight. Like a coordinated event, the swarms swooshed down on the waterhole taking over the entire area. It was a mass of darkness streaming in from all sides, the noise was intense and consuming. We did not know where to look or turn. Every direction had Quelea birds in flight heading for the waterhole. In a managed agenda, the Quelea swarmed the waterhole grabbing a drink and evading predators.
Within minutes of the event starting, it came just as quickly to an end. The Quelea followed suit in their thousands to the waterhole creating a dark haze and ghostly forms across the water. Within minutes of the abundant craze evading the odd goshawk, the birds left the waterhole. In an amazing coordinated fashion, the Quelea joined their ranks and departed from the waterhole. Breaking up rank and size, leaving in teams with specific missions only to regroup again in the evening.
I believe this is normal behavior and we just happened to be privileged enough to get our timing right enough to experience such an amazing sighting and also capture it on camera”.