As I promised Bush Baptist, my account of my most recent NT sighting...
The Narina trogon must be a candidate for southern Africa’s most beautiful and elusive bird. Its habit of perching shock still to survey the immediate area with slow and deliberate movements interspersed by sudden silent sallies to capture prey turns this bird with its bottle-green upperparts into a cryptic part of the evergreen forests it inhabits.
I was enjoying muffins and coffee at the St Lucia Crocodile Centre Tea Garden when this male bird flew in and parked itself 10m away and, in true trogon fashion, started to slo-o-o-owly survey the area. I fortuitously had my camera with me, albeit all zipped up in its carry bag. Without taking my eyes off the trogon I unzipped the camera and flicked on all required switches, all in slow motion, involuntarily matching the deliberate movements the trogon was making. Eventually I got off a few shots. They turned out to be my best Narina Trogon pix so far.
Trogons deliberately turn their backs when they notice an observer. This is apparently to hide the crimson under-parts which might otherwise draw attention; exactly what this bird did once it noticed my inept efforts not to attract its attention while trying to photograph this beauty.
Narina Trogon, Apaloderma narina
, is just one of almost 40 trogon species that inhabit forested regions of the world.
As I was writing this note I wondered: Where did the name Narina
trogon originate from?
The cavalier French ornithologist François Le Vaillant after whom birds like Levaillant’s cisticola and Levaillant’s cuckoo are named, came to southern Africa in 1781 at the age of 28. On his first of three expeditions he travelled east as far as the Great Fish River with a large contingent and three ox wagons. His luggage included enough clothing and linen, he said, to allow him to change three times a day; specimen drawers, guns and gunpowder, an elaborate kitchen setup, a dressing box, tents, tools and much brandy, beads and tobacco for barter. His entourage included Kees, a baboon who served as food taster and companion, and a rooster which was his alarm clock. The large retinue of Khoikhoi included a woman called Narina with whom he had had a short and steamy affair. It was after her that he named this beautiful bird.
Le Vaillant also rewarded others by naming birds after them: One of the gentleman who aided Le Vaillant in his collections was named Klaas. Klaas was responsible for the shooting or trapping birds. In honour of the contribution Klaas made towards his discoveries he named a cuckoo after him, hence Klaas’s Cuckoo.
Rumour has it that Le Vaillant created quite a stir back in the day by submitting specimens of birds that did not really exist! He would supposedly fabricate species using bits and pieces from a number of different birds. Thus he ‘discovered’ a large number of birds that have never actually been seen! Can one blame the lad when you consider that his explorations were being paid for by museums on a ‘per species specimen’ basis?