David Letsoalo and I had been discussing a “flufftail” trip for over a year and had made a date for mid December 2012. About a week before the trip, David had smsed me to let me know that our target bird had not been calling for much of November and December. Given that these elusive birds are tough enough to find when conditions are perfect, I thought we had little to no chance of seeing this skulker if it had unexpectedly decided to keep quiet.
Nothing was going to stop us trying though, so when the day finally arrived, we woke up at the crack of dawn and headed to Woodbush Forest to see if we could locate the cape parrots and with a bit of luck pick up the flufftail’s call. To be honest I had low expectations and was happily trying to lure a barrat’s warbler into view when David heard an unmistakeable sound echo from the forest floor; a buffspotted’s deep hoot.
After much excitement and a lot of investigation we finally got a fair sense of where the noise was coming from. The only problem with this, was that the noise was coming from deep within what seemed like a very unhospitable spot, and neither of us was quite sure what to do next. After some debate we decided that the best approach was a direct approach and, after a bit of “bundu bashing”, we made our way into what we hoped was the heart of its territory, a very cold, damp, dark, mosquito-ridden environment. Perfect for a flufftail!
Excited by the slightest prospect of success, we sat quietly listening and watching for any sort of movement. We could hear him hooting away and coming closer and closer but could not locate him. Half an hour past, an hour past and then I heard the most exciting words one can hope for as a birder; “there it is”. We both got very brief views of my first ever buff-spotted flufftail. Unbelievable! It took another hour to get better views and a photograph! Was it worth it? Absolutely. It will be a memory I wont forget for a long time to come.