APALIS CHARIESSA: THE WHITE-WINGED APALIS
Dr. John G.M. Wilson
"This remarkable beautiful warbler has a chrome-yellow belly, an orange chest and a white throat. The male has shiny black upper parts, while the female has a grey cap, wings and tail, and a green back. Their most distinctive feature is the very long, graduated tail. Apalis chariessa was originally discovered at Mitole, on the lower Tana River, eastern Kenya by Dr. G.A. Fischer in 1878, who collected two males.
It was not found again until 1933, over 50 years later, when Mr. D.W.K. Macpherson collected a male and a female on Thyolo Mountain in Southern Malawi. This was a momentous discovery, since Thyolo Mountain is more than 1,000 miles to the south-south-west of the mouth of the Tana River and over 900 metres higher.
However, the Thyolo specimens were larger in all dimensions than those from the Tana river, and the chestnut wash on the chest of the Thyolo male was only ill-defined. These characteristics justified the recognition of the Thyolo Apalis chariessa as a subspecies, macphersoni."
"I first met David Macpherson in 1976, when I was invited to visit him at his Zomba Plateau house in order to discuss the Birds of Malawi with Con Benson and himself. ......
......We were at the time living in Zomba on the edge of the rain forest, and the White-winged apalis, Apalis chariessa macphersoni, was a regular visitor to the garden. I mention this because from that Zomba meeting onwards this bird always brings a picture of David to my mind, as he was the first to discover this race of a very beautiful bird a 1,000 miles away from the original Kenya record......
......So I came to know and enjoy David rather later in his life. He was though one of an old breed. It never ceases to amaze me that these early pioneers created a very good understanding of Africa's ornithology without any of today's technical aids."
THE BIRDS OF MALAWI by C.W. Benson and F.M. Benson Sponsored by D.W.K Macpherson. Nigel Hunter provided records and comments and was involved in the production of this book.
September 11th, 1928
"Birds of the last two days have been: Lybius torquatus, the black collared barbet — Laniarius starki, a Malaconotine bush shrike which we succeeded in making a frightful mess of between us in the skinning — a coucal, probably Centropus sengalensis, but there are so many of these which are so very much alike that it is impossible, except where features are exceptionally marked, to say definitely which species one conforms to — a fly catcher, Muscicapa caerulescens, I think, and — a nightjar, Caprimulgus fossii, which I made a mess of. However I am improving slightly in taking the skins and I hope before long we shall get really good results."
October 25th, 1928
"I found a flycatcher's nest on the way back which pleased me. It was a paradise flycatcher (Tchitrea perspicillata) and its nest was a most absurdly small construction for the size of the bird and I would never have found it if it hadn't been for the excited calling of the female who flew round my head in a great state of nerves."
November 30th, 1928
"I shot a shrike to today which I can't work out,
at least I suppose it is a shrike, I can't conceivably see what else it
could be but it will remain a puzzle until a book is brought out taking
in birds north of the Zambezi.
......."We go on whistling and talking to him, though once he knows he is being followed there is not much need for us to do so.
With his third flight he increases the distance and we lose sight of him altogether, but as we stand uncertain which way to go and whistling for him to come and help us, he comes back and with renewed chatter denounces our slow rate of progress....................We follow up at our best pace though we need really have no fear of losing him; he is far too keen to let us go astray. ..................We keep on following, it may be for a mile or more until his flights once again grow shorter, which informs us that we are coming near to the bees..........A clever bird will hover for a second or two over the actual hole in the tree and then fly off at an angle and take up his position in another tree nearby.......
Having led us up to the bees the honeyguide's share of
the work is finished and he sits quietly up in a neighbouring tree to
watch our part of the business. Quite silent and still he sits as long
as he sees that we are getting on with the job of cutting out the honey,
but should we for some reason or other not proceed with the work, he again
begins to chatter at us..............An examination of the combs shows
us that in some there is a good supply of honey, but in others there are
only the young grubs of the bees and it is these last that will be the
honeyguide's portion. We discard them and leave them in a conspicuous
place...............so gathering our spoils we make tracks for camp and
leave him to enjoy his meal in peace."
Copyright © 2005, Isabel Macpherson. All rights reserved.