Thursday, March 5, 2020


Stanley - Thursday

For those of us who are interested in birds, one prize sighting in southern Africa is the African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris for those who care).

They have long wings, with a black back and neck, and a black crown. The rest of the body is white, with a bright, long, orange beak that ends with a yellow tip. They have a white forked tail, and their legs are bright red. The average size is about 38 cm (15 in) long. They are near endangered because their riverbank habitat is disappearing.

From a physiological perspective, what is very interesting is their bill structure: the lower mandible is much longer than the upper mandible, and is flattened sideways like scissor blades. 

African skimmer
They eat by flying gracefully just above the water, of the Kavango River for example. The lower mandible skims the water and when it touches a fish, the beak snaps shut and dinner is served.

Simmer skimming
As they fish mainly at dawn and dusk, it is a magnificent sight to watch a handful of these bird fishing with a red sun providing the backdrop.

Michael and I have seen skimmers on several occasions while researching the Kubu series – always moments of great excitement. You can see some lovely examples of this beautiful bird skimming here. I suggest you fast forward to 1:40.

I am so enamoured with the skimmer that I commissioned an artist I met many years ago to create one for me. This is it. I love it.

Stanley's skimmer (on loan to the Sear's museum)
However, the truth is that Michael has managed to keep it in his house for the last fifteen or more years, so I have to visit him to see it.


Upcoming events

Knysna Literary Festival 
  • Friday, March 6 at 1300, Knysna, South Africa
  • Becoming an Author: Michael Sears, Stanley Trollip, Jeremy Boraine
Crimefest – Bristol, England
  • June 4 to June 7, Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
  • Details to come.

Bouchercon - Sacramento, California


  1. That was a beautiful, graceful film clip! Much like your which you appear to have visitation rights.

  2. What a beautiful creature. I want to see one in person. SO MUCH. Perhaps one day I’ll get to see the sculpture. HINT HINT!