May 2008

15 May

Such a wonderful sight to see the little, sedate, neat francolin mothers walking with measured steps and checking the sky with heads on one side every few minutes. Their three little babies follow in their footsteps, at every step pretending to be big francolin and stretching wings over extended back legs…ruffling themselves into fluff balls and pecking the ground with great earnestness. We have two sizes of babies. The one lot of three are quite big, almost a quarter the size of the mother, the others so tiny I do not know how they do not get lost. They look like tiny little mushrooms bobbing after Mamma.

However, we have a fiend somewhere in the undergrowth where they all hide. I am not sure what the fiend is. The other day I heard a commotion in the bush next to our hut, and then heard a frantic francolin call. I rushed out, but saw nothing initially, then saw the mother with the tiny babies, but only two. Today, a similar incident. I ran out, saw nothing, but heard lots of francolin calls, and what sounded like a baby francolin too, but discovered nothing despite investigating the whole area. Then I heard a tiny mewing sound from behind my hut and responsive callings from Mamma Francolin. By the sound of the rustles in the leaves they are reunited… no more baby mewing, crying sounds, thankfully.

I will watch and see if she still has her two babies this afternoon when she goes for her afternoon stroll. if not I must find out what is catching these tiny babies.

The winds have started early this year, and the leaves tumble and twist past my veranda, making soft sounds. The little birds fly amongst them making it difficult to see which is a firefinch and which a red-gold leaf.

16 May

It is a glorious early morning. It is dawn here, and I think a leopard or lion has just killed a young puku over the Mushingasi. There was a shrill shriek, and now silence except for the constant alarm whistles of the puku. I cannot see anything from here as the trees on the river’s edge are too thick. I might go over the river by banana boat and have a walk around…  but then again, it is so freezing cold this morning that I might just sit on my veranda, catching the warm rays of the morning sun.

22 May

The bush is wonderful at the moment with the changing season. Everything is golden.

Last night on a game drive we saw, only a few hundred metres from camp, some shiny eyes in the long grass. We stopped, putting both spotlights onto the place, and then, up stood this magnificent specimen of a male leopard. He was really big, and in such shiny, golden condition,. He proceeded to give us such a show, stretching, yawning, sitting, drinking, grooming. The clients of course, were quite delighted, and when we finally left him he was cleaning his large paws.  On a walk this morning we discovered that he had followed the vehicle back to camp, as his pug marks were on top of our tyre tracks. The morning’s walk was curtailed by an elephant, who was right in the pathway of our proposed walk (most inconsiderate of him), so we veered off and had a shorter walk.

23 May

Last night, after a chilly game drive, where we had seen lots of impala, puku, a very pretty pair of duiker, and one stealthy leopard marking a tree before he went behind a bush, a truly fleeting glimpse. I thought we would go back to camp and get warm around the fire but as we were heading home,  we saw a side striped jackal running along. Then a leopard or was it a lion? It was definitely a feline shape behind the bushes. Suddenly we had a wonderful view of a big male cheetah, slowly walking along. He cheek rubbed a couple of branches, and again isappeared. So, delighted as we were, we turned around and headed back for camp, when lo and behold, there he as walking along in front of us, with two little jackals, running and tail wagging and zigzagging along in front of him, behind him and at the side. He snarled at them a couple of times, but the trio continued walking along until they disappeared from view in the long, golden grass.

24 May

Of course, with no clients in camp, the lions gave the most wonderful vocal concert around the camp last night. Over the Mushingashi right at the bank, was one lion and another one further away, on the same side, another at Spring number 2, some far away ones near the mine, and a lioness moaning near the Mushingashi Crossing. The Mushingashi is drying up fast, by the way.

25 May

A lady from Germany is doing research on servals, which will be very interesting. For this research, she needs to collect serval dung. Thankfully we finally found some serval droppings (some distance from the camp) yesterday afternoon. That was good news, as although the tracks are all around the camp, we have found not a single dropping, possibly because of dung beetles?

I was awoken in the night by two very close lion roars. They were on the plain near Dambo House, and then sounds of growling, possibly a kill, judging by the sounds. Jackals were calling as was a hyena. All very dramatic and very exciting!

Yesterday a flock of knob billed duck collected on the bank in front of the camp, totally relaxed, most of them with their heads under their wings. All the Hippos were sleeping in squashy, pink splendour. It is really very, very cold and overcastat the moment,

26 May

As I say, the staff have just gone off, and it is amazing what happens when all is quiet. A bushbuck female and her young daughter have just walked past me within three metres of where I am sitting. They are completely unaware of my presence. The sun is setting, and as they walk towards the sun every detail of them is completely outlined in gold. They are quite the daintiest, most exquisite of buck, in my opinion. A little family of francolin have walked out from under a thick bush, a neat, tidy little mother with three of the tiniest babies you can imagine, they look like little buttons bobbing after her, all doing exactly what she does.

A ballet of bats, swooping and swirling.  How they miss each other, or me for that matter is amazing. There must be about six of them right now doing their nightly dance in the dim, dusky evening light. A lonely vulture is winging it’s way to a night roost. it is quite a spectacular evening.

27 May

Today I went down in the Banana boat to the “Flying Camp” (staff name for the Fly Camp) to check on the state of the grass buildings as we had not been down for so long. t was looking quite decrepit. The termites are such a problem in the bush. They can finish off a chest of drawers in a week if not halted with poisons or sprays. Because we had not been down for so long they had had a field day. So we bashed their mud tunnels down and with it lots of the thatch grass. We will have to re-thatch the low walls of the lounge/dining structure which is not too much of a job. We also have to make some ‘A’ frames for the tents. All the poles are cut at Kyindu in Lusaka so we just need to get them here. The dirt roads are pretty bumpy but thankfully now dry, so we should be able to get them here quite soon.

On the way back I was so impressed with the beauty of this amazing river. We really are privileged to live in such a pristine environment. When passing Island “No2” there were a couple of huge elephant standing in the reeds. One turned around and watched us, the other was totally unconcerned. There were great groups of startlingly white egrets clustered in waterberry trees, reflected in the mirror still river. Pied kingfishers hovering and plunged into the water. For a heart stopping moment one wonders if they will be able to get out of the water, but they always do, and are ready to dive again in seconds. A bateleur eagle soared overhead, king of the skies, wheeling and soaring, wheeling and soaring higher and higher while a group of open billed storks flew in untidy formation over us.

A lonely knob billed duck flew with us for a while. There were lots of hippo in the undergrowth at the waters edge with just their bulbous eyes and pink ears showing.

A lovely, peaceful day. Yesterday I went up to the airstrip to see some lions.  I saw a very red maned lion next to a snarly female, obviously a mating pair, who was being watched by a huge male lion with almost no mane at all.

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