November 2008

14 November

I had an exciting, but quite scary evening last night. I was sitting on the veranda trying to focus on the rising moon through the trees. It was so bright I could see everything. Suddenly the bushbuck came rushing past, alarm barking most dramatically. I had been watching them gently graze in the dusk light an hour or so earlier, and I was just thinking what I would do if a lion or leopard walked past now? While I was still thinking about this a huge leopard appeared in the gap between the trees, this side of the solar panel, not more than three or four metres from me!

He just stood and looked over his shoulder at the plain. I stopped breathing for a while and prayed he would not look this way. However, after a second or two he swished his tail and walked out of view. I was not sure where he was until he gave a cough, a nerve wracking sound from behind the hut. As soon as I heard it I crept into the room and latched the door (for the rst time in ages!) It was really dramatic, and awe inspiring too, being that close to a predator who was unaware of me. The light from the moon was so good that his white tipped tail glowed and the spots were slightly visible….hmmmm!

16 November

We went on a lovely walk towards Hammerkop and then veered off in a pie cut across to the river. It was a lovely clear morning with the usual beautiful sunrise making everything glow orange. The river was as still as glass. Everything  was mirror imaged. We crossed over the river, leaving a silver and orange wake while the usual recumbent hippo pod watching us through sleepy eyes. We clambered up the bank and stood looking around. There was absolute silence except for a few bird calls- We headed towards Hammerkop, and saw a broad billed roller. It was the first I have seen this side, although I have seen some at the Fly Camp before.

It is an exciting place to walk and treading through the thick tree line one caught glimpses of plains in the distance, towards which we were walking. We saw some very porky warthogs on their knees. They looked up myopically as we approached and then stood watching us and sniffing the breeze, before rushing off with their tails in the air.

It was an amble really with a few highlights… A single oribi who watched us with curiosity before rushing off, many large, dark warthogs, rootling and rushing, some with youngsters, a martial eagle flashing through some trees, but long enough for us to identify him, beautiful soaring bateleurs overhead, plum coloured starlings, blue waxbill’s, honeyguides beguiling us with their seductive call to “come for honey”, black headed oriole, fork tailed drongo. We walked through deafening cicadas sounds, and could see them silhouetted against the branches. There were lots of grazing puku and impala… and then the highlight! A herd of +- 18 liechtenstein hartebeest with about six youngsters, a very exciting sight. They had not seen us as they were grazing and ambling wearily along in single file. We sat on an anthill and had a glass of water and watched them. It was really a wonderful view.

Walking towards the river, we met Nicholas, and had a lovely slow ride back to camp, observing lots of egrets sitting in great white clumps on the river bank, darters fishing, a beautiful half collared kingfisher,s everal giant kingfishers and green backed herons. We had a wonderful view of an african finfoot swimming, snake like, against the bank, and then running along the bank, startlingly visible with its scarlet feet.

17 November

After getting into bed (under the net because the little insects are so irritating when you read by head torch), I heard a strange sound. So I got up and stood on the veranda to identify the sound. I heard lions roaring in the distance. It was lovely as the moon was rising and I could hear the soft sounds as the nightjars fluttered past me on feather soft wings, making that strange liquid gurgle they make which is so hard to identify unless you see them. I couldn’t see anything else, so I went back to bed. Then another strange sound, so I sat up and looked over the veranda wall with my torch. I thought it may be the bushbuck rubbing his horns against the trees near my veranda. However nothing was visible. I started reading again but heard another sound behind my hut. I was really puzzled as it sounded quite big. It could almost have been a human. Then something fell with a clatter. I was getting a tad nervous but decided to just leave whatever it was. I thought I would probably discover that the bushbuck had eaten my fresh herbs again!

Thank goodness I did not go and check, because about three, four or five lions had been in and around the camp actually knocking down the bowl of shells and seeds I have on the table under the sausage tree. One also walked right past my veranda, this side of the solar panel again as well as in and around the kitchen and the office, then out of the camp again on the same path they’d come in on, which was past our hut. All this was deduced from the tracks around the camp. Musango said there was a lot of sounds from lions fighting up beyond the campsite. I will go and have a look later, probably in the vehicle, as there is a dead hippo near the hot springs. Maybe they were all scrapping there?

It was lovely to see all the fresh tracks, some big, some smaller, but nevertheless quite exciting.

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