July 2006

09 July

It’s really rather nice sharing a camp with a porcupine. We have one who lives near our hut, and I am becoming quite familiar with his nocturnal meanderings…he crackles and crumples his way through the drying and dried leaves on the ground, making a great deal of noise for such a neat creature, quills tidily under control. He meanders, snubby nose to the ground, looking for delicacies. It is the brightest moonlight at the moment, so I do not have to shine a torch on him, and he is most thorough in his searchings…stops, noses into the ground, stops, checks the night air, takes a few steps, then the same procedure for a bit longer, then bumbles off, with his rolling gait.. into the thick bush near the campsite…

The Long Tailed mouse has returned to our hut, which makes me feel quite at home again, as we thought she had left forever. She is such a pretty little thing, shiny black eyes, long, very well groomed tail, which she holds over her little paw, when she is grooming herself…she is quite the cleanest, tidiest little creature, always wiping her ears and smoothing her twitchy whiskers…she doesn’t seem to mind being in the torch light at all. She seems very fond of a tasty morsel of soap every now and again, and we often find tiny teeth marks in our bar of soap!!

‘Madame Flapper’….our resident Schalow’s Turaco with her beautiful family…getting more and more comfortable with us being around, very provocative preenings and primpings go on at the birdbath…..the pouty red bill, and starry head-dress still very much in evidence!!! She nimbly climbs the tree, running up and down the fragile branches….making her harsh throaty craaking sounds. The whole family communicate together with these sounds when they fly in to the camp….a flash of flower colours.

The waving, still long shadowed golden grass is moving with the wind, but there is a tiny darker shadow…not waving or moving…a spot of white, golden grass again, and then the daintiest baby bushbuck emerges for a second, as the wind parts the grass before melting back into the shadows…then the mother appears as if by magic…..and they both walk, heads nodding towards the plain, where they vanish again, as if they had never been…

It is so good to be back in the bush, and start being personally aware again…suddenly sounds take on new meanings…birds chirruping and cheaping in a noisome way…wait a second…why? as the sound intrudes into your busy mind…stop, investigate, and there on the orchid covered branch sits a tiny barred owl…scowling most fiercly at me and the irritating firefinches and black eyed bul buls harassing him. Only once does he take his eyes off us, as he turned his head completely round, then swiveled round again, and fixed me with the baleful golden stare…

…and wait again, why is that bushbuck barking near the river….and barking again, and again…quickly I pick up the binoculars and have a look at the plain where the sounds are coming from….a few impala standing, all looking towards the Mushingashi crossing…should I take a walk and see what they are looking at?…lazy Sunday afternoon, so maybe not!! but I might be missing a lion? or a leopard…

13 July

There really can’t be anything quite so peaceful, or beautiful as sitting around the campfire, on the banks of the slowly drifting, orange blazed Kafue River. The trees silhouetted like lace onto a blazing golden orange sky, a few hippo heads rock-like in the tangerine’d water, and the log fire echoeing all the colours of the fast sinking sun. The sounds are all the wonderfully evocative night calls, hyeana in the distance whooping, barred owl calling from a a nearby tree, leopard grunting very close by, and bush buck alarm calls on the west bank, where the guests briefly saw a leopard walking along the water’s edge. The fire is dying down, and the night colours are appearing, turquoises to deep blues, kingfisher colours, and the first stars are twinkling out of a darkening sky.

Put another log into the embers and all the sunset colours are with us again….from the fire this time….glowing light to sit and feel warm by as the night is very cold. I am just thinking that there is nowhere in the world where you can get this wonderful sense of primal land…. sounds, scents, smells. It’s all here.

There is an elephant up-stream breaking a branch, the crack as loud as any gunshot….and then another sound intrudes, a lone black-backed jackal giving his lonely bark….I am the lucky one!!!…and now suddenly, the alarm call of the guinea fowl, strident, harsh, alarming…what could be bothering them at this time???

Earlier today I also saw, either a pair, or a parent and off-spring Gymnogene…and they certainly got all the plovers in a flustered uproar….the Blacksmiths and the Wattled’s…all yelling and screaming and swooping and flying…very fussed by the immaculate grey pair, flying around the camp!!

How can one ever forget Africa? The Kafue? the wonderful Kafue River….

28 July

Just thought you should know that on a walk this morning with my guests we saw a magnificent Pangolin, the biggest I have ever seen, about one and a half metres long, and quite wide. He was gently eating a few tasty termites, with a little chunk of earth in his hand-like paws. He saw us and decided we really were very boring, so hid his face under his body for a while….then decided we were a bit too nosy, so he unravelled a bit, and went into some thick grass. We sat, like little owls, on various nearby anthills, and waited for nearly an hour, but we were so amply rewarded as he then decided we were safe, and walked around, snuffling, and checking little snippets of tasty soil. He even chatted to the guest who was photographing him, his little nose twitching, little shiny black eyes twinkling… Totally enthralled, we watched him for a while as he ambled, shambled through the grass. If we had not been watching him, we would not have known such a secret creature was around…such a joy for us all, we were really thrilled and excited. There really is something very magic about a Pangolin…

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