August 2008

11 August

Just have to share the last 24 hours with you….

Yesterday afternoon, a leopard was coughing over the Mushingashi-, very close to the dining area where I was sitting. I had been trying to identify a spoor, (which I have now decided is a water mongoose), so I crept to the water’s edge where a great fat hippo was just visible. Only his eyes and ears showing and he was watching me with a baleful stare. Behind him, on the other bank was a large leopard, which had obviously come down to drink. I crept back to the dining room for my camera, but on returning the leopard had vanished. Being quite shady it would not have been a good photograph anyway, but I was sorry not to get a record of the big chap.

At about six pm, that lovely twilight time, which, in winter here, is a soft misty mauve, I heard a soft predator like grunt to my left . I was sitting on my veranda watching the teenage francolins getting ready for bed. One of my staff came round the corner of my hut to tell me there was a big male lion walking towards the camp. I grabbed my binoculars and looked everywhere for him. I couldn’t locate him, but listening to the alarm calls of the puku and impala right near the camp, I finally saw him. He was a really big male, quite ghostlike in that light, mixing into the golds and mauve shadows so that he looked really quite ephemeral..He then gave an ear-splitting roar, very real, and proceeded to give a few more. He was so close that one could feel the vibrations through one’s bones.

A large female hippo and her baby came to the front of my hut and grazed noisily. She was literally close enough for me to have touched her. A male bushbuck arrived and browsed on the tree next to my veranda and shortly after that three elephants arrived. The hippo moved off and the elephants stood around my hut, far too close for comfort, (I did retreat into the room part of my hut), and gently rumbled special thoughts to each other while crackling a few small branches. Then….yup…. a leopard grunted behind my hut and the bushbuck alarm call almost made me jump out of my skin.

I finally fell asleep at about 1 am, and am feeling quite tired this morning. I wandered through to the dining room at about six thirty am, before the staff arrived, and watched the sun rising. It was touching the far bank with gold, and a gentle mist was rising on the mirror still river. Four wattled cranes flew past, perfectly reflected in the water as they made their harsh ‘craak’ sounds. A strange lone egyptian goose flew in which irritated the couple we have on our ‘beach’ who proceeded to fly up and chase him, making their noisy annoyance felt.

What a night, what a day… I may go for a short walk later and see if I can see the male lion as I would like to get some shots of him.

24 August

We had an exciting evening whilst sitting around the campfire last night… The bushbuck was giving its sharp alarm bark very near to us all, and when we shone the torches in that direction there was a lioness….who very casually then proceeded to walk through the camp, past the office and along the path past the rooms. We were all stuck around the camp fire for a further hour as there were two elephants in the camp, gently browsing on some palm leaves. They finally went through the car park, where we saw them in faint torchlight as they went away. During the night at about 1 o’clock we were awoken by lions roaring in the camp – very dramatic being that close!

As always, the bush is a great joy, and as beautiful as ever, as the season changes from a really cold winter to a warm spring, with lots of birds building their nests and new blossoms and new leaves appearing.

27 August

I went on a lovely walk this morning with some guests. We walked into the dawn-rising sun which shed everything with gold and orange glows and lights as we followed fresh lion spoor across the Mushingashi, which is now a dry river bed-. We had decided to walk along the hippo paths  and as we were crossing the plain, we saw a young fish eagle sitting on his nest looking rather forlorn and a trifle sulky. There was no sign of his beautiful parents,. As we watched him, a large hippo arose from the scanty grass nearby, and walked VERY slowly towards the Kafue River. It is a mystery as to how such a vast animal could be almost invisible for so long, and we were really looking, due to the fresh spoor of the lion, and a leopard. Suddenly we saw an anthill, which appeared to move. A quick check with binoculars, and there was a large leopard watching us very carefully with intense golden eyes. He melted into the golden grass shortly afterwards, probably going into the river bed. Two rather huffy bush pig appeared, looking very flustered, obviously flushed out of their morning truffling and snuffling for delicious roots and treats by the leopard. They stood for a second before rushing straight towards us, white manes erect, irritation in every bristle. Suddenly they saw us, adding insult to injury, and they veered off beautifully highlit as they rushed away into the undergrowth.

We walked on, seeing some beautiful, dramatic, scarlet chested sunbird’s, such a breathtaking scarlet against their metallic black plumage, flying and chasing each other with territorial cries. We came across the fish eagle parents sitting, catching the early morning light, for all the world like two parents having their morning coffee and discussing their errant offspring. Some puku  and impala were slowly grazing in the distance, and a bushbuck was scratching his ear with his striped back leg. Two meyers parrots were chatting in a nearby tree, then flashed off with their joyful shrieks.

We decided to return to camp by boat, so met the boat and had a leisurely ride back, while watching some enormous crocodiles grinning their evil ivory grins. A beautiful african darter with a large fish in his bill looked as if he would choke on it as it was really quite big.

Lots of languorous hippos were chortling and watching us with sleepy slow eyes. What a lovely morning!!

28 August

The other day at the Fly Camp while the guests were out walking, I stayed in camp. (I love doing that as I hear and see so much when there is no-one around)….

I was walking along the river edge, trying to get a photo of a black headed oriole, when I head some puku alarm calls a little further inland. I decided to have a peak and crept along, armed with my wonderful new camera. It was beautiful, as the sun was rising and as always, lighting everything with every shade of gold. I saw a parrot flying overhead, without the usual joyful shrieks of the meyers parrot and with touches of red in the wings. I managed to get some good shots of him flying over. I  later looked it up and discovered that it was a cape parrot, which I have not seen here before.

I then saw some flies buzzing in a small swarm, backlit by the sunlight, under some trees, and then a tail flick. Looking into the sun, I could not distinguish what tails they were. I had not brought my rifle, so crept onto an anthill, and there I saw five really big, beautiful eland, which was totally aware of my presence. WOW!

I felt enormously privileged to see such beautiful animals so close. They are so big and gentle, browsing silently and grazing, Unfortunately I did not get very good photos because there were small trees in font of me, but they did not see me, which was a great joy. I was able to watch them for quite a while before they obviously heard voices coming from the camp, listened for second and started off, not rushing, but at quite a pace. What a pleasure I had experienced, I had hardly felt the ants and leaves prickling me. I stood up dusting myself and feeling immensely enriched.

30 August

I have managed to photograph a number of unusual McBride inhabitants…… Firstly, a new bird in camp…. a Long Toed Plover. It is such a beautiful bird and so exciting to see. (The first time for me).  Secondly , a Tinker Barbet, and thirdly… you won’t believe this…  two wild dogs!  I got some really close up shots of them on the opposite bank and we watched them chasing into some really big, slow moving buffalo. It was so much better than a TV show!

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