April 2009

01 April

We have had LOTS and LOTS of rain, and the Kafue and Mushingashi Rivers have been the highest I’ve seen it.

We arrived back in camp and it was so beautiful. There has been so much rain that we can only drive the car to the corner near the Mushingashi (where we sometimes cross the river) and then we have to paddle the Banana boat to the camp. It is just so lovely, water only a few metres from your house veranda. I am sitting on my veranda watching fish jump in the water about two metres from me!  It appears as if we live on an island at the moment which is really exciting. It is unusual paddling through water lillies where one usually walks and the water sparkles and shimmers right up to our veranda. Most beautiful! Everything is sunlight on water…glinting and shining and twinkling, with bird song everywhere, Impala rutting sounds. The pied kingfishers were tail twitchingly perched on branches, the fish eagles were calling, the hueglins robin was sitting, white eye browed welcome watching our arrival back. There is, however,  a noticeable silence from the hippos though. The high water levels will probably only last another two weeks, but it is both exciting and beautiful.

We arrived the night before last and the lions roared nearby all night. Yesterday morning Chris called me and said to me “there is a lion in the camp. Go behind our hut and look to the right”, which I duly did, only to nearly bump into a young lion. He was sitting on his haunches watching me with great interest just near our hot water drum where Simple Simon used to sleep. I quickly knelt down and took a photo, then a few more. The lion looked to the left, and I spotted another lion looking at me through some branches, most unnerving! I also managed to take a photo of him. It was very exciting. They were young lions, but fully grown and very big! Eventually they walked off, past the office. I then stood up and took a couple more photos, but they looked at me, so I crouched down again. They walked off and lay next to Nest house for most of the day,  then walked past the compound to the campsite.

….and lovely crisp footprints in the damp sand of a leopard who had walked through the camp earlier!!

04 April

Max has been roaring right near the camp all night. He has a wonderful deep roar and he is near the anthill that you can see from the veranda. I am planning to creep around and see if I can photograph him later today.  Elephants have had great fun re-arranging the camp whilst I have been away. We have an ongoing battle of wills, the elephants and I,  as they insist on moving trees around, but this camp was specifically built around the beautiful trees. Last night I actually got up and clapped my hands loudly at one who was making quite a noise near the River hut. He did stop and there was silence except for some loud dropping sounds-. This morning I see he left his pooh all along the path, probably his way of saying something rude to me. We were awoken later in the night, which is silver lit by a brilliant half moon, with very loud and close lion roars. It was really thrilling. Later the hyenas set up a cacophony of whoops and shrieks. Everything sounds so dramatic with all the water around as the sounds seem to echo.

05 April

This morning I got up early  to walk around the camp and saw 17 different birds, some of which I still have not identified (LBJ’s I think real “birder’s” call them).

Its a glorious morning- and the rains do seem to have ended so everything is shining and drying out. Monkeys are chattering their alarm calls in a nearby tree. The grass is too long to see what it is that is alarming them, and the horrid, though beautiful broubrou Shrikes are rummaging around in a branch near me. I’ve really gone off them since I discovered them ripping a paradise flycatcher’s exquisitely woven nest to shreds, and killing/eating the minute nestlings.

I spent a lovely couple of hours last night watching a fish eagle sitting just outside our hut, obviously waiting for a fish. Watching him was fun as he preened, turned his head this way and that, put up a sort of crest, moved from one foot to another. He was so close and they really are beautiful, with their big dark eyes, and powerful yellow and grey beaks, .Finally he flew away on silent wings just as dusk fell and as the light was unfortunately  not good, I was unable to get any photographs.

Sitting writing to you in the evening, with dramatic half moon and stars like you have never seen, I am working by a small solar lamp which  I made all by myself, after attending a course. They are so good we now use them as torches and in the kitchen. They attract insects, and the little bats are swooping past, silver lit as they fly past the lamp,  catching the insects by sonar. Monkeys are chattering their alarm calls just over the river, and impala alarm calls further up stream indicate that a predator of some sort is stalking, walking through the night towards us..

it does look as if the rains are finally tailing off. Just one or two skimpy showers and lots of lovely sun and  the waters are dropping now, so all the excitement of living on an island is going away. It is still beautiful, but rather like a tide going out, it leaves grey mud and the green, green grass that was under water is now also grey. There is a strange smell as the water subsides rather like leaf mould. There is so many little insects, flies and tiny grass hoppers. Beautifully coloured kingfishers sit, broodingly, on low branches, fishing for insects!. There are lots of butterfies, all flitting and fluttering around. The hippos are back now, snorting and huffing nearby. The landscape is changing by the minute, which is exciting in itself as you watch your world alter before your very eyes.!

23 April

I got up at dawn today, a soft, grey morning, with a hint of sunrise through clouds to the East. The gentle elephant had been in camp most of the night. At first he had cracked a few branches in a startling, loud fashion, but after several hand claps (as loud as I could) he seemed to get the message and gently browsed on trees, leaving a litter of leaves along all the paths. His tummy rumbles faded from the camp as he left on silent feet in the early hours.

There was a flock of maybe twenty guinea fowl in the camp making soft cluckings as they pecked and checked the sand for tasty morsels. They seem to whisper through the camp. Until one hears the sharp clucking, one is not sure what is moving about, then I see that lovely shape as they bob and scuttle away in front of me.

The hueglins robin is singing a wonderful dawn song, with such enjoyment as if he could not contain his joy and it rises up in great trilling notes and songs.The black backed barbets have a nest in a nearby tree so every morning they sit and sun themselves around the nest area. The youngster is fat and happy looking, still a bit fluffy. The dead leadwood is alive with swallows, all chittering and twittering as they sit in the early rays. They are beautiful birds with their reddish heads and blue, blue backs. Later on in the day they will be swooping down in front of the lounge area, collecting mud and bits if straw.

There are lion roars in the distance – a gentle, muted sound as the big male goes up the Mushingashi, patrolling his territory. It is much more exciting when he is close to the camp, which he was the night before, when one hears the guttural rasping sounds, at full volume. Very thrilling when safely lying in a cosy, warm bed.

We are slowly stepping into winter, with lovely chilly mornings, warm mid-days, and soft, brilliantly sunlit evenings. There aer the most glorious colours imaginable. Everything is gold tipped and lit – grasses, hippos, impalas. Lions are roaring close by most of the night and are visible during the day around the camp. It is very wonderful to live so close to nature with all it’s many splendoured facets.

It is such a perfect evening here. The wintery sunset was indescribable, all the darkly silhouetted trees were lined and tipped with real gold, and the colours started at the horizon as dark pinky red and went from pinks to pale pinks to oranges to REAL gold to turquoise blue. The water was slow rippling blue green/grey with gold tipped hippos lazing near the banks, yawning pinkly. A couple of blacksmith plovers tinking their blacksmiths call. Out a of the reeds swims an african finfoot. What a lovely sight, that snakelike movement as he swims past. I really hope he takes up residence here. They are such shy birds, and we often see them skulking through the reeds lower down the river, occasionally making a dash along the bank, their startling big red feet making a splash of colour.

A perfect evening!!

24 April

I am up very earrrrly today to watch what I call the ‘dawn patrol’ . The lovely early gold dawn light filtering through the trees, heralding the sunrise, and listening to all the early ‘folk’ in camp. There is a flock of guinea fowl churring and clucking as they fly noisily down from the nearby trees, and then whisper through the camp. I’m so glad they are back here as for a while we didn’t see them, and they were sorely missed. The francolin is standing tall on a tiny termite mound, literally shouting his harsh territorial call. and is answered by another francolin nearby. The imapala rutting sound, which at times sounds like a lion and  the distant and melancholy call of the cape turtle dove calling “how’s Father, how’s Father”.

Over the Mushingashi River, which is still flowing, and therefore too deep to cross on foot, there are impala and bushbuck alarm calls which probably means there is some silent predator creeping about, possibly a leopard or a lion? -There is no sound to indicate which hunter may be prowling as the bird’s dawn chorus starts. It is startling in it’s variety and volume, really very beautiful with the hueglins robin reaching the absolute peak of perfection, like an opera singer’s voice rising to the rafters .LOVELY!!

Yesterday was cold, windy and grey. Today looks as if it will be a beautiful, balmy, sunny day, which will be nice for our guests arriving from Cape Town. The alarm calls continue over the river. If the river was down we would collect our rifles and cameras and walk over and have a look-see, but-now all we can do is speculate.

25 April

As you know our dear old Simple Simon has not been seen for some time. He used to amuse us so, and give us a lot of pleasure too, watching him ambling around the camp, being very ‘dim’ about new obstacles like a parafin lamp on the path. After wandering around for a while he would retreat to his “shallet” and sleep like a baby until morning,  sometimes as late as 9am! We still miss his placid presence.

Well! We now have a wonderful new camp creature. A warthog  who came rushing through the camp like a little train the other afternoon. Snorting and panting. he stood near our hut and gathered himself and started to relax. I was about five metres from him, so was able to observe him closely. He obviously started to feel at ease, because shortly after calming down he came into the open. Then I heard a snuffling, teeth clacking sound, and, peering behind the small bush, ((which, as an aside, was alive with blue waxbill’s, looking like little Christmas decorations, all chirping, and hopping, and chattering, and wing flapping)  saw our new friend  on his knees, having a veritable feast and really making a disgusting noise of total enjoyment…I told Chris, who came to look and the warthog just moved off under a nearby tree, and watched Chris, who watched him.

Chris was sure he must have been chased by a lion, so I went to look, but could see no tracks or signs.

Anyway, he spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the spot, until the slanting golden sunset rays lit only patches and left his area darkened. Off he trotted,  I know not where, hopefully not near our big lioness who haunts the golden dambo like an almost invisible golden ghost.

Just after lunch, I was sitting watching a brown hooded kingfisher, before having a nap, when the now familiar sounds started up and there was the warthog, whom we have decided to call Webster, on his knees, almost chuckling with noisy enjoyment. Anyway, we all had a serious NAP today, Actually I never usually nap, but for some reason this afternoon I passed out and Chris was also fast asleep, snoring gently. It must have been contagious as when I woke up I went to get a book I needed, and there was Webster,  lying on his side, fast asleep and snoring gently. All he did as I passed by was raise his snout, look at me and lie down again.

Chris and I are enchanted! and hope this wonderfully amusing new guest will stay for a long time. He is completely wild, but very relaxed, which is a joy for us.

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