May 2010

01 May

I have just been on an amazing walk After a reasonably quiet night with some lion roars in the distance up the Mushingashi and later at about 4h00 lots of alarm calls from monkeys chattering, bushbuck barking and impala mphaaing….

We set off at 6.40am and as we were walking out of camp saw a pair of brown hooded kingfishers stretching their wings in the rising sunlight. Four black backed barbets were sitting together and lots of wire tailed swallows were preening and grooming themselves. We wandered on through the heavily dewed grass, and saw several groups of impala and puku huddled together in various places. I always associate these huddled groups with the possibility of predators walking past them. There were loud calls from the ‘go-away bird’, and a dead tree fruited with huddled green pigeons, all palely green and waiting for the sun’s rays to warm them up. They did look exactly like avocados or some other fruit on the dead branches.

On we went and  saw two big hippos ambling along, grazing, their big sides wet with dew, and the underside matching the rising sun with pink tinges. There were groups of inquisitive impala and one very big puku lying in the grass. All that was visible were his horns. We walked on. It was such a beautiful time of day, the sun lighting up all the leaves as we walked into it. We walked through some very muddy, uneven patches as there is still a lot of water about.

Suddenly I saw four white backed vultures sitting on a dead tree as well as two brooding bateleurs sitting in another tree on the Mushingashi Plain. No animals were to be seen! We were sure there must be a kill somewhere around, so we sat and had a drink of water. While sitting we heard two lions chatting to each other with their hhhum sound. We were immediately on red alert, and very excited! We sat listening as four bateleurs materialised in the sky and wheeled with velvet precision over our heads. What a sight. Such colours and perfection. A vulture flew in with them. We still heard the lion conversing, so we decide to climb a nearby anthill and see if we could see them. That was a task indeed as the grass was soooo high. I could not see over it.  Musango looking decidedly nervous as he treaded his way through the waving head high grass. We clambered (the only word for getting through the thick long grass), to the top of the anthill, but again, everything was too high and thick. We watched for a while but decided it was just impossible to see anything. The lions could have been within a few metres and we would not have seen them. So we clambered down again and stood listening. We heard another very quiet hhhhum….

Suddenly we spotted two really big male lions about 100 metres from us. One with an almost black mane, the other more blonde. We just had tantalising glimpses of them as they walked away from us. Everytime I tried for a photo all I could get was waving grass in perfect focus, so I abandoned that and just watched them. One walked to the spring and bent down for a drink before sniffing the branches above him. The other black-maned lion went behind the anthill. The wind sprang up and was blowing directly onto them, so, still with extreme caution, we walked towards the road. We must have disturbed them again as we heard running footfalls going towards the miombo. They must have been the lions we heard in the night, roaring up the Mushingashi.

Of course walking home was just as exciting, the thrill of seeing the lions remained with us all the way home. What a special morning!!

Wish you had been here. You would have loved it.

10 May

The Phantom (one of our lions), accompanied by a lioness chewed trail camera Number 2 and the strap during the night of 7 May. The camera only recorded the ear of the lion before he snacked on the camera (See the camera trail photographs).  The camera still works during daylight but no longer at night.

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