The first Wahlberg’s Eagle sighting at the end winter tells us that the season is drawing to a close. Although usually the first migrants to get here, this year they were beaten to Londolozi by a couple of Yellow-Billed kites, another species that spends the Southern Hemisphere winter in north Africa. Depending which source you consult, you might read that one or other of these two raptors is the first migrant to get here, but it’s not too important in the greater context of the seasonal change.
I’m not going to talk too much about bird migration here (although I’m annoyed with myself for not remembering to check on the status of the migratory cuckoos, and now they’re already in Africa!), but wanted more to have a brief ramble about the impending season change.
I happened to be on drive with a couple of other rangers a few days ago, and we got into a discussion about what our favourite seasons were. I was a staunch advocate of winter, while James Souchon, although a fan of the cooler temperatures, stated emphatically that he was ready for summer. Talley Smith was firmly in the winter camp.
I’m sure I’ve written a post on this subject before, but each year when either the bush starts drying out (winter is coming), or the first rains are imminent (spring), or the thermometer hits 40 degrees Celcius for the first time (summer hitting with a bang), the guiding and tracking team are forced to revisit what it is they are most looking forward to about the upcoming months.
From a pure comfort point of view, winter is usually slightly easier (at least for me). Although cold in the mornings, a few extra layers take care of that problem. Summer can be scorchingly hot (so game drive times are adjusted accordingly), but the verdant green landscape after the rains is truly magnificent, and Londolozi is alive with the singing of cicadas, the trilling of the Woodland Kingfishers, and the calls of a thousand and one frogs.
It’s ironic that human nature is generally to be afraid of change, but in the context of the African bush, the seasonal change is what is most anticipated. Real winter usually only lasts about three months, as does the height of summer. The other six months of the year are ones of transition. One barely has time to get fully immersed into winter or summer before the pendulum starts on its inexorable swing back to the other one.
I imagine that the approach of summer for us is something akin to dusting off the skis when the first snow clouds start rolling in over the Alps or the Rocky Mountains. When you know it’s coming, you start gearing up. Rangers start relearning the songs of the various frog species and migratory birds, the grass reference books are brought down off the shelves again, and we all start looking forward to sampling Mama Connie’s latest batch of marula jam. The trackers know that when the grass is long, the roaming predators of Londolozi tend to stick to the more prominent game paths, avoiding the thicker bush, so the tracking approach needs to be adjusted accordingly. Ponchos get brought out of the trunks they’ve been stored in, in case a sudden summer storm breaks over the reserve.
All around the lodge, the change will slowly start to become apparent as all departments begin shifting their operations into summer mode.
The Tamboti female inhabited the south-eastern sections of Londolozi, having a large part of her territory along the Maxabene Riverbed.
With Londolozi’s human contingent altering their day-to-day as summer approaches, we have to beg the question: do animals do the same?
We’ve written before on whether or not animals feel anxiety, and stated that to do so they would need a certain level of forethought. If they do have this ability, then are they also able to look forward to Summer like us?
Personally I think they simply go day-to-day, but others might feel differently. What do you think?