Safari holds the unexpected and it’s what keeps the excitement levels high when heading out on game drive every day. One afternoon drive was just that.
We set out to find a large herd of buffalo that had frequented the southern parts of Londolozi over the previous few days. It was a very large herd and provided quite a spectacle.
Far in the distance, tracker Lucky Shabangu saw the hundreds of black shapes huddled in a clearing. As we approached we were surprised by a single female ostrich sitting in the middle of the masses of buffalo. She blended in perfectly with the surrounds.
One closer inspection we saw an egg that poked out from her underside! Could this be? Surely not. Finding her was literally like finding a needle in a haystack, so camouflaged was she, but she was on a nest as well? A single ostrich immersed in a sea of buffalo… We were a good couple of hundred metres from the nearest road and never would have found her had we not been going to view the herd.
We had no way of knowing how many eggs she was sitting on until an inquisitive group of buffalo strolled nearby. The ostrich hissed at the intruders (a sound I had never heard before). As they investigated the strange-looking bird she suddenly exploded off the nest, wings out, scattering the massed herd and forcing their attendant oxpeckers into the air. There revealed, lay 8 eggs in the sunlight.
Now a new clutch of 8 eggs lies in the sand and it’s a first for many new rangers at Londolozi once again. We don’t know how many the hen (a female ostrich is a hen) started with or when they were laid, but signs on the ground around the nest suggest that no eggs have been broken or eaten by predators in the vicinity.
Ostriches will incubate eggs for around 50 days. As incubation progresses, eggs may turn a creamier colour. For now they look pure white and she may still be on the nest for a good few weeks. There was no male in the general area we could see, even though ostrich eggs are usually incubated by both sexes; the female by day and the male by night. The scrape-like nest is initially made by the male. Both birds will protect the nest aggressively, so most likely the male was off feeding and would return to the nest at dusk to take over his duties.