The past couple of weeks are and have always been the most exciting times in the bush for me. As we get into the rainy season, the bush is changing and popping with colour in front of our eyes everyday. Watching the landscape turn from its uniform khaki colour into a sea of green is always something to behold and what comes with the sea of green is life in its thousands.
Bird activity during this time of year is seriously special. Migrants have followed the rains and are starting to return to Londolozi. Most of the migrants return because of the huge influx of prey/food that is on offer because of the rain. A large amount of surface water means that many different plant species will be growing and blossoming which means food is plentiful. It also means that tons of insects start to emerge providing food sources for many birds. For me the most noticeable returning birds are all the cuckoos and the Woodland Kingfisher. Both species travel miles to arrive here because of the amount of food that is on offer while providing ample energy to then breed. Breeding means that these birds will call constantly and for me to hear the call of a Woodland Kingfisher or a Jacobin Cuckoo brings so much joy, there is no greater sound to let you know summer is here.
Dung beetles return from their time underground where they have been aestivating (similar to hibernating but done in dry cold conditions) during the winter to take advantage of all the dung that is on offer. These dedicated insects emerge with the rains in order to feed and more importantly for them to breed. There are about 780 species of dung beetle that we find in Southern Africa that are split into 4 different groups. The main group that catches our eye is the rollers known as the telecoprids. Dung is compacted into a ball and then rolled away for 3 main reasons. Firstly, a food ball is rolled and stored to sustain the Dung beetle itself during the breeding periods. The second is a nuptial ball that they can attract a mate with and in turn feed on it together. The third and most important is a brood ball where they will lay an egg and bury the ball for the larvae to eat once hatched. Seeing these amazing insects go about their trade is a site to behold as a ball can weigh 50 times more than the beetle itself.
Like the dung beetles, tortoises will go into a form of aestivation during the winter months to conserve energy as they are very reliant on the presence of water. Here at Londolozi, we have two different types of tortoise. The first and most common is the Leopard Tortoise that we find regularly during the rainy season. Getting its name from its shell resembling the rosettes of a leopard. The second that is seldom seen is the Speke’s Hinged Tortoise, getting its name from its hinged carapace (bottom part of the tortoise’s shell) that allows it to close off its rear end to predators.
Youngsters everywhere you look:
Impala, wildebeest and warthog have mastered their breeding season in order to have their young when food is plentiful and water is everywhere. We have already seen plenty of impala lambs being born and what will follow as we get closer to December is wildebeest calves and warthog piglets. These animals have employed this strategy so that there is an abundance of young around which, in turn, allows the majority of them to survive and not get preyed upon. They essentially flood the market for the predators. Watching all this life being born around you is seriously an amazing thing to witness because no matter the animal, it is always special to see a baby.
All I can say is bless the rains down in Africa!