Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Storm chasers...!

Mahonie loop - Punda Maria (Kruger National Park)
Throw a long line of dependents, a camera bag & a hotbox into the back of the Land Rover; depart in brilliant sunshine or under a twinkling dawn-sky & more often than not, arrive in rain...

Lightening-struck - cooked lunch

At this time of year in the southern tropics & if you're time-constrained; susceptible to juju; or targeting specific birds for a ridiculous, self-imposed program of patience or just a paid-up fan of Murphy, weekends are, without exception, drizzly-wet, dank & muddy...

Pafuri picnic site  - Kruger National Park
Before we talk storms & there were four story -grade monsters, the business of the moment.. At inception, in January, we decided to do the best we could, whenever we could, over the period of twelve months rather than hit the treadmill at an unsustainable sprint. We'd have flown off the back of the mill had we started at a canter but paradoxically, perhaps, we currently face an exponentially steeper gradient as the sands of 2013 trickle into history. Although we're walking our challenge we're burning birding-calories at an unprecedented rate & for what it's worth, we're starting to perspire .. 
Pafuri picnic site  - Kruger National Park

Targeting five (5) we returned home with one (1), a prepared score of 20%. We're not exactly flapping for joy but perhaps, on a positive spin, we can accept another shuffle closer to our targeted 700 species for calendar 2013, RSA. Broad-billed Roller, surprisingly conspicuous even in the rain, scores No. 697 for our South Africa list. The other four (4) we'll target in their more comfortable habitat, further afield, in Zimbabwe & Mozambique respectively.

Emerging amphibians raining down a plague
Back to our weekend's haul of short stories, some more compelling than others, none forgettable. Dance, dance, wherever you may be; I'm the lord of the dance said he... That's all good and well & the self-help protagonists would be pleased; just don't do it in the rain, ever..       

In the words of that iconic ACDC ballad - you'll be Thunderstruck.. or for the more technically- minded, microwaved by lightening for which the RSA holds world-beating credentials. The rather benign image (top) belies an ugly truth. An impala ram, head-boy at the local harem, defied the don't stand under trees in a storm rule & paid for his lapse with his shot at immortality. Not wanting to live forever is one thing but leaving these green pastures with bad hair is something else altogether! Two Tawny Eagles & a Hooded Vulture paid their respects from the rear-end in, a meal for three, shaken & charred. 

It appears, actually I'm quite sure, that storm conditions invites a string of squawks, chirrs, chirrups, groans, croaks & trills. Emanating, loudly, incessantly & with unparalleled vigour from the passenger-seat alongside & from immediately behind, this racket becomes a perfect soup for sleep deprivation, particularly when the humidity sheds the sheets & opens windows and doors. The frogs & toads were a tad noisy too...

Overnight, further afield & some 50 kilometers north, Apheliotes, the god of the east wind, played havoc with the Levuvhu's remnant riverine forest. Trees, giants of decades past, lay scattered, face-down in the mud, in silent defeat or in impending death, across roads & on picnic tables. Limbless survivors mourned their comrades in the early morning's muted dawn chorus. KNP stretcher-bearers ran back & forth removing lost limbs & leafy fingers. A silent pall hung loosely over the gallery. Birds were non-entities; even the rarely seen. We stayed the course, found the Green Sandpiper & headed home but not before our final storm. 

In a misspent youth, on family farms & behind a rifle I can admit a tale of cats, as well as most, both large & small. I have the scars to show, none too fancy but enough to earn a round.

Notwithstanding the errors of a different time & like a salesman reformed, I argue the buyer's side these days, with some fervour. Like most outdoorsmen & women we love cats, lions in particular. Spending time with these iconic animals is time well-spent & a dish savoured for as long as the animals grace us with their patience.

If there's anything more stormy than the passenger seat choking in the dust after a full-blown lion charge then it must be a mating lion with his lioness in tow.

This feline disapproval of our intrusion on their obviously private affairs, I suspect a personal performance for our approval, shook the windows in their frames. An auditory assault wholly attention-grabbing & more than a little impressive but certainly not as knee-knocking as the passenger-seat's clenched-jaw warning 'That's enough now, Mark..!'  Truly memorable!
Two seconds later he came for us...