What a feeling it was, having arrived home after dark on Saturday (to the nighttime sounds of elephants, lion and buffalo all around) and then to wake up Sunday morning to that wonderful river view! And how the river has changed since we have been away, leaving in the wake of its ebb and flow, a completely new pattern of sandbanks and islands. Below the house now, we have a long sand spit, which – if it gets the chance before the next flood – will sprout grass and, hopefully, attract a myriad of game.
Looking upstream from the house, you can see how new sandbanks have appeared while others have disappeared…
The corresponding view downstream from the house, also showing how the character of the river has changed since we’ve been away. You can compare different riverscapes, moulded by the water over the days and weeks here.
Already since we’ve been back, we’ve had our familiar Waterbuck (five of them in the herd now) and Impala coming down to drink. One of the small rams has lost a horn, so now is a smaller version of the dominant ram in the area who is also, strangely enough, one-horned. Despite this deficiency, he has managed to stay in charge of his harem for a remarkably long time. (We’ve seen both the small bachelor herd and the main herd of impala below the house since getting back.)
Young impala ram who has lost one horn since we’ve been away
Sunday and Monday were grey and overcast and there was hardly a crocodile in sight (we only saw one tiny one, forlornly lying out on one of the sandbanks, as if willing the sun to come out), but today was hot and sunny all day, and the crocodiles appeared in their dozens. The herons seem to have disappeared though – both the Grey Heron and the Goliath (although I have seen the diminutive Green-backed Heron). The Yellow-billed Stork who had taken up almost permanent residence below the house also has not shown itself until today, when it landed a little way down from the house. (I presume it is the same stork as it seems to prefer keeping itself to itself, away from the main flock which we can see congregated on the river’s edge at Hippo Bend.)
“Our” Yellow-billed Stork back again
But many of the old regulars were here to greet us on Sunday morning: the Spur-winged Plovers, noisy and boisterous as ever, and trying to intimidate the resident troop of Vervet Monkeys (babies in tow); the orange Butterflies busy by the river’s edge; the cacophonic Hadada Ibises, and the Egyptian Geese, in flocks of up to ten birds, all squabbling with one another and trying to challenge the resident pairs which have staked out territories along the river; the Baboon troop that likes to spend the last hour of the day relaxing on the sandbank; the Hammerkops who were busy mating; the Pied Kingfishers, hovering so expertly above the now low and calm river, elegantly poised for the lethal dive onto an unsuspecting fish many feet below; even the Spot-flanked Barbet was in the bushes by the house.
Pair of Egyptian Geese feeding at the river’s edge in the golden evening light
And some birds had even moved into the house during our absence (alongside the Agama Lizards and Rainbow Skinks who have remained in residence all along): the Sparrows are nesting on our balcony (all the to-ing and fro-ing of the parents to feed the chicks attracting the attention of a curious yet harmless Bulbul) and the Swifts are building a nest inside a disused light socket on our roof. And our regular visitors to the birdbath are back too, including the Glossy Starlings who seem to have some big chicks with them again. (The adults have white eyes and more radiant plumage, while the youngsters have dark eyes).
A Sparrow with a mouthful of food for its chicks
A Bulbul comes to see what all the fuss is about
A pair of Little Swifts are nesting in a disused light socket on the roof (don’t worry, there are no live wires in there!)
A stern stare from an adult Glossy Starling!
There has not been much rain since we left, and so the landscape is fairly dry. Nonetheless, the sanseviera plants around the house and in our flowerbeds have flourished, sending up countless new spikes from their underground root systems.
Ian (my husband) and the guys who work with us were busy with the eternal chores associated with living in the bush, including pumping water from the river, so that laundry and showers and all the normal business of the day can continue…
In the heat of the day, a Tawny Eagle comes down to take a drink
Our unexpected homecoming surprise was a gift from Bernard, one of the Wakamba guys who works for us and is obviously a talented craftsman. In our absence, he had made us a tree ingeniously fashioned out of old wire with tiny miniature beehives hanging from it – just, he said, so we never forget the honey thief…
Ian admires our gift from Bernard, a Beehive Tree, cleverly fashioned from old wire. (Some conservation organizations are making similar items from old wire snares, as a way of generating income for communities living in or bordering wildlife areas, and thereby also providing a financial incentive for people to remove snares from their land.)