Friday, January 28, 2011

The Selous Tease

Birds are the biggest teases in the Selous.  Well, probably the biggest teases on the safari circuit.  They are often tantalizingly beautiful, appear everywhere but don't like to sit still, and almost always leave you wanting just a bit more. 

Among the most beautiful here at Kiba is the Northern Carmine Bee-eater, an African migrant that shows up in the Selous from November till June.  We have been seeing them for a couple of months but while I was on vacation, they seem to have taken over the Selous.  This morning one swooped down to "hawk" a bee just meters in front of me, and this evening I saw dozens on a game drive.  But only one cooperated enough to allow a few decent photos.

A Carmine Bee-eater doing his sinister impression of a nose-scratching superhero, Robin

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Welcoming Committee

I just returned to Kiba Point from a two-week vacation in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.  Based on the crowd that turned out to greet me, I think I've been missed. 

Mustafa, SRS Assistant Manager, with a family of elephants.
Within five minutes of me getting into the office, the elephants, including a one-year-old calf, showed up and started browsing 5 meters from the kitchen.  And I promise they didn't show me their butts the whole time.  In fact, at one point the matriarch, pictured on the right, started running up to me, though whether it was to give me a hug or knock me over, I can't really be sure.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Rain Charms

It's been dry.  Not dust storm, dessert dry, but dry enough that the plants and animals are still doing their rain dances.  November and December generally herald a short rainy season in east Africa, but with the exception of two decent showers, the most we've gotten are a few sprinklings of rain.  The ecosystem is suffering accordingly.

And then Jill and Claus arrived.  With rain.  All night and all morning.  Vehicle miring rain.  Waterhole filling rain.  Actually, it wasn't that much, it's just more than we've had to date.

So what, you might ask, do these characters Jill and Claus have to do with it?  Well they are the Nomad relief managers, who fly into all the camps for 2-3 weeks at a time to give the managers vacation.  Let me walk you through their last few months.

It started on October 12th, when I happened to be visiting Greystoke Mahale where J & C were on their first day relief managing.  Off we went to watch the chimps.  half way through, the skies opened up with an absolute downpour, first rain of the season. 

After three weeks in Mahale, J & C took over Sandrivers Selous from Mike and Carol.  Two days into their tenure, we got a short but very heavy squall, by far the heaviest rain until now.  Next they headed back west to Chada Katavi.  They spent three weeks in Katavi in an absolute swamp, with rainstorms that were so heavy they flooded safari tents.  We're talking 66cm in less than an hour.

Finally, the relief managers were in need of a break, so they took a vacation to Germany...where they were met by heavy unseasonal snows.  And now, they're back in the Selous so that I can go on a vacation.  They arrive in the afternoon and by midnight, the rain began and still hasn't stopped.  I think you can spot the pattern.

You may call it coincidence.  But out here, dry as it as been, we can't help thinking it's something more.  But we're not complaining; on behalf of the animals we'll take all the help we can get.    

Monday, January 3, 2011

Ants and old wives tales

The saga with the ants and my shower continues.  But now I have a new weapon in my arsenal, courtesy of Richard Knocker.  Ants will not cross ash.  After meeting the concept with skepticism it has proven to effective.  I ringed my patio with ash from the fire place and it has created an inpenetrable ant barrier.  I can't tell you why.  Maybe they have evolved an aversion to burnt and burning areas.  Maybe it hides their pheremone trails.  Maybe they just don't like it.  Whatever the reason, they will find any alternative path rather than cross ash.     

Of course, rather than succeeding in keeping the ants out of my room, all I have managed to accomplish thus far is keeping them locked IN my room.  And so the saga continues.