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May 2010 Bush Blog
May 2010:
The Bushy Bush Blog

After a few months of rather philosophical updates from this end – we figured it was time to put the bush back into our Bush Blog for this month’s edition...

In May we had some high adventure with a long-overdue expedition to the Limestone Gorges on the eastern Cheringoma plateau of the Park.  This area is relatively untouched in recent times, due to its inaccessibility.  However, our motto of “the beaten path is for the beaten man” won through with a group of 5 intrepid explorers from Maputo and 5 from the Explore Gorongosa team heading off into the sunrise one morning for a week of trekking and exploring in these incredible gorges.  Despite the rain and the associated bumps from no real road network in the area, we had some great ecological (& not-so-ecological) moments.

 

We saw Palmnut Vultures nesting on the limestone cliffs, miles from any palm trees.  (This is, as far as we know, a first and something we are writing to BirdLife International about.)  We also saw nesting Peregrine Falcons, Livingstone Flycatchers, Forest Weavers, Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, and about a hundred different accipiters (small raptors) amongst 155 birds seen in the week.  Mammal highlights were the abundant samango monkeys and the odd red duiker, whilst a file snake was seen one night in camp – yikes.  We also ‘discovered’ a well-established wild lemon and lime tree plantation in the bottom of one of the gorges.  These were either cultivated through baboon and bird droppings or they were the result of some tossed out contents of gin cocktails back in the colonial days.  

 

The expedition ended with a summit of Mount Gorongosa – something which must be done at least once in everyone’s life.  This time, though, it rained for the entire 24 hours that we were up there so views and birding were kept to a minimum.  Still, the Green-headed Oriole made some great appearances, as did the Livingstone’s Turaco and other montane forest specials.  Mount Gorongosa is always a great place to explore – even if it is just a short visit to enjoy the falls and the lower forest fringe.

 

On safari in the Park this month, we had to contend with some late rains (again!) and quite a number of elephants around, many pushing over fever trees across the road and one poor chap getting his feet caught up in our solar panel wires in camp.  Lions are starting to trickle back down towards the floodplains again as these fertile feeding grounds dry up and their prey animals move out for the annual winter feast.  We have been seeing a lactating lioness around the area of our camp a few times now – still holding thumbs that she’ll show us some cubs soon.  The Park’s impala numbers seem to have tripled this year such is their abundance – can only be a good thing though, as these intermediate feeders are a key indicator species of habitat quality.  Another noteworthy species been seen quite regularly this month is the shy bush pig we have been seeing day and night – very unusual to see it in the daytime.  Talking of unusual, we have also seen African Skimmers performing around sunset on the Msicadzi close to the Lion House ruins near camp – this is a great thing to watch as they swoop low over the water, their luminous red lower bills touching the water surface as they fly.  We have also been regularly hearing our old friend the Wood Owl hoo-hooting around camp at night, although the resident Barn Owl sometimes tries to out-compete him with his screeching call.  We await the arrival of our resident Narina Trogon and our Pel’s Fishing Owl who we enjoyed around the camp last winter – hope they arrive soon.

Talking of which, we also are still awaiting the arrival of Mrs Winter herself – as it has still been very wet and warm – a far cry from a cool and dry winter.  I suppose the evenings are starting to cool off slightly but not enough to make us feel the wet season is finally (finally!) behind us for a few months.  To see dry and dusty roads and empty seasonal pans seems like a treat right now – we can never be happy: too much rain = bad, too little rain = bad.  Perhaps, we’re just fussy.  As you should be too...

Why settle for mixing it up with the masses?  Rather come and enjoy a little piece of gentle calm and exclusivity, far from the madding crowd, in a vast African wilderness making its way back onto the big stage again.  Better come quick though – because the secret’s out and Gorongosa is destined for the big lights again soon.  Watch this space...
 
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