If you like your bubble & squeak, Days 4 & 5 boast those ingredients. It’s not for everyone but lick the spoon & it seems to work. As each day morphs into the next, numbers-added to The List become less important. Finding specific birds has become more central to the attack. That’s not to say we’ve dropped the baton; far from it. The compound interest of 10 or even fewer new sp., each session – makes the heart grow fonder & The List grow longer.
More on that in a sec – …but first, there was this – at 1am on Day 5, fever shook Sebastian like a badger off prophylactics. That was fun… It also brought about another change in the itinerary. We headed south to Skukuza out of necessity & by appointment for the only medical care on offer. Getting there was a simple 3-hr drive away but @ a pace fast enough to straighten curls. In fact one numpty yelled ‘impatient b*stard’ when I refused her impala next to the road. I was hurt but only for a short while.. Getting anybody to pull finger, when we got there, however – impossible – and I’m usually fairly competent at assisting the tardy. As it turned out, the doctor ‘on call’ was called elsewhere, in an ‘emergency’. What trumps a 3yr-old running a 40º C temp. is beyond me; perhaps a nice dose of insertus rectus that required stitching? We were subsequently referred to the clinic in the Staff Village; an experience on its own; & left the sentence not long after. Fortunately, Sebastian’s back on ice – cream that is.
On our flight down to Skukuza & I’m sure my son will forgive me [I live dangerously, obviously], we kept an eye out for whatever would catch our eye – raptors, mostly: given their size. We stacked them on a pile. That’s the secret to raptor-watching. Go like a bat outta hell – remove the distraction of everything else and voila – Gabar, Ovambo & African Goshawk. Little Sparrowhawk, African Hawk-Eagle, Lizard Buzzard, Shikra & Red-footed Falcon.
When an Egyptian Vulture was 1st reported from Singita’s Lebombo Concession; early on Day 4 – we hoped for a landing at our rhino carcass [Sweni waterhole – adjacent] (Read it here). It takes perseverance to watch a carcass thin down to its bones; dedication to keep watch in a cloud of rhino-smoothie-slurping flies & concentration to keep your mouth closed unless, of course, you wanted to swallow the fly – that sat on the carcass … We all have our oddities! Communication was a tap, nod & a prod. I had some peace & quiet – there be upside … everywhere!
Although we’d seen what we assumed would be the same individual vulture, some months ago – if only on a tail-wind, it would have been peachy to see the beast up close in all its dull-brown finery; a dress-rehearsal for the white & gold to follow. As of writing – no sign of Pharaoh’s Chicken! That said – it was seen a stone’s throw away later in the afternoon… ‘I’m frustrated you know’ & a ‘bloody hell’ is the PC synopsis of some of the ensuing ‘front-seat fracas’. This is a family story.
Back at our carcass, early on the 5th, the clean-up crew was almost done – the aerial mob, a handful of hyena & a jackal took less than 2 ½ sessions to consign a tonne of meat & muscle, sans the keratin recovery, to guano. Too efficient by a long-bill if you ask me. We would have preferred a more protracted scent trail.
Elsewhere we scrubbed the south-western block, south of the Sweni, down to Tshokwane, via the granite sourveld of the Nhlanguleni. We targeted specials in the knob-thorn thickets of the Vutomi & Munywini. We call this hotspot between the two rivers our ‘cuckoo lane’… Home to the Retz’s Helmet-Shrike the targeted special can only mean one thing – Thick-billed Cuckoo; our first ‘Mega’ for the trip. Other goodies added to The List included Dusky Lark, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Lizard Buzzard, Bushveld Pipit, African Pygmy Kingfisher & Olive-tree Warbler. These & 1 or 2 more equate to 231 species for The Trip; hardly feverish but we’re not cooling our heels either.