The small rainy season is upon us, generating small but potent storms. The massive cloud formations belting out lightning and huge swells of rain are best viewed while sitting quite comfortably and dry on the Lango deck. These intermittent storms have been responsible for the very uneven water levels in almost all of the rivers and streams in the area.
Jupiter's group has been spending a lot of time just to the east of Ngaga Camp, sometimes coming within a few hundred metres of the camp... One morning they were so close that we could hear the group from the dining area. This made for some relatively short and easy forest walks to find them, but unfortunately this could not last long and the group moved soon east again into the sea of marantaceae.
Meanwhile, Neptuno and his group have been quite consistent with their location in the south. The exception to this rule was caused by an incident right at the end of May when he had an interaction with another group of lowland gorillas and went walkabout for a day, but the skills and diligence of the tracking team meant that the guests were still able to get a good sighting the following day, not far from their original position. It seems that Neptuno had been leading his group in large circles so as to confuse the rival silverback male... This tactic seemed to have worked and for almost a week now he has been relatively fixed in the same area.
We have also been enjoying regular sightings at Ngaga of African grey parrots. More good news is that at least one group of putty nosed monkeys is gradually accepting us, and becoming more habituated to our presence in the forest. We have also spotted chimpanzees but they are still too skittish for anyone, but the extremely lucky, to get a good look at.
Early May is a great time to be at Lango, with elephant, sitatunga and red river hogs in regular attendance. Many people imagine elephants to be rather silent creatures, but the starlit social gatherings in front of Lango Camp put paid to this idea as the pachyderms turn the night into a wonderful cacophony of elephantine social activities: rumbling, bellowing, trumpeting and screaming, all vying for attention and a chance to enjoy the salt-rich deposits by the Lango stream.
One group of guests were silently drifting along the Lekoli River when they came across two large male sitatunga entangled in a battle for dominance, too distracted by thoughts of power and mating (a heady combination if ever there was one!) to even notice the boat drifting by so that everyone aboard had had a great opportunity to observe these normally shy antelope at close quarters.
Ngulu Forest (meaning Red River Hog Forest) has been true to its name by granting us several chances to see these elusive wild pigs. As we were walking along one of the larger game paths, a group of about seven hogs flashed across in front of us, and not far from where we stood. We have also seen sounders of red river hogs in Ncoi Forest (Putty-nosed Monkey Forest). On one occasion we recovered from our surprise and attempted to follow them but realising immediately just how much faster they were than us, we slowed down to take in the beauty of the forest all around us.
African grey parrots have been gathering nicely in recent weeks but with the water level going up and down with the rains, their favoured mud patches have been inundated every few days. They are of course a very vocal species, and their apparent cries of outrage at the poor ability of the bai's drainage system to cope with a night's rain contrast with their clearly audible excitement when the mud is just the right consistency.
Black-headed bee-eaters have been seen by nearly every group of guests during May – this is the largest of the bee-eaters we see here, and with their wonderful green yellow and black plumage can attract the attention of even professed non-birders!
Two slightly less spectacular species are well worth paying attention to also: the relatively common red-tailed greenbul and red-tailed rufous thrush whose twittering presence close to the ground means that large columns of ants are on the march and you should be wary of where you walk... Frequent recent sightings of these two types of birds have saved us a lot of trouble, so they deserve a mention here, and our heartfelt thanks!
Topping the list of all the bird species seen this past month must be vermiculated fishing owl, seen on the road that traverses the clear water stream at Mboko – a beautiful sighting and an unusually cooperative bird who sat still in plain sight for at least five minutes, affording us an absolutely brilliant sighting.
For more images, please have a look at Kai Collins' photo album.