It quite interesting to watch the changes July brings to the Zambezi valley with regards to flora and fauna. July has definitely brought about the crisp chill to the early morning and there is a distinctive drop in the temperature as the sun sets. The average temperature in the morning is 12 degrees Celsius warming up throughout the day and becoming rather hot mid-afternoon. The wind whistles through the camp from mid-morning but luckily it dies down during the hot hours of the day making the afternoons splendid, whether spent on the river or on a game drive.
Mammal sightings this month have been excellent, with more and more plains game flocking towards the river to drink as inland water pans dry up and become rock hard mud supporting little life. Game including buffalo and eland, species that travel huge distances south towards the Zimbabwean escarpment in the rainy months, have now made the floodplains bordering the river their temporary home. As always with the increase of plains game the predators are never far off, with wild dog, lion and leopard making the most of the concentrated prey species.
The ana trees are producing thousands upon thousands of seed pods during this harsh and lean time of the year, making up the main food source for most of the game in the area. Waterbuck, impala, baboon, warthog and vervet monkeys are a daily sighting as they frequent the areas immediately around camp foraging for the much-prized pods of these trees.
Wild dog sightings this month have been fleeting and irregular as the dogs are denning at the moment. Our sightings of them are therefore in the early morning as they come into our concession to hunt and then leave to go back to their den before the day heats up. Earlier during the month guest were lucky enough to witness these amazing predators in action as we followed them hunt impala. They killed one impala and devoured it in a few short minutes before trying to hunt again as they clearly weren’t satisfied. Sadly they were unsuccessful and soon enough trotted back off to their unknown denning sight.
Lion sightings have been more regular. The cubs are growing older and are now being weaned. Feeding on solid meat as well as milk, their mother has become increasingly impatient with the cubs and pushes them away as they try to suckle. The cubs have been seen often feeding side by side with the adults at a carcass.
Leopard sightings have also been fantastic this month with a female with four cubs being the main highlight and seen on two occasions. Four cubs is a very large litter and almost unheard of with leopards. The cubs are roughly seven months old and are still very vulnerable to predation or disease. Hopefully they all survive.
Birding in July has been great with 152 species being recorded this month. Many Mana Pools 'specials' have made a regular appearance, delighting avid birders and mildly interested guests alike. The beautiful Lilian's lovebirds have been a frequent sighting on the floodplains, in pairs or small groups and later on in the month coming together at food sources and forming huge flocks - a great sighting with their brilliant green bodies and pinkish red heads bobbing away. Of course these beautiful flocks can never rival the multitudes of the red-billed quelea, flocking in their thousands. It is a real treat to see these birds twist and turn in unison and from a distance the flock looks like rolling smoke.
Other birds listed as uncommon include the African skimmer, grey-headed parrot, bat hawk, rufous-bellied heron and crested guineafowl. All of these have been seen a number of times except the crested guineafowl, which was seen moving with a flock of the common helmeted guineafowl. These slightly larger iridescent green birds are more common in the thick vegetation of Mozambique and South Africa's Zululand coastline forests.
African Skimmers have been seen slowly flying low to the water in late afternoon, 'skimming' their enlarged lower mandible over the surface of the water feeding on the smaller fish they scoop up.
The grey-headed parrots are often heard before they are seen, with their high-pitched screeching call. Bat hawks have been seen on a few occasions darting across the sunset in pursuit of their prey.
Rufous-bellied herons, usually very secretive and shy birds, have often been spotted on the open banks of the waterholes in the floodplains.
Of course all the regulars have been keeping the guests entertained with their beautiful plumage. Some to note are the lilac-breasted rollers, white-fronted, little and swallow-tailed bee-eaters, brown-hooded kingfishers, white-crowned lapwings and the Meve's starlings.
Staff in Camp
Solly Tevera, Evie Bwalya, Kevin and Sandy Van breda, Gadrick Nyamhondoro, Lloyd and Lindy Mushure, Bono Lunga, Champ Sadiere and Daniel Peel.