As we progress into the winter we see many plants, shrubs and trees losing many of their leaves. The inland waterholes are drying up slowly and the prevailing easterly winds are sweeping through and stirring up the dust.
A strong contrast to the drab winter landscape are the ana trees, which flourish in winter and are in full bloom, providing a lifeline to many herbivores which relish their bounty of fruits and leaves. This has attracted large numbers of elephant to the area. The flame creepers have also added some spectacular colour to the landscape as they cover most of the riverine vegetation in a bright carpet of delicate red flowers. The devil’s trumpet flowers are also blooming, adding a sweet scent to the fresh morning air.
This month the lions of the concession have stolen the limelight. We have been able to follow them almost daily, witnessing different aspects of their lives. An amazing scenario well worth a mention was the duo of lionesses successfully stalking and killing a fully-grown male waterbuck. After the kill the lionesses were so tired they tried and failed to pull their hard-earned meal into a thicket to hide it from any prowling animal so that they could fetch their cubs which they had left hidden when they went hunting. Fortunately they found their kill untouched and fed on it throughout the night. On the second night one of the two males joined them in the feast. Vultures and hyaena quickly joined the scene and were seen waiting patiently for their turn.
Wild dogs were also seen on several occasions either hunting or feeding. When seen feeding they would often disappear into the thicket giving rise to our suspicion that they have puppies at their den and were going to regurgitate food for one with puppies.
The albida pods have now dropped and we are seeing more and more animals coming and spending time on the floodplain. Eland and kudu are seen - most of the time if not all - under the albidas and lots of elephants are spending time in and around camp.
Plains game such as zebra, waterbuck, impala, and warthog are seen daily along with baboons and monkeys. Civet, genet, porcupine, honey badgers and white-tailed mongoose are often the highlights of the night drives.
The birding in June has been great with many special birds seen. The resident birdlife at camp give us a brilliant dawn chorus every morning creating a great atmosphere for guests getting ready for their early activities. There is a resident yellow-bellied bulbul that often moves around the waking camp with a terrestrial bulbul. Although they are different species, they are very similar in appearance, except that the yellow-bellied bulbul, as the name suggest, has a bright yellow chest in stark contrast with the terrestrial bulbul's sombre brown feathers. These two make a great team foraging together in the beautiful dawn light.
Moving further out of camp there have been sightings of many vultures that seem to have started the process of breeding, beginning with the building of their scruffy nests right in the top of the tallest trees. On that note, many of the eagles have also started pairing up.
A resident white-crowned night heron has surprised us as we have seen it often at the Charara River crossing during the day. Another very special sighting was a bat-hawk seen towards the end of the month around the harbour area swooping and diving in the dusk light above the river, clearly hunting for small insect-eating bats that had just left their hiding places for their nightly hunts.
Guests were also lucky enough witness a martial eagle, one of the biggest species in southern Africa, feeding on a genet. This is a very rare sighting as genets are nocturnal animals and are very rarely caught out during the day. Martial eagles are expert hunters; they take their prey, often the size of scrub hares, with their huge talons.
An eastern saw-wing, a bird very similar in size and appearance to a swallow, was also seen soaring and gliding above the floodplains behind camp. This bird that has only been recorded in Mana Pools a few times, often spending more time in the east of the country. Another bird often found in the highlands to the east of the country is the peregrine falcon that has been seen on a few occasions darting across the skies in pursuit of the smaller birds they prey on.