Going west early just around sunrise, we were heading out to the boundary with the next concession which is where Abu Camp is. There were reports that the game was plentiful along the boundary. This road is not usually used so the track was very faint across the mighty floodplain and we felt like explorers. We were looking at as many birds as we possibly could, hoping to find a red-footed falcon, as this was an outstanding tick on one of the guest’s life-list – sadly we had no luck in this quest. I am not sure exactly what the rules are for the serious birders to call a positive identification, but on our vehicle, we decided that it should really be more or less the same family at least.
As we bumbled along quietly, we passed some zebra grazing and a lone wildebeest lying down on his own. We climbed up onto a large island following faint tracks. It was the most magical place. There were masses of lala palms reaching high and arching their fronds to the moody morning sky, and at the one end there was the most beautiful baobab showing off its light green leaves proudly. It was like being in a cathedral and the birds were the choir. We moved through slowly and carefully looking all around like characters from a scene in a Harry Potter movie. We couldn't cross out of the Island to the floodplain on the other side because the ground looked wet and ominous and we were not in the mood to get stuck, so we turned around and followed our tracks out back where we came from.
On the way back we noticed that the wildebeest was now standing up and that there was a baby with it. And then we finally pieced it together - while we were exploring the island, in that half an hour this little baby wildebeest had been born. It was still wet and its umbilical cord was dangling and swinging around like a bungi rope. It wobbled on its legs a bit and then stood still but its body wanted to move and so it looked all out of sorts. This is the moment when both mother and baby are at their most vulnerable. Without even cleaning off her newborn baby, the mother led her calf eastwards to join the rest of the herd that were grazing on the floodplain a little way away.
What was amazing is that all four of us on the vehicle noticed the wildebeest when we passed it the first time. We all knew something was awry, but not one of us said anything at the time and so we just drove on. It was only in retrospect that we realized that she was actually in labour when we passed her. I think it is a good thing that we left her in peace to give birth because our presence may have stressed her out – but then again we don't know that for sure. What I do know is that when the time comes to give birth you actually don't care what or who is around you just want the thing out of you! That is the closest I have come to witnessing a birth in the bush.
And so as it the custom in some cultures in Africa, when a baby arrives it is named after something that happens at the time of birth or something that happens at the time of pregnancy, we decided to call this baby wildebeest calf Wednesday!