Jacana Camp – May 2014

May 31, 2014 Jacana Camp
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Climate and Landscape
The water level has risen steadily here at Jacana Camp. For those who only stay a few days, it wouldn’t be so noticeable but for those who call the Delta home, it is an integral part of life. Jacana has a set of three steps at the end of the jetty. These steps are for summer when the water is too low, as well as the interim seasons when the water does not quite allow the boat to reach level with the jetty.

Winter has been mild thus far and none of us has really complained of the cold. Those of us fortunate to be living in the Delta year-round understand that our weather is really quite mild. Truth be told, if you plucked any of us from Botswana and dropped us into a European or American winter, we might be convinced we’d die of the cold. The mornings are quite chilly and jackets and scarves are necessary. However, by midday, guests and staff alike have kicked off their hiking boots and are happily walking around in sandals and short sleeves. How long will this last? Probably not for much longer as the middle of winter is just around the corner.

The fig tree that hugs the northern side of the main Jacana Camp building has lush ripe fruit bursting from its stems. It has attracted an array of species from African green-pigeons and fruit bats to vervet monkeys.

On one particular evening it attracted a rather larger variety and we found ourselves staring straight into the open mouth of an elephant bull as he reached up the main tree-trunk to fetch himself a mouthful of figs. We had just finished dessert upstairs at the main area when we heard the unmistakable sound of ‘waves’ that can only be created by boulder-sized legs making their way to the island. He had managed to fit himself into a very tight space between the main area and the fig tree and we all watched him in quiet fascination. After about 15 minutes of snacking, he decided to reverse. An animal of that size should have a truck-warning beeper, but as he didn’t we just held our collective breath and watched! When he got out, he wasn’t finished as we thought, but instead reached gently over the balustrade of the jetty and dexterously picked up the figs that had peppered the wooden deck. There was a unanimous exhalation of breath when he turned away and moved into the Delta channel up ahead, ponderously negotiating the undulating bed of the waterway.

As we approached the end of the month and managers found their way through stock-takes and month-end reports, we also found ourselves doing daily trips to one particular palm tree that stands alongside the radio tower. The tree wouldn’t ordinarily warrant our attention but for the fact was that a young vervet monkey found himself stuck there. We heard him moaning incessantly one day and when we tried to establish what he was moaning about, we found he was alone. After watching him over the next three days, we established that his mother would return at intervals during the day and then eventually before it got dark, spend the night with him. When she was with him, he was calm and quiet. When she left to find food for the day, he moaned constantly. We also observed how she would sometimes jump from the radio tower to one of the large palm leaves to get to the tree and then to leave the palm tree, she would climb down the main trunk. Is she perhaps trying to show him how? We are keeping an eye on him and we are hoping he figures out how to get himself out of this precarious situation!

It was about 10h30 one morning at Jacana and brunch was just about to start when we heard black-eyed bulbuls and long-tailed starlings loudly vocalising their unhappiness at some unseen presence. We followed the birds’ calls to find them mobbing a puff adder as he slowly meandered along the walkway. He hugged the side of the path, tucking himself under the old palm logs used to border the pathway, but despite this, the starlings would fly towards him and hover just above his tail, making the most unearthly noises. It didn’t seem to bother him too much as he continued on a very determined path across the warm sand of the boma. We all stood at a distance determined safe by the guides as we took our photos. We were then joined by two of the resident monkeys who had also caught a glimpse of him and they made their way towards him, but also at a safe distance, clearly voicing their discontent at his existence. This is nature at its best. The snake is not popular and the birds and monkeys let everyone in the vicinity know to watch out for him!

Some other sightings this last month included a family of five otters in one of the lagoons near the camp. These are normally quite shy little creatures and their aquatic lifestyle makes them hard to see, but when you are lucky enough to view them, they are a pure delight! Their little wet round heads break the surface of the water and their curious faces host daring bright brown eyes. Long whiskers gently twitch, whether they are on the move or resting up on a rock or sand bank, washing their food.

The general manager on his way to collect freight for the camp also had a marvellously rare sighting. He had just pulled away from the jetty to head towards the airstrip when a black blur caught the corner of his eye. It took only a moment to realise that this bundle of black was indeed a honey badger padding along determinedly. What truly made it phenomenal was the small curled-up black bundle of fur that she carried in her mouth! When she saw the vehicle, she gently put her pup on the ground and gave the manager an intent stare. A brief moment passed before she picked it up again and carried on to only she knew where.

There were also a few sightings of the rare sitatunga and last, but not least, the sought-after Pel’s fishing-owl.

Birds and Birding
Other great bird sightings included violet-backed starlings, collared sunbirds, coppery-tailed coucals, pygmy geese, broad-billed weavers, saddle-billed storks, village indigobirds, swamp boubous and white-browed robin-chats.

Staff in Camp
Managers: William and Angie Whiteman
Guides: Kambango Sinimbo and Tshenolo Mahongo


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Zane Shaughan Volker  Jun 15, 2014

Love the photo of the Pels Fishing Owlet! ;)