There has been such a big transformation since the rains started that to try and tell it all would involve writing a novel. Instead we are going to look at a few of these, and the bulk of these are going to be things less noticed and not often highlighted. This is also in line with the biodiversity studies that are taking place in Gorongosa National Park at the moment. Specialists in various fields from all around the globe have converged here, they bring with them a sense of expansion in that you suddenly realize there is a lot to see at this time of year, after the rains, and with all the growth that the rains have brought.
Small and Pretty
The flowers and insects attract various birds, some of which prey on the insects. Others are there for the grass seeds and other small delights to eat that are in so much abundance right now.
The waterholes are teeming with small fish, tadpoles and frogs, and these in turn attract other birds.
Many of the migrant birds have returned, Woodland Kingfishers call incessantly from everywhere, Cuckoos of all description are seen briefly as they dart through the thick tree cover and the plains are filled with European White Stork, who have wisely chosen to spend time in Africa while they wait for winter to pass in their nesting grounds in Europe!
Sand Bone-apple flower Small Striped Swordtail
If you have been following us on our Facebook page you would have noticed that there have been a few posts about all the colours in the park at the moment. This is mainly due to all the flowers that are in bloom and, they in turn, attract various insects. The most noticeable of these are the butterflies and one of the prettiest, and most striking, is the Graphium policenes or Small Striped Swordtail. At each flower or densely wooded area there are hundreds of them, when stopping at a waterhole they are often seen sitting on the mud, soaking up moisture.
They are exceptionally pretty but are also very active, never seeming to sit still for very long. Often found at small waterholes and will very often allow you to get close to them. The two birds above are an adult and a youngster, the bird hovering was begging for food but the perched adult had just fed it and was taking a break.
Martial Eagle preening Woodland Kingfisher
The Foam Nest Frogs spend most of their life away from water, and have the ability to conserve moisture by aligning cells on their body to reflect heat. A very important factor for an animal that will quickly dehydrate and die if they were unable to do so.
Left, Giant Land Snail
Mozambique Spitting Cobra
There are always snakes, sometimes we see small ones, sometimes we see large ones. Most of the snakes we see are harmless or mildly venomous but there are also those that are very venomous and some of these have the ability to spit venom. One of these is the snake pictured above, the Mozambique Spitting Cobra. Snakes play a very important role in the eco-system, they prey on numerous other animals and some of them have even evolved to prey on other snakes, like the Cape File Snake, it is totally harmless to man but has been recorded eating Puff Adders and even Black Mambas, both of which are highly venomous, the Wolf Snake is immune to their venom though!
Further Afield and Larger!
Even though we have had good rains the water levels in Lake Urema have not risen much yet, this will happen once the Pungwe and Urema Rivers rise and that is only due to start happening towards the beginning of next year. As a result the hippo have moved to where there is water.
Hippo seen from the air
The buffalo have been seen far more often over the past month, due mainly to them moving onto the floodplains and surrounding woodlands. The move is a direct result of available water as they have to drink every day. Large herds of “mega herbivores” consume vast quantities of feed daily so they also have to be able to eat and if both food and water are in close proximity they will take advantage of it.
It is interesting to see some of the buffalo have white markings, instead of the usual uniform reddish brown to black that we are all used to.
In this herd of approximately 150 animals we noticed at least eight animals with this unusual colouring.
Buffalo on the move
Buffalo herd from the air
A large Elephant Bull, having a rub on a tree just after coating itself in mud
There are lots of new born animals around now, the noticeable being the impala, at this stage they seem to be all ears and legs! This youngster was watching as some warthog were walking past on their way to a mudhole.
A pair of Fish Eagles, one had just caught a catfish.
Nile Monitor Lizard with a Fresh Water Mussel that it had just dug up out of the mud, he dug a few of them up and broke them open by biting down on them, some were difficult to break so he would discard those and dig again.
Millipedes “Tying the Knot!” Lee Bennett Muzimu Tented Camp and Gorongosa Collection, 30 November 2017 Gorongosa National Park Mozambique