Summer is here, brimming with life and the welcome sight of abundant rain. This marks the beginning of a new season, presenting a splendid array of wild wonders.
The many species of frogs, toads, snakes and insects are now out and about, restoring the food chain to its full former glory. For biodiversity to be sustained and thrive, animals must eat and be eaten, and so predators will hunt down prey but, in return, they must also face elimination to maintain the ecosystem’s balance. This is the rule of the wild!
Lions take down most of the common mammals for food, while leopards and cheetahs typically go for medium-sized prey, and African wild dogs mainly prey on smaller antelopes. Hyenas, tough and relentless, steal and scavenge to get by, maximising opportunity and only hunting when they need to. Hyenas and lions also remain eternal enemies, resulting in conflict between them for order to be restored. Internal dynamics and clashes among predators also ensure that their populations remain controlled. Complex food chains shape nature’s behaviour, and the encounters that follow make for the most prolific, untamed wildlife experiences to witness.
This season offers a spectacle of eagles homing in on small prey, with the Brown Snake Eagle specialising in hunting venomous snakes—a sight witnessed frequently. These eagles boast protected feet and fang-proof feathers, making them adept snake hunters. With the emergence of snakes from hibernation tunnels, their sunbathing behaviour provides eagles with ample opportunities for detection. In encounters with black mambas, the hunt becomes a serious battle with consequential outcomes.
Another intriguing carnivorous bird, the Southern Ground Hornbill, displays versatility by consuming anything that moves or crawls, including foraging chameleons and even tackling leopard tortoises. The unique tactic involves flipping them upside down, extracting limbs, and consuming them, leaving behind a hollow shell. Storks and other water birds engage in hunting frogs and freshwater creatures, with saddle-billed storks observed preying on platannas in seasonal pools. Woolly-necked storks and grey herons will also eventually join the scene around the same pond.
Migratory birds, including breeding migrants, have returned to their precise locations, filling the air with melodious calls. Woodland kingfishers, for instance, consistently return to the same tree for breeding each year. We even have a few resident kingfishers around the villas, such as the one who frequently calls at Mapogo Villa.
Red-chested cuckoos establish territories with their evening calls, and other cuckoos, like the Diederik cuckoo, interact with birds like the Lesser Masked weaver, waiting for an opportunity to parasitize the weavers’ nests. As cuckoos don’t build their own nests, they seek suitable host birds, depositing their eggs in the host’s nest. The host bird unknowingly cares for the cuckoo’s egg and hatchling until fledging, sometimes at the expense of their own chicks. Usually, the cuckoo chicks hatch earlier and dominate the nest, often pushing the native chicks out of the nest.
Common migratory raptors, such as the yellow-billed kite, Steppe buzzard, Amur falcons and Wahlberg’s eagle, have returned to our side, with the latter recently seen fixing their nesting sites as part of the breeding migrants.
Overall, our summer sightings have significantly improved, showcasing a noticeable shift in animal populations and dynamics from year to year. The increasingly dense trees and evolving terrain draw back Kudus and Nyalas to our side, offering abundant food sources. Giraffe populations have been gradually on the rise, with better sightings due to the ample Tamboti and acacia trees, essential for their browsing habits.
We’ve been very fortunate to see new life emerge. Currently, the bush is teeming with adorable baby impalas engaging in captivating ‘pronking’ runs. Wildebeest offspring, surpassing their parents in beauty, have been spotted, as well as baby warthogs emerging from the burrows.
With Jupiter lighting up the east and Saturn lying low in the west, the night sky offers a captivating backdrop to the nocturnal landscape during summer. Our night drives are made complete with prominent constellations shining bright such as Pleiades, Taurus, Orion and both Canis Major and Minor, while Sagittarius and Scorpio are also slightly visible just after sunset. The perfect scene to end the day with.
The ever-shifting way of the natural world ensures that each day and season brings new discoveries and delights, making every encounter with the wilderness a unique and cherished experience. This is why we can never get enough of what we do.