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Chobe Chat

N Inte ew Lo ract o ive F k orm at

May 2013

Wow! What an extrodinary safari! Every season on the Chobe has its own particular charm. And for those of us who spend many weeks of the year on the river, April is no exception. It is that month of the year when Nature’s annual cycle of decline and regeneration enters a new phase. With the rains having been put on hold until November, the receding water levels create new islands in and around the river, impacting the behaviour patterns of the wildlife in different ways. Newly-formed shallow areas make it easier for water birds to forage for their food. Chobe crabs are more readily accessible to the Giant Kingfishers, but the smaller Pied Kingfishers that are accustomed to dive-bombing their prey from great heights into deeper water, face new challenges.

Chobe Chat May 2013 - Interactive Format


This month we observed them to be working very hard but frequently failing to emerge from a dive with the prize of a fish spluttering in their beaks. The White-fronted Bee-eaters that operate from the shelter of the riverbanks seemed to find their meals with relative ease, but the newly arrived Carmine Bee-eaters working the reed beds for food, are exposed to considerably more wind than they are accustomed to at this time of the year. This month we observed them to be working very hard but frequently failing to emerge from a dive with the prize of a fish spluttering in their beaks. The White-fronted Bee-eaters that operate from the shelter of the riverbanks seemed to find their meals with relative ease, but the newly arrived Carmine Bee-eaters working the reed beds for food, are exposed to considerably more wind than they are accustomed to at this time of the year. Not only does this negatively affect their aerial acrobatics in the chase after prey, but the airborne insects that are their targets are also less inclined to fly, leading to diminished numbers of the Bee-eaters’ vital food source. During April, Spur-winged geese, Red-billed teals and White-fronted Cormorants arrived in increasing numbers as the month progressed.

Chobe Chat May 2013 - Interactive Format


April is also that time of the year when we see large numbers of juveniles of all the species. Young Martial Eagles and Harrier Hawks appear virtually ever day, and while we saw some African Jacana chicks being raised successfully, some very young chicks also disappeared overnight and had probably been taken by predators.

Chobe Chat May 2013 - Interactive Format


The ever-elusive Black Crakes rewarded our patience with very short visits to open areas, often strolling around on patches of Water-Lily leaves. Squacco herons could also be seen dashing from reed-bed to reed-bed in search of food and in doing so exposed themselves momentarily to our eager photographers who were monitoring the movements with super telephoto lenses.

All along the river the Fish Eagles focused on the annual task of nest building and interrupted their routine only to pluck their food from the river or bathe in it with those vigorous, feather-fluttering rituals that are characteristic of this iconic African species.

The reality is, however, that the water levels were still high enough to force them to work pretty hard to catch their fish. Regardless of the time of year, Chobe’s Fish Eagles are hated by everything else with feathers. Even the Pied Crows intercept Fish Eagles in flight and harass them till they move on, while the smaller but extremely aggressive Blacksmith Lapwing’s throw caution to the winds and launch ferocious frontal attacks on their much bigger adversaries. Chobe Chat May 2013 - Interactive Format


April also heralds a sharp drop in the early morning temperatures but that in itself creates new photographic opportunities, with wisps of mist hovering over sections of the river and at other locations, the lower temperatures bringing greater clarity to air between photographer and subject.

Large troops of baboon’s also tend to congregate in search of the warmth of the sun’s first rays. Once some warmth has been infused into their bodies, these energetic and mischievous creatures start to play among themselves with degrees of vigour that range between light sparring and some fairly aggressive settling of old scores.

Chobe Chat May 2013 - Interactive Format


Elephant herds with large numbers of young calves also arrived in ever-increasing numbers. True to their character, these exuberant youngsters tested the boundaries of acceptable herd behavior and were kept on a tight rein by watchful adults who can be stern disciplinarians when the established behaviour codes of the herd are violated. As wonderful as it might be to watch playful young elephants pursue their amusements, one cannot ignore the visible hardships that so many elephants of the Chobe region have to endure. Travelling over vast distances between their food and water sources, these elephant herds bear visible signs of the tough survival conditions imposed on them by their environment. It never ceases to amaze me that the Chobe river so consistently manages to reveal the contrasts between vast, expansive dramas on the one hand and then, almost back-to-back, produces exquisitely intimate and unusual moments that cover the whole spectrum of Nature’s behavioural patterns. On one occasion this month we sat spellbound as some seven hundred Buffalo crossed from the main land to a section of small islands in pursuit of grazing. After the drama of this mighty, military-style crossing, we were left with the realisation that, no matter how skilfully we photographed the drama of the crossings, no camera image would ever be able to do justice to the reality of what we had observed. Photographs of the event would certainly kindle memories, but no single image could encapsulate the collective drama, the sound and fury of all those anxious bulls and frantic cows thrashing about in the water and on the river banks amid the frightened bellowing of young calves unnerved by the chaos of the moment.

Chobe Chat May 2013 - Interactive Format


Chobe Chat May 2013 - Interactive Format


On a lesser level we were amazed by the agility, skill and brutality of young crocodiles that supplemented their usual diet of fish with something of a feathery nature that had indiscreetly wandered into their river-edge territory. Very small crocodiles even dashed out of the water to grab unsuspecting dung-beetles in their quest to maintain the desired protein levels of their diet. We were amazed that desperation could drive them to forage among such modest items in the food chain. It all added up to some extraordinary photography from one of the most extra-ordinary wildlife locations in the world. Chobe greetings ……….

Lou Coetzer Chobe Chat May 2013 - Interactive Format

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