It’s Monday 9th March 2009 and the storks have arrived

One of the great things about having Nsefu open at this time is easier access to the stork colony. However the storks don’t always see it that way and only just started congregating a few weeks ago, getting ready to make nests and chicks and the rest of the mayhem associated with a stork colony. A couple of weeks ago Daudi took Dave Goldliner, a self-professed non-bird-person out to see the colony.

Storks in a treeYellow billed stork

Now this was slightly more of an adventure than you normally face – first of all you have to get there and second of all the last time Daudi had gone to the colony the storks had not arrived yet. Would the journey be worth the end result? Would the storks be there? Dave was not too bothered (with his non-birder-status) and wasn’t really sure what to expect. With the journey being half the adventure Dave was not sure if they were actually going to make their intended destination.

BoatingA muddy walk

Daudi first tried to nudge the boat into a narrow channel, that felt a bit tunnel-esque with the overhanging trees. Prince jumped out to test the water and sank into more than a foot of mud, so another route was chosen. All the while Dave was expecting Daudi to cancel and say ‘sorry guys not today’. That was not the case and Daudi skilfully found another way to an ideal harbour.

Arrival at the stork colonyStorks crowding the trees

The colony is about a 45 minute hike through shoulder length grass and into the wafwa. Everyone’s boots became like snow shoes with big black mud cakes clinging on. Dave was unsure of what a colony was, but was distracted with all the sights and sounds along the way. Nothing had quite prepared him for the first sight of the colony – in his words ‘amazing’.

There were about 500 birds concentrated in half a dozen trees semi-submerged in the marshy water. It reminded Dave of a flock of cartoon birds when one bird left her perch, it would immediately be replaced by another. Space was definitely a premium – in similar shoes Dave would not have given up any prime realty. A few birds seemed to be settling down into their desired nesting spots, but the majority were just standing on the branches (or circling overhead).

Yellow billed storks with their pink hueStork colony later in the season -with lots of guano

The noise was another astounding factor – 1000 beaks clacking together making a fast pitter patter (it’s quite difficult to translate into English words …). There was little guano on the ground below, making it obvious that the storks had literally just arrived – one bonus no smell! They sat and watched the kerfuffle – amazingly none of the storks were fighting, just rotating their roosting sites.

Another noticeable factor was that yellow-billed storks actually have a little pink highlight to them, not so easily detected when there is just one or two, but when there are hundreds they set off a slight pink shimmer to them, reminiscent of flamingos.

Fishing storksMarshall eagle

Even thought the storks had only been at the colony for a day or two, they had already caught the attention of the eagles who were soaring above and perched in the surrounding trees. Even for a non-bird person the amazing sight of the colony was the highlight of the trip. Dave last visited South Luangwa in early November, so the difference was astounding – from a barren survival of the fittest endurance test to this lush green environment when the animals were fat with lustrous coats and the quivering muscles. The vista is completely different too, with great views along the river – beautifully framed brown river bank underneath green trees, underneath bright blue skies, topped with perky white clouds. One evening they watched the electrical storms while the chefs cooked up a Mongolian dinner under the stars – feeling like you were in the vicinity of the Gods with all the energy flying about.

Elephant trying to cross Luangwa RiverDinner under a storm sky

Have a great week

Cheers
Fiona

Luangwa River vista

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