Its Monday and festive sightings from the Luangwa

Well, hello there, I hope that you are all well and that the new year has started on a good foot for you. Here in the Valley, the rains have finally arrived in full force and we have had some spectacular storms drenching the roads and raising the river levels. The guides have been slipping and sliding in the mud, whilst walking to and from the bar at Nkwali and whilst out on their game drives so there has been much joviality all round. Today we have been thoroughly spoilt by Simon, Shanie and their girls, who have been kind enough to share news of their Christmas stay with us all. As always, some incredible sightings and the photographs to back them all up! Simon over to you:

“We have recently spent 7 days in the Valley, which meant there was no pressure to rush around the place looking for things (not that it is our way, anyway – anything goes with us and we will look at anything !).

When we arrived it was clear that the park had not had any rain for some time so, while there was standing water all over the place, from earlier rain fall, there was not a lot of mud and most of the roads we accessible making access to most parts of the game viewing area easy. A lovely combination of beautiful colours with the green grass carpets, lilies and a huge range of wild flowers blooming – all against a backdrop of wonderful clear skies in the morning and the build-up of dark thunder heads in the afternoon.

On the night of the 25th the heaven’s opened and we had a huge downpour. Just under 30 millilitres of rain fell and this totally transformed the park – there was mud everywhere!!

As mentioned before, anything goes with the Cousins family and we are all keen birders. Whenever we go anywhere on safari, we keep a bird list of what was seen on the trip. Over this recent trip we managed to rack up 173 different bird species – a great effort helped by all the migrant birds that had arrived and water birds in all the little ponds.

Some of our memorable bird sightings, to name a few, were of a lovely gymnogene (African Harrier Hawk) hunting for lizards, baby birds etc in the dead trees of Lupunga Spur, much to the disgust of a Meve’s Starling. We also had a fantastic sighting of a Levaillants Cuckoo eating harvester ants, a Yellow billed Stork fishing for tiny little fish in one of the ponds, Kingfishers fishing and beautiful little Twinspots bathing in puddles.

One of the most special and numerous sightings was of course, the wild dogs. The pack of 15 dogs was in the areas and we managed to seem them often. During this time we saw them hunting and killing often. These creatures are amazing with their social interactions and it was great for all of us, but especially the kids, to learn so much about their habits and social behaviour over the week in the Valley. We got to know the habits of a number of the dogs, their quirky habits like sneezing just before going off to hunt! A strange phenomenon but we all used to get ready to go, once the dogs got up from their slumber and started sneezing!! What was also amazing was the adults regurgitating food for the pups who did not get anything from the previous kill. Such selfless creatures.

One thing we noticed, when a kill had been made ( more often than not a baby impala, so there was not a lot of feed to go around 15 dogs !) it was always the same pup that ended up with the remaining prize – either a head or a spinal column at the end of the kill. I can only assume that this youngster will probably end up being one of the dominant dogs when they all grow up.

On one of the mornings, the dogs managed to kill 2 puku in one go, which was quite a spectacle with the interaction afterwards. The rest of the puku herd were not overly pleased by this, but it provided some fantastic viewing. Even a crocodile came out the river, presumably following the sound of the kill and the smell of blood, to see if it could get any of this puku. The dogs were having none of this and quickly sent the croc back to where it came from.

It is not often that any small creatures survive an encounter with a pack of wild dogs, but we did witness this once…a freshwater crab!! The young dogs discovered a fairly large freshwater crab, and started harassing it. The crab bravely stood its ground, pincers raised in defence. One of the dogs got its nose a little too close and received a nip from a pincer of the crab which caused the dogs to all leap back as the one dog yelped! The crab took the opportunity to scuttle back into the puddle and escape the dogs.”

Wow, amazing! Thank you so much for sharing this with us Simon. As always, incredible sightings and we can’t wait to see you all back in the Valley again soon. From my side, there really nothing left for me to say, except have a fab week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.

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