Over the last few years we have been observing a rather interesting phenomena where groups of Meyer’s parrots gather at a mud pool in the national park opposite the lodge. This rather unique spectacle is something that is a bit of a mystery – even to the guys at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town. We have witnessed groupings of over one hundred birds gather at sunrise and come down and partake in eating the mud (geophagy). At first when we witnessed it we thought it was the vegetation in the mud pool, but later on once the pool had completely dried out and the vegetation was gone we realised that it was the actual mud that was being consumed.
Anyway once we realised that this was quite a special event we quickly threw together a rough and ready temporary hide. We also got in touch with the guys in the University of Capetown. The phenomena is widely known about with parrots doing a similar thing in the Amazon. In this case it is because the soil contains sodium (i.e. salt).
Amazonian parrots eating sodium rich soil (copyright Alan Lee, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town)
Guests in our temporary hide.
Another theory advanced is that the clay soil allows the birds to ingest fruits containing alkaloids that would otherwise be toxic to the parrots. To be really honest we quite like the element of mystery about the whole thing. And the fact that serious bird researchers are even not 100% sure about the reasons. We are just delighted that a rather unusual spectacle takes place every morning without fail when we have guests to share it with!
Once the sun has risen and the parrots have fed then they all disperse (in the direction of all points of the compass). Even here at the lodge we see them flying over and know exactly what they have been doing 30 seconds previously.
The occasional Green pigeon and grey-headed parrot join in the feeding frenzy.
For keen birders and casual enthusiasts alike it is quite a sight. I suppose the next step would be to send soil samples down to the guys in Cape Town and see if that solves the riddle. But in other ways we are not that keen to solve the riddle. Its quite nice that there are still some mysteries out there in Kafue National Park.
We kick off our slightly belated May news with an update on the heron chick. Well, it turned out that there were two chicks on two separate nests! Within 50m of each other. Herons like to nest communally and it seems that Goliath herons are no exception! anyway, it looks like the first chick didn’t make it, but the second one fledged and we now see it flying around!
While hanging around trying to work out which chick is which and where we always get good sights of trumpeter hornbills flying over the channel just before sunset.
The beautiful clear skies of May makes for amazing star gazing from the deck.
For one reason or another May became the month for family safari groups. Now this always is fun, but there is a lot of work that goes into all the childrens activities…. from animal bread making, seed jewellery, bows and arrows through to the lollipop trees while on the walk to Mpamba. Lollipop trees need careful tending.
Meanwhile the ever talented Mr Yandilla (Mike) spent a bit of time converting some scrap metal into a bush gym. Here is unique bench press set up using an old mitsubishi cylinder head (cut in half!).
And then Benny demonstrating the Toyota brake disk based weights!
While gearing up for children the monkeys took quick advantage of the hammocks being set up to also get in some leisure time. Instead of lifting weights though they rather get stuck into some gymnastics.
Completely unrelated, but the full moon allowed a chance to snap a 05:30 picture of our small fleet of aliboats under the moonlight.
And turning around 180 degrees the lodge looked absolutely stunning at this terrible time. Now I am actually a bit of a morning person so quite relish the quiet time in the mornings before everything kicks off.
Then to roads. Before we started on opening up our loops we started some repairs to the spinal road – manual pothole filling with 10 guys. It took us a week to complete from Kaingu up to Shishamba, but the team did an outstanding job and it has smoothed out the ride nicely. As always with these jobs Bo was in charge.
Then to the generallisimo. AKA Franco. Our local crafts supplier (the main one anyway). His monthly visit.. Bowls and mortars this time.
And then more family related fun. May was the month for our annual fathers and kids fishing group. This firm fixture is something completely different – basically the lodge gets taken over by a group of friends that come every year with their children (no mums allowed). As you can imagine it is total chaos:
We start with JohnD doing a load test on the zipline (which for the rest of the year is my winch cable and snatch block!):
Lentil salad in the rather appropriate form of a fish:
Main area Karaoke (which we have to do so that we allow the Dad’s to give their elbows a good workout around the fire). Great fun (if you like Justin Bieber):
Victor (who has organised this trip for the last four years) giving some top tips:
Surrogate mum Julia gets asked to brush hair…. Dad’s are known to be very poor at hair brushing.
Victor always organises a pig or a lamb on a spit. Six bags of charcoal!!!!!!!!! A LOT of beer (Victor and Antun have to sit in the sun and watch Willard turn the lamb). Its thirsty work. The lamb was absolutely stunning… 6 hours of cooking, 5L of olive oil and en entire box of lemons for the basting.
Funky lunchtime salads!
The last night we always go en-masse up to Mpamba rock. Lots of drinks, lots of pork belly and lots of laughter!
And then we get back to the lodge for the final dinner and then the prize giving ceremony. All in all it was another great weekend and we are already booked up with the guys for next year.