IN THE WAKE

A wake comes in the aftermath of an action or event. The wake of a ship or even a small boat in the water is the area of recirculating water behind it as it moves through the water. We observe the wake as anything from a minimal flow of water in an ever-widening pattern, or as ripples. The movement of water birds has a similar effect:

A Red-billed Teal creating an ever-widening wake on the otherwise smooth surface of the water.

Here it is seen from a different angle.

A Little Grebe goes round in circles.

A perfect example of following in the wake is this African Spoonbill following in the wake of the Yellow-billed Duck, taking advantage of the churned up water to find food.

Finally, this is what happened to the perfect reflection of the Black-headed Heron when the ripples finally fanned out in its direction.

HELMETED GUINEAFOWL

The Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) is an iconic grassland bird that has endeared itself to residents and tourists alike. Curios abound showing off their clearly identifiable black or grey plumage with vivid white spots: tiny clay figurines, cloths, mugs, brooches and table mats.

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Everyone seems to feel an affinity for these birds with characteristically bald faces and necks covered with blue skin. The wattles are red and they have a triangular horn-shaped casque or ‘helmet’ on their crown.

Flocks of them were present on my father’s farm. He didn’t use insecticide when growing cotton, arguing that the guineafowl did the job for him as they ranged through the cotton lands, picking off the pests as they went. They make for good eating too and have been hunted for sport. My father, however, would only shoot one now and then – strictly for the pot – as he wished to encourage their presence on the farm.

They forage on the ground, although fly up when disturbed. As evening approached I would sometimes see them roosting in the lower branches of trees on the farm. Their chuckling cackle remains one of my favourite sounds in the wild. I was delighted to hear that sound when we moved to the Eastern Cape and loved seeing them out in the open when we walked through the veld on the hill opposite our home. Alas, the area has become pitted with houses and the guineafowl have either been hunted out or chased away by dogs, people or the traffic.

Catching sight of them in the veld still lifts my spirits and transports me back to my growing up years, so far in time and distance from where I am now.

Here a small flock of Helmeted Guineafowl can be seen pecking in the grass in front of the Ngulube Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park.

LOOKING FOR ELEPHANTS

Of course you want to see elephants when you visit the Addo Elephant National Park, but do not expect to find them all over. As large as they are, a whole herd of them can ‘disappear’ in the bush so that you cannot see them, even though they may not be far off the road. Looking hopefully at broken off bits of vegetation on a no entry road is no help. No entry means just that.

Natural signs such as this on the road indicate that elephants have at least passed through the area. They often drop leaves or twigs whilst walking.

The signs on this road look promising: twigs and dung.

Ah! We are getting closer … scan the surrounding bush, but there is still no sight of an elephant.

They must be nearby!

Follow the signs and you may get lucky – these elephants were drinking at Rooidam.