Rare Mammal in Mkhuze

Mkhuze is dry. Very VERY dry! Nsumo Pan is empty. One tiny little mud puddle has about twenty hippos huddling in it, caked in thick mud.

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At the entrance to KuMasinga hide a chap with stunning new Swarovskis and a huge bazooka-like Canon telephoto lens asks “You a birder?” (I spose he spotted my Zeiss binocs). In the next two minutes he’s told me the Swarovskis are R36 000, only Canon lenses “of course”, Mkhuze was last this dry in 1963 when he first visited, Swarovski gave him the binnies, he wouldn’t pay that much, and his name is Ian Sinclair.

“No shit?!” I said, “I’m a fan, I’ve got all your books”. “Got them here?” he asks. “I’ll sign ’em for you”. Broad Oirish accent. So he walks back to my bakkie with me and does just that.

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“I’m writing another one. All of Africa’s birds. Photographic. We’re staying at Ghost Mountain Inn”. “Ah”, I said, “They’re licenced. I know they sell beer and whisky”. He says “And I’m licenced to drink ‘cos I’m Irish!”.

In the hide a bird party is sipping on the nectar of a profusion of red flowers. Fellow Irishman Tommy is photographing them. Ian is guiding him on his Africa trip. “What’s that tree again with those red flowers?” Ian asks of me. “Schotia” I say “Schotia brachypetala”. “Vernacular?” he asks. “Weeping Boer Bean”, thinking he’s having me on. “Ah”, he says.

“I’m going to tell everyone who’ll listen that I told Ian Sinclair something he didn’t know”, I say. “Oh”, he says, “I’ll deny it”.

Ian Sinclair! Well that was definitely the most interesting mammal spotted on this trip.

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Enjoyable birding:

White-backed vulture, yellow-breasted apalis, chin-spot batis, brubru, bulbul, sombre and yellow-bellied greenbul, golden-breasted bunting, orange-breasted bush shrike, camaroptera, yellow-fronted canary, long-billed crombec, pied crow, laughing, red-eyed, and cape turtle doves, emerald-spotted dove, FT drongo, blue-grey flycatcher, crested guineafowl, white helmet-shrike, African hoopoe, trumpeter, crowned and yellow-billed hornbills, YB kite, black-winged lapwing, red-faced mousebird, BH oriole, RB oxpecker, petronia, green pigeon, African pipit, 3-banded plover, puffback, fiscal shrike, bearded scrub robin, scimitarbill, grey-headed sparrow, cape glossy and black-bellied starlings, woolly-necked stork, white-bellied, scarlet-chested, purple-banded and grey sunbirds, wire-tailed swallow, blue waxbill, village and dark-backed weavers, cape white-eye.

Few animals: Tortoise, zebra, nyala, impala, waterbuck, kudu, warthog, giraffe, wildebeest, hippo, terrapin, slender mongoose, rock monitor lizard (Jess spotted these last two). Eleven big male nyala in one tight little herd.

Went with Jess and Jordi. Tom visited friends. We stayed in the safari tents. A yellow-bellied greenbul ate our crumbs right at my feet on the deck. Everything’s really hungry!

And a tiny little plant all alone in the dry dirt:

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