They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. But what if that bush contains hundreds of birds? Astonishing to say the least and could certainly be worth more than one bird in the hand…..still, you can judge for yourself. When we get there.
For now, we have just entered the park and the heat, even on this early September morning, is noticeable. By contrast, watching the river under a blue sky makes me feel cool. The river itself gleams silver in the sun and is lined with tall, rustling Palms, both Ebony and Ivory, and leafy, green Waterberry and Mahogany trees. I find it quite mesmeric and occasionally have to remind myself to look in the opposite direction for on the driver’s side of the vehicle, the park stretches into the varied tangle of bush, anthill and enormous trees that make up this rich and varied habitat. In this park, Mopane and Acacia woodland sit side by side with mixed scrub-land and Kalahari veld. In all, I read that there are 6 distinctive vegetation types, including riverine, which is evident along the banks of the river, and swampland, which I expect is more noticeable in the rainy season.
In such sublime surroundings, as you would expect, the bird life is stunning, abundant and diverse. Trumpeter Hornbills swoop through the trees in small noisy groups whilst Marabou Storks assemble in a vast hubbub of numbers in the drier, low and open areas where water will collect when the rains come later in the year. Bee Eaters sit on branches which overhang the river, as do Kingfishers, whilst far from the bank, African Darters perch on half-submerged, leafless trees, keeping watch on the water. Overhead an African Fish Eagle soars and keeps a sharp, birds’ eye view out for any fish swimming in the Zambezi flowing beneath him. From a dead tree stump on the river bank beside us, a Hammerkop watches us drive by and further along a Wood Hoopoe eats the tiny fruits from a Wild Fig.
For some birds, their meal is mobile; the Oxpeckers live alongside the game. We see a pair of them on the neck of a giraffe. They flutter around that long neck or sit companionably on their chosen ride and meal ticket, feasting not only the parasites such as ticks which accumulate on the game, but also sometimes, less favourably, on the blood from a wound on any animal.
With our windows wound down to watch oxpeckers and giraffe, we are aware just then, of constant, piercing noise; the sound of thousands of shrill birds all chirruping simultaneously. I am reminded of Weaver nesting time in my garden. This noise however, is much, much louder and we search for its source. I am expecting to find Weavers and look for them in the high tree canopy but there are no nests, no birds, nothing there.
We finally pinpoint the sound as coming from a single, squat and shrubby tree. And as we approach it, we realise that it is not the only one, for there are others like it, along the river bank, and from each, an astonishing bird cacophony arises. A closer look reveals there are literally hundreds of small birds in these trees; so many in fact, that each tree itself appears to be a single, constantly moving entity. As they flutter and jostle with each other in the confines of the branches I find these birds are small, streaked with pale brown and white, and have bright red beaks. I see at once they are not Weavers at all, but that small African native from the Finch family, the Quelea – and later I’m told, the Red-billed Quelea. I have seen these birds before, in smaller flocks on the farm. And they are perhaps most famous for their voracious appetites amongst a farmer’s hard-won grain fields. But I am astounded by the sight; I certainly never expected to see them here, perhaps even in their thousands, gathered in a few small trees along the banks of the Zambezi River.
In the park, there are some White Rhino, including a two year old baby. The rhino are in need of food so Destination Livingstone have started a campaign. “We are trying to raise $10,000 so that the last remaining 8 white rhinos within the Zambia National Parks, can be fed through our dry season when there is very little grass. With very few international visitors, the income for Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park has drastically reduced during the last 18 months. Please watch the wonderful uplifting video taken earlier this year. It shows the excitement of Livingstone residents seeing our rhinos “up close and personal” for the first time. We don’t want this to stop just because we can’t afford to feed them. That’s why we are asking for your help.”
If you are enjoying my blog diary about the park please consider making a donation. There are excellent future plans to have lucerne grown locally but for now, the rhinos need our help, and even the smallest amount can make a big, big difference. Please follow the link for more information and to donate.
Watch White Rhino in the National Park by following this link :- https://shellbell.home.blog/verse/