June 12 – Moremi Game Reserve

Awakened during the night by the sound of hyenas screeching through the camp. It is a bit disconcerting — those are BIG canids! Grant reminded us to be very very careful about leaving the tents during the night. He showed us the tracks where the hyenas had been hiding when Fred and I did our last walk down to the ablution area after dark. (The ablution area is very very basic here at Moremi: working toilets and showers just barely big enough to get clean in. Fred had the right idea, to wear swim trunks etc. down to take a shower and actually change back here in the tent. Dumb me ended up trying to change there and keep things dry at the same time: not an easy task!)

Up just at daybreak (sun not even really visible on the horizon, just a red line showing where it will be). Vervet monkeys kept trying to steal parts of meals (and managed to escape with a tomato!). Probably not much fun for the camp staff, but a lot of fun for us tourists for whom this is all so very new.

Lilac-breasted roller

Lilac-breasted roller

Two game drives today here in Moremi. This morning it was misty at first and the meadows were full of lechwe standing in the mist. Then, for the most part, it was birds birds and more birds.  Saddlebilled stork, plover, black harrier, Burchell’s coucal (who was Burchell anyway? ah… a botanist), a fish eagle that stayed in place long enough for us to make a whole photographic study of it, jacana, hammerkop, ground hornbill and more. I never thought of myself as any kind of a birder before this trip — even told Grant I wasn’t one — but he’s making sure I see the interesting birds and sparking my interest anyway. One in particular, the lilac-breasted roller — national bird of Botswana — is simply the most beautiful thing I may ever have seen.

harrier

Marsh harrier

eagle

Fish eagle

coucal

Burchell

jacana

Lesser jacana

Hammerkop

Hammerkop

vervet monkey

vervet monkey

Also saw wildebeest, hippos, elephants (including with a young one) and, finally, a vervet monkey that stood still long enough for me to get a good solid photo.

This afternoon’s drive we were around water a lot so we saw the white-faced whistling duck (I didn’t really hear it whistle, though), the pygmy goose and more. We also saw a bird that Fred insists on called the “pterodactyl bird” and so I am NEVER going to remember its name without writing it down (it is, for now and forever, officially christened the “pterodactyl bird” in our family!) — the Kori bustard. And we saw a goofy looking critter than looks, at a distance, something like a moose in its head structure called the tsessebe.

ducks

White-faced ducks

bustard

Kori bustard

And though we looked and looked and looked, and found all kinds of tracks, we still didn’t see any BIG cats. That’s in capital letters because we sure did see a cat: a cat that actually looks like it could be lolling around in anybody’s living room. Called the African wildcat, it’s a gorgeous and very aggressive small cat that can (and often does) interbreed with the domestic cat, so it’s listed as endangered in a lot of areas.

African wildcat

African wildcat

So… dogs yesterday, the wildcat today, maybe BIG cats tomorrow! That is, if we can get any sleep. Grant had to go tell off the noisy bunch at the nearby campsite to get ‘em to pipe down. Their excuse: “But we’ve come so far!” Grant, shepherding around the pair of us, who’d come 8000 miles, was not impressed.

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