acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Saturday, March 17, 2012

the cobra and the red toad

We have been travelling and static, busy and idle, social and solitary, content, conflicted and then contemplative, and lo the time passes.  There is a whisper of winter in the air although we have had some late summer showers.  The tadpoles in the waterholes have all become little active frogs and somehow manage to find their way into our house at night.  I spend a good hour every evening trying to catch them and put them out side, feeling a little like the Flintstones ejecting that dinosaur to no avail.
But my motivation is snakes.  They follow the trails of the happy little frogs, and I am not mad about snakes in the house - especially at night.

So yesterday there was a mozambique spitting cobra in the kitchen. We didnt have time to catch it as we had to go out, but we left all the doors open and hoped it would find its own way. When we got back, there it was on the stoep.  It had obviously zapped a red toad who was lying there with one leg sticking out.  The snake moved away when i came outside but soon came back to claim its kill.

There is something grotesquely fascinating about watching a snake swallow a prey item that is way way bigger than its own head. So i thought i would share a few pictures with you.  Not all the pictures are sharp - sorry - but I hope you can see enough to get the story.  The cobra is about 1 meter long.

(Not for the squeamish)

approaching the problem

the snakes body is very active at this point, and the tip of his tail keeps seeking for cracks and crevices in the wall behind
however sideways was never going to work

manouvering around to a more manageable position

head first and the swallowing begins; the snakes body is more calm now

down the hatch all the way to the pelvic region

the last view of the toes before the licking of lips commences

bon appetit!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


python vine and termite mound

Sunday afternoon. The heavy heat is broken at last by the pounding strength of an electrical storm. The air is cool and fresh and water lies in pools on the ground reflecting a grey sky.  The air is now pungent with smells - ozone rich, with a hint of damp soil and kraal manure. Green leaves pump out oxygen and the giraffe resume browsing on the hebaclada bushes.  During the storm they stood straight up. I wondered if they were ever struck by lightening.  Ostriches, I know, tend to sit down and lay their long necks on the ground during a lightening storm.

The storm has moved on accross lake Zibidianja towards the spillway.  Distant crumping sounds trail in its wake.  The rain was gentle this time when it came. It was calming, cooling, soporific. It made me want to lie down and snooze. So instead I am making tea, eating a shortbread biscuit (from the stash reserved for visitors) and thinking about the storm. This too shall pass - the squashing heat, the turgid air, the lazy bones - and it has.

this acacia tree has been visited over the years by elephants
particularly the young elephants that like to eat the bark
it reminds me of those lovely drawings by Arthur Rackham entwining tree spirits and fantastic creatures
an imagination running free

sunday parkoff

Saturday, March 3, 2012

under cover of darkness

Last night I couldn't sleep. Insomnia ruled the moonlit hours. The candles were not enough to read by, nor was the moonlight.  I lay and listened to the soft night noises. There it was - a gentle sporadic swishing of grass. Another  sound  like a canvas sail unfurling.  I sat up quietly and stepped through the mosquito net onto the creaking floorboards.  Moving as quietly as possible - trying to remember which were the noisy floorboards i made my way out onto the deck. Just below where i stood, a young bull elephant was grazing on bunches of lush grass, swishing them against the ground to loosen any earth or unwanted sticks.  With the wind in my favour i stood and watched him slowly move along, the moonlight washing the skin on his back with silver.

Further along the floodplain there were more dark shapes, both large and small. A breeding herd of elephants had moved into the island of trees under cover of darkness to reap the harvest of shrubs and herbs that they cannot access in daylight because people live here.  In the dead of night they can move in peace.

Recently I subscribed to receive newsletters from a group called  if you would like to sign up contact  Every news report that involves elephants in Africa and Asia lands in your mailbox.  I had to unsubscribe from the Asia list purely because the tsunami of news reports was overwhelming.  Elephants truly are newsworthy!
Yet most of the news is saddening;  elephants killed by poachers here, and there, in their hundreds.   Crateloads of ivory from poached elephants are uncovered in major sea ports and airports across east and southern Africa.  These tons and tons of blood ivory, lead to houses full of ivory processing machines and more and more cases for shipment. All destined for China and the Chinese market.

It leads me to wonder if there is still room for free ranging elephants amidst our land hungry species.

Tonight the elephants are moving further into the forest, content with their moonlight browsing. By morning they will be gone.