News From Marloth Park
Genie Retief is a renowned birding guide and wildlife expert who lives and works out of the Marloth Park Private Game Reserve on the borders of Kruger National Park. She is available for small group, private and exclusive tours through the park and in any of the birding regions of South Africa. Feel free to contact Genie on any matters wild or bird life in South Africa
I found a dead bushbuck fawn in the veld yesterday. It was so tiny with a wet head and chest that at first I thought it had been still-born. But on closer inspection it transpired that it was at least a month old and the wet areas were the result of being partially swallowed and then regurgitated by an African Rock Python. Looking around hastily in case the python was still around, we continued our work.
Our work this morning was to find and remove a very invasive weed called Chromolaena odorata, which can invade and totally take over the riverine habitat in our reserve. Where is our reserve? Well, Marloth Park is a wild-life conservancy which has the Crocodile River as a common border with the Kruger National Park. It has the same vegetation as the southern area of the Kruger Park. Here the houses – mostly small lodges – are built among the trees and animals are free to walk where they please.
At the moment the veld is typical winter veld – dry, with little grazing and many of the trees already without leaves. A hard time for the game animals and birds. I bought bone-meal (the fatty, bony residue that the butcher’s saw provides) for the feathered community to help them through these lean times. The hornbills in particular defend this bounty from the smaller glossy green starlings, bush-shrikes and and other fruit-eating and insectivorous birds.
Yesterday they lost all of their daily ration to a posse of about 14 Banded Mongoose who climbed easily into the small tree where the food was stashed and made short shrift of it with lots of squabbling between them. When they had eaten the last scrap they looked over to me, making their enquiring little noises mm? mm? mm? asking/demanding more!
Although it was very tempting to give in to their pleas I was reluctant to encourage them as we have a Cardinal Woodpecker excavating a hole in a dead Commiphora tree right in front of our verandah and I would really not like to have these carnivorous little animals digging out the babies once they are there. These interesting birds nest at intervals of about one pair to 50 hectares so it is a privilege to have them right here. They never use the same nest twice so this is our only chance of this close-up encounter.
More news about life in Marloth Park next month.