Thursday, January 9, 2014

While you were having your Arctic Vortex

Rain blessed the whole of Botswana until people began to threaten to complain about it. It's a sin to wish for pula to quit falling here. But it got close. Average annual rainfall here is 400 millimeters. We got around 450 over the course of six days.

I can't tell you exactly how much rain fell because of a hole in the training program here at Eagle Island. Morris taught Tom to check and if necessary, dump the rain gauge every morning but didn't tell him to record the data. One wonders if Tom ever considered the pointlessness of a contraption designed to capture water only to empty it later. Plus the rain gauge lives on a pole placed in a low spot so once the rains began to fall faster than they could soak into the sand, people quit emptying it, with or without recording the data. The peoples that inhabit the Kalahari are akin to lions, they can cross water but will avoid it at all costs. The number 450 comes from the rain gauge downstream at Gunn's Camp which is presumably better tended then the one at this camp.

Airstrips closed due to a plane's inability to handle gooey surfaces. I dug it cuz they needed my helicopter to hop passengers to the nearest strip still firm enough to land planes. I got soaked but since temps hit the high twenties, I stayed plenty warm and reasonably comfortable. As a former(and in the future, current) rainforest dweller, I can get wet while working or playing.

The rising waters flooded the mongoose den. We watched the family move to higher, drier digs. More than a dozen kits hitched rides in the jaws of adult females. Males led and flanked watching for predators, avian and terrestrial. They hauled the kits one at a time to minimize exposure even though it took more effort in the way of extra trips.

The band exercised well founded caution. A yellow-billed kite snatched a snake during the fourth trip. The bird had been circling the whole time the mongoose moved the kits, but in the risk versus reward equation, judged the heavily guarded kits not worth it. By keeping an eye on the progress and the potential to swoop down for a snack if the band made a mistake the kite was ready to grab the bush snake that had been scared out of hiding by the back and forth movement of the mongooses.

The Big Five get most of the attention here, especially for first timers. I like looking for lions as much as the next guy but I love to hold still and fascinate in the smaller creatures' struggle.

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