Sunday, April 18, 2010

Springing into autumn

I had a wonderful morning in the field today.
The recent heavy rain (so late in the season) has brought on an Indian spring (can you have an Indian 'spring'?).
The weather here in late autumn and winter is always idyllic: sunny, blue skies and temperatures in the high 20's Celsius. This loveliness, however, is normally marred by the dry season with forbs and grasses shrivelling and trees losing their leaves. Not this year; everything is burgeoning and green, the air is rose-scented and scores of butterflies are flitting and hovering amid banks of flowers.

I'm afraid I can't tell you the names of these flowers because there's no field guide available for this part of South Africa (a bit strange considering that Kruger is such a popular tourist destination).

The mongooses are also enjoying the unexpected reprieve.
When the soil dries out, beetle larvae and other soil-dwelling critters retreat down deep, but after rain these consumables (apologies to any entomologists) resurface, back within reach of industrious mongoose claws. This morning, Ecthelion group was lounging contentedly, with rounded tummies and a self-satisfied air. Of course even well-fed mongooses don't stay still for long, and soon everyone was bounding about in play. Teaming up in pairs and trios they chased and wrestled, rearing up on their hind legs to clasp one another around the shoulders and tussle back and forth like little sumo wrestlers. Everywhere I looked there were mongooses leaping in the air or clasped together in mock battle, rolling over and over, with teeth clamped firmly on any available ear or limb.


  1. Those flowers are so pretty! And it sounds like the mongooses were enjoying things too.

    I just noticed the mongoose group names, specifically Iorek in the bugbears. Is it possible someone has read the His Dark Materials series? (Golden Compass/Northern Lights, Subtle Knife, and Amber Spyglass)

  2. Heather,
    Yes, Iorek is named after the armoured polar bear in Philip Pullman's novels. She's not QUITE as fearsome as her namesake, but as the group's dominant female, she's 'boss mongoose' and not to be crossed.

    Thinking up names for new arrivals in Bugbears is getting a bit challenging. After finding twenty different bear-related names, I've started surreptitiously recycling names from mongooses that got munched as pups.


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