The joys and tribulations of a field biologist (and hermit) studying
mongooses in the South African bush.
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.
Having spent 16 years living in remote places in the African bush studying the social behaviour of mongooses, my own is non-existent. I survived 8 years in the desert, at the Kalahari Meerkat Research Project (i.e. Meerkat Manor), and am now doing research on dwarf mongooses in the lowveld of NE South Africa.
If you come across a mistake on this blog, please let me know. I really want to learn new things, and to get them right!
Except for images credited to others, all material on this blog (text and photos) are copyrighted to the blog's author. They may not be used without the author's permission (please make requests using 'comments').