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The Green Season Ė is a really special time to visit the Luangwa Valley and certainly a favourite of mine, so I jumped at the opportunity to run a series of workshops for the guides at The Bushcamp Company and Norman Carr Safaris during March. Despite the poor rains the Valley was still emerald green although the main river was much lower than on previous visits. During my two week visit there was lots of cloud, plenty of thunder and lightning but only sporadic, short downpours, one of which drenched us whilst looking for a pack of wild dog that had been sighted earlier in the day!

butterflies
Brown-veined Whites

The focus of the first week's workshop was insects and other arthropods - particularly butterflies - and the timing of the visit was perfect as there were huge numbers of various brightly coloured species in abundance. In total 37 different species were identified .

butterfly butterfly butterfly
Autumn-leaf Vagrant
Spotted Joker
Common Mother-of Pearl

There were tantalizing tales each evening from other lodge guests about the lion, wild dog and leopard sightings, but with our focus on the smaller creatures we resisted the temptation to follow the pack which caused amusement and head-shaking by those who passed our vehicle stopped next to yet another butterfly.

photographer cateipliiar
Photographing Butterflies
Caterpillar of the Death's Head Hawk Moth

The puku obviously had an excellent breeding season as there were plenty of youngsters everywhere. The impala were getting ready for the April/May rut, and we found one that had adorned his horns with an impressive grassy thatch that he was displaying to potential rivals and the nearby females.
puku impala
Baby Puku
Male Impala with head-dress

Most of the lagoons were completely covered in the aquatic Pistia stratiotes, often called the water cabbage, completely hiding the many hippos that only became visible as their heads appeared for a quick breath of air. Elephants as usual were very common, making good use of the last of the green grass before winter gets underway and included a female that had lost her tail at some stage.

elephant mfuwe guides
Tail-less Elephant cow
Bushcamp Company guides ready for a field outing

Birdlife was prolific particularly around the lagoons where several species of storks and herons were enthusiastically catching fish in the pools along the edges of the roads, with Openbills picking up snails and mussels from the muddy areas. On one morning drive we saw a huge flock of Abdimís storks slowly moving their way northwards on the start of their migration to North Africa.

w billed stork grey heron openbill stork
Yellow-billed Stork
Grey Heron
Openbill Stork

The second week's workshop was at Norman Carr Safaris' Kapani Lodge, and included a great sighting of a female leopard well known to the guides. Time was also spent watching a pair of Red-billed Oxpeckers collecting dry dung from the road as lining for their nest high up in a nearby tree.

leopard oxpeckers
Leopard
Red-billed Oxpeckers

A free afternoon gave me the opportunity to photograph the antics of a large troop of baboons from the main deck that overlooks a lagoon, now rather dry but providing plenty of grass for the adults to feed on.

baboons baboon baby

One of the highlights were outings to the Kakumbi salt pan outside the park which is a spectacular area to find special species of birds such as Racket-tailed Roller and Arnotís Chat amongst others. Another exciting find was the nest of a Red-billed Hornbill with the female sealed inside the nest hole leaving only a narrow gap for her to collect food brought by the male.

Grey-headed Kingfisher Red-necked Spurfowl Racket-tailed Roller
Grey-headed Kingfisher
Red-necked Spurfowl
Racket-tailed Roller

Hornbill Nest Red-billed Hornbill
Hornbill Nest
Red-billed Hornbill

All too soon the two weeks were over, marks tallied, certificates presented, and it was time to fly home to Hoedspruit!

guides guides