The African Bush is generally, at least in comparison to some of the world’s tropical forests that I have worked in, a slightly more visual environment than an audible environment. Large vistas dappled with a patchwork of Acacia trees, villages, toy-storyesque white puffy clouds and the general sun-baked bushes and grasslands of the open veld, all give you a unique sense of feeling very small in the landscape.
Often, with a relatively open landscape, one would think there are few places for wildlife to hide away. Needless to say, however, wildlife does so very successfully, and in an attempt to find more than initially meets the eye, sometimes other clues are better used to betray an animals presence.
As a lover of snakes, I perhaps look for them more than most. Never being easy to find however, without a hint of irony, the bush-crows and ‘friends’ have helped me out in finding probably one of my favourite African snakes, the Puff Adder (Bitis arietans).
Many of the ground-foraging birds of the bush have a highly attuned response to alarm calls and potential predators and readily elicit mass alarming at some of the (seemingly) most benign species. When one individual (bird) starts to persistently alarm, other species often join, creating a cacophony of very unhappy birds giving away the presence of snakes relatively easily.
Pugs in the sand
Many mammals are very good at not giving away their presence by sight, but one of the best ways of detecting their presence is of course by their footprints, or more commonly referred to as their ‘pug’. Here are some of my most-wanted that have managed to completely evade me!
It would be unfair however to suggest that this environment is purely visual, with so much competition for space birds must of course find other ways to announce their presence. Put in some headphones and be transported into the ambiance of the African bush here and here.
I am now very much on the road home, clutching a folder of hard-earned data and beginning to reflect on a remarkable couple of months.
Images: all copyright the author
Previously in this series:
Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, FutureX