The Waterhole Sure Is Quiet...
The Sabi Sands area has finally started to get some much needed rain as Africa moves into the summer season. The rains will fill all the waterholes and puddles, resulting in more places for the animals to find water, and perhaps fewer visits to Nkorho Pan and Elephant Plains. This past week we’ve been treated to an endless chorus of Olive Toads, and that dreaded Corn Cricket seems to have found his way to his favorite seat right under the microphone. The waiting game for animals will test us as the rains begin to fall, but if we look hard and listen even more...we will be treated to things we would normally miss or dismiss.
One of those unique and interesting visits is when the pair of Egyptian geese come clumsily flapping in and slide across the surface of the water...quacking and hissing the whole time. They make a grand entrance, making sure that anyone around knows they are there. I’ve often watched the chat room as folks come in for a quick look at the cams and comment, “oh, it’s just the silly gucks”. Gucks you say? Yes, a silly nickname they’ve picked up from casual viewers trying to pass the time. True, they are Egyptian geese, but they are from the shelduck family, thus the nickname of guck. They fly with that heavy look of a goose and were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians.
But for us, we are just entertained by their antics. We often watch as the pair perform their mating rituals...appearing as if they are having a very verbal discussion. We’ve watched as they paddle to the middle of the waterhole at night for a safe nap. And we all look when out of nowhere, the pair start to verbally alarm and quickly move to the other side of the waterhole as a predator makes its way closer.
This past week we were treated to a long and very vocal territorial display, as another pair of geese tried to take over the waterhole, as Egyptian geese are not very good at sharing smaller bodies of water. There was lots of quacking and hissing and flapping galore as they ran around the waterhole chasing each other. They took to the air and darted after each other, with even more quacking and fussing. Part of the fun was guessing what was going on, as the Nkorho Pan camera operator was busy elsewhere. We got a glimpse here and there as the geese battled their vocal war. We’d see one run by at the edge of the waterhole...another right behind him, both up on their toes, wings spread and quacking and flapping. Then we heard more sounds but saw nothing as we bantered about which team was winning. All of a sudden we’d see one go flying through the middle of the picture, just a few feet above the water...and yep, another right behind him. We don’t know which pair won, but eventually there were only two sitting in the water...still fussing, as if they were talking to each other about “those blasted intruders”.
The geese will stay together as a pair for life unless one is taken by predators, disease or a natural death, leaving the survivor to find another mate to finish out their lives. They will produce large broods of chicks, usually ten or more, with the majority of them falling prey to jackals, hyenas and the usual land threats. A few will survive and eventually make their way out to find their own mate, and their own little bit of water to call their own.
We’ve no way to tell if the pair we watch are the same pair that come and go, but we like to think they are. If nothing else, these interesting birds help us pass the time while we wait for other animals to wander by. I do wish we could find a book to translate their vocalizations into words...I just know they are the ones in the neighborhood that know everything that is going on with all the critters that live nearby, who’s happy, who’s not...they just seem like they would be the true examples of community gossips.