It looks like we may finally be looking at an end to the lockdown later this spring which is fantastic news. The last year has been a challenge indeed. For all sorts of reasons; I was unable to return to work in Zambia; the tourist industry has been decimated by this pandemic and recovery could take years. For some, it was simply too much and sadly many lodges and camps have not survived, and many of my friends across Africa have lost their jobs. Our lodge in the Kafue National Park is still open, mainly hosting Zambian residents at present, but there is hope for the 2021 season when internationals are permitted to travel again. We are keeping everything crossed for a positive outcome.
The woodland, however, has been doing extremely well and has been invaluable; serving as respite, sanity, and solitude for many during the last year. A place where we can get out of the house, work with nature, exercise, get fresh air and simply forget about the chaos going on around us. A welcome escape.
As usual, there has been an incredible amount of rhodie-control (bored now) going on, but we are definitely well on our way to eradicating it from all but the borders of the wood. It's taken us nearly 7 years, and hundreds of hours of effort to do it by hand, but the effects are really starting to show.
During the summer of last year the meadow under the wayleave was finally clear of bracken too and full of wildflowers, grasses, butterflies and insects. It was positively humming and I'm so excited to see how it will come up this year and whether or not we can add any new butterflies to the 17 or so species we have already recorded at Rais.
The dam has held up extremely well over the winter and with these endless rains, the feeder streams have really settled into their path and are even forming smaller ponds of their own at varying levels which I love. There is still a long way to go to repair the damage done by the rhodies, but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel now - and light on the woodland floor too - in some places for the first time in decades. I can't wait to see what dormant seeds we have unearthed. I am also hoping that the gorse bushes will be able to thicken up and propagate now that they are not choked in evergreen aliens stealing all their light, space and nutrients.
Thanks to our camera traps, we believe we have badgers breeding in the sett again this year... the cubs are typically born this month but don't surface until April so with any luck Mrs. Brock is snuggled up underground with a few suckling cubs right now. We also hope to find out about last year's litter - soon enough the camera traps will be out again and I will spend long evenings once again scrutinizing hundreds of dark and blurring 10-second video clips to see if I can mark out individuals in any way..... or even just tell the males from the females.
The camera traps have also captured some great footage of the many visitors that came to gorge on the carcass of a deer that sadly met her end around the new year, in the northwest section of the wood. Here are a couple showing a fox by night and a buzzard by day. We were astounded at the distance the carcass moved over the course of the weeks that we watched it, and the sounds of the fox tucking in remind me of similar sounds made by lions tucking into a recent kill on the savannah... albeit with a little less growling!