No matter how long you beat around the bush, there will always be “firsts.” Maybe you’ve been a ranger for 15 years and still haven’t seen a pangolin or a guide your entire life and only get that one amazing hyena-leopard-lion interaction. My newest “first” was a fantastic ground hornbill experience. Due to booming construction works and huge habitation loss, the ground hornbill’s distribution is now limited to the Greater Kruger area and some places in Botswana, to name a few. Guiding anywhere else in Southern Africa leaves you with a definite lack of sightings of these rare animals and only a passing conversation with guests when dealing with conservation topics. Much was my surprise and delight, then, at the sight of these beautiful creatures, (four to be exact – three mature males and one juvenile), going about their daily business…pecking and scratching the ground, bobbing their heads, and meandering as only birds of their size can do.
The ground hornbill with its very distinctive, and shocking, red coloring around eye and wattle, is a definite eye catcher no matter where or how fast you are traveling in the bush. Known for their ground dwelling habits and the female’s finicky breeding practices when a proper sized tree for egg laying cannot be found, as well as their interesting booming ‘oomph oomph” allow-dueting morning serenade, these birds are a prize for any hardened bush-goer, twitcher or tourist. We may not think about it now, but with their rapid decline they might not be with us much longer. All the better then, to get such a fabulous “first.”
Our cubs are still doing well and getting bigger by the day. The cold front all so seems to becoming to an end!!!
Noelle DiLorenzo -( Ranger Kapama River Lodge)