The season has just begun in the Luangwa Valley, it is a time where there is a lot of bustling between Kaingo and Mwamba. In the weeks leading up to last, there has been constant prep and maintenance done on the roads and the many game drive routes that make this area of the park famous for its spectacular game viewing. We certainly do not miss these opportunities to grab a hot cup of coffee and go check on the progress when things are quiet in camp.
Yesterday evening’s drive took us just north of the hippo hide to Acacia Loop Lagoon, this is a fantastic drive through a small Ebony Grove forest, adjacent to the Luangwa River. Here we are lucky enough to have our very own colony of Yellow-billed storks. It is a modestly sized colony compared to the breeding site just on the other side of the river and still slightly early in the year for the fledgelings to be joining their parents at the lagoon to feed.
In Luangwa, the Yellow-billed stork will start breeding around mid-April and fledging around the end of this month, this is when their young will start to develop wing feathers large enough to enable flight. A precarious time of year for these little fellows, crocodiles waiting patiently below for a quick and easy, albeit small snack! Fish Eagles will also perch nearby and take chances if they present themselves.
Yellow-billed storks are adaptive and highly intelligent birds. They have a fishing technique of using one foot to stir up the water to flush out prey and quick muscular reflex in the neck enables them to catch almost all their food in the water.
These storks interestingly walk with a high-stepped stalking gait on the ground, mainly in shallow water and amazingly, their walking pace has been recorded as 70 steps per minute! Fantastic birds to say the least. Good luck to this year’s fledgelings!
By Anna Mansfield