Out and about in Namibia: ‘Tis the season to be frisky

Sometimes a trip develops a theme; situation jokes, particularly notable incidents that are re-visited again and again along the way.  The common thread that seems to tie one place to the next on this particular journey through Namibia is wildlife in a frenzy of pheromones.  It’s the start of the rains (known as “emerald” or “green” season) and everywhere you look the wildlife is getting frisky.  While it sometimes makes me blush to watch an impala ram in action or a diminutive male tortoise high-tailing it after the sizeable rump of his lady-love (they like big girls), some of the things we’ve seen, have been especially unusual and (dare I say it) captivating.  Fortunately no one is likely to arrest me for spending half an hour watching the action through binoculars... Comical tortoise lurve aside, there have been many impressive attempts of the boys out there to win even an appreciative glance from the object of their infatuation.  Firstly, they literally put on their Sunday best to go a’courtin’.  The ostriches develop rather bizarre red stripes down their shins...not quite sure that would do it for me, personally.  The shaft-tailed whydah birds transform themselves from drab LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) into resplendent tail-coated studs with feathers 8” long.  The male agama (or rainbow) lizard dons a dazzling combination of cobalt blue and orange and stands with his head bobbing and toes raised on the hot rock. Then the boys put all their energy into showing off.  Sunshine-yellow weaver birds spend days painstakingly knitting beautifully crafted nests which need to meet Madam’s approval (she will reject many potential homes heartlessly by nipping the grass that binds them to the branch, sending them tumbling to the ground).  The northern black korhaan (a sort of pheasant-size bird with beautiful black and tawny markings and a bright red bill) flies high into the air and plummets to earth with break-neck speed. The large cory bustard puffs out the feathers of his throat, sticks his black crest in the air and fans out his tail.  Ensuring that the ladies are paying attention, he then struts back and forth in almost military fashion.  It’s worth braving the odd rainstorm for all this. The variety and ingenuity of all these creatures in displaying their manly prowess is seriously impressive and one does wonder where we went wrong with our own species...although our lads donning high-heels and blue eye-shadow?  Perhaps not.

Posted by: Amanda Mitchell

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