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WHAT & WHERE IS KULAFUMBI?

1724670-982768-thumbnail.jpg 'Kulafumbi' is our family home in Kenya, East Africa. 'Kulafumbi' is a play on the Kiswahili words "kula vumbi", which mean "eat dust", because it was so hot and dusty building our house in this remote, wild, wonderful place. Kulafumbi borders the Tsavo National Park - with no fences between us and the Park, the wildlife comes and goes of its own free will and treats our land as its own, which is exactly how we like it. In turn, we provide a protected area for the wild animals to do as they please. This protected area also creates an important buffer for the river, which forms the boundary between us and the park.
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ON-GOING SPECIES COUNT

1829439-992202-thumbnail.jpg Look how many species of animals & birds we've spotted to date at Kulafumbi:

MAMMALS: 43+
REPTILES &
AMPHIBIANS: 18+++

BIRDS: 199+
INSECTS: Too many to count

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Of the world for ever, it seems..."

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« 6th September 2008 : Big Game Bonanza | Main | 1st September 2008 : E R - Kulafumbi style »
Friday
Sep052008

5th September 2008 : "12,11,10...13...What?" : The Gosling Enigma

Are you ready for a marathon? Be prepared, for you'll need some staying power to see yourself through to the end of this story, with its twists and turns...

I think there is only one way to tell this tale, and that is from the beginning, in chronological order, starting a month ago...

Despite the ominous presence of the young Martial Eagle (above) on this stretch of river of late (who has also been terrorizing the dikdiks), there are still ten happy, healthy goslings in the river below the house on 6th August (down from twelve originally):


Here they are meeting a flock of Helmeted Guineafowl on the riverbank in the early morning, though it has to be said that neither appear the slightest bit interested in the other. The Guineafowl often come down onto the sandbanks in the early morning or late evening to nibble the fresh new grass shoots - as indeed do the geese:


The 7th August sees the goslings still numbering ten (above), and on the 8th August, they are back grazing on the sandbank again:


I find it fascinating to see how quickly these goslings are growing. You'll remember that the goslings first arrived at the river on July 11th, which would have been the day they hatched and left their nest high up in a riverine tree somewhere...so on the 8th August (below), they are only 4 weeks old, and already so big...



And that's when things start to change...by quite how much, we have no idea at the time...


The day starts peacefully enough on August 10th, with the goslings and their parents soaking up the morning sun on the sandbank, seemingly without a care in the world.

Then, that afternoon, I suddenly hear a great commotion downriver, with the geese going crazy. I rush outside with my camera and - although it is quite far downstream - I can easily make out an adult goose attacking our goslings, despite the (at times erratic) efforts of the parents...

To begin with, the parents seem to be deterring the attacker from getting too close to the goslings.

Then things start getting really vicious and it is difficult to see who is attacking whom, and whether it is the goslings or the adults who are the targets of the intruder...


Goslings flee in all directions, but don't seem to take themselves out of the danger zone...


If I were a gosling, I'd be making myself scarce right about now...

Now there's no doubt whom the adult goose is after: it chases full pelt at the goslings...but where on earth are the parents?

Run for your life, Little One! AND WHERE ON EARTH ARE THE PARENTS?

Phew - not before time - the parents re-enter the fray...

There are three geese in there somewhere! (And an awful lot of noise!)

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the goslings are still hanging around (you can see one in the foreground, above)...

The goslings may well be saying "Good Riddance!" as their father repels the attacker.

But it's not over yet, as the aggressor comes back for more...

...but he's finally overwhelmed, and flies away downstream (allowing goslings and me both to breathe again!)

A little dazed and confused perhaps, but our family of goslings seems to have survived...but we have yet to see if all ten little ones made it through the ordeal...

Later that day, we are able to confirm there are still ten goslings, all safe and sound...but the mystery remains, what was that intruder trying to do?

It is not until the next day (11th August - one month to the day that "our" goslings reached the river) that, just downstream of where the fight occurred, I see a brand new brood of tiny goslings on the river. They are too far away to photograph, but they make sense of yesterday's fight. The new parents were trying to make way on the river for their young ones - and there's a bundle of them - they're too far away even to count, but I can tell there's a truckload. Protecting them is almost a good excuse for attacking "our" goslings but I still feel fiercely protective of the youngsters we've been watching grow these past few weeks, and hope that the other geese keep to themselves downstream from now on.

Back to "our" family: 11th August still sees ten healthy goslings below the house.


A windswept parent seems to have a greater problem with the gale-force winds (so typical of August in Tsavo) than with other geese.


12th August: Ten goslings are still on the river, safe and sound and looking as if they don't have a care in the world...but unbeknown to us at the time, this is the last time we will ever see "our" goose family...

We have to go away for a week, and when we return home to Kulafumbi and our river on 23rd August, my first thought is of our goslings and how they have fared. As I walk out onto our balcony, I am delighted to see our goose family below the house, a string of goslings in tow...how many? One, two, three....ten...hang on a minute!...eleven, twelve, THIRTEEN! And hang on another minute: these goslings are much smaller than the ones we left behind...and then it sinks in: our family has been usurped...and I feel quite empty, for looking both upstream and downstream, I see no sign of a family of ten larger goslings...in fact, I see no other goslings at all, but just a few pairs of lone adults...

Every morning these past few weeks, we wake up to a cacophony of geese shrieking and fighting up and down the river, and I realise that, while we have been away there has been a shifting of territories (which seems to be ongoing) and our family must have gone somewhere else. I only hope they are OK, wherever they are. It takes me a little time to get used to the newcomers, and to accept them as "our new family"...all thirteen fluffy little bundles. But then of course, they start to ensnare me in their own lives and their own battles, and now I eagerly look out for them each morning to see if all thirteen have survived the night.

The reality is that these goslings may well belong on this stretch of river and belong to our original pair of Egyptian Geese, and it could be that the other family with the older goslings were the intruders all along - we'll never know, I guess, but I do hope they are OK out there, wherever they are. A couple of days ago, my father saw five large goslings upstream near Hippo Bend, so there is a chance they may be the survivors of our brood...I like to think so anyway (even though it means five of the ten have not made it...)

And so we now start following the story of The Thirteen:

On 28th August, there were still thirteen goslings, all strong and healthy...although one of them appears to have a limp, and is often a little slow at keeping up with the others (hence being missed out of several group photos, such as the one above). There is also one gosling (perhaps the same one?) that tends to stay closer to the parents, and is not as adventurous as its siblings. Interestingly, this was the same with our goslings from last year, and indeed with this year's older brood...there always seems to be one who doesn't want to break the apron strings...

The goslings do this funny thing every now and again, which I call the "Gosling Dash" (photographed on 29th August, above). For no apparent reason, they all suddenly rush off in one direction, at great speed leaving a wake behind them and then, just as suddenly, they stop and carry on with whatever they were doing.


On 31st August, there are still thirteen goslings, and they seem to be doing just fine. On their (incredibly long) daily marches up and downstream, they continue to meet new fellow river residents, such as these two Black Crakes that were making their way along a sand island from one reed clump to another:


The Crakes were minding their own business, but this gosling obviously felt the need to throw his weight around:


Yesterday, the 4th August, there were still thirteen (quite difficult to count as they rush around, mind you!):


Another visitor to the river, a Common Sandpiper, seems unimpressed by the gaggle of goslings, photographed today:

And as I leave you this evening, I leave you with the knowledge that as of 7pm today, we still have our family of thirteen safe and intact, but knowing full well that this story is not over yet...without doubt, there will be more to come in this gosling drama...




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