30th December: a deluge has come, bullfrogs galore….
Get home late from the Senuko Lodge yesterday evening and lose power as we arrive. We eat cold leftovers and creep to bed in the dark. Lots on our minds.
Turn on the radio to try to listen to the BBC Interview Clive did regarding his Prince William Award,and the challenges facing rhinos in Africa, but fail to find it. The rain finds us, however! Our Ground hornbills knew it! A deluge suddenly drops from the skies, heralded briefly by a fierce wind and rolling thunder, as lightening flashes light the windows of our dark room. Lovely! We lie enjoying the roar of the rain then I feel it..the first splash on my pillow…followed by another, and another….
Our roof, neglected for years, has given up the struggle of thatching grass versus water. Over my head. Nowhere to hide…I moan to Clive that my ear is filling with water. His laconic response, from his cosy spot on the bed where drips do not hit, is “Turn over then…”
Hmmm….after mentally trying to redirect the drops to hit him instead of me, I give up and crawl to Kelli’s bed, drier but surrounded by mosquitoes. Rain thumps steadily on our poor roof and as I lie there a lone male lion walks below, around the base of our Tsavene house, his questing roars rolling through the open windows. He gets no response from mates or brothers, and his wet rumbles fade towards our waterhole. The Banded rubber frogs trill their welcome to the rain all night long, and I hear the bullfrogs begin to call for the first time this season, having just emerged from their mud retreats that they crawled into at the end of last rain season. Mating and bullfrog tadpoles wriggling in every puddle will soon follow….
The edible bullfrog (Pyxicephalus edulis) is highly prized in the lowveld of Zimbabwe as protein and wholly dependant on good rain seasons to survive. It inhabits flat areas in open grassy woodland and marshy areas in eastern and southern Africa, and in very dry savannah in West Africa. It is fossorial, only coming to the surface at the beginning of the rainy season. It breeds in shallow, well-vegetated seasonal pans. It is active at night during the breeding season. The males guard the tadpoles, protecting them from predation.
A restless, mosquito-filled night is made all the better by the knowledge that the morning will bring a new wet world, a relief for the bush, my garden and the wildlife, and good growing for people’s crops.
We awake to a rain-filled house. The cellar and my studio are flooded, courtesy of our roof, but nothing can kill our joy in the rain as we sit on the verandah with a cup of coffee, listening to the thunder still muttering and now gentle drops spattering around us. The migrant Woodland kingfishers are ecstatic, calling endlessly as they perch with open-spread wings in display, then dive off their perches to race to secret nesting holes. Spotted flycatchers swoop in tight loops off their twigs to spear tiny flying ants that have emerged with the rain, and I spot a parent flycatcher feeding the ants to her fat and pleased baby….
Over 100 ml of water has fallen! This we know because the regularly-read rain gauge has overflowed……
The joy of the birds, the unfurling of dry, stressed leaves, the rustle of hatching insects, is palpable, a warm, breathing relief.