As rangers we gain the bulk of our knowledge through textbooks and then we start working in the bush looking to find what we have learnt. I am at my happiest out in the bush observing and discovering new things. It sounds easier said than done but there is no rush in nature, it has its own rhythm and for that you need to have a lot of patience and dedication.
It was a beautiful morning to go on a game drive and we were not let down by the amount of general and smaller animals we saw before we got to our first Big Five animal, the buffalo. The buffalo appeared docile while feeding but I warned my guests that they should not be fooled by this as I have seen buffalo give lions a run for their money. We were definitely in tune with nature's rhythm that afternoon because shortly after the time spent with the buffalo we found a large breeding herd of elephants. I can observe elephants for ages as they have so much to offer. While we were with the elephants I noticed something that I had wanted to see for a very long time but the timing had never been this perfect.
While we were with the elephants I heard a distinctive bird call. Instinctively my eyes searched and I found the Lilac-breasted Roller sitting high up in a tree, calling. Lilac-breasted Rollers are very colourful birds and in general you see them before you hear them. This roller's calling was meaningful, like he was protecting something. The next moment I saw a second roller swooping in and it landed not too far from the first one. The second roller had something in its beak. Anxiously I got the attention of my guests and within a few seconds the rollers ha` our undivided attention. Could this be what I suspected it was?
As it crossed my mind my eyes started looking for a hole in the tree. Lilac-breasted Rollers are communal feeders and therefore both the male and female will assist in bringing food back to the nest. I was beside myself when I saw the hole and when the female made her way towards it. She confirmed my suspicions when a beak made its appearance from within the hole. It was a chick and the parents were working together at feeding it. We sat for quite some time watching the parents feeding the very hungry and growing chick. We all secretly hoped that the chick would make a quick appearance but we were out of luck. Unfortunately time goes quickly and I had to take my guests back to Bush Lodge making sure they didn't miss their breakfast and flight. Yes they were leaving and they were not too happy about that.
It's hard when guests have to leave and when you can see that they have enjoyed their stay, especially when they liked the smaller things, like the Lilac-breasted Rollers. Knowing that I was going to return to the Lilac-breasted Rollers' nest, the little girl made me pinkie swear that I would forward her news and pics, if I got to see the chick. I wanted to but couldn't return to the Rollers immediately so I decided that my prized night off would not be spent on the couch reading but rather at the nest of the Rollers.
That evening Jaap and I grabbed our cameras and set off to the Roller's nest. Afternoon game drives are the best opportunities for photography but as we can't control nature, the weather was not playing along. It was still worth the trip as we got some photographs confirming our amazing story and we got to spend an afternoon observing and learning as much possible about the Rollers behaviour. We returned to Bush Lodge with a few photographs. Unfortunately we didn't see the chick but the knowledge we gained was amazing.
The next morning we didn't wait for the sun but instead Jaap and I were out and already waiting at the tree when the sun made its appearance. The Rollers didn't waste any time either; they had a growing responsibility that awaited their dedicated attention. They brought the chick a selection of items to feed on and they kept coming, the one after the other; they made us hungry. Our stomachs rumbled but we hoped that our dedication and patience would pay off. The beak of the youngster appeared a few times then without any warning the youngster stuck his head out. He was a lot older than what I had initially thought but nevertheless it was an absolutely awesome sighting.
I kept my pinkie promise; I emailed the girl the photographs I had taken and went back to that tree a couple of times again: but not once did I see more than his beak. This just confirmed to me that patience and dedication is rewarding.