Alex’s Anecdotes – July 22

by | Aug 11, 2022 | Watatunga Blog

July has been a busy month at Watatunga Wildlife Reserve, and as always our Tour Guide Alex Douglas was there to witness much of the action. Here are Alex’s musings and observations following an action packed few weeks.

Water Buffalo, Watatunga, Norfolk Small

I am not sure I have ever envied an Indian Water Buffalo (or two) but watching Rocket and Slice wallowing in Safari Waters with an Egyptian Goose today when it was so hot and a bit sticky for those of us on land was definitely one of those moments. They just looked so relaxed and cool lying like giant logs in the shallows and most of us would have happily joined them. Totally oblivious the Grey Heron stalked its prey on the edge of the lake and then flew to ‘evict’ the Little Egret who has been here for a couple of days now, from one of the stone islands as the Black headed gulls on the other island watched the ‘battle’ for possession of the stones.  

Possession is 9 tenths of law….. 

Storks on Nest

Watched a flock of 50 plus gulls wheeling and hawking over the water catching any insects unlucky enough to fly in their direction. Superb aerial acrobats they danced in the air enjoying the latest irruption of prey as the afternoon sun sank lower behind the trees. Then they moved to the open fields behind Reception and carried on their WatatungaAirshow, white, black and beige colours illuminated by the postcard blue sky 

Hors d’oevres on the wing …. 

The orphaned Roebuck  that was hand raised in the orphanage last year has superbly adapted to life on the Reserve and is so generous with his time as he came over to the buggies today and walked along with us. It gave us all a wonderful opportunity to really look at a Roedeer who so often are seen leaping from the pastures over bushes into the woods. Now we know what that reddish, tailless looking flash of colour disappearing in the distance is when next we walk through the countryside. This photo is of a Roe that was brought to us this summer. 

Up close and personal …. 

Roe Fawn
Evening buggy tour, Watatunga, Norfolk

I think in my next life I’ll come back as a weather forecaster …. it’s the only job I know where you still get paid for getting it wrong!!!!!  The sky cried early this morning – no sign of that in the forecast. I wish I could describe it as rain but it was enough just to dampen the top layer. But then the wind got up and as soon as it was damp it was dry again in a whirlwind of leaves as silver birch leaves fluttered everywhere and here we are back at square one. Parched earth, desiccated grass and autumnal trees. But at least it wasn’t a downpour as on this hard ground it would have washed away and taken most of the soil with it. Hey ho, the weather can never please us all 

The rain in Spain is obviously staying there …. 

So many questions this week about how the animals and birds cope with the heat. Here on the Reserve they don’t need special and extra measures to help them cope. Maybe an additional mineral lick or two, but there are so many shady, cool woodland areas and although the lakes are dropping still plenty of water to drink. A major advantage to having all 170 acres to roam, rather than a smaller paddock or enclosure where shade and food and water hasto be supplied. It’s the humans who need more help. 

Who’s turn is it to sit in front of the fan??? …. 

Père David's Deer, Watatunga, Norfolk

And so, the school holidays are with us and it’s wonderful to see so many excited and happy faces when we have younger ones on the buggies with us. I wonder how many are going to be keeping Holiday Diaries? One delightful lass earlier this week was thrilled to be able to include her I Spy card, photos and a Bustard feather for hers. Such a neat idea and engaging for both youngster and parents 

Dear diary …. 

Hog in Velvet

The 2 adult Hog Deer males have now lost all the velvet from their antlers (in velvet seen here in this photo) and so now are in ‘hard antler’. Impressive they are as well, although one is decidedly bigger than the other. Now we wait to see the results of their attempts to gain top spot in the dominance hierarchy. I was fascinated watching a juvenile male defer to an older male. The younger one approached the older gingerly and kept turning his rump towards the older male. Was this a sign of submission or respect? Was he showing a weaker part of his body to show that he meant no challenge to the older male?  Certainly the older male seemed not to mind him approaching quite close and watched with disdain the younger male’s arrival at a patch of graze. Another slightly younger looking male also attempted to join them both but without this posturing and was quickly seen off by both the other two. 

Grandmother’s footsteps Hog Deer style …. 

What a cheeky pair our Roan and Scimitar horned Oryx can be. Not content with the huge area of the Reserve to find their food when the gates of the soft release enclosure were opened to allow for hay cutting and baling, they were in there without a second thought. Meals on tractor wheels as they munched the freshly cut grass and when seen looked as if their being there was the most natural thing in the world!!!! Couldn’t hide from their adventure as both had hay twine on their horns, dead giveaway! But is came off easily enough when, with very full tummies, they ran back on to the Reserve 

We can see you …. 

I’ve been asked why the animals in the Reserve do not try to escape. Well I guess they don’t feel the need to too. After all they have all the water, food and shelter they can ever need. I suspect many species don’t have the innate curiosity that the human species have and are content with what they have rather than constantly searching for ‘greener pastures’ on the other side of the fence. Without the need to look for other areas in which to range why would an animal want to leave? Even in larger Reserves, for example Kruger National Park in South Africa where I worked for 18 years, it was generally the temptation of food that drove animals such as elephant, over the perimeter fence. The lure of the fields of commercially gown sugar cane bordering the southern part of the Part could prove too great in the winter. And occasionally, if population numbers rose, the need to create independent territories would tempt lions to try to reclaim territories denied to them by the fence. But these were exceptional occurrences. 

Home, sweet home …. 

Watatunga Sunset

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