Okavango Carnage

Every season in the Okavango Delta is special, with scenes playing out that seem to be out of place, such as the drying up of the pools on the seasonal floodplains.

With the drying of the water in the seasonal delta pools are left dotted across the landscape. They may be deep holes scoured out over time, or small shallow depressions of an old buffalo wallow, but life on the floodplains at this time revolves around them.

Colours of a Season

©Shem Compion

Birds flock in from all sides, arriving in the dawn and through the day, staying to the last light. The pools become a collection of shapes and colours as numerous species clamber for the bounty. Pelicans and Marabou Storks jostle with Egrets and Saddle-billed Storks as Herons and Hamerkops hustle for their share, with Fish Eagles keeping an eye on proceedings.

The pools turn to mud from the churning and soon the birds will move to the next pool, leaving only the larger fish fighting for space in the ever-dwindling mud.

After the carnage

After watching the carnage over a period of days the silence of the area around a pool the day after the flocks have left is overwhelming. Feathers are plastered into the mud, tracks litter the ground and white splotches are splattered over the scene, with the only sound the occasional muddy splash of a large fish that has escaped the flocks.

The life of a fish trap pool after the drama of the feeding frenzy will depend on how soon the rains or the flood bring water to the area. The pool may still hold large fish, and in particular catfish, that can survive in mud for extended periods. At times crocodiles may be trapped in the mud, caught by the speed of the drying up.

Leigh Kemp

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