Vumbura Plains – Wattled Crane, Snake bird, Blacksmith plover, Secretary bird
The new birds seen at Vumbura were wood sandpiper, wattled crane, ring-necked dove, reed cormorant, African darter or snake bird, blacksmith plover and secretary bird. The wattled crane is the most severely threatened crane on the African continent. The Secretary bird is an inimitable bird of prey that appears like a crossbreed between an eagle and a crane. It is the tallest of the raptors standing at 130cm, and is very entertaining to watch. It has an eagle-like head, rounded wings, skinny crane-like legs, two elongated tail feathers and a crest of pen-like quills at the back of the ears.
The last two evenings at Vumbura were occupied with boat trips of quite different character, the first being a ride in a high-speed open boat with a powerful outboard motor and the second a leisurely glide in a punt known as a mokoro canoe. These were traditionally made of ebony wood but are now glass-fibre in order to protect the trees. During the first trip we at times used some of the channels in the reeds kept open by hippos, but the boatman found it necessary more than once to raise the propeller and clear it of vegetation. At one point we could go no further because the way was blocked by a floating mass of papyrus plants. We drove then in the opposite direction and landed on a small island for our sundowner drink. Seen from the mokoro the scale of everything was much smaller and even two minute frogs could be spotted perched on the reed stems.