June 2021

Winter in the bush

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Winter in the bush

Joffers McCormick
By Joffers McCormick
Field Guide

This year, winter has been a chilly one thus far. During our previous summer we received close on double what our annual rainfall should be therefore the water tables are still fairly high. With the rivers and the dams still looking beautiful as they hold the much-needed water for the fauna and flora, it is something special to have the bush drying up but still having available water sources that make all the difference.  

Strangely enough we have had some rainfall in the winter months and this is something that is quite unusual for us but in saying that, it has actually benefited us in the bush from many perspectives. The winter rainfall has kept the Sand River flowing and ensured that the dam water levels do not drop. The biggest impact that the winter rain has had for us is that of “watering” the burnt areas and the fire breaks. By doing these burns it takes away a fair amount of food sources for the various animals and may put some pressure on the specific species but after having these burnt areas receive some rain, they are now flourishing with life, with everything from large herds of buffalo to the ever so graceful impala. 

Photograph by Gareth Poole

The mere fact that the burnt areas have gone from a saddened look of despair to having a beautiful blanket of greenery seems to be two worlds apart. One could look at these areas of new growth as a starting point for the circle of life in the bush. The new fresh grass will attract multiple different species such as zebra, buffalo, impala and many more. Due to these prey species being attracted to the fresh vegetation, this then in turn will attract a variety of different predators due to the availability of food sources. A predator will hang around in the area waiting for the right opportunity to pounce and make its move. If it is lucky, it will get a meal and the process will continue. If a predator has successfully made a kill, this will result in scavengers being attracted to the area. Once the carcass is finished and seems to be over, there is still a lot more that will take place to complete the circle. The bones that were not consumed will now start to disintegrate and decompose to fill the soils with valuable nutrients that will then result in lush palatable vegetation. Some species will also practice osteophagy, this is when herbivores will consume bones in order to get a calcium supplements, and without the predators making kills this would not be possible. This can all be related back to where the new vegetation started to grow and create multiple opportunities for the various species. This all also just shows how in tune Nature is and how all of the different aspects fall into place and have a direct impact on one another no matter how big all small. 

In the coming months we are in for an adventure and it is going to be interesting to see how the rest of the year develops with the changing environment.