January in Odzala is what is known as “the small dry season” with its vegetation slowly getting drier. Light sprinklings of rain remind us that we are in a rainforest as we move deeper into this season and the frequency of decent downpours is on the decline. Pockets of rain moving through the general area allow us to experience spectacular lightning displays, hear the trees sighing in the wind, feel the rise in temperature and humidity and even smell the fresher air, rather than actually receive the full might of a rainstorm.
January has been a little up and down for mammals. Fewer sightings of elephants were had, but fresh tracks are a constant around Lango, Mboko and the main road out of the Odzala Kokoua National Park.
Chimpanzees have been quite common to hear and we were even fortunate enough to see a group of five individuals composed of a male, two females and two youngsters. This took place on an expedition that we call “the adventure trail,” which is a fabulous walk that makes its way through different habitats including waist-high water near Lango Camp.
Another highlight for this month was a sighting of the shy servaline serval (a serval with a more densely spotted coat) that often wanders along the road after a rain to scent-mark its territory. This typical behaviour of a cat as also been observed with leopards – of which we have come across many a track lately.
On the gorilla news front, Neptuno has been hanging around the south-west of the trail network, happily making the walk to find his group slightly less challenging than the usual, whereas Jupiter got found relatively close to camp before heading south into more or less the same area where Neptuno is at the moment. (Clearly, the large grape-sized fruit of the Otombo trees that are found in that area are quite tasty.)
We’ve had regular sightings of putty-nosed monkey around Ngaga Camp along with a few good glimpses of moustached monkey and Guerezza colobus. A phenomenal variety of squirrels were seen and heard including red-legged sun squirrel, Thomas’s and a few I have yet to identify (but it seems impossible without expert help). An African sheath-tailed bat was given a helping hand (actually scooped up with indemnity forms) to get airborne again.
The highlight was when we were able to get a good look at the elusive Lord Derby’s anomalure! Also known as flying squirrels, these stunning mammals climb up very high trees and then glide from one to another.
Our feathery friends have featured at the forefront of the first four weeks for 2014. Bee-eaters are rocking the month of January, with black, blue-headed, black-headed, blue-breasted and white-throated all on the month’s list. There have been a few lesser-crested arguments about what is most probably a European honey buzzard (I conceded that one because of lack of evidence) – and fortunately we had black-collared lovebirds to distract us a bit later… life’s tough in the forest, isn’t it?