The miracle of life in the bush…What a wonder!…

And, there she was, Ms. Bushbuck, on the bottom step of our veranda with her precious newborn, proudly showing her off.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This newspaper article appeared in yesterday’s local paper, definitely befitting a “Sighting of the Day in the Bush!

It’s 4:30 pm, and we just returned from Kruger National Park after an exciting and harrowing day which we’ll share in tomorrow’s post. WoW! All I can say is…

We recognized this mom based on her “dots” formation and how readily she approached us. She’s been visiting us every day over the past several weeks.
As for today’s story, I wished I’d have prepared and posted it before leaving for Kruger since now, as the evening wafts in, I’m a little bit off-kilter by writing this late in the day. 
We opted for the latter when Tom and I discussed whether we’d go to Jabula for dinner tonight or stay in, get the post done, and cook something easy for dinner. After sitting in the car for hours, the thought of getting ready to go out after I finish here isn’t particularly appealing.
The baby wasn’t quite sure what to do when she had never seen a pellet before.   She didn’t partake, only watching her mom take them from my hand.
As we’re sitting on the veranda, lightning, and thunder filling the skies above us, after it finally cooled after days of excessive heat, we’re content, especially after we came “home” to nine kudus, four warthogs, and one male bushbuck all waiting for us. 
Now, for today’s little story…a story of love and a wonderment…a story of nature at its finest for us humble animal lovers who can’t miss an opportunity to share a tender story of a birth, a life, and devotion.
She was curious as to what was transpiring and showed no fear.
It all began about three weeks ago (we’ve been here almost five weeks) when the most beautiful and friendly female bushbuck came into the yard to introduce herself. Keeping in mind, most of the animals in Marloth Park of a species are hard to differentiate when they often have almost identical markings and features.
But, this lovely young lady has some specific “polka dots” on her body that has made it easy for us to know it was her each time she’s come to visit over these many weeks.
Another special aspect to “Ms. Bushbuck” has been her willingness and eagerness to eat the pellets from my hand even more readily than taking those we’ve tossed onto the ground, as we do for most species. She lifts her head and makes eye contact with me as if asking, “Will you feed me?” How can I possibly turn her down?
When we fed mom the pellets, the baby hung around but soon lost interest and wandered a few meters away.
Unlike some female animals, she welcomes Tom equally and doesn’t skitter away when he comes close. She relates to him feeding her pellets as well but not quite as up close and personal as I do. 
Several times each day, she’s stopped by, and each time, we’ve both smiles at one another, happy to see her return. About a week ago, we noticed she’s stopped by around the same time each early evening while we sit on the veranda winding down for the day with a glass of iced tea, wine, or beer (for Tom).
Mom stopped eating to check on the whereabouts of her infant.
I fed her a few pellets, which she accepted gingerly, but without the usual enthusiasm she exhibits during daylight hours. After a few handfuls, she moseys off to the same spot in the bush in our yard where she settles in for the night, nestling into what appears to be the same spot each night, almost as if she’s built a comfy spot to sleep.
Once darkness falls, we could no longer see her there, but we’ve sensed she still is. We haven’t wanted to startle her by taking a light out there to check. In the morning, when we’re finally outdoors by 6:00 and 6:30 am, she’s been standing near the veranda waiting for us to come out.
By 9:00 or 10:00 am, she returns to see us, enthused for more pellets and a sip of water from the cement pond in the yard, not far from where she nestles at night.
We were thrilled and surprised to see Ms. Bushbuck returned with her tiny newborn.
One morning, while I was getting ready for the day, Tom was outside with her, feeding her pellets.  The warthogs tried to drive her away. She nestled in, close to Tom’s legs while he sat on the edge of the veranda, looking for protection from the aggressiveness of the warthogs. He didn’t hesitate to make her feel safe.
Often, she returns a few more times during the day, only to repeat this same pattern in the evening over the past week. We assumed she’s become comfortable with us and sleeps nearby, most likely up and about in the mornings long before us.
We never saw her return for the night on Wednesday night but assumed we’d see her again soon. Last night, after a 24-hour absence, she returned, but this time…she wasn’t alone…our hearts melted…at her side was the tiniest and I mean tiniest…little bushbuck we’ve ever seen.
At first, as they approached, the baby was a little hesitant.  But, mom, knowing she needed to nurse, wanted all the sustenance she could get.  She ate her fair share of pellets.
Sure, we can make all the assumptions we’d like about wildlife and their patterns and behavior.  And most times, we’d be wrong. But, somehow, this time, we feel confident we are right. Ms. Bushbuck returned to show us her precious tiny newborn.
Of course, we oohed and aahed over her shy baby, which undoubtedly she’d given birth to in that 24-hour time span we hadn’t seen her and her response was to enthusiastically accept countless handfuls of pellets from me, all the while keeping a watchful eye on her little bundle of joy.
Periodically, the baby would wander a few meters away, but mom never failed to take note and gather her baby back into the fold. Together, they stayed with us for hours, mom nibbling, baby suckling, and us smiling from ear to ear.
She’s a proud and happy mom, very young herself.
Tonight, it’s blissfully raining in buckets, and we don’t expect to see them in this downpour. But I assure you, we have no doubt they’ll return while we have the joyous opportunity to watch this little one grow and this loving mom nurture her along the way. 

Safari luck? Perhaps. Or, maybe we happen to be in the right place at the right time. However, in our heart of hearts, we’d like to believe that somehow, just somehow, our love of nature has put us in these divine situations because we belong here.

Thank you, dear readers, for sharing this magical place with us. We couldn’t be more appreciative and humbled.

Photo from one year ago today, March 16, 2017:

The Esplanade, a walkway along the shore in Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia. For more photos, please click here.

Another extraordinary day on the farm…Graphic birthing video and photos…

This is the first full birthing video we’ve taken since our arrival at the alpaca farm over six weeks ago.

I get it. Some of our readers may be tired of hearing about the alpacas. For you, we apologize for our one-track minds while living on this farm. Were any animal lovers living here, it would be easy to see how enthralled we have become with these amazing animals.

We both giggled over our “safari luck” to be able to see the birth when we happened to be walking past.

While living in  South Africa, we were equally wrapped up in the animals on a daily basis as they wandered about our vacation rental, in the same manner, they do here. 

The only difference here is the lack of variety in breeds of animals when instead we have the immense variety of the differences in personalities of the alpacas the more and more we come to know them. Even the rapidly growing cria have developed their own demeanor setting them apart from the others.

Elliouse walked about the paddock as the birth progressed, never far from the other mom or our easy viewing.
Yesterday morning, Tom and I walked toward Trish and Neil’s home to check out birds they invited us to see at any time. Although they weren’t home we were sensitive in respecting their privacy by avoiding any photos of their house itself instead, taking photos of some of the interesting surroundings which we’ll soon post.

We never saw the birds they’d described but will return again soon to see what we may find and when we do, we’ll certainly post those photos as well.

More ears crowning.

On the way toward their home, I mentioned to Tom that one of the four pregnant moms was moaning all of which have been kept in the separate paddock along the road awaiting the birth of their cria.  

With his less-than-ideal hearing from years of working on the railroad, at times he’s unable to hear certain sounds.  On the walk back from their home, I noticed the moaning has escalated a little, not outrageously loud but slightly more detectible. At that point, Tom was able to hear her as well.

For a moment, Elliouse sat down to rest while the other moms watched with their heads up as they waited for the birth.

We stopped, camera in hand, and with our limited experience we could tell a small portion of the cria’s face was “crowning.” The birth of the cria could be imminent. As small as she was compared to the others, we wondered if she may be a young mom having her first birth. Would her small stature present as an issue? 

With Trish and Neil at work, with him as a physician (not a vet) and both highly experienced in the delivery of the cria, if we needed to reach them we could do so quickly when they both work in town and could get back to the farm in 20 minutes, if necessary.

Elouise almost looks as if she is smiling as she sees the cria’s birth was going as nature intended with the front legs showing. We were also relieved.

Seeing the face crowning through the membranes gave us comfort in hoping we’d soon see the front legs.  Trish and Neil explained that if face and front legs come first, most likely the remainder of the birth will go well, providing there were no other unforeseen complications. 

Having had this experience when Miss Jessica was born one week before my birthday, we’d joyfully watched over her birth when Trish and Neil were out of the town.  With both of them in close proximity and, based on our past experience, we weren’t worried, instead, feeling excited. 

Our goal during yesterday’s occasion was to make a video of the miraculous birth in its entirety with a number of photos accompanying the experience, should anything go wrong with the video.

The cria gently landed on the ground listless only for a few minutes while we watched in anticipation.

With our relatively modest lightweight camera which soon must be replaced after substantial humidity has caused issues over these past 18 months, taking videos is tricky. Regardless, we forged ahead, managing to get the video we hoped at the exact moments of the birth. 

Holding up the camera up for so long was challenging but my motivation didn’t falter. Pain or not, I held it up in place as we waited, attempting to anticipate the moment to begin the video when our intention was to keep it short with uploading issues on metered wifi. 

Few readers care to watch a 10-minute video when we’ve determined keeping a video under two minutes is ideal which we managed in this case albeit a bit shakily when I’d been holding up the camera for quite some time. There was no time to run back to our house for the tripod.

This is at 10 minutes after the birth, as the cria wiggles on the grass attempting to stand.

It was interesting watching the three other moms as they stood to watch over her during the birth of her cria.  There was no doubt in our minds they were well aware of what was transpiring as they spent less time grazing and more time on the lookout and engaged in the birth. 

Once the baby was born we started the countdown on the 20 minutes requirement for the cria to stand on its own. If the cria struggled to stand after this time frame or seemed listless, we may have had to help which we were prepared to do if necessary.

This cria hardly needed human intervention when he (we later discovered it was a male), squirmed about almost constantly during that 20 minute period raising his head in less than 8 minutes after his birth.

Smaller mom, Eliouse, didn’t seem to want aunties intruding with the cria, hissing at this pregnant mom a few times.

In precisely 24 minutes from the birth, the cria was on his feet. Wobbly on spindly legs we laughed over and over as he attempted to stand, finally doing so with little certainty but considerable enthusiasm.

We’d be standing at the paddock for over an hour. With the cria and mom both looking healthy and happy we returned home anxious to email Trish, check our photos, and upload the video to YouTube. 

Finally, 24 minutes after birth the cria stands on wobbly legs while mom watches. It’s amazing how the moms know the cria must stand quickly to ensure their good health.

A short time later, we spotted Trish and Neil at the paddock. As it turned out, they were on their way home for lunch, a daily occurrence on workdays. We’d sent an email but they’d yet to see it. 

They were as excited as we were when we shared the experience in their absence.  They explained the mom, named Eliouse, was in fact 12 years old, having given birth to many cria over the years, and was an attentive and loving mom.

Now, with only three pregnant moms yet to give birth, we chuckled over how timely our stay on the farm has been. Had we arrived at any other time of the year, we’d have missed these delightful experiences of the births and the pure pleasure of watching these playful youngsters as they quickly grow.

If showing these funny lower teeth (alpacas don’t have upper teeth) can indicate an emotional state of happiness, Eliouse was indeed happy with the birth of her new offspring. We were happy too!  What an experience!

Today, when the cleaning people arrive soon, we’ll be off to town to shop at a variety of markets. We both enjoy the shopping each week, especially stopping at a number of locations.

Each day offers some degree of magic, whether it’s the birth of a cria, the singing of a bird, or a flower blooming as summer winds down in New Zealand. It only requires us to pay attention to our surroundings. May your surroundings provide YOU with some magic today!

Photo from one year ago today, March 3, 2015:

Kealia Beach as we walked along the Kauai Path on a sunny day in Kauai one year ago. For more photos from the Kauai Path, please click here.