Spur-winged goose

Sehudi’s Domain

On one occasion, as one of our vehicles was driving from water hole to water hole doing water-pump maintenance, they came across a duckling wandering around the riverbed. It seemed alone and unattended so they brought it home. The Leroo-La-Tau family took it in and raised it, just like we had done with the mongoose and the baby zebra. We named him Sehudi, which means Duck in Tswana. Not very original we know, but after all, that was what it looked like. As he grew older, we found that he was growing too quickly, outstripping most of the other duck species that frequented our area. We realised our mistake and that he wasn’t a duck at all, but swiftly becoming a lovely specimen of a Spur Winged Goose. It’s quite hard to tell apparently when they are little balls of fluff.Most of us have been around geese at some point or another in our lives, and know that these can be rather bad tempered and aggressive creatures when they want to be and Sehudi was no different. Our Lodge building was flanked on 2 sides by a ranch type pole fence structure leading from the lodge to the edge of the cliffs overlooking the riverbed. The area between the river, the ranch fences and the lodge was covered in lawn and this formed the majority of our gardened area. The Lodge structure housed the Bar, Dining Area, Curio shop and an upstairs lounge. The rooms were all tented accommodation the majority of which, with the exception of tent 4, were located outside the lawned area and each overlooked the river. Sehudi had claimed the lawn as his domain and had undertaken to rigorously patrol his domain by walking up and down the ridge cap on top of the roof of the lodge structure.

Sehudi was a very helpful little goose, and at one point while my folks were up visiting, my mom, being a keen gardener was busy potting plants for the lodge. Sehudi believed he was helping to do what he thought she was doing and every time she finished potting a plant, Sehudi would get in there and chew it up. Eventually my mom, got irritated with his assistance and emptied a nearby bucket of water over him. He never forgave her.

Another memory of Sehudi was when Steve was teaching him to fly. Sehudi also believed that he was, like us, a human entitled with all the rights we gave ourselves and as he had free reign in the lodge he believed he belonged with us. We didn’t fly, so he didn’t fly either. So he had to be taught how to fly and this presented a problem because he had on interest in doing so. Steve would pick him up and run around the garden throwing the silly bird into the air. When he landed, he would make a dash for it and we all had to run around and catch him for his next lesson. He found an escape which irritated Steve to no end. When he was launched into the air, he would direct himself off the edge of the cliff and as we had no quick way down to the river bed, Steve had to drive the vehicle to get him, a round trip of almost 3 km, giving himself a long break between lessons.

His favourite pastime was to lie in ambush under some bushes at the edge of the lawn area and wait for people to enter his domain, either from the accommodations heading to the lodge, or between lodge and the viewing area which we had labelled the “Pit” overlooking the cliffs of the riverbed. The pit was a tear-drop shaped area that we had cut out of the top of the cliffs creating a Boma type environment surrounded by embankment on 3 sides and open to the river. It was also where we had our evening drinks and snacks around the fire and provided access to the Hide halfway down the cliff face down below.

As people crossed the lawns Sehudi would identify those unaware of his presence and on them would he launch his charge which ended with him chasing the unfortunate victim across the lawn. It was lots of fun. As he grew bigger and stronger and with Steve’s input began to learn how to fly, these charges became less and less fun for his victims and more and more fun for Sehudi.

I remember having visitors from Orapa one day and on arrival after we had warned them of this pets habits we then offered drinks at the pit to see the game making use of the waterhole below. Most of us, done with our drinks has returned to the Lodge, leaving one of the party behind watching the game at the waterhole. For the purpose of this story, lets call him Grant. It wasn’t long after our return when Grant followed us across the lawn. He had made the crucial mistake of separating himself from the herd and Sehudi, “the predator” leapt into action. I was standing in the lodge watching all this play out and as it developed so quickly had no time to intercept.

The lodge was built on stilts and so it’s floor was about a meter off the ground and it took 4 stairs to reach the door. Grant, saw Sehudi waddling towards him and thinking nothing of it he continued walking towards the lodge. Sehudi’s waddled walk turned into a weird looking run that only ducks can carry off, which must have alerted Grant to his predicament as he increased his pace to a brisk walk, then a jog, then a run. With his ambush blown, Sehudi opened his wings and flapping them picked up speed, Grant started sprinting. By the time they were almost atop each other they were only a couple of meters from the lodge. Sehudi was airborne and Grant’s only escape was to make a rugby dive for the door which ended with him scuttling across the polished wooden floors and Sehudi, very pleased with himself marching across the entrance preening. He was really happy with himself and his life in general.

We changed his name to Christmas, intending to include Goose in our approaching Christmas Menu. Nah, we didn’t do that but there were certainly times we did feel like it. As it so happened, when the rains came it brought with it other Spur Winged geese. At first Sehudi wanted nothing to do with these, not recognising his own natural species, but as the season wore on we found him making longer and longer forays to the pools in the river below to spend time with them and leaving his domain abandoned. Eventually when the other geese migrated to more permanent water sources, we found Sehudi had gone with them. I guess that he decided a life of chasing people around the lawn was not as good as it could get and off he went.