You call out the names of birds as you see them and identify them; it’s a kind of politeness. Sometimes they look, sometimes they don’t.
This time I certainly had the attention of my audience. They turned their eyes skywards to catch sight of the two monsters that flew overhead and no one contradicted me. These creatures looked like flying spears – no, more like flying pikes or halberds.
Pelicans, they were. Not birds you see every day in the Luangwa Valley. Great white pelican, to be precise: which, since you ask, is the world’s fifth heaviest flying bird.
“Are they rare?”
Amon Zulu, the guide, explained. “They are not really rare, but not often seen because they are not often found in the same place.”
“They are movious,” I said helpfully, And with some delight. Amon laughed in agreement: this is a word in Zambian English, one not really rare, but at the same time not found every day. It covers the notion of seldom sticking to the same place.
It’s a helpful word in all forms of wildlifing, and it should become part of everybody’s vocabulary. Leopards stick to their territories, but within that territory you never know where or when they’ll turn up. They are highly movious.
Elephants don’t trouble themselves with territorial boundaries and travel as the mood and the matriarch and the food sources dictate. Sometimes they’re content to hang to hang around in a place where they feel comfortable. For an elephant, that generally involves eating; they need an extraordinary throughput of vegetation to keep them going.
But they will travel for miles with a long, purposeful, power-walking stride – the babies almost running to keep up – when they are
heading towards a fruiting tree, commuting from A to B like a sort of wagon train. Elephants too are very movious.
And then a glimpse of something deeply familiar in the tail of my eye, and I risked whiplash to make the ID. European swallow! The same species that nests in barns and carports and stables across Britain.
Here was a tiny bird that had travelled all the way from Europe and looked as much at home in the Valley as they did across my meadow 7,000 miles away.
That’s swallows for you. Highly movious.
· I was co-leading the Sacred Combe Safari with Chris Breen from www.wildlifeworldwide.com