The Tiny Builder—By Johan
Lango Camp is one of my favourite spots for birding – not just in Odzala, but anywhere in Africa. Its raised walkways give a different perspective as they wind through the gallery forest. It’s at its most enjoyable in late afternoon as the sun slips behind the Camp.
When you spend time here, you’ll be amazed at the sheer diversity of birdlife. But, it’s not just birds that catch the eye. On a recent afternoon, I spotted what I thought was a mouse, scurrying up a tree trunk
When I finally got my binoculars trained on it, I realised that was in fact the tiniest squirrel I’d ever seen. Yet another seemingly odd-sized creature to reinforce the idea that Odzala is off the scale.
At first I thought it must be a baby – but then where was the mother? As I often do, I returned to the lounge to consult one of our well-thumbed field guides. The most diminutive squirrel listed was the African Pygmy Squirrel – the world’s smallest.
Maybe my eyes were sharper than I thought! This little guy is a mere 12cm (less than five inches) in length and tops out at 15g (½oz). Two weeks passed before I saw the tell-tale lightning-fast reddish blur racing along the branches. When she finally paused on a liana, I saw that she had a tiny ball of moss in her mouth, to be used in the lining of her nest.
Gravity it seems does not apply to pygmy squirrels – whether pausing upside down under a branch, or scurrying backwards and forwards with nesting – they seem to flow through the trees.
Occasionally she’d pause from her labours to regard me warily with her outsized eyes. Now that mine had been opened to this new world at Lango, I began to see squirrels everywhere. They ranged from rope squirrels all the way up to an African Giant Squirrel, hastily shoving fruits into his cheek-pouches. The shells and seeds he sent flying in all directions would become the next generation of Lango trees.
Watching the charismatic pygmy squirrel made me realise that that sometimes the most memorable sightings be of creatures no larger than a man’s thumb. Something you’ll discover when you visit Odzala.