February 14, 2013

leopard prints in the rain-dappled sands

It is late morning and the sky is progressively more cloudy. I hear the rumble of thunder from the hills of Vera Plaines. Perhaps a storm will roll in later today.  I sort camera gear and am soon  bicycling to Point Dick beach, from where I have decided to trek to the first lagoon south, a walk of approximately three kilometers.  The elephants have been busy here in the open scrub along the beach.  Tracks and fresh dung are plentiful.

The weather changes once again, and now the sun is steaming hot, turning the humidity of the coast to a sweltering oven.  I lament the lack of clouds for the light is hot and overwhelming, not particularly photogenic in the glare of sea.

a hot day through a steamy lens on the road to Point Dick

As I approach the lagoon, a sudden splashing like hands clapping on the water focusses my attention to the shoreline.  A crocodile, little more than a meter long, is running through the shallows for the safety of deeper water, where it eyes me for a few seconds before slowly sinking out of sight.  I come upon the tracks where it has crawled out of the lagoon to bask along the shore, and then a return trail through fresh-muddied water.  Glassing the distant shore for signs of life is an exercise in futility, for the heat of the day is relentless and few animals would likely be moving about until evening.

A little overheated, I find a beached log to stretch out for a nap and an hour passes before I notice the clouds have returned and the sea breeze a few degrees cooler.  Following the edge of the lagoon, I come upon several sets of sititunga tracks in the sands bordering the water.  At the northern tip of lagoon, leopard tracks appear in the moist sand along a tide pool.  They are nearly the size of the palm of my hand, likely a young adult.  The tracks show well in the rain-dappled sandy environment, and I follow in reverse to where the leopard has left the embankment of scrub forest to meander along the sandy bottom, where it has come upon the tracks of sititunga to follow before disappearing back into the scrub forest.  The freshness of the tracks suggest they are maybe two nights ago, and at the end of the most recent rainfall in this area.  I haven’t thought about leopards in a while, rarely seeing any sign of them, and this casts the scrub forest in new light.  I imagine the leopard watching as I follow the edge of coastal forest.

leopard tracks, 8 to 9 centimeters wide, circle a tide pool at the edge of the coastal forest

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