Quite an exciting night!

Surviving mountain chicken habitat
Mountain chickens still survive in the Centre Hills, we walk certain ghauts such as this one to search for them. ©Gerardo Garcia

Blacka and I (Payana) went to Pelican Ghaut to look for surviving mountain chickens. This was my first trip to Pelican and having been warned about the massive slippery rocks I would be climbing, I had pep talked myself (and my boots) into holding tight, on the way towards the ghaut. It turned out to be true: Pelican does have a lot of big “soapy” rocks which are quite hard to stand on without slipping and getting your feet wet (which did happen on more than one occasion – for me, not Blacka, who was constantly 30 metres ahead of me, having to patiently wait up for the slow Dane).

We walked slowly up the ghaut chit-chatting away about… hmm everything and nothing really, when something went “splop – splat – splash” between the two of us. Blacka spun

around and I looked down, just in time to see a mountain chicken disappear under a rock. The sound we had heard had come from the frog jumping out from under a pile of leaves (splop) onto a rock between me and Blacka (splat) and jumping into the water under a rock (splash). WUHUU A FROG! Frogs haven’t been seen in this area for absolutely ages.

Blacka and I looked in amazement into the water where the frog had disappeared, then looked at each other and more or less said at the same time “that wasn’t a toad!”. It had all happened really fast and we hardly dared to believe that we had actually seen it. After agreeing on the fact that it was definitely not a toad but a mountain chicken, we tried to find the frog again. We obviously wanted to have a closer look at it, swab it and do biometrics, but this proved to be a challenge. The hole the frog had disappeared into under the rock, was apparently never ending and we could not get it out. We decided to leave the frog alone for a while, walk the rest of the ghaut and come back and see if the frog had come out by then.

Examining a mountain chicken
Payana examines a mountain chicken. ©Gerardo Garcia

We walked up to the waterfall (hmm or the very steep, slightly wet cliff) and saw a crayfish eating a bird, which looked quite bizarre. We watched it finish its meal and then Blacka caught the crayfish and stuffed it in his bag ready to cook later… circle of life I guess. We went back down the ghaut to find the frog, but no luck, the frog was nowhere to be seen, still exciting though. Maybe we will see when we return to Pelican in a couple of weeks…

– Payana Hendriksen

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