Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/275

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267
TROOPS OF LIONS—FLIGHTS OF KITES.

"Still the same burning sun! no cloud in heaven!
The hot air quivers; and the sultry mist
Floats o'er the desert with a show
Of distant waters."

The presence of herds of the beautiful oryx, the lively quagga, and the grotesque gnoo, which looked like

"Beasts of mixed and monstrous birth,
Creations of some fabled earth,"

served further to enhance the interest of the scene.

These were glorious times for the lions, who were exceedingly numerous. On passing Tineas and Onanis, both famous strongholds for this animal, we started troops of them among the broken ground, but they invariably ran away, and all my efforts to get a shot at them were unavailing.

One day, while refreshing ourselves and cattle in the midst of a scene like that just described, the men being busy cutting up, or "dressing," as butchers would say, two fine oryxes, the produce of the morning hunt, we were suddenly surrounded by a cloud of kites. The actions of these birds were most strange. Hovering within a few feet of our heads, they eyed us steadily for a while, and then took themselves off as if satisfied. Another batch would now approach so near that, in order to avoid coming in contact with us, they threw themselves on their backs, spreading out their wings and talons, and opening their beaks, while one or two actually, with a swoop, snatched the food out of the hands of the natives. It was only after having brought down several with the rifle that the rest thought best to keep at a more respectful distance.[1]

This day, and during the whole of the following, we encountered myriads of lemon-colored butterflies. Their num-

  1. Several well-known Australian explorers make mention of similar occurrences with this identical bird. I have also heard that in India it is no unusual thing to see hawks snatch the food from a person as he travels along.