Sunday, 29 June 2014

An extraordinary day in Kruger National Park.

The 28th June was not supposed to be a wildlife orientated day. We arose quite late, had breakfast on the veranda & then drove through Kruger on our way to Hazyview. This was our goal for the day, to replenish our meagre food supplies in the house & do our laundry. The drive through the park was quiet. We chose the S3, which is the river route, it ends nicely at Phabeni Gate, just on the edge of Hazyview.
Green-backed Heron
Friendly Giraffes.
We enjoyed good views of a Green-backed Heron fishing & some close ups of a nice herd of Giraffe.
Cape Buffalo.

 Every animal started to rub on a stick!

 Even the little ones joined in!


However, the best sighting was of a breeding herd of around 450 Cape Buffalo, which surrounded us on their way to quenching their thirst in the Sabie River.
 Leusistic Waterbuck.
 The other notable sighting was of a leusistic Waterbuck grazing by the side of a dam. This condition must be quite rare in waterbuck, certainly I have never seen any animal looking like this before.
 This bull Elephant came in for a closer look at us!
We arrived in Hazyview, enjoyed a nice lunch while the laundry was being completed & then did our food shopping in the mall. I then asked the guys if they wanted to go back home through the park again, or the fast route on the tar. They chose the former & what a good choice it turned out to be!
 Star of the show!
We again entered at Phabeni Gate & drove towards Pretoriouskop Camp. Just at the far side of the camp on the main tarred rod, we spotted a fine male Leopard sitting high in a tree. It was close to the road & the lighting was superb! I manoeuvred the car into position & we enjoyed exceptional viewing for the next twenty minutes or so, before he descended the tree & disappeared into the surrounding bush. What a brilliant sighting this was!
 A very young, Spotted Hyena.
We carried on down the main road & came across a very young Spotted Hyena cub by the roadside. He was not concerned at all by our close proximity & when another car pulled up in front of us, he went to examine the little girl, who was inside the car! This was another top notch sighting.
These sightings had now made us a little late for getting out of the park, so I pressed on. Just 10 minutes before closing time, as it was getting dark we saw another male Leopard high in a tree eating its prey. The light was bad for photography, but the sighting was another good one.  It was probably eating an Impala, but the poor light made it impossible to be certain.
Two Leopards in one day doesn’t happen very often & this made for a memorable day in the park, even though we didn’t drive very far from home.

African Python - what an ending to a fantastic day!
 Talking of home, we arrived inside Sabie Park & on the drive to our house, I spotted an enormous African Python by the side of the track. This thing was massive! It was at least 10 feet long & probably longer. We jumped out of the car & enjoyed good views in the torchlight as he/she went on their way, completely ignoring us. It was a really beautiful and impressive beastie, one that you don’t see very often. What an ending to a great day out, which was not planned at all. Africa is often full of surprises!


Saddlebilled Stork - Photo essay.

Saddle-billed Stork is a declining species in southern Africa & its recent decline is a cause for concern. Even in the 1980’s this bird could be found in a variety of wetland habitats, even those found on farms. Today the situation is very different, it being more or less confined to the large game reserves & national parks.
 I came across a pair of these birds fishing in a rapidly diminishing pool, on a small river close to Orpen Dam in Kruger National Park. At first nothing much was happening, but then one bird came tripping through the water towards me. I was just in the correct place at the right time!
 Hammerkop looking hopeful!
 It didn't even get a morsel!

 It eventually caught quite a large fish, which it repeatedly stabbed until it was dead before swallowing. However, this took quite some time! The whole episode was quite fascinating to watch.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Wild Dog - Photo essay.

African Wild Dog.
Wild Dogs are rare. It is estimated that only 3,000 – 5,500 remain in Africa. South Africa, (which is just one of a handful of countries with a viable population of Wild Dog), has just around 500 animals. 350 are found in Kruger National Park.

They are rare because of continual & increasing contact with humans, who build & expand into their natural habitat. Wild Dogs need a very large home range or territory, between 500 & 2,000 square kilometres. Which is quite staggering when compared to other major predators such as Lion (25-75 square kilometres) & Leopards (380-480 square kilometres). Added to this, is the major threat of canine distemper, which they can contract from domestic dogs. Wild Dogs will also prey upon domestic stock, (if wild prey is no longer available), which makes them enemy number one in ranching areas. All of these factors play a role in their scarcity & continued decline across Africa.
On the lookout, in late afternoon.
 Taken in very poor light, with a compact camera!
On 20th June, in late afternoon, Rowan, Ceggy & I were conducting a game drive about 20 kilometres from our home, inside Kruger National Park. We came across nine wild dogs on the dirt road, who were beginning to hunt. They afforded amazing views over a twenty minute period, completely ignoring our presence.
 Here they come!

Very sociable animals - the pack rules.
Very playful!


 Looking a little worried!

 Spotted Hyaena.

 At one stage they came across a Spotted Hyaena den & gave it a good investigation, while its rightful owner looked on helplessly!

Eventually they moved off the road & fanned out in preparation for a hunt.  We reluctantly lost sight of them in the bush. This was a prolonged and exciting encounter with one of Africa’s rarest mammals & we felt very privileged to have seen them. It made a good game drive great!


 Unbelievably, two days later we were driving along another dirt road about 10 kilometres from the above sighting, when we came across the same pack of nine Wild Dogs trotting down the road. As usual, the light was fading so the photos are not spectacular, but we were all thrilled by yet another sighting such as this.
 These five photos were all taken by Ceggy.
 Very playful towards each other.