Friday, 2 December 2011

Kruger: Pretoriuskop to Lower Sabie

When I look through my photos from the past two days, it appears I have far more to talk about than I had thought. That must be a good sign, or a sign of old age. I will take it to be good.  The weather has been cloudy, and the cats sightings have been difficult, and I have yet to see cheetah number 6! Yesterday was moving day and I packed the car at 3.40 am because I was too tired the night before. It was scary! The whole camp was deadly quiet, but for the sounds of my huffing and puffing as I tried to manouevre ammo boxes and camera equipment into position for the trip. The only light was the flicker of my torch as I scanned the fence a few metres away from my car.  The odd woodlands kingfisher and nightjar called out occasionally to let me know I was not completely alone… When it was done, I drove up to the gate, coffee in hand, just in time for it to open at 4.30 am.

Big eyes

Cub standing on Mom!

I went directly to the hyena den, and again spent a wonderful couple of hours with the pups. This time a few adults were in attendance, and they completed many of their bizarre greeting rituals. The cubs were completely relaxed in my presence, much more so than the previous day, and I could park not far from them, and reposition the car without them running into the den. The same could not be said for some of the others who passed by, but they soon left the pups and I to our business. I have named them Max and Milly (seems strange to name them, but I’m alone, so I can do what I like!) Milly is named after Dr Gus Mills who wrote a fascinating book called ‘Kalahari days, hyena nights’. It is a great read, in particular if you have an interest in what goes on behind the scenes in a hyenas life.

Dragonfly at Biyamiti

The rest of the morning passed relatively uneventfully, until I was nearing Lower Sabie. I saw a flash of blue off to the side of my car, and what looked like 2 birds and a frog… ‘That’s not right’ I thought. I stopped, reversed and to my great surprise there sat a pair of Woodlands Kingfishers and their kill. The one was nervous, and flew into the tree behind, but the other was either braver, or unable to fly due to the size of his prize! I had never seen this before, that’s for sure, and I had been struggling to get photo of a Woodlands KF, let alone one with a frog dangling limply, little hands outstretched, from its beak. I spent quite a long while watching as this bird tried to decide what on earth to do with the giant creature it had a grasp on. Every car which stopped drove on past me, disappointed that my lens wasn’t pointing at a leopard, but I was overjoyed with this little gem of a sighting. Eventually the bird managed to fit the frog's head in its mouth, and began bashing the legs against the branch, before flying off proudly with 2 hind legs trailing below him reaching for the earth.

That afternoon, I spotted a leopard on a back road near Lower Sabie, my current place of residence. In a flash it melted away into the grass, and try as I might, I could not relocate him.

Buffalo wallow- one in a herd of around 300 near Lower Sabie

Vultures sharing an impala lamb

This morning I went driving in search of ‘My Special Place’. I have two of these, one being Biyamiti Weir, and another a concrete lower level bridge over a small river quite far south. This time the river was empty, but for a small puddle of water. The whole area is quite dry, which I was at first disappointed about. What I did find at the special place was a few bee-eaters who were catching the butterflies and bees and landing on a well-positioned perch, which usually houses a kingfisher or two.  While watching them a giraffe came down to drink, and he had a tough time of it, trying to get his head low enough to reach the puddle. The ‘puddle’ is actually inside a small rocky hole, so he really had to work for it.  Lining his neck, there must have 20 or so Red Billed Oxpeckers, having a good time cleaning him of ticks. We sat there, Bart, myself, and the bee eaters, all watching the spectacle of the giraffe as I drank nearly a whole flask of coffee.

On the way toward the special place I again found myself a hyena den close to the road, and this den had multiple young and adults in attendance. More adults arrived, and this again provided some interesting interaction. Hyena live in a matriarchal society, where even the lowest ranking female including cubs will rank higher than any male in the clan. The alpha female's cub also generally becomes the new ‘Clan Queen’ when her mother dies. When hyenas meet each other, there is a lot of private part sniffing, which is a part bonding, part dominance exercise. The higher-ranking individuals will also often bite, or shake the sub dominant ones, and a lot of squealing and subservient body language and actions take place.  Every now and then one would let off a call that can only be described as an alarm bell. I have included a few pictures to give an idea of how these interesting mammals behave, but the book described above throws some great insight into the topic.

Three Musketeers
Adults approaching the cubs, tails raised in excitement

Greeting rituals all around the densite

I eventually arrived back at 2.30, a few lions sightings under the belt, and feeling exhausted. I set my alarm for 4.30, but must have slept through it playing ‘The Can Can’ for around an hour until it finally woke me up at 5.20pm…

Leopard on the rocks

I drove down to the river, where I found a very interesting and heart breaking sighting unfolding. On the rocks, too far for any decent photography, were two leopards, a mother and her nearly independent cub. She was ignoring him as he dragged about a baby bushbuck, which could not have been more than two weeks old. The heart breaking part was that it was still alive, and had apparently been caught nearly two hours previously. Every time he released his grasp, or began to lick it, it would try to break free, very feebly, occasionally falling off the boulders. He would then jump down and reclaim his prize, who would try and kick out, to no avail. The little calf's eyes were glazed over, and it seems incredible that it was still alive, barely able to move, which just shows the determination of life to find a way. Its fate is of course inevitable, as it is exhausted and weak, but the cub must be learning a valuable lesson on how to kill its prey. Below are a few photo’s, heavily cropped, for interest's sake.

Cub and glazed- eyed lamb

Tonight I think I will have noodles again, as making proper food seems far too much of an effort right now!

Baboon's hand

1 comment:

  1. amazing set of photos. I am envious of your trip as my memories of Africa and kruger are one of the best of my life. Wish I could go back!