Sunday, 4 December 2011

Kruger: Rainy days are for relaxing


Hello again! Starting to feel a little like I need someone to talk to in the car, and have found myself singing A LOT to fill the silence. It’s not all bad as it allows me to practice my Afrikaans and French, my two preferred languages of song.

Yesterday, I started off my day with a giant kingfisher which caught and killed a fish over the low water bridge outside  Lower Sabie. This is itself, not that impressive, but it was almost completely dark, around half an hour before sunrise, with lots of cloud cover, so how he managed to see the fish is beyond me! I could barely see him as he sat next to Bart, shaking his head and smashing the fish against the concrete.

Next up, I paid a visit to the hyena den, as it looked as though the sun might make a break through the clouds. It did very briefly, but either way, sitting watching the clan was delightful. There were at least 20 members present yesterday, of varying ages and conditions of scruffiness. One female appeared to have been bitten quite badly by a lion, judging from the size of the puncture wounds, although she could walk fine. The others kept on trying to lick the wound, and hellish moaning would break out, followed by some biting before a respite.

The rest of the morning passed relatively uneventfully, with just one far off lion sighting, but as I wasn’t really tired I decided to only pop back to camp for a bite to eat. I then went and sat at sunset dam, just in case.  I got lucky in the form of a couple of Giant Kingfishers on the bank, and a Pied kingfisher, although the light was terribly dull!  I also saw my first Diedericks Cukoo. And I now know why I have never spotted this bird before: I have been looking for something around 4 times larger… the smile on my face was ridiculous, and I caught some people staring at me, and I’m sure they had a good laugh after I turned my back.

 The afternoon it seemed as though perhaps the long awaited rain would arrive. The wind was blowing a gale, and before long the first droplets began to land on the parched earth. I don’t know why this side of the park is so dry, but there is no water in any of the usual places! I found cheetah 6,7 and 8 all huddling together in some long grass, and although I sat with them nearly an hour, nothing materialized, so I moved off. Next up was a pair of lion, who did nothing much but try and hide from the rain. With that I made my way back to camp, in time to get thoroughly drenched on the way to the kitchen. There is something wonderful about being drenched by huge well needed raindrops, and I barely even ran to escape them. The evening smelt wonderful, full of life and wet ground, and I went to sleep at 8.15pm, smiling.

A pair of Woodlands in todays dull, grey light

This morning it was still heavily overcast when I set out, upwards toward Tshokwane. I didn’t see much on the way there or back, so it was quite quiet for me. The area is beautiful though, and I enjoyed the landscapes and the drive, and watching the woodlands flitting about. A few had a big fight, too far off to photograph, so I watched through the binoculars. On the way back, I spent about an hour with three Ground Hornbill who were busy foraging along the road. I got so absorbed in what I was doing I barely noticed the other cars that joined me at one stage, who were trying to get my attention to find out if I had seen lions. I wondered to myself if they knew these beautiful birds were endangered? It was another bad day for frogs, as the one hornbill found a fat, bloated little fellow, and carried him around for a while before flicking him up into the air, and down the hatch.  I also took my first shots of a lion! They are average to say the least, so I will wait for better ones before I share them… I am sure you all know what a lioness walking away into some bushes looks like…

The final Push
Down the hatch he goes...

I have also been informed by Trevor Hardaker (Who I would term a 'professional birder') that the vulture I previously posted which I had assumed was a juvenile Lappet- Faced, is in fact a partially leucistic one. This is apparently very rare in the species, so below I have included another shot of it, shown with the 'normal' Lappet- faced.

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