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Survival (or not) at Nossob waterhole

During a mid day visit to Nossob hide I noticed that the animals coming for a drink were very careful and some of them quickly ran off even before drinking. I then noticed a drenched sand grouse swimming around in the waterhole. The poor bird was trying it’s best to get out but with very little success. I also noticed a second one, unfortunately already dead floating around.

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Then two crows came for a drink and the one immediately tried to have a quick meal. He grabbed the poor sand grouse by the beak and tried to pull him out. This time the bird tried it’s best to not be pulled from the waterhole.

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Eventually the crow lost his grip on the sand grouse and gave up the idea of a quick meal.

The next visitors were some thirsty Secretary bird who immediately started quenching their thirst

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

The one secretary bird also noticed the struggling sand grouse and carefully approached. It gave the sand grouse two quick thumps which killed the sand grouse (I hope)

Kgalagadi

The secretary bird then lifted the dead bird out of the water (dropping it a few times) and then ripped it apart and gobbled it down.

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Although a very sad incident with the sand grouse really fighting for survival, it is really a true reflection of what nature is about.

Battle at Cubitje Quap in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

This gallery contains 20 photos.

During my recent visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park I spent 4 nights at Nossob Rest Camp in the north of the park. The Park is currently experiencing a severe drought with average rainfall 10% of normal. Unfortunately it was so dry that most of the general game have migrated to other areas where there is more grazing available.

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

This unfortunate situation forced me to spend most of my time at Cubitje Quap, the first waterhole +- 10km north of Nossob camp. On my first visit to the waterhole I found quite a few jackal around the waterhole. It very quickly became very clear that the waterhole was dominated by a pair of jackal and all newcomers had to go through the normal jackal ritual of greeting one another.

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

There was also the normal avian visitors consisting of doves and sand grouse. Very soon the jackal started trying to catch some of the doves for a late afternoon snack.

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

During the morning the sand grouse start visiting for a drink of water. The jackal very quickly surprised me but starting to catch their morning meal

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi

Kgalagadi
I was really surprised by the success rate of the jackal. The male jackal was a specialist leaper and would catch the sand grouse as they come in to land. On the other hand the female waited for them to land and would then rush them and take them from the water.

Rietvlei Nature Reserve

The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is close to my home and situated 18 km from the centre of Pretoria and 38 km from the OR Tambo International Airport. The 3 800 ha of endangered Bankenveld grassland includes open plains and undulating hills. The extensive vlei areas and tributary streams support the scenic splendour of the azure blue Rietvlei Dam.

Landscape of Rietvlei grassland

Landscape of Rietvlei grassland

The reserve is owned and managed by the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality.

Some 1 600 head of game, including blesbuck, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, Burchell’s zebra, waterbuck, reedbuck, springbuck, mountain reedbuck, steenbuck and grey duiker can be viewed here. From your own vehicle it is easy to spot these animals on the open plains, and the 60 km of tarred and dirt roads will take you close up.

Alight from your vehicle and be revived at the Marais Dam picnic site. Ablutions are available and a bird hide and shady spots with braai facilities are perfect for settling down while watching water birds and hippo. Bird watchers can be sure of seeing birds they have never seen before.

View elusive nocturnal animals, such as brown hyena, black-backed jackal, ant-bear, aardwolf, porcupine, springhare and bush pig, on a guided night drive that ends at the popular Rietvlei Nature Reserve Lapa for a memorable braai under African skies.

I often visit the reserve after work in summer and sometimes over weekends. My special interest is avian photography so I spend a lot of time at the Otter bridge where some Giant Kingfisher and other feathered friends entertain me.

Crab in late afternoon sun

Crab in late afternoon sun

Giant Kingfisher enjoying late afternoon sun

Giant Kingfisher enjoying late afternoon sun

Cattle Egret with grass assegai

Cattle Egret with grass assegai

The Otter bridge is also frequently visited by some antelope

Waterbuck at Otter bridge

Waterbuck at Otter bridge

Waterbuck staring

Waterbuck staring

Waterbuck staring

Waterbuck staring

If you are lucky you might see some of the predators, especially early morning or late afternoon

Jackal

Jackal

Although not in abundance you might find some smaller birds of prey in Rietvlei as well

Black Shouldered Kite with snack

Black Shouldered Kite with snack

For more information on this little gem of a reserve visit the City of Tswane webpage at http://www.tshwane.gov.za/Services/Nature%20Conservation/Rietvlei%20Nature%20Reserve/Pages/default.aspx

Lion fight at Gemsbokplein, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Early one morning after leaving Kieliekrankie towards Mata Mata I met this lion family resting in the river bed close to Gemsbokplein waterhole. At this stage I could only see two young and an adult male. Another motorist told me that there were some more sleeping on the opposite bank. After watching them for some time the one young male spotted something on the dune behind me.


He got up and crossed the road and later went into stalking mode.


There were some gemsbok but probably 200m further back. He quickly lost interest and returned, sniffed my car and went back to the rest of the family.

At this stage another male lion that was sleeping on the opposite side of the river bed came closer and sat down.

As the youngster strolled past him, all hell broke loose. He attacked the youngster while both of them were growling and the rest of the pride followed suit (amazing to listen to)







The young lion quickly decided that he is now involved in something that he has no chance of getting out of if he fights back and rather quickly surrendered and then tried to get away




and wet himself from fright and then ran off.


The total encounter probably lasted 30 sec but was amazing. The pride continued to growl and the youngster lay down to “lick his wounds” (although I did not see any blood) He later approached his brother who (please excuse the human phrase) gave him a hug.

The older male who was lying next to the road watching all this joined them and they all went to sleep. Peace again in the lion pride!!!!

I was so lucky to be part of this, the aggression, the growling, the dust and then eventually the “loving interaction” between the two brothers and peace in the lion pride, almost as if nothing has happened

Road to and in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Every time I am about to leave for the KTP the question comes to mind, the direct way via Van Zylsrus or via Upington?? All of you that have recently travelled to the KTP, probably had the same question cross your mind. The direct route leaves the N14 at Kuruman and passes through Hotazel and then turns east towards Van Zylsrus. It is tarred up to +- 20 km from Van Zylsrus. It is then a dirt road all the way to Askham where it joins the tarr road (R360) from Upington. In total it is thus +- 170km of dirt road and roughly 280km shorter than via Upington. The Upington (N14) road has quite a few “stop and goes” (my pet hate!!)

You can argue that travel time should be similar on either route as you have to travel at a slow 80-90km/hr on the dirt section. I have in the past travelled both ways and definitely prefer the direct route as the scenery is nicer (puts you in the Kalahari sooner) and the dirt section is not bad. Please keep in mind that this is my own view and everybody has to decide for them self.

The tar section between Hotazel and Van Zylsrus

with even a side road for the off road fanatics.

It has a short section towards the end which has some potholes in….

the end of the tar

The dirt road between Van Zylsrus and Ashkam

with some fellow travelers

some road works on the only bad section (probably only 5-8km) but there has been no progress in this regard over the last 2 years.

Although the base is good and I think it does not get slippery in the rain you do find a few areas with standing water…

some challenging road signage on the tar section from Askham to Twee Rivieren gate (especially if you are hungry)

Although Sanparks does their best with the roads in the park

it very quickly deteriorates due to speeding and people not deflating their tyre pressure.

with some roads closed for repairs (feels like years…..)

So which route do you choose?? I know what I will do…..

Kruger National Park visit just after the floods February 2012

We have planned a short visit to Kruger National Park to celebrate my birthday during the first week of February 2012. You will all remember the devastating floods that hit Kruger and the neighboring areas during the second half of January. We had some decisions to make….. Do we cancel our reservation or do we go ahead and hold thumbs that the damage would be not too extensive and we would still be able to have a nice time. I must confess that I normally have a nice time in the South African Parks. Full credit goes to the SA National Parks Board for the way in which they handled the situation, evacuated stranded tourists and  re-opened those areas of the Park that were not too damaged in the floods.

In total the sightings were not as good as I am used to but it is not clear if this was due to the tall grass or in fact a result of the floods. What was clear was that the vegetation in the riverbeds themselves were washed away and we saw almost no elephants grazing on the banks of the rivers. On the positive side (for me…) was that a lot of visitors probably cancelled their reservations as it was very quiet. This meant that we could spend some quality time with some very special sightings with no or very few other people around.

It is only when you see the result of the floods yourself that you realize what really happened and how scary it must have been for those caught in it and how hard Sanparks had to (and still have to) work to repair everything. This is some evidence of the extent of the damage.

Damage to bridge over Sabie river

 

Damage to on ramp onto bridge over Sabie river

 

Sabie river bank

Vegetation on Sabie river bank

 

Tshokwane damage

Our lovely river fronting chalet in Lower Sabie rest camp

 

River fronting chalet Lower Sabie rest camp

 

We had a wonderful few days in the surrounding area with some exciting sightings including this leopard with a sore eye early one morning on the road to Skukuza and a lion family.

Leopard on road sign

Lion cub in grass

This was followed by some other feathered ones, some in the water fishing and others in the trees.

 

Feeding yellow-billed stork

Feeding Green-backed heron

 

Giant Kingfisher on the lookout

 

African Jacana feeding

 

Lilac breasted roller

 

Malachite Kingfishers interacting

 

Mating giraffe

 

Kudu bull

 

and a charging elephant bull to close with

 

Charging elephant bull

5 December Mata Mata to Pretoria

After getting up early, packing the final few things in the I car reported at reception for and early start on the trip to Pretoria. Unfortunately, the guy overslept and only arrived at 6:05 (5:30 official opening time). All guests returning to Mata Mata have left without their permits but I did not want to chance arriving at Twee Rivieren without a permit and then being sent back to collect it. It was amazing to travel on the dust free roads with puddles of water everywhere

The female Cheetah with the two cubs were feeding on a Springbok carcass close to the road but the grass was so tall that I could not manage a clear photo. Further on I found this Twany Eagle soaking his feet in the water

and eventually dipping his backside in the water

I travelled back home via Van Zylsrus to Kuruman then N14 all the way home. The “stop and go” (2) was still in action but as on my inbound trip I travelled through both without being stopped.

This is the end of this Trip Report and I trust that you enjoyed the trip with me. I am already looking forward to my next visit in April 2012.

4 December Mata Mata

Reported at reception to collect permit at 5:15, chatting to other guests also waiting for gates to open. What will we see today….? Left camp as soon as I received my permit and decided to just have a leisurely drive up the Auob river. This Blue Wildebeest presented itself in the early morning light (sun has not risen above the dunes yet)

 

Blue Wldebeest in rising sun in Aoub river

Eventually the sun cleared the dunes

Rising sun Auob river

Sitzas was quiet and I continued towards one of my favorite waterholes, Craig Lockhardt. As I approached I saw there was something drinking. It was my Cheetah mother with the 2 cubs (from whom the Lion stole their Springbok kill a few days ago). I parked under the tree close to the waterhole and the Cheetahs were very close.

Cheetah cub drinking

Cheetah cub

 

The one cub climbed into the tree at the waterhole. As it was peeping through the fork in the tree it must have seen it’s reflection in my car window and growled at itself.

Cheetah cub in tree at Craig Lockhardt

 

Cheetah cub growling

Eventually mother spotted some Springbok towards Dalkeith and she moved off into the dunes. She was probably going to try and stalk them from behind the dunes and I decided to drive along and wait next to the Springbok to see what will happen. I lost track of them but then suddenly a male Lion came walking along the river towards us. This spooked the Springbok and at the same time the Cheetah charged from the dune. This caused pandemonium with Springbok scattering in all directions.

Spooked springbok

I decided to go back to the waterhole as the Lion would probably come and have a drink. He duly arrived

 

Young male lion at Craig Lockhardt

 

Male lion at Craig Lockhardt

 

but to my surprise plonked down in the shade of the tree a few yards from my car and started grooming himself! After a while he moved to a different spot (now behind the logs packed as a barrier for the cars). I was still convinced that he will eventually have to come for a drink and therefore decided to stay put. At one stage he suddenly stood up and stared towards the dunes, what can it be?

Yes the same culprit as yesterday, a Jackal… The Lion quickly settled down again and slept, groomed himself and slept some more. I (still waiting for the water drinking shot) had to move slightly a few times as the sun was now burning down. After about 90 minutes of this he at last got up and started moving in the direction of the waterhole. Yes now for the shot of the day….

How disappointing, he was not interested at all and moved to a shady spot on the dune…..

These 2 visitors enjoyed a quick drink

Secretary bird

At this time I admitted defeat (strongly motivated by a overflowing bladder and growling tummy) and returned to camp.

For the normal afternoon drive I decided to return to Craig Lockhardt and check if the male Lion is still around. To my disappointment there was no sign of him and the Springbok and BWB grazing not too far off were not interested in drinking either. After watching all the small birds drinking and scratching around for something to eat I returned to camp for my last braai.

On entering the camp I clearly saw the thunder clouds building up. I just finished the braai when the wind really started howling and then a magnificent thunder storm with lots of lightning and rain erupted. It was really quite a site with all the lights off inside the chalets and to see the lightning flashes lighting up the downpour outside. I eventually went to bed and it was still raining.

3 December Mata Mata

Yes you guessed it, the Leopard did not visit (or I was fast asleep when she did). I got up later than I wanted to, quickly packed the car made my coffee and said goodbye to Eric (until we meet again in April 2012). I took a slow drive to Mata Mata as I could only check in at 12:00 and it was only roughly 60km to go. Sightings again rather slow with some general game and a Crimson Breasted Shrike

 

Crimson-brested Shrike

and a Pygmy Falcon

Pygmy Falcon

At 14th waterhole I sat watching some Red Hartebeest

Red Hartebeest

They were later joined by some Springbok and Gemsbok

Gemsbok trio

They were all interacting and the dominant RHB male was giving everyone a hard time

Red Hartebeest chasing at waterhole

They Springbok left the waterhole but after a few minutes came charging back. Everyone at the waterhole was now wide awake and staring in the same direction. From the reaction it must be something serious…..

Gemsbok staring

RHB staring

it turned out to be

Black backed jackal

what a disappointment, as he was drinking the male Red Hartebeest tried to take him on as well.

Stand off at waterhole

These Swallow Tailed Bee Eaters were putting up a show with dad first feeding mommy a bee

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater family

and they then commenced some lovey dovey

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater mating

Just before camp I saw my first Giraffe for this trip

Giraffe

I arrived at Mata Mata at 11:30 and was given chalet no. 6 (Riverside) which has a slightly different layout than no. 2 where I previously stayed. After unpacking I made sure that the bedroom aircon was on and drank probably 1 liter of cold water (as it was rather hot)!!! I made myself something to eat, charged all camera batteries and downloaded photos. After all this hard work I took a short nap and was ready to leave camp at 17:00 for my afternoon drive. As would be expected this time of the day most animals were still standing in the shade.

There were some Giraffe approaching the waterhole at Craig Lockhardt and I had to quickly find a spot that would remain in the shade but also presented good photo opportunities (although these two are normally mutually exclusive). All of a sudden there were 7 Giraffe and this made getting a nice shot very difficult as they were all over and in the way of a clear photo

Giraffe drinking at Craig Lockhardt

 

Giraffe drinking at Craig Lockhardt, Kgalagadi

I reluctantly had to leave them and head back to camp. At Sitzas this male Cheetah was relaxing very close to the cars

Male cheetah at Sitzas

2 December Urikaruus

Today I travelled to Twee Rivieren to phone home (and get some ice for cold beer and clamps to stop the gas leak from my fridge). On the way I found a few Bat Eared Fox families basking in the early morning sun.

Bat Eared Fox family

Bat Eared Fox family playing

 

I could not resist posting this old time favorite, a Gemsbok on a ridge

 

Gemsbok on ridge

and a Springbok

 

Springbok in Kgalagadi sun

 

After breakfast at the restaurant, phoning everyone and collecting the ice and clamps for my fridge I was off back to Urikaruus. While in camp I met Scouter and SO (from Sanparks forum) and she told me they have attended the Xmas present handout the previous day (after finishing an apparently “hot” Forumite 4×4). Thank you very much for all your efforts and hard work in arranging the Xmas present initiative Scouter.

The drive back was rather uneventful except for this Lion at Samevloeiing (I trust KG’s camera did catch it drinking)

 

Female lion sleeping at Samevloeiing

 

on the way back to camp these Hyena were cooling off, watched by the Secretary Bird

 

Hyena bathing

 

I arrived back at a very hot Urikaruus at midday and enjoyed my first cold beer in 2 days. On my arrival I stood outside talking to Mario Fezelas who is busy writing a photography book about Etosha. While we were talking he pointed out a Cape Fox under a log just across the road above the chalets. It came towards us stopped probably 4m from us, squatted down for a wee, turned around and walked up the hill and disappeared into the den. We just looked at one another and shook our heads (unfortunately no photos).

As it was really hot I only left on my afternoon drive (after a cold shower) later than normal (only at 17:00). What I found works like a bomb to cool you down is a buff rinsed in cold water and a 500ml garden spray bottle to “hose yourself down”. I saw the normal general game. The Lion at Dalkeith was nowhere to be seen and during the whole afternoon I only met one other car (at 18:15 my car clocked 38.5C), only 2 other mad guys out on the road in this heat (I should tell them about my buff and water spray!) My rule is I never drive with the aircon on and my window always open (the downside is the dust but at least I can really then be part of KTP).

On the way back to camp I drove every loop (13th and 14th) and found this Lilac-brested Roller in a tree

Lilac-brested Roller

This was my last night this trip at Urikaruus and I wonder if the resident Leopard will visit…..

 

I like to have all the doors (and windows) open but can then not switch on any lights (attack goggos) but a torch and head lamp are there to be used. Great was my surprise when, while preparing my salad, I suddenly notice a movement next to me at the sink!!! A rat. Now I don’t mind mice but rats, no go. I chased him and he disappeared behind the fridge. I hope he leaves before I go to bed as I don’t want to pack everything away this evening.