Category Archives: Blog

Protecting family, ferociously

While on holiday in Hermanus Western Cape I decided to spend one afternoon at a local salt pan in Onrus. I was met by a rustic scene with lots of Seagulls, Cormorants and some Egyptian Geese. While I was enjoying the scenery, a female Egyptian Goose with some ducklings entered the water from some shrubs. Male Egyptian Geese are very territorial and protective of the female and will aggressively defend them.

Just as they were settling down and started swimming past, all hell broke loose. A male Egyptian Goose flew in from the side and the mother reacted very quickly by attacking the intruder.

Out of nowhere (I did not notice from where) another bird joined the fight (I thought it was probably the male protecting his family). It was a very serious battle with biting, wing flaps and water splashing everywhere.

At one stage the male was trying his best to drown the intruder by submerging him under the water.

The intruder managed to save himself and very rapidly flew off (tail between the legs) and family life returned to normal. The duckling disappeared during the fight but promptly returned to the female after all calmed down.

What amazed me the most was the speed all this happened at. The interval between first image (female reacting) to last image (drowning attempt) was 9 seconds.

As everything started to calm down some movement to the side drew my attention, another spectator, just as surprised as myself.

Hunting in the Nossob valley

During my recent visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park I stumbled onto, what turned out to be, an very interesting sighting in the Nossob river bed, close to Rooiputs. A secretary bird was hunting for insects and other tasty snacks in the area. The bird was walking from bush to bush, flapped it’s wings and waited for something to move so that it can very quickly be stomped upon (the secretary bird hits the target very hard and incredibly fast with it’s claw).

From one of the bushes a tasty grasshopper appeared and tried it’s best to escape the deadly claw. The secretary bird very quickly pursued this tasty morsel and tried it’s best to catch up with it.

All this excitement very quickly drew the attention of a young Black-backed jackal that was hanging around. The jackal was under the impression he can quickly sneak in for a quick win. Now the hunter became the hunted. The jackal made a few quick dashes for the secretary bird but was punching above his weight.

Suddenly the secretary bird decided he had enough and turned to face off the jackal. He came in for the strike with those deadly feet.

This was just too much for the poor jackal, who trotted off and the secretary bird continued hunting.

Peace returned to the Nossob valley.

Wild dogs of Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

During my recent Mana Pools Photographic Safari with Marlon du Toit of Wild Eye we followed a pack of 29 wild dogs on foot. We went looking for them early afternoon. On the first afternoon we found them sleeping next to a small stream in the shade of some trees.

Masai Mara (9 of 12)

While the adults were resting the pups were fooling around with one another.

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All of a sudden the whole pack got up, greeted one another and went down for a drink in the stream.

Mana Pools (8 of 40)

Mana Pools (9 of 40)

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Masai Mara (7 of 12)

Masai Mara (2 of 12)

Mana Pools (9 of 40)

After spending some time playing in the water they headed off to hunt.

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Masai Mara (1 of 12)

Masai Mara (11 of 12)

Obviously we could not keep up on foot but when we eventually caught up with them we noticed they killed a baboon. Although not a good image you can clearly see the baboon hind leg and tail this pup was running off with.

Mana Pools (14 of 40)

Apparently they use the opportunity of hunting baboon to expose the pups to the total hunt experience. The baboons are not as fast and in this forrest environment with only very large trees around they only have to prevent the baboon getting into the trees.

Beautiful light and scenes from Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

After many years of looking forward to a possible visit to Mana Pools I had the opportunity to join Marlon du Toit of Wild Eye to live my dream. I realised as it was October it was going to be hot. What I did not anticipate was that we will be there in the middle of a heat wave that went through. Daytime temperatures of 40 degrees C and above, made the trip just so much more extreme!! Dave & Tess from Mwinilunga Safaris were our hosts on the bank of the Zambezi river and really spoilt us with their hospitality including some great food. The tents and facilities were superb and the shady spot under the huge trees made us (almost) forget the high temperature. Kevin, our very capable guide, looked after us very well while Marlon got us in position to capture some wonderful images, all this on foot. You can imagine the feeling when you are on foot within a few meters of a beautiful elephant bull feeding from the huge trees in the forrest or lion and wild dogs resting in the shade or playing in the water. Truly a life changing experience, thank you Marlon and Kevin.

Mana Pools (22 of 40)

Our host Marlon getting a nice shot of a young elephant.

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As it is normally very dry during October, with the rains only falling later, the animals have to really work hard to feed themselves. The bigger elephant bulls reach up to get to some leaves and branches high up in the trees.

This guy needed some extra support to reach the really high leaves 😉

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Mana Pools (29 of 40)

Mana Pools is well known for the blue light of the late afternoon and you can get some stunning images of this (obviously with the help of Marlon).

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Mana Pools (3 of 40)

Masai Mara (9 of 17)

Mana Pools (26 of 40)

In a next blog post I will share our experience following a pack of 29 wild dogs.

Wildebeest crossings of the Mara River in Masai Mara National Park, Kenya

Every year millions of wildebeest and other antelope begin the migration to better grazing after the rains have fallen in other areas of the park. In the process they have to cross the Mara River where hundreds of hungry crocodile await their arrival. The wildebeest will gather in high numbers, push closer to the river and wait. It is not clear what triggers the initial ones to take the leap but once it started, they all follow in a dusty frenzy. Some will jump from high up the river bank and splash down fairly hard in the river. Normally if there are zebra present they will take the lead and the crossing can happen must quicker.

I have personally seen thousands of wildebeest building up, pushing at the river edge to just all of a sudden turn around and move away. They may repeat this quite a few time or just cross on the second time. The presence of some animals on the opposite bank results in a higher probability that they might cross easier (either direction) to get to one another.

Here some wildbeest are starting to build up and approach the water

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With smaller groups especially wildebeest and zebra the crossing is less hectic

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Masai Mara (30 of 75)

Masai Mara (29 of 75)

Then for the real excitement when thousands build up and eventually start to cross. The noise they make, the dust generated and the presence of the odd predator trying to take a quick meal in the confusion of the crossing makes for a real noisy and dusty scene.The wildebeest just continue coming, jumping from high up the riverbank and plonking down in the river and quickly try to safely reach the other side in one piece.

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Masai Mara (74 of 75)

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The one that make it through unscathed and very glad and run around full of joy

Masai Mara (44 of 75)

The magic of the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya

We all have been adding things to do to our personal bucket lists. I had to go out and buy a larger bucket as my list just grew and grew and I never had the chance to ticks off items on the list. As this was mostly due to work commitments you can imagine my excitement when I finally retired at the end of February 2015. I immediately tackled my bucket list and started planning. The first item on my list was experiencing the Wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara, Kenya. I booked a photographic safari with my old friends Lou Coetzer and Neal Cooper of CNP Safaris. What an excellent bunch of guys and totally mind blowing experience.

We arrived in the Mara at the beginning of September to an overcast sky with some stunning scenes of thousands of wildebeest and other antelope on the grass plains.

Masai Mara (1 of 75)

Masai Mara (8 of 75)

Masai Mara (14 of 75)

Over the next week we experienced some stunning predator sightings, spent some time with beautiful Scar, the well known male lion (with a damaged right eye, hence the name)

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Masai Mara (23 of 75)

We were lucky to also witness some major Wildebeest crossings, although no crocodile interaction. The crocs were so well fed and very relaxed during the week I spent there. I was amazed by the number of wildebeest crossing the Mara River looking for fresh grazing and the way they (eventually) cross the river.

Masai Mara (48 of 75)

Although we all go to the Mara for the crossings there are some stunning other wildlife around.

Masai Mara (55 of 75)

I will post different posts on specific Mara sightings so please feel free to return and check for updates.

Elephants of the Chobe National Park, Botswana

Everyone that has been privileged enough to visit the Chobe National Park near Kasane in Botswana would have experienced the behaviour of the elephants. I recently again joined Coetzer Nature Photography on a photographic safari on their photographic boats on the river. Indeed an enjoyable and rewarding trip, thanks Neal and Hendri!!! These boats provide an excellent opportunity to get close to the elephants in a safe and responsible manner.

The elephants frequently visit the river to drink, feast on the lush grass growing in the river and just enjoy the water (elephants do love water). They grab a trunk full of grass, then shake it to rid it of mud after which it would be gulped down.

CNP Safari April 2014

CNP Safari April 2014

CNP Safari April 2014

Unfortunately life is not always this easy for the elephants and water levels may affect the availability of the vegetation in and around the river. The elephants then are forced to venture into the surrounding area to feed. This includes using a tusk (yes it would appear that you do get left and right “tusked” elephants) to dig or obtain food. You therefore often see elephants with worn tusks.

CNP Safari April 2014

The elephants love the water and would play in it, interact with one another or just spray it all over the place and themselves.

CNP Safari April 2014

CNP Safari April 2014

CNP Safari April 2014

CNP Safari April 2014

They eventually have to leave the river, only to return tomorrow.

CNP Safari April 2014

I hope you now know why I am so fascinated by the Chobe elephants.

Rietvlei Nature Reserve summer beauty

With all the rain we had in this area Rietvlei Nature Reserve has very quickly changed to a lush green garden. All the animals really enjoyed the change and it was as if they all received an energy boost.

This Giant Kingfisher was very active in catching small crabs and then “removing” the legs against the bridge at Otterdam

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She (yes this is the female) would then toss it into the air to get into the correct position and then swallow the body of the crab

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The Yellow-billed ducks enjoyed playing in the water or sitting in the sun just relaxing

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The proud mother also came around to show me her beautiful ducklings

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Zebras are always a favourite of mine and although this one was a taxi they are normally just grazing and enjoying life

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This male was really excited about life but it nearly landed him in trouble when he approached a female (with a headache)

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Everyone in life, including this Cape Wagtail has a family or dependants to feed.

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This Guineafowl was trying to find some seeds to feast on

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Spotted Thick-knees always think their camouflage is good enough and normally stand very still which makes for excellent photo opportunities

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The Otterdam is very full and is overflowing strongly. I have witnessed some fish, mostly barbels being washed downstream and then trying to get back

Rietvlei Nov_2013_01010

If you have the opportunity to visit Rietvlei Nature Reserve, do so you will not regret it

Lake Panic and other beautiful places in Kruger

I have recently been to Kruger National Park for a few short but very nice visits. As Lake Panic, just outside Skukuza, has always been one of my favorite bird hides I have obviously made sure that I also stopped there for some excitement.

The first trip was during June 2013 and early morning it is still very cold. If you leave Skukuza as the gates open you get to Lake Panic just before sunrise.

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KNP June 2013_01954A

As it warms up (yes including me) the action starts. Normally the African Darters are first to start diving for fish. They are quite quick and actually spear the fish and after it is dead swallow it wholeKNP June 2013_01759

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The next visitors are normally the Pied Kingfishers. They sit and watch for fish hover above the water and then dive into the water to catch the fish with their strong beak. They then fly to a branch where they start knocking the hell out of the fish. This is done to firstly kill the fish but secondly also to remove the scales before commencing to swallow the catch.

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After swallow the meal the cleaning and grooming starts, firstly by rubbing the beak against the branch, then actually diving a few times into the water.

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While all this action is going on the other inhabitants of lake Panic go about doing what they do best, eat, relax and enjoy the sun.

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Every now and then a thirsty herd of elephant will visit for a quick drink or sometimes even to take short cut across the Lake, very weary of old Sharpes and his family

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Old Sharpes

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Until next time…

Baboons of the Chobe National Park in Botswana

You will all agree that it is fascinating watching baboon interaction, irrespective of their environment. What makes this an extraordinary experience is doing this on the Chobe River from a CNP Photographic boat. They know the behavior of the animals and give you (some) advance notice of action to follow.

During my recent safari with CNP we very frequently met some baboons and spent some fun times photographing them. They can, probably just like us humans, be so cute, loving and caring

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Unfortunately this peace in the family is sometimes also turned upside down as parents discipline the young ones or some male members of the family want to show their dominance. We were sitting (in the comfortable chairs on the CNP boat) watching a baboon family on the bank of the river finding something to eat amongst the vegetation available. Looking towards the slightly upward sloping river bank we just saw more and more baboons coming down to the river.

Suddenly all hell broke loose and our first reaction was a leopard!!!

It turned out to be some male baboons, possibly from different troops, tackling one another and anything they could lay their paws on. I managed, in all the excitement, to fire of a few shots of the fighting males. It is not always easy to follow fierce fighting animals with a heavy 600mm lens plus a 1.4x converter. The equipment on the CNP boats makes it easier but is still not a guarantee of good images. The following are some of the interaction that I managed to capture. Note the Jackal berry seeds flying from their mouths as they are fighting

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

Chobe with CNP April 2013

The sound the fighting made created some ever lasting memories in my mind, just a pity we could not record it.