Whos keeping an eye on me....

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

South Africa 2013 - Pt 6

Kruger Park: Melalane Rest Camp and surrounds (including Berg-En-Dal):

Onwards into Kruger.................... the start of another adventure.
Malelane Gate

Just the one nights stay at Malelane. We (Aletta, David, Liz, Ryan, Matt and myself) booked in, unloaded and got on the road in double quick time. The plan was to drive a simple loop towards Berg-En-Dal camp to buy provisions for the evenings Barbecue. Most of the mammal and Fauna species were going to be new to me here in Kruger so it was eyes alert ...... I even got out of walking around the shop and snook in a little extra bird-watching from the car park.

Dark Capped Bulbul
Scarlet Chested Sunbird
Black Backed Puff-back
Greater Blue Eared Starling
Back on the tracks and heading around the Matjulu Loop we were soon picking up some Mammals. Impala were to be the default Mammal species across southern Kruger, often large herds of either Males or females, although now and again we did see the odd male in with large flocks of females.

female Impala

it didn't take us long to get our first Rhino.... here is the White Rhino (we would later see the critically endangered Black Rhino on a guided tour)
note the Red Billed Oxpeckers.

Magpie Shrike
Black Collared Barbet

African Grey Hornbill
Southern Ground Hornbill.
This bird is huge, impressive and high on any birders wish list, we were to get some seriously stunning views and images as the week progressed.
Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill
and possibly the most charismatic species in the whole park, I spent hours watching their antics.....
They refused to fly away under all sorts of provocation from other species (when food was around).. they simply picked something up and ran, often in circles trying to avoid attacks from every angle. Brilliant to watch.
Back at Malelane Camp before sunset I went looking to see what species were around the camp while the others were able to prepare the Barbecue which immediately grabbed the attention of a large troop of Vervet monkeys.
They only managed to steal bread but tomorrow I would witness them ransacking other Rondavals where food had not been locked away over night. I found them to be a creature of dare I say FUN, however the SA residents were less tolerant of their antics.,..... lock your possessions away, simples!
The Barbecue was lit, the sun had gone down and a lap of the camp with the torch for some spot lighting. Thirty yards away and sat on the lower branches of the tree was this fella..... also ready with its diner in preparation..... (notice the Bat in its Talons).

Pearl Spotted Owlet
A very early start for Aletta, Matt and myself as we left the camp at first light.

Quickly we came across 3 Spotted Hyena, they all stopped in their tracks and looked at us for only a few seconds and they were gone deeper into the bush..... things looked promising. Then a few hundred yards down a dirt track we saw 4 Spotted Eagle-Owls all perched in the same tree, they were a little more distant, the light was poor so no image (now back at home I wish I had at least gotten myself a record shot), however we were soon onto our first large Raptor when we found this impressive Tawny Eagle stood alongside its nest, a little later we would see an adult flying low over the bush.
We headed for Matjulu waterhole. As it turned out it was a little disappointing with no mammals coming to feed but a few good bird species kept our attention for the hour or so.
Natal Spurfowl
this one showing it spurs rather well and hence the species name
White fronted Bee-eater.
A good sized colony enjoyed feeding as the sun began to rise
while a few species of Kingfisher perched towards the water both Grey Headed and Brown Hooded Kingfishers as well as Blue Waxbill, Red Billed Hornbill, Streaky Headed Seedeaters and Burchells Starlings.
We headed back towards camp and birds were now warming up in the sunshine
Gabar Goshawk
 of course the mammals would soon be out and about these Giraffes taking an early feed
African Elephant
as were these menacing looking Water Buffalo
 but for me here is the star of the show.....
Lilac Breasted Roller
It is very cool this time of year in the mornings so this bird had its plumage a little ruffled so as to keep warm, what an absolutely stunning creature.
the same species but looking a little warmer

the stunning species continued to show.... this was just out side the camp entrance
Crested Barbet

as was this Red Billed Hornbill

while back inside the camp
Kurrichane Thrush

 a pair of fabulous Southern White Crowned Shrikes

Another must see species, Brown Headed Parrot
I had seen a large flock flyover the camp the previous evening at sunset, they returned this morning to feed in this tree

I counted at least a dozen at one point

and mixed in with the Parrot flock were a pair of Black Headed Oriole

Plenty of other species were around, Black Storks flew over the river behind the camp while Lesser Masked Weavers, Cape Glossy Starling, and White Bellied Sunbirds were in the camp.

This was the first afternoon and morning in Kruger Park, if this first camp was a taster of what was to come then roll on the rest of the stay..... happy days!
We now travel the 4hrs to Pretoriouskop Rest Camp

Sunday, 22 September 2013

South Africa 2013 - Pt 5

De Hoop NR: What a fantastic location. If we had our time again we would have spent three days here, as it happened we had barely 24hrs. We used it as a midway point on our return journey from Knysna to Cape Town..... safe to say we will return one day.

It is regarded as a creditable place to spend time Whale Watching..... I can concur. We arrived late afternoon and were greeted by two fine species of antelope, firstly the Common Eland (I didn't know at the time but this would be my last sighting of the species during the three week stay in SA) and the wonderful Bontebok.

Common Eland

We checked into out superb Rondavels overlooking the estuary.

bfb...... taking in the sight

It was late afternoon so we headed straight to Koppie Allen as a number of Southern Right Whales had been seen earlier in the day. It was 30 minutes away but the dirt tracks didn't hold us back we arrived with gorgeous sunlight and were met by beautiful white sand dunes from where we witnessed 11 Southern Rights Whales.
Koppie Allen

I can think of worse places to be watching Whales from..... Matt, Ryan & Liz watching Southern Right Whales from the white Sand Dunes at Koppie Allen

Southern Right Whales

We could have stayed for hours but light would soon fade..... we spent a wonderful 90 minutes in the company of these gigantic creatures, certainly one of the trip highlights and something that we will do again soon. Back at the car park we had some stunning species of bird and mammal.

Four striped Grass-mouse
Speckled Mousebird
Cape Sugarbird

Cape Bulbul
Cape Bunting
Back at De Hoop camp and just before the sun dropped out of sight, a stroll around the grounds near to our rondaval brought this nice surprise, and only 30 yards away
Spotted Eagle-Owl
 and our other neighbours that lived underneath the wall of our patio -
a family group of  Rock Dassie

All the following bird species were seen within a 300 yrd walk of our patio!

Cape spurfowl
Southern Boubou

looking into the estuary were good flocks of Great White Pelican
and Greater Flamingos

Knysna Woodpecker
not sure if this was the luckiest sighting I had, but I had missed it a day earlier while in Harkerville forest, so to catch up with it here was a huge surprise.... and right outside the patio overlooking the estuary.... early morning light, the sun was still behind the mountains but still just fantastic!
Fiscal Flycatcher
Common Fiscal (Shrike)
Cape Weaver
African Spoonbill
Caspian Tern

brilliant bird, I could have watched this fella for ages

More Speckled Mousebirds

Bar Throated Apalis

Crowned Lapwing
Capped Wheatear
other species included, African Black Duck, Black Crowned Night-Heron, Red Knobbed Coot, Red Capped Lark, Familiar Chat, Grey Backed Cisticola, Sombre Greenbul, Brown Banded Martin, Little Swift, Eurasion Golden Oriole, African Stonechat, Laughing Dove, Cape Crow.......
 and just as were leaving we added these two species
Yellow Mongoose
Leopard Tortoise
Its incredible to think that this whole post is dedicated to just this one location and in less than a 24hr stay - next stop Cape Town and a flight to Kruger