All the organizing and preparations were done. Earl and I packed the car last night and set the alarm for 3 a.m. A minute before my alarm went off , Heather phoned and I shut the cell off thinking it was my alarm!
At 4 we arrived at her house and within minutes we were off. The day was overcast and cool and the trip continued to be pleasant all the way to Kalahari Guest House. We stopped at the top of the pass and ate our packed breakfast. The view was stunning but the picnic site was in a state of disrepair!
The only other stops were to refuel, stretch legs and go to the loo. We arrived at Kalahari Guesthouse at 2 o’clock. Our accommodation was lovely – everything clean and neat Earl and I in a double room with bathroom and Heather in her own suite. It was hot and after our long drive we were tired and hungry. Riana brought us a refreshing tray of tea and biscuits and we then had a nap before taking a walk on the farm. Paul has marked out a lovely bird route that ends at a hide overlooking the river where we observed a number of water birds including South African Shelduck.
We could have self-catered, as there was a kitchen and living area too. But we ordered dinner with our hosts and Riana cooked us a wonderful meal – starter – delicious mushroom soup and salad followed by roast lamb, roast chicken and all the delectable trimmings. The perfect finish was a decadent chocolate desert served with a scoop of ice-cream.
We left K.G.H. at 7 with a packed breakfast from Riana. At about 8:30 we stopped at a roadside picnic site to have coffee.
We arrived at the newly renovated Twee Rivieren at 10 o’clock, checked in and then went straight out for a drive, as our cottage (number 2) would only be ready at 12.
What would we see first? Earl said Springbok, Heather – gemsbok. I forever the optimist said –“Cheetah”
Ha – well it was Ground Squirrel, which continued to intrigue and amuse us several times during the entire trip. How cute they are!
Following that, we did see a good number of gemsbok and springbok – but sadly no cheetah! Although there were herds of animals we were intrigued to see springbok, gemsbok and wildebeest dotted singly under trees or out in the open grazing alone. Had they been expelled, or voluntarily chosen the single lifestyle?
Being the bird enthusiasts that we are we were constantly on the lookout for interesting feathered friends and were delighted to find many of the species we don’t see back in the Western Cape.
White-browed sparrow-weavers were everywhere – and as usual foxed us for the first few seconds every time we saw them. The darling little scaly-feathered finches had us oohing and aahing too and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of these tiny birds with the cutest ‘old man’ faces in neat bow ties.
The fly -catchers – well – what confusing birds but we managed to distinguish the spotted from the chat from the Marico.
The beautiful capped wheat-ear was constantly seeking attention and gave us many opportunities to photograph him in flattering poses.
The sociable weavers never fail to fascinate. And their nests boggle their mind. How do these tiny birds construct such condominiums? Even the Pygmy falcons think they’re worth renting but although we examined the entrances for white-wash we didn’t find any evidence of tenants. Perhaps it’s the wrong time of year.
Then gazing at of these structures though, we did see an unwelcome intruder – a cobra in search of a meal!
Near Houmoed water hole we got our first Kori Bustard of the trip.
Nearby we decided to take a detour to a view point. Earl wanted to go straight back down again but we persuaded him to do a loop. It was a good choice because we saw the hard-to-spot Temminck’s Courser
and although they run at a rapid speed making photography difficult we managed to get some reasonable shots.
At 12;50 it was time to turn and retrace our route. At Monro Waterhole we got our first Secretary Bird – an absolute favourite of mine.
We arrived back at T.R. and picked up our key to the cottage. A strange set up – two beds in the kitchen and 2 in the bedroom which leads off from the former. And then the bathroom and loo lead off from the bedroom. But it was comfortable and we were delighted to be there.
After unpacking and a snack we set off for another brief drive. I like this pic of the immature Pale Chanting Goshawk – they were everywhere.
The highlight was a Northern Black Korhaan female and I was delighted to get a poor photograph. (Watch this spot for better ones later in the trip!)
We were well satisfied with our first day’s outing and it looked like we were going to have a great week in the park!
Today started badly. We woke up late and rushed to get the snacks and juices packed and in the rush to get out there I forgot my jersey. Now yesterday had been hot but today looked threatening. Earl insisted that I would not need any extra warmth and continued to the gate to collect our permit. But then I noticed that we’d also forgotten to pack the cool bag of drinks so we had to go back anyway. I rushed inside and omigosh – we hadn’t locked up! I think it was I who was the last one out so I felt very foolish and guess what – I still forgot to grab my jersey! We saw the usual springbok, wildebeest and springbok and I love Earl’s photo of the forest of horns.
Our first bird was a Jackal Buzzard but not good enough for a photograph. A Northern Black Korhaan disappeared into the bush so didn’t give us a photograph either.
At 10 past 8 it started to rain and the temperature dropped. Luckily, Earl had left two jackets in the car so I didn’t suffer cold after all! The wet weather gave us some different photo opportunities. We found a pale chanting goshawk under a tree looking decidedly put off by the inclement weather.
Then the weather must have got to a lanner and a greater kestrel because they chased each other from tree to tree for some time.
The rain stopped after 20 minutes but a chill wind blew and it didn’t warm up till much later in the day. This was the coldest day we experienced in the park.
We stopped for breakfast at Auchterlonie and for the first time Earl could use his new toy! As there are no skottels for hire like in Kruger he decided to buy a portable gas stove that is packed in a neat plastic carrier case. Because it is square with the cylinder connected flat on the side, it cannot tip over. We got ours at Christie’s Sports in Diep River, Cape Town.
It was cold at the picnic site and I was ever so grateful for Earl’s jacket. After a warming and satisfying breakfast of scrambled eggs, tomato, bacon and banana on toast we were off in search of birds again.
But as we were leaving we had an unusual visitor to the picnic site – an Abdim’s stork who posed obligingly for many photographs. Other interesting sightings during the day were crimson-breasted shrike, a family of ground squirrels and one emerging from his hole, familiar chat, chat fly catchers, marico fly catchers, an Ovambo Sparrow-hawk, an ostrich family with about 5 chicks, a steenbuck, two springbok having a head to head confrontation among the usual jackals, secretary birds, kori bustards and red hartebeest.