We left Twee Rivieren at half past seven and the first bird to greet us perched on the fence was the beautiful Swallow-tailed bee eater,
followed shortly thereafter by a yellow canary. We continued to get sighting of these birds throughout the day but the latter were not too co-operative at photo shoots.
Earl claimed he saw a red-backed shrike, so common in Kruger and he knows it well but the rest of us dipped on it. Of course our usual favourites, scaly-feathered finch, white-browed sparrow-weavers and capped wheatear were always about and keen to have their portraits taken.
At 8:20 we got our first pygmy falcon of the trip and were on a real high about it when we came upon a KTP traffic jam – about four cars stopped on the side of the road about four kilometers before Houmoed waterhole.
“Wow, look at all the jackals,” said I. “That’s unusual to see so many together.” Then we saw why – about 100m from the road – two young lions on a wildebeest kill. It was fresh so must have happened at sunrise or just before. How wonderful not to have to fight for position to see as although quite far from the road they were in the clear and there was plenty of room for everybody to park and see. The young lioness was resting under a tree but the male continued to wrestle with the carcass, seeing off the bravest and cheekiest of the jackals. There must have been about 12 of them waiting for an opportunity to get their share. We watched as the lion dragged the carcass closer to his mate and then leave it some distance from where she was and then he went to join her. It was a thrill to see them interact and play with each other. The jackals stayed close but did not dare grab a morsel of the wildebeest for fear of consequences.
We were on our way to Mata Mata so could not spend too long fraternizing with our feline friends so after enjoying them for half an hour we moved on to Houmoed waterhole. We were thrilled to see our first surricates but they scampered off quickly so photographs were not great. Of course the Ground Squirrels were about too.
I tried to snap this PCG but he got tired of posing and decided to leave his perch – I’m rather pleased I snapped that second too late!
What we found most fascinating were the scores of Namaqua Sandgrouse that flew noisily down to the water to drink then without warning all took off again together, flew around and then returned. They would do this in rounds several time before all flying off to an unknown destination.
We stopped again at Auchtelonie Picnic Site for the traditional “Earlie” breakfast and once again the Abdim’s stork was visiting. We realized that he must be a regular here and has become quite tame. Strangely we saw no other Abdims in the park at all and wondered if he was lost. Abdims do frequent the Kalahari after rain so it was not that odd for him to be there – but without friends?
At Montrose Waterhole there was a large herd of gemsbok resting under the trees but little else. We did see a tawny eagle flying overhead.
At Kanqua Waterhole the secretaries were having a coffee break. One decided she needed to powder her nose and got carried away with a dust bath.
Thirteenth Waterhole had a huge herd of springbok and they sensibly were resting under trees too.
It was also great to see a lilac breasted roller – not as common here as in Kruger.
At Thirteenth we witnessed and interesting interaction between springbok and secretary birds. There were two or three springbok drinking when three or four secretary birds made their way to the drink too. One would think that these two creatures would not have a problem with each other but the springbok took exception to them drinking at his hole and gave them a hard time attempting to but them out of the way. It was really quite amusing but the sec birds held their own and slaked their thirst while ignoring the pesky buck.
At Fourteeth Waterhole we had fun observing the red-headed finches swarming down for quick sips of water then rapidly flying up to settle in a tree for a few minutes before swooping down for more refreshment. The do this, I think to make it extremely difficult for a lanner to catch them and for a photographer to snap them. A single shaft-tailed whydah made a brief appearance but disappeared before we could get a pic.
We arrived at Mata Mata at quarter to four, check in was smooth and we were given the keys for number 1. This family cottage was great – two bedrooms, a separate kitchen, bathroom and loo and hand basins in each bedroom. The ‘’lounge also had 2 beds so it would be suitable accommodation for 6 people.
We did not go out in the afternoon but enjoyed the birdlife in the camp and visited the shop because – oops – I’d left the onions, sweet potatoes and green avos in a drawer at Twee Rivieren. I reported it but needless to say I never saw my vegetables againL
Well here is a warning to everyone – there is no fresh produce available at KTP shops. You can buy rice, smash and vegetables in cans. There is also a variety of canned picnic meats – ham, beef, tuna etc. You can buy long life milk – low fat and full cream – no fat free. Any amount of alcoholic beverage is available. Fresh fruit juices are unobtainable but you can get Just Juice, grapetizer, appletizer etc. Also any carbonated drinks and mineral water both still and sparkling.
Fresh eggs are available as well as sliced bread.
Our first bird this morning was a white backed vulture – far away at the top of a tree so no photo. Soon after the cute little pygmy falcons and a kestrel chasing a lilac breasted roller! Impossible to imortalise but we enjoyed watching them.
We continued to see the usual chats, flycatchers, capped wheatears and sparrow-weavers but nothing exciting turned up for a few hours.
At Sitsas Waterhole there was quite a bit of activity with red hartebeest, Springbok and Gemsbok hanging out together. A pale changing goshawk displayed strange behavior by pulling bark off the branch he was sitting on. I guess he was looking for insects.
Then we had an unusual sighting. A Volkswagen drew up next to us and asked what we could see in the tree. We told him it was a PCG and then Heather said, “Aren’t you Burger Cellié?” He nodded. She’d recognized him from his photo on the back of The Raptor Guide of Southern Africa which he co-authored with Ulrich Oberprieler. And that’s how I got two books by the same authors autographed in the Kgalagadi! (The other one is The Bird Guide of Southern Africa.) Both are photographic guides and are excellent. I never leave home without them.
Our second snake of the trip was this guy. I have no idea what he is – must really get a reptile field guide.
We arrived at Craig Lockhart Waterhole at quarter to twelve and spent almost an hour there. It was fascinating watching namaqua dove, red-headed finch and lark-like buntings swoop down to drink then take off again at high speed. A lanner made a brief appearance but must have thought the effort of hunting these hyper-active birds was just not worth it – or he’d already eaten!
After the birds had flown off as quickly as they’d arrived the mammals got a chance at the waterhole. There seems to be some sort of hierarchy among species as well as within their own because we noticed that while the gemsbok drank the red hartebeest kept away and the springbok seemed to be at the bottom of the pile.
One hartebeest ‘skrikked when a gemsbok came too close to him and almost collided with his friend.
At Dalkeith we were once again watching bird activity when a car stopped to tell us there were cheetahs near 13th Waterhole. We stopped arguing about larks and headed straight there. We saw nothing but Springbok and a man with a huge lense at 13th and asked him where the cheetah were. He grumpily waved us on. He’d obviously had his fill of the super fast predator.
The 6 to 8 cars marked the spot and one could park just about anywhere and get a good view. The mom and two teen-age cubs were resting under a tree quite far from the road but we were happy with the good views we had of them. They did not just lie there and sleep but got up and walked around and at one time we thought a hunt might occur – but we were not so lucky. None had collars – so not sure who they were.
After an hour we really needed to move on to Kamqua for a loo break.
We saw yellow-billed hornbills, a rock kestrel beautifully perched in a tree and a black chested snake eagle flying overhead. I desperately wanted a photograph of one but when I did see him he flew away! More on my quest later!
Very little happened on our return. The cheetahs were still there and we watched for a while but then time insisted we move on. We saw a few giraffe at a distance and then our finally sighting just before arriving back at Mata Mata – two white-backed vultures at the top of the tree.