Black and White Vultures

This week’s Black and white challenge  calls for subjects beginning with u or v.  I have chosen V for Vulture

Vulrure White Headed 2010-10-02 033 White headed Vulture Earl

White-headed vulture – Kruger National Park


White-backed Vulture – Kruger National Park


Wild Adventure Chapter 7 The Earl Helps a Distressed Car at a Lion Sighting


The day started with a lanner.  This is a common bird in the KTP and the Grum-Peighs often see them chasing and catching doves. But this one decided to show off to them on the road.  He was eating insects or getting minerals from the gravel or whatever attracts all the creatures of the park to this habit.  Anyway he posed beautifully.


After enjoying the lanner they pushed on to Kij Kij and found a beautiful male lion drinking at the waterhole.  They then followed him as he walked off toward the Nossob road.   Several cars were parked facing the waterhole and he flopped down in their shadows.   Eventually they decided that enough was enough and set off in search of other game


A kori bustard entertained them by showing them how to take a dust bath.

IMG_6213IMG_6215IMG_6216When there is little game to be seen the G-Ps keep a sharp eye out for birds.  Even the little familiar chat is good to see.


At Melkvlei waterhole there were lots of gemsbok.


On their return they found the male lion sleeping in the shade of a tree. Lady G-P aimed her camera but suddenly the car started moving forward.  “Hey – I’m trying to get a shot,”she complained.

“But this guy in front is calling me to chat to him,” replied the Earl.

He pulled up next to the hired four by four.   “I’m so sorry,”said a British voice “But I stopped here to see this lion and now my car is dead!”  There were two men and two women in the vehicle and they all looked terrified.

“Don’t worry,” said Lady G-P, “My husband will fix it.” She has great confidence in her her husband’s MacGyver type skills.

The Earl turned the car around  with a view to jump starting his dead car.  “Just keep an eye on Leo.”said His Lordship as he climbed up and opened a rooftop box to retrieve his tools.  “He’s sitting up!” yelled Lady Peigh. But her hero was not fazed.   He took out all the tools he needed and passed them to her.

“He’s standing up now!” Lady Peigh was getting nervous. Leo sniffed the air and decided the smell of his Lordship was not to his liking and dropped down again and went back to sleep!


Leo licked his lips as he contemplated an earl for dinner


Nope – not worth the effort – think I’ll have another nap instead

The Earl decided that caution was the better part of valour and quickly hitched the tow rope to the distressed vehicle and towed him to a safer spot.   The car did not start while being towed but when they stopped the Earl found that it was a loose connection and fixed it pronto.


The First Earl of Struisbaai using his MacGyver skills

The British tourist were most grateful.  They had no tools in the hired vehicle and were quite unprepared for any mishap.   Lady G-P would never travel without her personal handyman.

They went back to look at the lion and wait for the Frend-Leighs and then took a slow drive home finding a pale chanting goshawk and a few  ground squirrels on the way.


Isn’t he beautiful


On guard and ready to warn his friends of pending danger


Wild Adventure Chapter 6 Lions at Kij Kij

8 March

The advantage of staying in a bush camp on the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is that there are fewer people in camp and one really gets to commune with nature – it’s living on the edge as there is always a chance that a wild creature could wander past your caravan or tent.  This is what the Frend-Leighs and Grum-Peighs love about Camp Rooiputs Number 2.   It is also closer to the water holes so you get to them before the crowds from Twee Rivieren arrive.  But Rooiputs has the added advantage of being close enough to Twee Rivieren so that when you need to replenish your stocks it’s a quick trip there and back.  On this particular morning the friends decide to check out the Kij Kij Waterhole nice and early and then take the long dune road that connects to another road that takes you to TR.  The plan is then to leave the park and shop at the Kgalagadi Lodge shop – and have breakfast at their restaurant.  There is nothing as good as mixing a bit of rustic living with luxury now and then!

And they are well rewarded when they get to Kij Kij and find some frolicking lions.


Good Morning Kgalagadi


This is fun!


Come on let’s play!


Time to go!

The Dune Road is very long and bendy and can be boring but today a honey badger rushed over the road in front of them and they saw 19 Northern Black Korhaan


The best of the bunch

On the return journey the Grum-Peighs stop for every bird.  Ho-Hum!


A lesser grey shrike


The ever-present tawny eagle


Southern Masked weaver and Lark-like Bunting


Male and female red-headed finch


Grey-backed sparrowlark


Male red-headed finch


Immature Pale Chanting Goshawk



The highlight was seeing a cobra try to invade a sociable weaver nest.


In the evening the Frend-Leighs and Grum-Peighs had another delicious braai.  There was no sign of stormy weather and the sunset was magnificent.


The Earl and The Friend bonding in front of the fire




Camp Rooiputs Number 2 at night


#NaBloPoMo 23 – Addo to Jeffrey’s Ba


We couldn’t resist going for one last game drive before packing up this morning.  I’d heard lions roaring in the night and though we just might be able to find them but that was not to be.  We did, though, find two jackals at Ghwarrie Pan and I managed to persuade one to pose.


On our return Early made breakfast and then we packed up and made our way to Jeffrey’s Bay.  It’s lovely to be here catching up with our friends Maureen and Jim. Maureen cooked us a delicious Roast Leg of Lamb for dinner tonight and we enjoyed the company of their friend, Errol too.


Yesterday I took some videos of the elephants and I am including them here




#NaBloPoMo 21 – A Wet Day in Addo


Who would believe that we would have rain in Addo Elephant Park in November!  It was so hot on our arrival day but now it is cold and wet!  But this has not dampened our enjoyment of being in the bush.  We are not diehards but we certainly make a plan to make things more comfortable.  Thank Goodness I thought to pack some warm clothes.

It rained throughout last night and was still raining this morning so we stayed in bed a little later – no point rushing out in the cool of the day as the whole day would be cool!  It let up enough to make a hearty breakfast and while Earl was preparing he had a demanding visitor.


This cheeky fork-tailed drongo asked to share our breakfast

It seems that butter is a delicacy enjoyed both by the drongo and the weavers. Before Earl could stop the drongo he’d taken off with the butter from the egg pan!

After rescuing our breakfast from the birds we sat down to eat and then set off to explore. It rained on and off the entire day!


Mr Kudu was the first to greet us

We saw elephants frequently and I will just show a few of the special ones here


King of the road was this bull leisurely strolling towards us and not given a damn about the cars. This is taken through the windscreen



Don’t worry he was really friendly


He could have put his trunk right through the window but he was more interested in eating his lunch


He uses his trunk with such skill

Of course the warthogs have the run of the park and we saw plenty of them.

We also got up close and personal with red hartebeest and zebra.


The babies are adorable


In spite of the rain the plains were full of game


The zebra were in playful mood


And quite affectionate toward each other

The birding was most rewarding – they did not seem to mind the rain.



Glossy starlings made many appearances



Two beautiful spotted thick-knees


An orange throated longclaw posed like a model


Of course he is a handsome chap!


A red-necked spurfowl showed off her chicks


The hyperactive stonechat was hard to get but finally he sat still and obliged me with a half decent photograph



The resident Jackal Buzzard shows he’s just as handsome as the visiting steppe buzzard

We exited the south gate and went to the little village of Colchester   just outside the park to do a bit of shopping and had lunch at Taste of Africa – a chicken salad that lacked imagination!

We arrived back at camp at 4 o’clock.  We had every intention of doing a braai for supper as the rain had stopped but by  5 it was raining again so we opted for dinner at the restaurant.  Our venison hotpot was served with mash, butternut and spinach and was to die for!


Early looking surprised at the excellent food

We’re having trouble with our portable wireless devise so might not be able to do a blog post tomorrow but hopefully I’ll be able to use my phone or Earl’s tablet as a hotspot – depends on how much data is left!

But now I will be going to sleep with the sound of rain on canvas – I do so love my offroad caravan!






#NaBloPoMo 20 – Lions and more@ Addo


It was the call of the fiery-necked nightjar calling loudly that woke me at a rude hour this morning.  I lay listening to The Good Lord Deliver Us over and over again before reluctantly climbing out of bed and heading to the showers.  Good thing too – because it was already light and gate opening was at 5:30.  We made it to the gate by 5:45.

The weather was somewhat cooler but still warm enough for shorts and t-shirt but I took along a jersey for when the windows were open.  Our first bird of the morning was this summer visitor from Eastern Europe


Although the steppe buzzards breeds in Eastern Europe they migrate to Southern Africa in summer arriving in October and leaving in April

Another non-breeding summer migrant is the barn swallow


These birds start arriving in September and the last ones leave in April

An intra-African migrant Lesser Striped swallow greeted us early this morning.


Lesser Striped Swallow – present in South Africa from July to March

The Southern Masked weaver is a common resident in South Africa and is not too shy to pose for a portrait.  They can become quite tame and frequent campsites in the hope that they pick up a snack or two from the friendly humans.


How those vicious thorns don’t stab them I do not know.

As we drive around the reserve we frequently hear – Willie – come out and fight – scared.  Or that is what the field guides tell us the Sombre bulbul is saying.  But I think it sounds more like. Look out – you can’t find me – whaaaaa.  But today we did find him – right out in the open too.

Another one who calls out loudly and likes to hide is the very pretty little Diderick Cuckoo.   Today Earl found him trying to camouflage in the foliage.


The male cuckoo is very good looking – but he and his wife don’t raise their own chicks.  The female chooses a variety of hosts including the southern masked weaver, red bishop, Cape sparrow and Cape wagtail. She lays up to 20 eggs per season so that’s a lot of surrogate mothers she has to find!

It is important to get out into the park early if you want to see predators. Lions are lazy and sleep in a shady spot most of the day.  Today we found two large males at Carol’s Rest and they were just lying there – awake and just staring into the distance.


Lions Rule

Red Hartebeest, zebra and kudu were waiting, dead still, over the road on the hillside, very aware of the enemy and too scared to come down to drink.

We parked off, had breakfast and drank our coffee while we waited to see if anything would happen.  Warthogs have to be the bravest and cheekiest of animals.  The appeared from the other side of the waterhole so did not consult with the herbivores on the hillside.  They boldly approached their kings and I wondered how the conversation went.


Please, Your Majesty, may I go down to drink?


Now let me think – I’ll check with my brother


NO!  Get out of here or we’ll have you for breakfast!


The cheek of those subjects!

You would think the others would learn from the warties – but no – all of a sudden a herd of donkeys in prison clothes came racing across the road – then stood dead still in front of their sovereign.


We’re just out of jail and very thirsty – May we have a drink please sire?


Oh sure – if you want to be steak!

So they turned tail and headed back to the hill.


They have to leave some time – we’ll just have to wait!

We watched these antics for over an hour and then decided to head back to camp.


We were thrilled to find two meerkats – but only one photograph is worth posting.


Life is good in Addo Elephant Park


Jackals are usually on a mission but this one must have had a tough night as he is settling for a nap


I’m watching you – please leave me in peace.

Back at camp we decided to follow the jackals example and have a nap before going out in search of more game later in the afternoon.

It was 3 pm when we set off again and I have to eat my words about summer reaching the Eastern Cape ahead of us.  A cold front sneaked up, strong winds blew and the heavens clouded over.   It is calmer as I type but freezing cold!   It will probably rain in the night.

Anyway this did not dampen our spirits and we had an enjoyable game drive.  Surprisingly there we saw no elephants until the very end.

It was great to see a black-shouldered kite


A greater double-collared sunbird posed and sang for us.

And finally at Hapoor we found a small herd of elephants

We decided to do a small potjie over the fire for tonight’s dinner


And just to make our day a bushbuck came to visit





Caravanning in the Kgalagadi Mata Mata to Nossob Sunday 15 March 2015

We are up very early and start the final packing for departure. The most difficult part is getting the roof of the Comfort Van down.  It is very difficult to clip into place there being a front part and a back part that needs to be done. If the one end clips the other won’t and we have not yet learned the knack of getting it right.  One is also in danger of bashing one’s head on the ceiling if one doesn’t duck just in time.  I am uselessly impractical and tend have serious coordination problems which frustrates the perfectionist in my darling husband.  He has soon collected several reasons to divorce or kill me when Jim comes to the rescue and offers to help.  I feel fractionally better when I find that the two men have as much trouble as I did with the task but they finally do it without destroying their beautiful friendship.  This particular caravan has a problem and Earl says he will have to make a few adjustments so that the mechanism will work more easily in the future!

We had planned to leave at 7 but are ready to roll at 6:35 and we are out of the gate by 6:40 – just 10 minutes later than our usual start. This is as well as we have 160km of rough roads to negotiate while towing our caravan and the maximum allowed speed is 50km/hr

We spot at speed for a while and get Jackal, White-backed vultures and gemsbok before Jim and Maureen stop at 7:00.  What do they see – then I spot them – 3 female lions and a tumble of the tiniest kittens. I call them kittens because they are the tiniest cubs I have ever seen.  They must be only a few weeks old.  Other tourists are turning their vehicle round to follow them and one chap teases us – “Why don’t you turn round and follow too!”  If only!

001 Lion Earl 2015-03-15 06-57-36 AM 4752x3168 001 Lion Earl 2015-03-15 06-57-037 001 kitten earl 2015-03-15 06-58-18 AM 4752x3168 001 Another kitten 2015-03-15 06-58-22 AM 4752x3168

But we are delighted to have got this much of them.  I find out later that M&J had seen the male too. He was sitting down proudly watching his family.  Somehow E and I missed that!

We do not take the loops round the waterholes but travel the bypass road instead keeping a sharp lookout for anything interesting.  We spot three cheetahs (which J and M miss) on the ridge of the dune.  It looks like they intend going to 14th Waterhole.

We pass some giraffe then turn onto the Dune Road toward Nossob.  The vegetation is denser now but the game is sparse.  We find one or two steenbok which we haven’t seen this trip yet.   A Kori Bustard struts past and a lanner flies into a tree. At Vaalpan we find a black headed heron in a small waterhole.

003 Steenbok Helen 2015-03-15 08-08-58 AM 4608x3456

Jim is ahead of us and when we catch up he is stationery – we think to wait for us but when we draw up beside him he points to Northern Black Korhaan – the dunes are famous for these birds.

003 Northern Black Korhaan 2015-03-15 08-24-17 AM 1751x1314

At Elan Water Hole we find a jackal and a little later we spot red hartebeest.

Our loo stop is at Kikbaardskolk picnic site where we meet some people who warn us that there is ‘nothing to see’ in the Nossob area.  The annual rains have not yet arrived and may in fact be too late.  There will be consequences to the wildlife if good rains don’t come soon.

We find Gemsbok at both Dikbaardskolk Water Hole and Kaspersdraai Water Hole where there is also a jackal.   Finally we arrive at Nossob at about 9:30.  Jim and Maureen go straight to the camping area and find the shadiest spot they can.  I go to reception and the man complains that people seek their camping spot before checking in! We decide not to go out for a game drive today as it is just too hot!

I am finding camping so much nicer than staying in chalets. Ones fellow campers are all so friendly and one gets to meet some interesting people.  After breakfast I take the dishes to wash and find a gentleman sitting at a counter, laptop plugged sorting out his photographs.  He calls me over and shows me the most amazing video and photo sequence of a leopard that came down to drink as Kaspersdraai water hole.  It was on his granddaughter’s birthday so he named her Tara.  Later when I return to do some washing he is there with his friend Peter – both of them on their computers.   They are discussing birds that they might see and mention that in the rainy season you could sea knob-billed duck.  Isn’t that now called comb duck, I ignorantly chime in.  Oh no, says Peter – the comb duck is in India – we’ve changed our one’s name back to knob-billed duck. And if you read my book you will have all the new names.  Turns out he is Peter Ginn chief editor of The best companion to Southern African Birding.

I meet Peter, his wife Irene and their friends in the pool later.  Peter offers me his set of books at a reduced price and I tell him that I’ll chat to E which I do later and Earl is dead keen.  Other campers had shown us these beautiful coffee table books at Mata Mata and E was impressed.  Peter agreed to give us his banking details and we are now the proud owners of these stunning books signed by both him and his wife who is co-editor!

For supper we do steaks, sweet potato and onions on the braai and combine our ingredients for a salad.   It won’t be long before we run out of fresh veggies so we’re making the most of it while they last.

It is very hot tonight and I wring my sarong out in cold water and sleep with it draped over me. I don’t wake till 5 the next morning!