2

Kruger National Park – Day 22

1 December 2017 – Transport Dam and Lake Panic

What is it that brings one back to the Kruger National Park time and time again?  For many it’s the thrill of seeing the Big Five – Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino.  And yes – there’s not doubt that these creatures as well as hyena, jackal, wild dog and cheetah give one an enormous thrill.  But that’s not what brings me back for more.  It’s more than that – it’s being in the bush, communing with nature, the trees, the peace the whole vibe of the place and especially the birds.   I love to sit at a waterhole or dam and observe the activity of the waders, the weavers, herons and kingfishers.  I can’t put into words how awesome it is. I know that some people raise their eyebrows and shake their heads and wonder what I’m on about – but I can’t help it.  Put me in a hide for three hours and I will be content to just sit and watch and take in the peace and tranquility of it all.

Today was awesome.  Let me tell you about it.  But if your eyes have already glazed over -don’t worry – I won’t be offended if you do not read – this blog is for those who are as bird nerdy as I am!

Omigosh – as I sit here outside my caravan at 21:06 on the balmiest if evenings I hear the distant sound of a hyena calling.  This is what it’s like in the middle of the African Bush!  But back to today’s story.

I woke to the sound of the “Piet my Vrou” at 5:00 am this morning.   This cuckoo – the red-chested cuckoo to be precise calls incessantly in the summertime but is almost impossible to find as he hides so well in the foliage of the trees.  However, as I emerged from my caravan to go to the showers, wrapped in nothing but my sarong I spotted said cuckoo atop a dead tree in full view and full song!   The early morning light is not good for photography and I thought – No – I don’t think this is worth a photograph but when I got to the ablutions I dumped my vanity bag, clothes and towel and dashed back to the caravan for the camera.  “Patricia, ”  I called outside my friend’s tent.  “The Piet my Vrou  is in full view.  Come quickly and you will see her.”  I then took several photographs, put my binoculars outside her tent as she couldn’t find hers and headed to the showers.

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An early morning shot of a Red Chested Cuckoo – “Piet my Vrou”

When I was done I found a forlorn Patricia Mary.  “I missed it by a second,” said she. “As i raised the binoculars to see him he flew away!”  The problem was that P.M. had dallied over putting on some clothes instead of coming out half naked to see the elusive bird!  But me?  I have no pride!  And if anybody saw a mad old woman in a sarong taking photos of an irritating bird calling at some ungodly hour and they didn’t like it – tough – I got my shot and that is all I wanted.  For those of you reading who do not know the South African Birds – The call of the red-chested cuckoo sounds like the Afrikaans words – Piet my vrou meaning  Pete my wife.   Yes, I know it makes no sense at all.

Before we left for our morning drive we watched some little birds flitting about in the trees and were pleased to add bronze manikin to our list although the photograph is not worth publishing!

Choosing which bird is my favourite is very difficult because there are so many that I just love to see.  But I definitely get a huge thrill every time I see a Saddle-Billed Stork so if pressed I would have to say that this is my favourite bird.  Usually we spot them at some distance away in a pond or river but today we were hugely surprised to find on on the side of the road.   She was alone, clicking her bill and hunting morsels to eat.  She was not at all bothered by our presence and we were able to observe her for quite some time, first on the right side of the road and then crossing to the left where there was a midden.  A dung beetle was busy doing his cleaning up job when his life came to a sudden end as Mrs SBS gobbled him up!

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Our route took us to Afsaal Picnic Site where we stopped for breakfast.  On the way we spotted some of our favourite creatures

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What big tusks you have

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This carnivorous snail is a big chap 

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Pearl breasted Swallow at the Afsaal

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A lovely welcome from Tindlovu Rustic Kitchen at Afsaal

Afsaal is a busy stop but we were impressed with its efficiency.  You can queue for take-aways or sit at a table and a waitron will take your order.  We chose the latter and were highly impressed with our waitress.  We dithered over our order and she treated us with patience and humour.   The Earl said something annoying and I smacked him playfully.  She looked at me in horror and rubbed his hand.  Then we all burst out laughing.   Finally she sorted out our whims and fancies and brought us a most enjoyable breakfast.

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Our sassy waitress, Mpumi

Feeling fortified with food and content with our experience we continued on to Transport Dam.  On the way we saw buffalo

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And stopped for a loo break at Pretoriouskop

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Beautiful Coral Tree

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Ellie cooling off at Transport Dam

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White-faced ducks

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Wood Sandpiper

On our way to Skukuza we spotted a few regulars

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Steenbok

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Giraffe

It was very hot today and so we swam in the pool during our rest time and then Pat and I did a load of washing at the laundrette before we all went off to Lake Panic for our afternoon outing.  This hide never disappoints.  We spent an hour or so enjoying the business of nature going on before our eyes.

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Nyala Males were having a drink and a play-fight – or were they serious?

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A three-banded plover popped in for a while

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There was great entertainment from green-backed herons

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And Squacco Herons

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Terrapins sunned themselves

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Mr (below) and Mrs Pied Kingfisher fished

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A paradise fly-catcher dipped in and out of the water for a bath and a drink.

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Hippos conversed

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A shy female nyala or three came down for a quick drink too

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And two fish eagles loudly declared their love for each other

This was the best part of our day but reluctantly we had to leave.

Just before returning to camp we spotted this guy crossing the road.  He scuttle off into the bush but not before turning around to say good evening.

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Spotted Hyena ended our day

This evening we treated ourselves to an evening out to dinner at The Cattle Baron and it was awesome. Once again we had a smart, sassy waitress who took excellent care of our needs.  It was a perfect ending to a stunning day.

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4

Kruger National Park Day 1 and 2 Bloemfontein to Numbi Gate and Pretoriuskop

We are back from another amazing sojourn in The Kruger National Park. I have hundreds of photographs providing wonderful memories and will be going through them and posting some on this blog in the week or so.

Sunday 29 June 2014 Bloemfontein to Numbi Gate and Pretriouskop Rest Camp

We left Bloemfontein at 5 a.m. after a very comfortable night at Duinerus. Thanks to Magriet for her fantastic hospitality. The weather was clear and sunny though a little chilly for the first few hours. We stopped at Grasmere for breakfast and met some people with a CS number plate. They were from Bredasdorp and on their way to Kruger and Mozambique.

We decided to do our shopping at Middleberg Mall just off the freeway instead of Nelspruit and that proved to be a good idea as it had Woolworths and we were done in no time! The arrival at Numbi at 3:00 went smoothly. We had to fill out an indemnity at the gate and then went through reception very quickly. We then travelled the S3 and our first sighting was a fork-tailed drongo – very common in the park. Shortly after we stopped off at Mestel Dam. There was a pod of hippo basking in the sun. Earl wanted to leave straight away but I insisted he turn off the engine and watch and wait. Within minutes we found a fish eagle, darter, pied king fisher, giant kingfisher, jacana, and black crake. The thing about waterholes is that things can change so quickly. We even got to hear the fish eagles iconic African call.

First of many hippos seen this trip

First of many hippos seen this trip

We were quite tired after our two days of travelling so did not do a long game drive. We found grey hornbills and then Peter alerted us to waterbuck and kudu in the bush.

What are you doing in my park?

What are you doing in my park?

A target on your bottom is quite something to live with!

A target on your bottom is quite something to live with!

We then turned onto the S7 and Heather called Stop when she spotted a burchels coucal posing in a tree. Shortly after that we found some glossy starlings and more drongos.

Burchell's Coucal

Burchell’s Coucal

On the H 1 Earl spotted a single warthog grazing in the dry grass. At the Pretoriouskop day visitor picnic site we found impala with oxpeckers giving them a beauty treatment.

Beauty Treatment

You really must take care of these ears!

Three lovely waterbuck appeared just before Pretoriouskop entrance and a group of 4 dwarf mongoose darted across the road before we finally entered the gate at 4:30 Checking in went smoothly and we were delighted to move into to Huts 130 and 131 . We dined on braaied chops, sweet potatoes and salad an spent the evening outdoors in beautiful weather. It only got cold at around 9 pm

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Relaxing on the stoep of our rondawel

Cheers my love

Cheers my love

Our own personal chef

Our own personal chef

We also brought our own personal window cleaner!

We also brought our own personal window cleaner!

Monday 30 June 2014 Pretoriouskop

We made an early start this morning and exited the gate just after 06h00. It was still dark but it was not as chilly as we’d anticipated. It gets light suddenly here and the sunrises are magnificent.
This sunrise with a giraffe silhouetted in the foreground typifies Africa for me.

This is Africa

This is Africa

The first leg of our journey took us along the H1-1. We turned off onto the s71 to Shithave Dam where there was very little besides a grey heron and a pied kingfisher.
Back on the H1-1 we found giraffe, zebra and kudu. The highlight of the morning was a beautiful brown snake eagle perched atop a tee. Snake Eagles are not true eagles as their feathers do not go down to their feet – only to the knees.  Most snake eagles have yellow eyes.

Brown Snake-Eagle

Brown Snake-Eagle

We also spent ages observing a party of birds flitting about in the bushes. Seeing us stopped and staring into the bush caused a number of cars to enquire as to what exciting creature we had seen. They tore off in a puff of dust when we tried to point out an interesting bird or 2. Many people visit the park for the Big 5 and other predators and as excting as it is to see them I get more of a thrill out of the small things in Kruger. One can travel the roads for hours and not see a thing if you don’t take note of the birds and other small things.

At 9 we arrived at Transport Dam where a pod of hippos were frolicking, a few jacanas were walking in the water plants, a crake made an appearance, water dikkop sunned themselves and hornbills and lapwings begged tidbits from the tourists!
Continuing further were shaken from a reverie when we spotted a roadblock up ahead. A herd of elephants were refusing to allow the cars to pass. One mock charged a car and then swerved into the bush probably giggling and elephant laugh as the occupants breathed a sigh of relief.
A special sighting thereafter was a little Klipspringer staring at us silently from his rocky perch.

Klipspringers are incredibly nimble on rocks.

A Kruger Road Block!

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Klipspringers are incredibly nimble on rocks

We stopped at Afsaal for breakfast at about 11. It was quite warm now and we sat in the shade to enjoy our toasted sandwiches and coffee. Afsaal is one of the larger picnic sites which has a kiosk providing meals and good coffee can be obtained.  We prefer the smaller picnic sites where they do not have shops etc but Kruger draws thousands of tourists and they must be fed!

Afsaal

Afsaal

We went a little further past Afsaal before turning back to Pretoriouskop. A pile of cars were staring into the bush where leopard had been seen but we didn’t bother to wait for the phantom to appear. We enjoyed sightings of giraffe, zebra, warthog and a few more bird parties and arrived back at camp at 3.

Beautiful Model

Beautiful Model

She's on a leaf and thorn diet

She’s on a leaf and thorn diet

Hello Boys!

Hello Boys!

Brown hooded kingfisher

Brown hooded kingfisher

Hamerkop

Hamerkop

Longbilled Crombec

Longbilled Crombec

Yellow-billed Hornbills

Yellow-billed Hornbills

After shopping, getting and ice cream and resting for a while we explored the camp and found some lovely birds in the pool area.

We were delighted to find a crested barbet,  black headed oriole and red-billed woodhoepoe.  In front of our hut we also found a Kurrichane Thrush.

Crested Barbet

Crested Barbet

Black Headed Oriole

Black Headed Oriole

Red-billed woodhoepoe with bug

Red-billed woodhoepoe with bug

Kurrichane Thrush

Kurrichane Thrush

 

Supper was an early braai. Earl went to be very early and the rest of us chatted outdoors for a while before turning in for the night. We do not keep late hours in Kruger!