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.
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!
Our route took us to Afsaal Picnic Site where we stopped for breakfast. On the way we spotted some of our favourite creatures
What big tusks you have
This carnivorous snail is a big chap
Pearl breasted Swallow at the Afsaal
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.
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
And stopped for a loo break at Pretoriouskop
Beautiful Coral Tree
Ellie cooling off at Transport Dam
On our way to Skukuza we spotted a few regulars
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.
Nyala Males were having a drink and a play-fight – or were they serious?
A three-banded plover popped in for a while
There was great entertainment from green-backed herons
And Squacco Herons
Terrapins sunned themselves
Mr (below) and Mrs Pied Kingfisher fished
A paradise fly-catcher dipped in and out of the water for a bath and a drink.
A shy female nyala or three came down for a quick drink too
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.
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.