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Old Wednesday 1st November 2017, 13:01   #26
Jos Stratford
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14 June. Letaba-Satara, Kruger.

To the grasslands of Satara, a pleasant day in this most open area of Kruger National Park, big increases in the numbers of Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Impala etc, plus a number of Steenbok, the first Ostriches of the trip and abundant open country birds such as Kori Bustards, Red-crested Korhaans, and, in the skies, Black-shouldered Kites, Tawny Eagles, Martial Eagles and Bateleurs. A stop at a viewpoint added Grey-rumped Swallows, Pearl-breasted Swallows and Brown-throated Martins along a river, plus a selection of butterflies – Bushveld Purple Tips, several African Monarchs drifting about and, a rather impressive duo, both Blue Pansy and Yellow Pansy.

Equally pleasing were the butterflies at Satara camp - the discovery of a splendid flowering bush held the single best concentration of butterflies that I was to encounter on this trip. Many dozens of individuals, it was a sight to behold: along with numerous African Monarchs and Wandering Donkey Acraeas, Garden Acraeas and Small Orange Acraeas, some of the delights included Black-striped Hairtail, Grass Jewel Blue, Natal Spotted Blue, Sooty Blue, Common Zebra Blue, the exquisite Black Pie, the nice-named Striped Policeman and another Blue Pancy. A Squinting Bush Brown also seen on a track nearby. South Africans sure have good imagination when it comes to naming their butterflies!

The camp was also excellent for birds – an African Scops Owl roosting near the camp reception, numerous Little Swifts overhead and African Mourning Dove, Groundscraper Thrush, White-breasted Scub-Robin and Wattled Starlings all in the campsite, along with a change in the guard amongst the glossy starlings – gone the Greater Blue-eared Starlings of northern Kruger, now abundant Burchells Starlings and Cape Glossy Starlings!

In the Satara area, didn't see a hoped-for Cheetah or White Rhinocerous, though did encounter an anti-poacher operation underway, troops racing in, a helicopter zigzagging low over a specific area. Mammal highlights were limited to Black-backed Jackal and Spotted Hyena, plus a family of six Dwarf Mongoose, while the more notable birds included Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, Grey-headed Kingfisher and a female Small Buttonquail and six accompanying chicks.

Back in camp, as night fell added a few active Schlieffen's Bats, then an African Wild Cat ambling across an open lawn just after dark. Failed to find Honey Badger, Satara camp apparently good for this species, but a productive night drive did add two male Lions at very close quarters, an African Civet and a Large Spotted Genet, plus Scrub Hare, Springhare and Spotted Thick-knee. Highlight for me though was a Bronze-winged Courser standing in the middle of a track, my first ever in South Africa.
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Old Wednesday 1st November 2017, 13:05   #27
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Smaller ones of the day ...
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Old Wednesday 1st November 2017, 13:07   #28
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And some of the others ...
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Old Wednesday 1st November 2017, 13:09   #29
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Itsy witzy bird...
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Old Wednesday 1st November 2017, 21:04   #30
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Those Pansies are exquisite! Are they related to the buckeyes? Shape and general markings look similar to me.
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Old Thursday 2nd November 2017, 08:23   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by birdmeister View Post
Those Pansies are exquisite! Are they related to the buckeyes?
All part of the Junonia clan
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Old Monday 6th November 2017, 02:09   #32
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All part of the Junonia clan
Thanks!
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Old Monday 6th November 2017, 19:50   #33
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15 June. Satara-Pretorius, Kruger.

Final day in Kruger, winding south towards Skukuza. A heavily misted morning, a male Lion most evocative as it sauntered out of grasses hidden in the fog. Two Black-backed Jackals a little further, narrowly missed a Leopard that had crossed the track just before we rounded a corner. Bright sun soon broke through, an African Green Pigeon and a Bearded Woodpecker amongst the birds seen. On we continued, an abundance of typical Kruger mammals, but the only new species for the trip was a Banded Mongoose trotting along mid-afternoon. Did however find another group of Whalberg's Epauletted Fruit Bats, this time roosting under the eaves of the camp shop at Skukuza, plus two young Spotted Hyenas sleeping in the shade of a trackside tree.

Departed Kruger late afternoon via Pretoriuskop, then zipped north-west to squeeze in a quick visit to the grasslands at Dullstroom just before dusk to add Grey Rhebok and Blesbok, three individuals and a herd of about 35 respectively. It was then time for the long trek westwards, an all-night drive of 1350 km to the opposite side of the country and the fantastic Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a chilly minus 7 C in the final approaches, a number of Cape Hares and Bat-eared Foxes encountered in the last few dozen kilometres.

So, next up, the magical Kgalagadi ...
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Old Monday 6th November 2017, 19:52   #34
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Out of the mist ...
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Old Friday 10th November 2017, 18:07   #35
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Love to see a Leopard................although I love birds first and foremost, but a Leopard is the animal I would love to see most of all.
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Old Friday 10th November 2017, 19:36   #36
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The Camel Spider / Solifuge, known locally as a 'Red Roman', do in fact have a good bite on them according to people we met, we had a big one in our room.



A
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 09:36   #37
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No Dogs Jos?

Can't believe you didn't see Rhino, presumably seasonal, we had 20 odd almost every day in the Southern part of the park? We didn't see Leopard or Side-striped Jackal.

Assume you saw Black-throated Wattle-eye on a previous triop?

Really want to get back to Africa.


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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 17:53   #38
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Great report, Jos, with many good photos! Just returned from week in the Kruger myself and your story takes me back straight away. How special to do all this with your 8-year old companion. It must have been an amazing experience for her.
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 17:54   #39
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Part Two. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park & Augrabies Falls.

Another world from Kruger, rolling red dunes of the Kalahari punctuated by the shallow valleys of the Auob and Nossob, slithers of grassland and acacia savannah supporting abundant life, both birds and mammalian. An amazing area, renowned for felines in particular, this slab of land protruding up between Namibia and Botswana is truly one of the gems in South Africa's rich crown of wildlife localities.


16 June. Kgalagadi.

Sun rising over the dunes, still a considerable chill to the air, so began the slow meander up the Auob Valley towards the destination for the coming night, Mata Mata Camp. With pink eyelids blinking, a pair of Verreaux's Eagle Owls adorned the top of an acacia, then as we crossed a section of dunes at the outset, two Northern Black Korhaans, a party of White-backed Mousebirds, several Southern Anteating Chats and a number of Fawn-coloured Larks. Four-striped Grass Mice super abundant, many dozens feeding aside the track, a few Brant's Whistling Rats too, chunky things that live in colonies, whistling from burrow entrances. Then a shout from my smaller travelling companion 'What that's running through the grass?' What was that indeed? Only a stonking Honey Badger! Zigzagging about in the sunlight, this was a critter on a mission, seemingly trying to catch the Four-striped Grass Mice. Better still, it had attracted a pair of attendant Pale Chanting Goshawks – as the Honey Badger went from bush to bush, so the Pale Chanting Goshawks kept following to watch for mice disturbed by the Honey Badger. A successful strategy it appeared, in not many minutes the hawks had swooped down on several mice, devouring them pretty quickly.

From the dunes, on into the Auob Valley, open parched grassland and dotted acacias, plenty of Gemsbok, Springbok and Blue Wildebeest. Ostriches plodding about in quite some abundance, Kori Bustards too. No shortage of smaller birds too, Marico and Chat Flycatchers commonplace, a few Pale Flycatchers also, Kalahari Scrub Robins strutting across from acacia scrub, quite a number of vivid Crimson-breasted Shrikes. Particularly around waterholes, flocks of sparrows, weavers and finches too, these including Cape Sparrows, Southern Grey-headed Sparrows, White-browed Sparrow-Weavers, Red-billed Queleas, Scaly-feathered Finches and Yellow Canaries. Naturally, also plenty of that classic bird of the Kalahari, the Sociable Weaver, along with their massive nests that were literally forcing trees to collapse. Smaller numbers of Violet-eared Waxbills and Red-headed Finches too.

And with this mass of small birds and rodents, so too raptors to prey upon them, several Gabar Goshawks at the waterholes, four Pygmy Falcons, four Red-necked Falcons, both Rock and Greater Kestrels, an absolute minimum of 40 Pale Chanting Goshawks and a range of other raptors, including both Secretary Birds and Black Harrier. In all fifteen species of raptor this day.

Venturing further up the valley, the temperature now rising towards a pleasant 20 C, encountered three Lions resting under a stunted acacia, one male and two females, then our first Meerkats of the trip, eight standing alert in classic pose. Also Giraffes nearby and at least 80 Namaqua Sandgrouses dropping in to drink at a waterhole, two Burchell's Sandgrouses tagging along too.

All in all a very pleasant day and it was quite late in the day that we finally reached the campsite. Shoved the tents up, immediately attracting the attention of Ground Squirrels, Yellow-billed Hornbills and Cape Glossy Starlings, all trying to scrounge titbits, then had a quick look round for roosting owls to no avail, about the best birds in the camp being Crimson-breasted Shrikes, Long-billed Crombec and Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler. A couple of Yellow Mongoose also sauntered by.

Had hoped to find Brown Hyena at dusk, but neither an evening drive nor scanning from the camp after dark managed this, we did however notch up an impressive 19 Bat-eared Foxes taking in the evening sunshine, plus six Black-backed Jackals. A pleasing first day in the Kalahari
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 17:58   #40
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Kgalagadi little stuff, the first being chomped by a Pale Chanting Goshawk
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 18:00   #41
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And the Meerkats ...
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 18:04   #42
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Some of the raptors of the day ...
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 23:15   #43
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Another fine report - your spotter certainly holding up her end pretty well with Leopard and Honey Badger!

Cheers
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Old Monday 20th November 2017, 19:35   #44
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17 June. Kgalagadi.

Long day, crossing from the Auob Valley to the Nossob Valley, then heading up to Nossob Camp before returning to Mata Mata. Both Red-crested Korhaan and several Northern Black Korhaans on the transit between valleys, as well as seven Burchell's Sandgrouse and a dead Spotted Eagle Owl, but the greater rewards were at a picnic stop at the beginning of the Nossob Valley, a nice selection of ultra-tame birds descending as soon as we were out of the car in the expectation of hand-outs not only Sociable Weavers on mass, many even coming to the hand, but also several Yellow-billed Hornbills, a couple of Acacia Pied Barbets and even Kalahari Scrub Robins strutting out from nearby cover. Dozens of White-crowned Sparrow-Weavers and Cape Glossy Starlings too, plus quite a few Four-striped Mice gingerly sneaking in from scattered burrow.

An hour or so here, photographing the assorted attractions, plus keeping an eye on the sky for raptors from Tawny Eagles to Lanner Falcons, then onward to Nossob Camp. Failed to find a White-faced Scops Owl that I have seen here in the past, but did find a Pearl-spotted Owlet instead, couldn't complain too much. Also present, a bunch of highly photographic Yellow Mongooses and ever present Ground Squirrels.

Nothing of major note on the way back to Mata Mata, the highlights a particularly large Mole Snake, my first Red Hartebeests of the trip and no less than 30 Bat-eared Foxes. I did however manage to draw a complete blank on felines this day, quite an achievement in this cat-rich environment!
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Old Monday 20th November 2017, 19:42   #45
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Titbit scavengers ...
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Old Monday 20th November 2017, 19:44   #46
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Some of the mammals of the day ...
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Old Monday 20th November 2017, 19:56   #47
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18 June. Kgalagadi.

Fantastic morning, Kgalagadi at its best a Spotted Eagle Owl and Pale Chanting Goshawk having a showdown just after dawn, the two perched nose to nose hissing at each other for some five to ten minutes, the owl hunching down and raising its wings, the goshawk bobbing in return. Then, as the owl finally gave up and flew to another tree, then bumped down the sandy track a few hundred metres more to find two African Wild Cats playing around an old stump, chasing each other, rolling around in the grass, jumping up and down the stump.

And then things got even better! A mere kilometre or so further, a gasp as I looked right - sauntering across the hillside through acacias and open grass, a mean looking beastie long-haired and dark, no less than a Brown Hyena! Only my third ever, all in the Kgalagadi, this one was absolutely nonplussed by its admiring fans, on it walked, always parallel to the track, occasionally glancing our way, but seemingly intent on some distant destination. Gemsbok and Springbok eyed it with suspicion, I with pure admiration. Eventually our paths veered apart, onward we continued ...perhaps our luck could continue with a Cheetah I optimistically hoped. Not quite, did add a Leopard Tortoise, a couple of Steenbok and a range of birds, including 15 Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters all stuffed up against each other in a tight bundle, but not another feline of any sort.

Arrived at Twee Riverien early afternoon and set up camp, a usual assortment of birds waiting for snacks as usual. Realising I was running out of time for a Cheetah, set out pretty early for an afternoon/evening drive back up the Nossob Valley. Oodles of Kori Bustards and Ostriches, quite a number of Red Hartebeest, a party of Meerkats and both Slender Mongoose and Yellow Mongoose, but things didn't quite go according to plan not only did we not find a Cheetah or indeed other cat, but we also destroyed one of our tyres and lost a wheel hub cover! Changed to the midget emergency wheel and limped back to camp, needless to say rather later than we should have, fortunately incurring no further problem. White-fronted Scops Owl calling somewhere in the darkness, still a very good day it had been.
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Old Monday 20th November 2017, 19:57   #48
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Star of the Kgalagadi ...
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Old Monday 20th November 2017, 19:59   #49
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Showdown featuring a larger owl, next shot it smaller cousin ...
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Old Tuesday 21st November 2017, 09:26   #50
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Posts: 269
A Brown Hyena, no less! A truly special sighting that we missed in the Kgalagadi
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