Monday, June 7, 2010

On the road to Nossob

After a leisurely start to the morning we packed up and moved off from Urikaruus around 9am, to head off to our next camp which is to be Nossob. This camp is about 100km from Urikaruus and we anticpated that it would take us the best part of the day to get there.

Not far out of camp we spotted this little mongoose.
I unfortunately cut off the tip of its tail in this image, and this was the best shot I got, as this little chap was very busily going about his business and hardly stood still for a moment!

The road between the Mata Mata road and Dikbaardskolk was probably the worst we'd experienced in the park, and in fact turned out to be the worst section we drove on in our entire trip. Sections were so corrugated we really felt like we were getting shaken to bits! But, we weren't about to let that spoil this great trip. You are warned about the roads in this park when you book and at the various camps you are advised to deflate your tyres to as little as 1.2bar, to minimize the impact and both the raods and your travelling comfort!

Next we spotted this black-headed heron sitting on the edge of a water reservoir. It was making an interesting movement with its throat, but did not appear to be making any sound that we could hear.

To be honest by this time I had grown tired of taking photos of springbok, gemsbok and wildebeest and would only take if there was something unique in the shot that we had not seen before. A little while later I spotted a couple of Lanner Falcons sitting on a tree, they were unfortunately a little too far away to get a decent picture of, so I won't bore you with a poor quality image. Then we saw a kori bustard, now we had seen quite a few of this majestic birds, but I still had not really succeeded in geeting a nice clear shot as they seemed quite wary of the motor vehcile and always started to move off as we got closer. Perhaps it was all the rattling and creaking my poor old Sani was developing on these roads? ;-)

Then, at last, we saw a pale chanting goshawk in a thorn tree right next to the road. Now, if you've read my previous posts you'll know I'd been wanting to get a nice clear shot of one of these birds. They had also become almost iconic, at least in my mind, with respect to the Kgalagadi. So here are two of the shots I took.

Then we saw a black-cheasted snake eagle, it was a little too far to get a great shot but I quite liked this one as it shows the starkness of the landscape and the clarity of the sky.

A short while later we saw this greater kestrel, this was the first time we had been able to identify this bird, on this trip, and it was the only chance I got to take a photo of it.

By now we were almost half way through the mornings trip. It had not taken quite as long as we'd expected, but we were feel somewhat shaken and not really stirred! We arrived at the Dikbaardskolk picnic spot and decided to get out and rest a while. As with most of the (human) inhabited spots in the park, this was no different and the yellow mongoose were ever present looking for a tidbit of any sort.

The balance of the trip into Nossob was fairly quite and we did not see much at all. We arrived at the camp at about 13:35, sooner than we had expected, but defintely not sooner than we'd wished after rattling to bits for a couple of hours! (But that's another story)!

all the best,

Monday, May 31, 2010

Urikaruus ... final day

So back at camp I return to some of my smaller friends again to wrap up our stay at this charming little bush camp. First up my old friend the lady of the lodge, the garden orb web spider. She was still around and there were some interesting developments at the web! At first I did not notice them and was simply busy trying to get some different angles and views of this beautiful spider.
Then I spotted it ... a male had come a-courting! This little fellow was so tiny by comparrison that at first I simply did not see him. Can you?
Well here's an even closer view. Click the image to see it even larger.
Anyway let's move on from my spider fetish for now :-)
Whilst strolling around the camp trying to not get bitten by the very aggressive ants that were everywhere; and it stings when they nip you! I spotted this very well camouflaged grashopper.

Almost impossible to see against the desert sand unless it moves. A little later in the day I saw this somewhat larger member of his greater family.

Much to my daughters dismay it seemed to be heading directly into their chalet via one of the veranda support posts! Due to the cryptic colouring of these hoppers even my camera's auto focus was battling to pick them up nicely!

From time to time I had seen some bright green metallic coloured flies of some sort, but they were flying around so fast and never sitting still long enough for me to get a decent shot that I thought I'd never get something usable. Eventually one of them managed to get itself trapped inside our chalet against the window. It was still quite a challenge to get a photo of it as it simply would not sit still long enough! So after many attempts I managed to get this one which I was quite please with. In fact it won me a second prize in the macro section of the Captured Experiences competition web site.

So here it is ... what do you think?

I was amazed at the colours when I downloaded this image and took a closer look. Can you see the shimmering blue dots on it's back too? Oh, apparently this is a cukoo wasp.

To wrap this post up and our visit to Urikaruus here's my final parting shot :-) another cryptically coloured little grasshopper:
that's all for today.

all the best

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Urikaruus, the final episode! (almost!)

As the morning dawned on our final day in this lovely little bush camp, we awoke to find a number of eagles visiting our small haven as they had at various times over the last few days. There was a tawny eagle far away on the other side of the watering hole, just too far for me to get a useful photo. We decided to go out on an early morning drive this morning, and not long after we left camp we saw this eagle with two fork-tailed drongos in attendance.

We had decided to head off in the direction of the lion kill we had seen the day before to see if perhaps there were now other predators or scavengers nosing around what the lions had left behind. Well we were in for a surprise, the lions were still there! This must have been close on 24 hours after they had originally made the kill. There were a number of jackals nosing around in the area, but they were giving the lions a very respectful wide berth. The wildebeest carcass had ben reduced now down to the head and some bones!

This was one of the every hopeful jackals that were patrolling the area.

As we had spent quite a bit of time with these lions the day before we decided to move on, and were rewarded only a few minutes later with the sighting of 3 secretary birds. Two of them were moving in an area quite close to each other and the third was 20 or 30 metres away from them.

As we were watching them one of the birds found something interesting in the grass.

Immediately the other bird rushed over and tried to claim the prize for itself. This started an amazing dance duel!

And just as it started it was over! In fact the time stamps on the three photos above show that each shot was taken one (1) second after the other! So three grand seconds of display and it was all done. Life returned to normal and they continued to forage as they had before.

A little further on we spotted a Namaqua Dove sitting in a tree quite close to the road. These a very pretty little doves (at least in my opinion!) and I had been wanting a decent shot of them for sometime. This was not too bad, but still I'd like to get a better one.

Later on we spotted another secretary bird, some large herds of springbok, one almost get bored with the springbok becuase you see so many. Then a juvenile martial eagle sitting in a tree.

After that we decided to head back to camp and make brunch, we had been out for about two hours and had some nice sightings. I'll leave this post here and wind up our Urikaruus stay in my next post, then we moved on to Nossob .... but that's another days post :-)

all the best

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Urikaruus story continues

Having had the excitement of the lions at lunchtime we moved back to our camp, on the way we passed a large herd of springbok right on the roadside. This opportunity allowed me to get a real close-up of some of these iconic animals.

Then when we arrived back at the camp there waiting for us at the drinking hole were a herd of giraffe. I watched with interest as these tall animals, that can look so graceful as they wander around the veld, akwardly reach down to get a drink. The shot of this one below had me holding my breath as its legs went wider and wider, occasionally slipped in the mud around the hole and seemed to have incredible flexibility as they bent under the weight and angle, forced by the massive distance the giraffe needs to come down to drink.
The Lanner falcons were also busy around the waterhole, swooping in try to catch a pigeon or two.

Also hanging around trying to look dis-interested were the fork-tailed drongos.

As the afternoon moved on we decided to go out for a short drive. The first new sighting we had was this Capped Wheatear

And then we spotted this little darlings of the desert! The bat-eared foxes. They were just a little too far away and moving further away, and the light was dropping so I struggled to get a decent shot of them, but this one illustrates their classic pose as they search of their evening meals.

We then headed back to camp. Shortly after we arrived back, the giraffe that had been at the waterhole earlier had been replaced by a large herd of wildebeest. I counted more than fifty in this image below, and that was not all of them.

We then settle down to review the photos we'd been taking and prepare for supper. Here is Claire Marie, my younger daughter looking through her pic's from the day.

And of course as it started to get darker, and the moths and other insects were attracted to our lights the geckos came out to feast with us!

I think thats all for this post ... its taken me way too long to get it finished!

all the best

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In and around Urikaruus - part 5

Well having given you some bugs (spiders!) and birds in my previous post, we'll move to the bigger beasts again for a while! As I had said we were told that there had been a kill just 8km from our camp. There were apparently four lions (Panthera leo) that had taken down a blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and were busy eating it near the road. Now I must warn you, some of the images I will post here you may find a little upsetting or disturbing. It is not my intent to do either, but to simply illustrate what we saw and how nature operates in these wilderness areas. If this concerns you, please skip this post and come back tomorrow when I've posted the next installment!

So we headed off in the direction towards Mata Mata hoping that the lions would still be there and we'd be able to see them nice and close. We had seen lion a few days earlier, but they were so far away and lying still in the shade, so we could not get a decent view, never mind a picture, of them.

Well, just as described about 8km up the road we came across the lions and their prize!
This picture is of the younger female (in the foreground), and the two young males behind her. There were fours lions in total. Two older females and two young males. The three in the image above were lying right on the side of the road. The sandbank you can see in the foreground of the picture is the edge of the road!

The older of the two females was still nibbling at the carcass of the wildebeest. From this picture and the one following it you can see that the lions had eaten the rump and stomach areas of the wildebeest.

But what I found facinating were the butterflies that hovered around the kill area. Clearly in a world where moisture is at a premium these delicate creatures find something of value in the fluids distributed after a kill like this. Did you notice them in the images above? Take another look, click on the image to get a larger view.

After this lioness had eaten a little more she nochalantly picked up the carcass in her moth and dragged it into the shade of the nearby thorn tree. Now an adult wildebeest, which this clearly was, can weigh anything up to 274kg and the maximum weight a female lion is likely to reach is only 182kg. Ok, sure they had eaten a significant amount of meat off the carcass, but chances are that what remained was as heavy if not heavier than the lioness.

Here she is clearly enjoying another nibble after the exertion of moving the carcass.
What followed next was also, for me, an interesting interaction. Firstly, the lions, all four of them, seemed totally unperturbed and uninterested in the four or five vehicles that had gathered around their lunch table, despite the close proximity. Plus the camera lenses sticking in their faces and clicking sounds of photos been taken and the hum of voices from the various ocupants in the vehicles, all seemed to be of absolutely no interest to the lions at all. But I digress! The lioness that was at the carcass had gotten up and one of the young males had started to move towards her and the wildebeest. 

As he moved past the lioness that had been lying in the shade beside the road with him, he lent down and rubbed his face against hers as she lay there, totally unmoved.   He then moved towards the other lioness near the carcass, her reaction was completely different! She pulled back her ears and snarled at him!
 He simply responded by turning around again and going to lie back down where he had been before!
Just as a matter of interest, for those of you that are a little technical, the shot above of the snarling lioness was taken with 160mm focal length and has not been cropped at ALL. In fact the only shots cropped in this post are the one of the butterflies and the portrait of the male cub. That's how close we were to the action!

all the best


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In and around Urikaruus - part 4

As I mentioned in my previous post this day started well and steadily improved! Firstly I had spotted the this spider

and her web in the early morning light, then as I moved around I saw this one in a bush nearby. Do you see the curious ant possibly heading into the danger zone?

This spider, I think is a member of the sociable web spider family, or community nest spider family. This one was starting a relatively new nest I think. I had seen these nests alnode the road and in the camp and had wondered if they were still inhabited as had been unable to see any spiders in them. On top of this most of the nests I saw appeared so encrusted with dust I wondered if anything could live in there!

Then I spotted these spiders peeking out of this nest. They appeared to have a number of eggsacs too. Here is a closer crop of the photo above.

Enough of spiders .... for now! The day moves on, and we are visited by some large herds of springbok, and some wildebeest. The image below captures part of the herd only!

We counted well over 200 animals in this herd. Then I spotted a crimson-breasted shrike an image of which I posted earlier, and still I was not able to get a really nice shot of this stunning bird.

But here it is again, just because I think the colours are so amazing, even though the shot is lousy! One of the friendly familiar chats popped in too,

as did the glossy starling and of course the sparrow-weaver and family.

Then a fork-tailed drongo came by.

A group of Namaqua Sandgrouse (Pterocles namaqua)  were also making regular visits to the waterhole.

Flying high and calling with their characteristic whistle. We also saw a juvenile marshall eagle and a black-breasted snake eagle. Neither of which came close enough to allow me a decent shot, but I did get pictures of both at other occasions.

Of course the ground squirrels were also doing their usual foraging around, with their portable shade umbrellas working overtime in the harsh light of the mid-morning sun

And then ...... the camp attendant came to tell us that some of the other guests had just returned from a drive and had seen some lion with a kill not far from our camp. So we got a few things together and jumped into the car. But I'll save that story for my next post!

all the best

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