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 Post subject: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 1:49 am 
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Senior Virtual Ranger
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
At the beginning of October 2009, I spent a very relaxing and enjoyable three nights at Bontebok National Park. The park offers excellent birding and many spring flowers, as well as a variety of antelope. I had my best sightings yet of Cape mountain zebra and my very first sightings of grey rhebok. I also saw my first Stanley's bustards, and added the lesser striped swallow, sombre bulbul, streakyheaded canary and African olive pigeon (a huge bird, I'd thought it was a raptor until I looked at my photos!) to my bird list. As well, I enjoyed the antics of the pintailed whydahs in their breeding glory, competing for the interest of their less spectacular ladies. The bird watching, just sitting on my chalet's stoep, was very rewarding!

The Lang Elsie's Kraal restcamp has only nine chalets — numbers 4 thru 10 are along the river and while all of these have river views, I'd say that #7 is the best (I had #9); chalets 1-3 are between the first row of chalets and part of the quite a large camping area. The park is well situation for excursions to other area attractions and the shops of Swellendam are close by. I took a day trip to Cape Agulhas during my stay, and on my last day I took one of the park's four walking trails, which I very much enjoyed as it's always a treat to be able to walk in the bush, and relaxed in camp.

Here are some pictures from the Lang Elsie's Kraal restcamp.

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the view of the Breede River from the stoep of chalet #9

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chalet #9

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chalets #7 and #8

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bontebok grazing in the camp, right next to my chalet

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the braai and swimming hole area right below the camp

This area is directly below chalets 9 and 10. On the day when I stayed in the camp for most of the day, there were two different groups using this braai area, a group of young people supervised by SANParks in the morning and a large group of campers in the late afternoon. Even tho both of these groups were quite large, they kept noise to a minimum. I was most impressed that such large groups did not create any real disturbance to my enjoyment spending the day in camp.

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the swimming hole

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another view of the river from the camp

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view from the lookout point nearest the camp, looking north over the restcamp towards the Langeberg mountains

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject: Re: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Fri Nov 27, 2009 4:12 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Thanks for all the kind comments and interest in this most rewarding small park.

Part II

As you can see from my restcamp photos, the weather during much of my stay at Bontebok was overcast, which isn't the best for photos — especially of birds and flowers. Fittingly, the first animals I saw once I'd entered the park were bontebok peacefully grazing.

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The present entrance road (soon to be relocated, once construction of the new entrance gate and reception building on the western side of the park is completed) takes a sharp turn to the right and there I was confronted by a pair of the largest leopard tortoises I have ever seen — possibly a mating pair?

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this guy was HUGE!! :big_eyes:
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And grazing amongst the small group of bontebok, I spotted my first ever grey rhebok.

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All this before I'd even reached reception! Despite the grey skies, Bontebok was making me feel most welcome! (And later, whilst going through my photos, I realised that what I'd thought was a raptor in flight was in fact my first sighting of the Stanley's bustard. Sadly, all my sightings were at a considerable distance, so my photos are really good for ID purposes only — but I did see several, both in the park and along a country lane on Cape Agulhas.)

Here are a few more photos of Bontebok animals.

red hartebees
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Cape mountain zebra
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a tiny angulate tortoise
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grey rhebok
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and of course, bontebok, many with nursing young
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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:23 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
Posts: 3851
Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Thanks again for all the comments and interest in this park.

Part III

Bontebok offers four hiking or walking trails, ranging from the 1.6km Acacia trail — which starts from the restcamp and which is the one I did — to the 5.4km Bushbuck trail. This is also one of the few parks where you are allowed to get out of your car to have a closer look at the smaller things, altho I unfortunately didn't learn this until after my visit :( (I have suggested that visitors might be made more aware of this "exception", since the rule against protruding or alighting from a vehicle is included in the rules printed on the back of the park map that visitors are given, so I'd assumed that getting out was not allowed.)

Here are some photos taken along the Acacia trail, as well as some of the sightings that I enjoyed during my leisurely walk.

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Since I took my time — and also took advantage of the few benches provided along the trail — it took me close to two hours to walk this shortest of the Bontebok trails. However, the advantage of walking slowly is that you may better notice the smaller things: insects, plants, even dung.

Birds seen along the Acacia Trail

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speckled mousebird

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Karoo prinia

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barthroated apalis

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African olive pigeon or rameron (I'd thought that this was a raptor until I had a look at my pix :shock: )

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Cape robin (with kill)

Goggas and other smaller sightings

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striped toktokkie beetle

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silverbottom brown butterfly

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angulate tortoise

Flowers and plants seen along the Acacia Trail
(help with ID of these will be much appreciated!)

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passionflower vines (above) and flower
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pink vygie

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject: Re: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2009 10:21 pm 
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Part IV

One of my reasons for visiting Bontebok was the excellent birding I had heard about and I was not disappointed. Bontebok brought me several lifers :dance: Unfortunately, the mostly overcast weather was not conducive to good photos, but here are a few of the birds that I saw at Bontebok.

All of the Stanley's bustards that I saw (two at Bontebok and one between Cape Agulhas and Arniston, which I'd thought was my first sighting, not realising that I had already seen one in flight at Bontebok) were very far away

the first one in flight
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and the second one coming in for a distant landing
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Amongst the many birds I observed, many from my stoep in camp, were

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lesser striped swallows
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Levaillant's cisticola

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cloud cisticola

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sombre bulbul

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pintailed whydah (nonbreeding male — the males in their breeding finery were too active for me to get a decent photo)

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olive thrush

And then, on the morning when I left Bontebok, next to the railway tracks just outside of the camp's gate, I spotted my first ever (or so I thought, until whilst reviewing my pix from my September visits to WCNP, I found that I had also seen it there) greywinged francolin:

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject: Re: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2009 3:54 am 
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
bert wrote:
Birding from the stoep :thumbs_up:
thats my style with a cold one within reach

Yip, bert, as they say in Maine, "finest kind"
And I even got several lifers right there on my stoep! :wink: :dance:

@Micetta: Yes the Stanley's bustard is the same as the Denham's bustard. I must say that these old and new names are extremely confusing :slap: :evil:

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject: Re: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:48 am 
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Part V

I particularly enjoyed the wealth of flowers and plants to be seen at Bontebok. Of course, early October can still be, if you're lucky (as I was), considered part of the Spring flower season, so there may be less flowering at other times of the year. I struggle to ID the plants that I see, so any help with ID will be much appreciated. For now, I'm enjoying the flowers without being overly concerned about being able to give them their names :wink: :tongue:

Aloes are found all over the park. This one, photographed at dusk, was in front of my chalet.
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honey flower/heuningblom (melianthus major)
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Even on an overcast day, the vygies are colourful
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but they come into their own when it's sunny
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This I know is a lobelia (they're sold as summer bedding plants in the USA), but I'm not so sure of which one, possibly lobelia tomentosa
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And these two are, I think, pelargoniums, possibly both pelargonium ovale
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Despite having a careful look through my Field Guide to Fynbos (by John Manning and highly recommended) these next few remain mysteries :hmz:
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This is a leucadendron, but again, it's hard to be certain which, as there are dozens. I'm thinking it's perhaps leucadendron salignum
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There are also dozens of ericas, but I think all of these may be erica versicolor
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I love how these fields of shrubby ericas, illuminated by the sunlight, seemed to stretch to the horizon
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And finally, two views of the Breede river on a sunny afternoon
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Altogether a park I thoroughly enjoyed, Bontebok is a perfect place to relax and unwind, with an infinite variety of smaller delights and surprises to be discovered.

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject: Re: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2009 2:16 am 
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Arks,

The single bright yellow flower is an Oenethera, probably biennis.

I agree with you on the Leucadendron salignum and think its probably the female plant.

Is think the erica is a discolor rather than a versicolor.

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 Post subject: Re: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:53 pm 
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You have posted some most beautiful flowers Arks, I always love seeing the flora in the parks as well. :D
I think the first pic after the Pelagoniums (pink flowers) are Vincas, also called Madagascan Periwinkle.

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 Post subject: Re: Arks explores Bontebok NP: 1-3 October 2009
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 11, 2009 1:20 am 
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Posts: 3851
Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Many thanks for the comments and enthusiasm for Bontebok, and thanks to Snow Zee for help with the flower IDs.

@michaelpr: Acdcording to the park's mammal info, there are caracal, as well as some other interesting carnivores, but as they are mostly nocturnal, they aren't often seen.

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RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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