I must quickly mention last night; hot and muggy. Great photos of some horrible beetle type things! Also had a very nice dinner at the restaurant, overlooked my some type of mouse. Rather cute! I had kudu kebabs in a delicious sauce - with chips of course. Can't fault the food or the service, and even the price seemed reasonable to this overseas tourist. One down point was that the glass of wine was not quite cold enough!
Today (Saturday) was the long drive to Punda. Should have not seen much if you believe everything you read on the forum. It is the height of summer, grass long, trees covered in leaves, and I am north of Satara!! However I have always loved the north - and summer!
Letaba bridge provided the first entertainment; 2 saddlebilled stork collecting twigs etc for a nest (and lets hope these rare birds are successful - I have only once seen an immature one), and a spoonbill. Then one of those magical moments, which happened a few kms further up the road.
It was just me and 8 lion! And no one else came for 20 minutes - fantastic. Two large females (one with a radio collar, which I understand but don't they ruin photographs!) and 6 'cubs', of varying sizes. None tiny but still very cute! Eventually another car drew up and we shared the lion - then a third. But before they could even get their cameras out the scene was ruined by two cars racing past, scattering the lion into the bush. And guess who they were? One was a SANP Kruger vehicle, the other a delivery van. If anyone has any influence at all, please, once again, implore the Parks Board to prohibit such behaviour.
Crossing the plains further north there was quite a bit of game; 20 wildebeest and 20 zebra, more zebra further away. Loads of impala - but they were barely visible in the long grass! A stunning European bee-eater gleaming in the sun, then 4 ground hornbill. These strangely flew off; they normally seem curious and hang around. An elephant strolled across the veldt, then an oriole hurtled by, then a bit further another one. This time clearly seen as a European but of course it did not stop anywhere near me!
Twissapel was covered in reeds but not obviously flooded. I noticed movement - an antelope leaping around, becoming visible at the top of the leap! Not sure what though; seemed a bit bigger than an impala, and as it jumped it flashed a large white area on its tail. Any thoughts as to what it might be? I have a photo.
Further on a koribustard walked by, then a herd of buffalo (large) intermingled with at least 50 zebra. There were loads of oxpeckers flying around, with lots of yellow ones on the buffalo. Why not on the zebra?
I now arrived at Middlevlei - taking a bit longer than expected! There was a large herd of wildebeest (60+) and 10 zebra and 1 elephant. There was also a male namaqua dove (and several more over the next km or two) and a blackbacked jackal.
I then did something stupid! I carried on despite seeing a European roller in the road. After all, there had been hundreds of these - and they always got out of the way. Well, this one got out of the way, but turned out to be a blackshouldered kite! Oddly, I had only been thinking yesterday why I had not seen any of these!
8 more zebras in the road, then flagged down by a taxi looking for the border crossing! I thought they were stopping this misuse of the Park!
The turn off for Mopani camp often has water in a couple of pools; on this occasion the area was dry. But there has obviously been rain; the grass all around is long, including in the campsite, which trys to foster a rustic impression (personally I prefer the slightly false camps which are more like a garden, such as Letaba!).
Had a very nice breakfast overlooking the dam - but as with so much this year, not a lot to see as it is very full. A couple of darters, a buffalo and an elephant. Over breakfast I backed up my first 600 photos! I am going to have a busy couple of weeks when I get back!
Mopani to Shingwedzi was quieter with little to report. The river Shingwedzi is just flowing at the causeway (you would never know at the bridge) - and both of the feeder rivers don't seem to be. So where is the water coming from?!From the bridge I could see a hammerkop, a greenshank, 3 banded plover and blacksmiths plovers..
At the causeway there was a yellowbilled stork, a greenbacked heron, a hammerkop, a goliath heron, another greenshank, a pied kingfisher, and a malachite kingfisher. This latter was incredibly well behaved and hopefully I have some decent photos of one at last!
The trip to Babalala was mostly birds! A male oistrich, white shouldered widow, and quellea. Six elephants were performing at Boyela waterhole.
At Babalala I had a brief chat with another yellow ribbon - Imberbe. He and his family are sort of here for the birding weekend at Parfuri, but not actually doing the weekend!
Not much else to report except that just after the turn to Punda from the main north road, I snapped some (hopefully!) lovely shots of a giraffe family.
Decided to do the Mahonie loop around Punda this morning, have breakfast, then go up to Parfuri. Tomorrow I will do the opposite. Possibly a good choice as it happens!
It was a dull start weatherwise, but never actually rained. I went anti-clockwise, so quickly came to the small water hole -it has water but nothing to be seen. A bit further there were several kudu, then two trees containing vultures (including 2 lappetfaced) and oddly (?) a pale tawny eagle. Not sure what they have in common! A noisy lock passed by, settled, then off again - arrowmarked babblers. My first plum coloured starling on top of a tree but the light too poor to set off the iridescent plum (or violet as it is now called!) colour - I will have to see what Photoshop can do!!
At the far side of the loop there were two herds of buffalo - neither very large, but between them had made a right mess of the track! The second lot were being followed by a large flock of wattled and other glossy starling; no doubt after disturbed insects.
Amazingly, I was just hoping to see a crowned hornbill (here and at Parfuri are the only spots I have seen them in the past) when I flew by - unmistakeable, but didn't stop for a portrait shot. Then I rounded a bend to find the road blocked by a fallen crumbled and burnt out tree. That would never have been allowed to stay there in the old days! I had two choices; try to turn around (not easy in a campervan on a narrow track) and go all the way back (I had probably done 18 of the 25 kms of the loop) or do what some others had done, go off track and follow someone elses tyre tracks (again not an obvious choice in a campervan!). Fortunately I decided to press ahead; slightly worrying but I made it. I was rapidly rewarded with the sight of a Wahlberg's eagle feeding a youngster with a yellowbilled hornbill! Just like human kids - totally impatient wanting it's food before it was prepared.
Last sight before breakfast was a large elephant coming down from Coetzer. Breakfast was actually excellent; the only slight weak spot is the coffee as I don't think they have a proper machine yet.
On the way up to Parfuri I passed, and briefly stopped to chat to Fer de Lance, another 'yellow ribbon'. Saw several more kudu, a Sharpe's grysbok, more buffalo with wattled starling and oxpeckers, impala at the Klopperfontein waterhole (dry), then 3 elephant which I think I must have surprised (don't know how, the van rattles so much!) as they did a bit of trumpeting and jumping about!
The dam was full, with what I initially thought was a fish eagle - the sun had come out and I saw a white gleam in a tree. As it happens it was a male knob-billed duck!
The drift was dry like the waterhole but there must have been rain recently
- everything is so green and the grass long.
Approaching Parfuri I saw a 3rd type of cuckoo - a pied-morph Jacobin. Then close to the small pan, about 0.5 km before the bridge, there were a couple of cars. They had spotted 3 lion, including a handsome male. In all the years coming to Parfuri I have never seen lion here, though we were shown lion prints crossing the picnic spot on one occasion!
From the bridge I saw hadeba ibis, whitebacked vulture, white fronted bee-eater, lots of little swift (I think!), hippo, baboon, a stunning nyala male, could hear a fish eagle, and said hello to a group of the anti-poaching teams. Not bad.
I then met a fascinating man who turns out to be one of the world authorities on scorpions! It seems there are scorpions everywhere and he gave me a UV light to look for them. Some large but harmless ones living in trees appeared to be a good target! Oddest thing is that he was born and brought up 20 miles from where I live in the UK.
I went down the Nyala drive; saw the long tailed starling, some impala, an elephant, then a small herd of elephant actually in the Thulamela site! But no nyala.
The picnic site was a bit disappointing; some nyala on the far bank, and bee-eaters again. But the two I like to see were calling but not visible; trumpeter hornbill and the purple-crested lourie.
At this point can I say that I don't especially like spiders - I am not phobic or anything like that but I can take them or preferably leave them! I couldn't help noticing that there were quite a few golden orb spiders and webs at the picnic spot, making walking interesting (I had to duck to get under one!). I was a bit surprised that so many were left, with kids running around - but actually they are not dangerous (I am told!). Especially when you see how 'sterile' the campsite restaurants have become - not a bird in sight, health and safety no doubt. But I digress. I then tried to drive down to Crooks Corner and found this a very unpleasant ordeal. Once before, several years ago, we were in the Park when they was an irruption in the numbers of golden orbs - but that was near Satara and seemed to be along main roads. Here there were 100's, probably 1000's, along the narrow track - and I was ducking and diving with my large campervan. I did not want one joining me! I will say it again - I cannot believe how many golden orb spiders there are in the area!
Worst think - Crooks Corner is closed off!!! I am told a small stream which crosses the track there has flooded and damaged the road!
On the way home I saw helmeted guineafowl - amazed it has taken this long to see that bird.