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 Post subject: Johan van Rensburg Visits 6 National Parks in 2 weeks Oct11
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 10:00 am 
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The countdown has begun... 12 sleeps to go!

For now there is a lot of preparation to do. As a trailer is not allowed in KTP, I had a half-size roofrack put onto the Landy's rear. Because I know dust will be an issue along most of the route we intend travelling, I had Suzie Sakmaker sew me a dustproof luggage cover. I got the cover on Friday and is itching to start packing! :lol:

My itinerary looks like the odometer will be rolling big numbers...

15 and 16 October KTP, Twee Rivieren
17 and 18 October KTP, Gharagab
19 October KTP, Twee Rivieren
20 October, Namaqua NP, Skilpad Rest Camp
21 October, WCNP, Abrahamskraal
22 to 24 October, WCNP, Joanne's beach cottage
25 and 26 October, Agulhas NP, Lagoon House
27 and 28 October, Karoo NP, Rest Camp
29 October, Mokala NP, Haak-en-steek Rest Camp.

For now I am spending my nights swotting up on the habitats, habits and sounds of the 20-odd birds I hope to add to my lifelist... And checking lists for all the bits and pieces we intend taking with... And shopping for the items missing from that list! :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:12 pm 
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We are back home… :cry:

6638 kilometres clocked up in the process! With hindsight visiting six parks in two weeks was a tough nut. Our itinerary was probably short of at least four days. However, the sights and sounds of each destination helped to weave a very rich tapestry in our memories. In the end, even the long roads contributed little flashes of brilliance that provided the bling to the earthiness of the Parks, the sum total of which will stay with us for a lo-o-o-ong time…

I have very little time to start a trip report as a trip to London is looming large, to be followed by a special birding trip to Balule directly thereafter. However, by the end of the month things should have calmed down a bit, enough to allow me to catch up with this excursion around SA. I should be able to get a pix or two up before leaving for London, before the weekend... Let's hold thumbs!

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 9:49 pm 
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I am burning the wicks both sides of my candle to get the 14-odd Gigs of space needed on my computer’s hard drive to house and process our holiday memories. In the course of making space some of the first trip shots have become available to post!

We arrived at the end of daylight Friday evening at the Twee Rivieren Rest Camp. The new reception complex at the new gate was as impressive as the efficient booking-in process and the friendly and proficient staff assisting me.

The chalet we got allocated had been refurbished since we last stayed here some four years ago. We moved in and after a scrumptious dinner at the restaurant next door (the skilpadjie starter was my favourite and I ended up ordering it every one of the three nights we stayed at TR), we hit the sack.

As this trip is primarily a birding trip, I hope not to bore you with my attention focussed on the small things in the park…

Saturday morning and the sun was up in a cloudless sky. It promised to be a scorcher!

Outside the laughing doves, sparrows, bulbuls and starlings were scrounging around the braai spots for titbits dropped the previous night. The chalet next door had a pair of Rock martins sunning themselves on the thatched roof.

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By six o'clock we had done all the paperwork and set off on our first day in Kgalagadi.

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The four-striped mouse in a milkbush, feeding on its flowers provided the perfect opportunity to make sure all the camera settings were in order.

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2011 8:36 pm 
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Hey, Elsa! At my age you never get your wick back! U just keep on burning what you have and hope there is enough wick to last the distance… :lol:

Anycase… our list of sightings started off with views of violet-eared and black-faced waxbills, neither of which offered photo opportunities. Especially the black-faced waxbill has become a bit of a bogey bird for me in the sense that I have seen it numerous times in countless places but still do not have any pix to show.

The Marico flycatchers were much more accommodating and posed in the shade of every second or third tree along the road to Leeudril where we planned to turn onto the road to Urikaruus.

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A crimson-breasted shrike, one of our most strikingly coloured birds, worked the loose soil under the trees for something to eat. Good place to be: under a tree in the shade!

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Blue wildebeest trudged along the road, probably looking for some shade as well as the temperature soared past 30°C by 10:00!

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The springbok herds had started to feed under the tree much earlier, probably aware that shade is at a premium!

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The foals born at the start of spring nuzzled each other in greeting… “Wanna come play, buddy?”

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2011 6:46 am 
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Shot(s) of the day

If you don't think every day is a good day in Kgalagadi, just try to remember a bad one once you are back home… :lol:

The heat of the day didn’t bother us to much while driving with windows up and the air conditioner working hard. It was when we stopped for some viewing and the window(s) went down. I never shoot pix through glass! That is an absolute no-no! So, when we came across the first obliging swallow-tailed bee-eater tight enough to the edge of the road I tested the heat endurance of my fellow travellers. :twisted:

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I initially just assumed that this was mom feeding a juvenile swallow-tailed bee-eater. WOW! What a lekker photo opportunity!

Very little is known about the aftercare of nestlings but Rob VII says that the juveniles are cared for by both parents. We saw just the two birds. This series of pix having been taken in mid October, I now also question the "juvenile" theory... Another Rob VII insight suggests that it is too early for such fully developed chicks to be around. The little that is known about the swallow-tailed bee-eater's breeding habits suggests that mid October would be the time one can expect to see birds getting amorous...

Maybe this was a mating ritual?

It was only back at home, when I started doing some research to caption my pix properly, that I realised that I missed an opportunity to learn more… I should have waited a lot longer and I may have witnessed the "pay-off" too! I sent these pix to some of the forum's birding experts, WTM and Jakkalsbessie, and they both agree with my conclusions.

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Looking at the state of the tail feathers of the bird being fed: it looks worn... not at all like that of a youngster!

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So, assuming that the recipient of the morsel is adult and female; did the "chocolate"-trick work?

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They look "tight"... He is seriously looking for the next treat for his sweetheart!

Well, I have to say chow for now as I am flying out to London tomorrow and I have a lot to do before then. Hope the few posts so far have been entertaining enough to hold you in suspense until my return from the northern autumn...

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2011 7:46 am 
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Took a while to get back to this trip report, but here I am!

Our destination on the first day in KTP was the Auchterlonie Museum that sits about 40 km from TR along the dry Auob river bed, just south of the first dune road intersection. The museum is an old fieldstone farmhouse with displays on the park's history. Part of the display details the series of watering holes that dot the park, which were hand-dug during WWI as a water source for South African troops, had they decided to invade Namibia via that route; a strategy that was never execised. The guards placed to protect the watering holes were allowed to settle next to these holes with their families and livestock. They remained here, largely forgotten by authorities.

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Both of the two rivers in the park are dry, allowing tourists a close-up encoutre with the area that also carries the greatest portion of the wildlife present in KTP. These rivers will only see running water once in 50 years (Nossob) and every 10 years (Auob). In spite of this apparent lack of water, there is moisture deep beneath the surface that sustains life and a marked difference can be seen between the river beds and the adjacent dunes.

During our walkabout I spotted this rufous-eared warbler hiding in the shade deep in the scrub; a first for me for KTP.

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Anyhow, by lunchtime it was a screaming 40 deg C in the shade and the trip back to TR produced very little... The windows of the Landy were closed and the drome of the aircon lulled the senses...

Back at TR we booked a night drive.

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2011 9:08 am 
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The target bird for the night drive was a rufous-cheeked nightjar, the last of the South African nightjars I still had to add to my life list. The drive was slow in producing sightings but an African wildcat and two owls eased our discomfort. The spotted eagle owl posed just long enough…

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Seeing a barn owl is always special to me. Both owls were KTP-lifers for me.

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The nightjar did not show up. :cry:

37 birds seen during the first day of which 16 were KTP-lifers: Barn Owl, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Black-faced Waxbill, Black-headed Heron, Common Scimitarbill, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Namaqua Dove, Pygmy Falcon, Red-billed Quelea, Red-headed Finch, Rufous-eared Warbler, Secretarybird; Spotted Eagle-Owl; Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Violet-eared Waxbill.

The following morning we were waiting at the gate to get out as soon as the gate would be opened. We had one heck of a drive ahead of us… all the way to Gharagab! I was a bit apprehensive in spite of a number of old KTP salts having assured me that the drive could be made comfortably within the time allowed. The official site suggests that it is not possible!

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 03, 2011 8:23 am 
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Thank you for the kind remarks, Puppy. I hope you'll stay (with this thread) for the long haul! :lol:

I don't know how much of a bird nerd you are, Puppy... like whether you at least keep a list of the South(ern) African birds you have seen? :lol: I'm trying to get your participation in this thread, because I don't see you listed there...

Hi, Elsa! We had a bit of a trick to cope with corrugations. I deflated the Landy's huge tyres to 1.2 bar so that they each had a larger contact area - that way your tyres do not make contact with the corrugations one by one, but rather run over them two at a time, negating that bone-jarring effect! Also, I had the Tomtom aimed at Gharagab. Quite a cute bit of kit that... The one feature that I just loved was the continuous ETA update it supplies. I was worried that it wouldn't work in the KTP wilderness, but it didn't quit on us, ever!

Anyhow, we were in God's garden and in spite of the fact that we had a long journey ahead of us, I was not going to pass by anything worth snapping. I knew later in the day sightings would become more distant and difficult.

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I have never seen a secretary bird in the KTP. This trip we saw them often... well I cannot really say "to the point of boredom" because I will never be bored by these regal birds with ATTITUDE!

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Also a dime-a-dozen, the Southern pale chanting goshawks sitting next to the road and remaining on their perches when you stopped, required that I closed my eyes to them!

As it was, there were plenty distractions to intersperse the trip with time-consuming stops. As we approched a waterhole (I think it was Kij kij, I really cannot remember...) this sight greeted us!

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This was potentially HUGE trouble! How can you say: "hi!... bye!" to such a beautiful animal?

Fortunately for us, this young male lion was not very happy with our arrival at his waterhole and he soon decided to make tracks.

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:lol: :lol: :lol: He was not the last contributing to our time-keeping troubles, though...

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 04, 2011 7:09 am 
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Thanks for popping in AND posting your kind remarks, Pumbaa

Hey, Jan! Don't get too distracted... :lol: we need your challenge answers to make up the number of participants required to guarantee continuation of the challenges!

Jokes aside... enjoy the ride...

@ Hugh, you are welcome to stay along for the duration! :twisted: I'll try to make it real for you... even throw in an invite to share a cold one every now and then! :lol: Not that it will have the same feel… We have in plug-in fridge/freezer riding in the back and it is stocked for all tastes. When the mercury pops the top of the thermometer, that ice box becomes a very frequently visited space!

Anyhow, back to eating up those dusty miles…

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As is often the case with lion sightings, a spotted hyaena was not too far off...

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And there to goad on these two archenemies so that he can get away with a scrap while they are busy fighting of the prize, a black-backed jackal hung around nearby... I'm not sure that there was a kill, but why all this interest? Well, we couldn't wait to find out! Now THAT it the problem with having a distant destination! You must weigh up the joy of the ride against the delight of a slow cruise to nowhere when you make that commitment...

Next we ran into a real roadblock! A pair of Cape foxes had a den right next to the road. The vixen sat quietly while her four little pups were frolicking around the den entrances.

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Now, if that face doesn't enchant you, you'll never be late in KTP! :lol:

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The calendar poses were there all the time...

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Cute as punch, they had me working the camera like paparazzi at a filmstar scandal!

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Their exuberance was a drug that made us forget the ticking of time... What a huggable lot!

Then, something made they bolt for their den... Gone in a flash!

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:lol: ...and that was a good thing too for time was not on our side...

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 Post subject: Re: Visiting six National Parks in two weeks
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:58 am 
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giraffee, at first time KTP tripper? You'll love it in spite of there not being ellies, rhinos or buffalo. :wink:

Pumbaa, we all agreed with you. Not often one runs into such a memorable sighting!

At this stage we were well behind and we decided that, unless we really run into a heard of ellies, rhino or buffalo, we were not going to stop! :lol:

Having worked everyone into a blinkered tourist state focused on the destination, the stop for this Namaqua sandgrouse was frowned upon! :twisted:

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To get back at me Lillian called this one... Oryx being her favourite!

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