Thanks for all the comments, friends. Even though part of my job is to teach, besides doing research in biology, what I am doing here is mostly sharing, since as I go through the TR I get curious about the animals, and then begin to search here and there in order to learn. So, more than teach, I am sharing my learning… It’s been a nice experience to learn about the animals after seeing them. For Kgalagadi, I will try to do this before for the animals I do not know much about… Well, anyway, I get from the messages that you are enjoying this sharing… Thus, I will go on in the same vein.
We left Skukuzaa after a late lunch to do as much of the Sabie loop as we could in the end of the afternoon. We managed to reach the Maroela loop through the Skukuza-Tshokwane Road (H1-2), and, after entering the loop we went down to its end and then came back to Skukuza through H1-2.
At H1-2 up to Maroela loop, we saw: a group of impalas, 1 Chacma Baboon (Papio ursinus
), 1 Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis
) (at the bridge over the Sabie river), 2 African Pied Wagtails (Motacilla oguimp
) (from the bridge), 4 hippos (from the bridge), 2 Hamerkops (from the bridge), 1 Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola
) (from the bridge), 1 Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus
) (from the bridge; it was a busy day at the Sabie river), 1 male Kudu, 1 Shongololo (African Giant Millipede) (Archispirostreptus gigas
) (at the bridge over the Sand river), 1 female Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maximus
), and another group of Impalas.
In the Maroela loop, we saw not much, only 2 Crested Francolins (Dendroperdix sephaena
And when coming back to Skukuza through H1-2, we saw: 1 Lioness (from a large distance), 1 unindentified Francolin (bad notes in my entries), 1 Pied Kingfisher, 3 Marabou Storks (Leptoptilos crumeniferus
), and 2 Blacksmith Lapwings (Plovers).
This baboon was alone at the top of a tree nearby the bridge over the Sabie river. Probably, it was part of a troop that was scattered at that place, but we saw no other animal from the troop.
Nice to know that Chacma baboons have stable populations, and we should have for now least concern about their extinction. This is yet another species that can live along with humans and explore our resources, and this is in fact responsible for conflicts between humans and baboons, as forumites from South Africa certainly know and probably experienced. At the first part of the trip, in Capetown, we saw when out of the town the signs for phone numbers to call if one was experiencing “baboon problems”. And at the Good Hope Cape, we saw a troop baboons playing hard on someone’s car. Well, we can complain, but we are the ones who have been invading their habitats with our houses.
Baboons deserve, anyhow, our deep respect. They are very smart animals, and there is even a nice book entitled Baboon Metaphysics, by the great behavioral scientists Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth, which tries to understand how the social minds of baboons evolve. I do recommend: http://www.amazon.com/Baboon-Metaphysic ... etaphysics
Over the bridge that crosses the Sabie river, we saw this Pied Kingfisher. As the picture shows, Pied Kingfishers have a black and white plumage that makes it impossible to confuse this medium-sized bird with other kingfishers. Males have black crest and crown, white stripe above the eye, black larger stripe across the eye extending on nape, and white throat and collar. Females have only one breast band, narrower than male and also broken in the middle. The bird we saw was a male.
I just found an amazing site I did not know before, where we can listen to the call of many birds. In this link you can listen to several calls by the Pied Kingfisher: http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Ceryle-rudis
This is one of the most common kingfishers in the world. It is found in many areas of Africa and Eurasia and lives in a wide range of aquatic habitats, as long as there are small fish, including streams, rivers, lakes, temporary pans, estuaries, temporarily flooded areas and rocky coasts. Fishes are their main food (as they are for kingfishers in general, the name of the species witnessing this). Invertebrates can supplement their diet. Pied kingfishers spot prey by either sitting on perches, as this one we photographed was doing, or hovering, something that this species does more than any other kingfisher. When they catch the prey, they beat it prey to death and then swallow it. It is a cooperative breeder, i.e., the breeding pair is assisted by alloparental helpers, who can either be offspring, or unrelated birds which failed to breed.
Pied Kingfishers are not threatened (Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, unknown population trend). They are locally affected in southern Africa by endosulfan, a poison used to kill tsetse flies. Its population is also impacted by poisons used to kill fish and Red-billed queleas.
From the bridge over the Sabie we also saw 2 African Pied Wagtails, with their nice black and white patterning, which can be seen in the picture below.
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is described as common in much of its range. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. It is then classified as Least Concern regarding their extinction, in the IUCN Red List.
Here are some calls from African Pied Wagtails, rather beautiful: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?qu ... pecies_nr=
African Pied Wagtails are found across much of sub-Saharan Africa. They generally prefer wide rivers, like the Sabie, and other water bodies with sandy banks or scattered boulders. However, they can also be found in rocky coastlines. One of the reasons these birds have been facing our threats well is that it manages to survive and even be common in man-made habitats, such as parks, playing fields, golf courses, suburban gardens and sewage works. In particular, this species has benefited from the construction of dams.
They mainly eat insects, especially flies but their diet also includes other invertebrates, grass seeds, tadpoles, small fish and scraps of human food. They are monogamous, territorial solitary nesters, chasing intruders out of its territory. A curiosity is that they are so eager to defend their territories that they even attack their reflections in car mirrors. During the day they are usually seen alone or in pairs but gather in communal roosts in the evenings.
Another great sighting in the Sabie river was a show of hippos interacting. It was a great moment captured by our cameras, one of the highlights of the whole trip. There he was, just besides the vegetation, a big hippo (we guessed it was a big male) just watching the scene. Look at his eyes. Frightening! What a stare!
And then there was this girl (as we guessed) swimming calmly in the river….
But then she offered such a dramatic display!
And then he emerged, a little young hippo, playing with (we assumed) his or her mother.
When we see then like this, we can (almost) forget how they can be dangerous… Anyway, lovely creatures!
The Sabie river was quite busy that day! We also saw this Hamerkop moving from the rocks to the water.
As I wrote many things about Hamerkops before in the TR, I will only add that their calls can be heard at: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?qu ... pecies_nr=
Quite noisy and interesting birds!
There we saw also this Wood Sanpiper.
Here are their delicate calls: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?qu ... pecies_nr=
The Wood Sandpipers spend their breeding season in a broad band of forest tundra from Iceland and Scotland across Eurasia to Siberia, but they head south in the non-breeding season to Australia, South-East Asia, India and sub-Saharan Africa. It is found in a wide range of open freshwater habitats, shallow sewage ponds, dams, pans, flood plains, marshes and muddy edges of water courses. However, it is largely absent from tidal coastal habitats. It feeds on a variety of insects, other invertebrates and small fish and frogs. Most of its foraging is done by slowly walking on the ground or in shallow water, probing, pecking and sweeping its bill from side to side in search of prey. That’s what this bird was doing when we found it.
This bird is not threatened. It is a widespread species, classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, with stable populations. Only in Russia, its estimated population amounts to 1.2 million breeding pairs. It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
Another animal we saw from the bridge in the Sabie river was a Nile Crocodile, which we can see in the picture below.
Nile Crocodiles are registered in the IUCN Red List as Lower Risk/Least Concern, but the website says this information needs updating.
They are the largest crocodilians in Africa. Sometimes they are regarded as the second largest crocodilian after the saltwater crocodile. Like all crocodiles they are sexually dimorphic, with the males up to 30% larger than the females. The males measure from 3.5 to 5 metres (11 to 16 ft) long, but very old adults can grow to 5.5 m (18 ft) or more. Mature females, in turn, measure 2.4 to 4 m (7 ft 10 in to 13 ft 1 in). The largest accurately measured male had 6.47 m (21.2 ft) and weighed about 1,090 kg (2,400 lb). But such giants are rare today, due to heavy hunting mostly in the 1940s and 1950s.
Another curious sighting was this Kudu with a broken horn. Probably the result of some fight.
I am not sure if I already gave this information, but Greater Kudus are not threatened, showing stable populations. But threatens must be coming on the horizon: they are sparsely populated in most areas, due to a declining habitat, deforestation and hunting. They have, in fact, both benefited and suffered with human interaction: while on the one hand they are a target for hunters and we have destroyed woodland cover which they use for their habitat, on the other wells and irrigation set up by humans has also allowed the greater kudus to occupy territory where they would not survive due to lack of water.
I ate Kudu meat in the Kruger, with a feeling of guilt, even though we read in websites that the Kudu meat we eat come from breeds culled under strict control. It would be great to know more about that, if someone has additional information.
Finally, the female Giant Kingfisher we saw in this first stretch of the Sabie loop.
Unfortunately, in xeno-canto there is only a short recording of the Giant Kingfisher call: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?qu ... pecies_nr=
Even though this species is still Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, it is unfortunate that its population trend is one of decreasing. Although it is common in protected areas such as Kruger, loss of potential nest sites in other regions, due to loss of habitat, is a probable reason for the decline of their populations.
The species occurs across much of sub-Saharan Africa, and is fairly common in southern Africa, mainly in South Africa and Zimbabwe. They live in many types of aquatic habitats and feed mainly on crabs, with fish completing their diet. Both sexes excavate the nest, which is dug into vertical sandbanks and takes about 7 days to be completed. They can excavate tunnels as long as 8.45m!
Here is the lioness we saw, quietly sleeping, far away, when coming back to Skukuza.
We also saw these three Marabou Storks.
These storks are not only classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, but the population trend is one of increasing. However, in South Africa, in particular, they face the threat of local extinction, due to its small population.
They occupy much of sub-Saharan Africa, largely excluding the lowland forest of West Africa. In southern Africa, it is fairly common to locally abundant in central and southern Mozambique, Zimbabwe, north-eastern South Africa, northern Botswana and central and northern Namibia. Their preference is for open semi-arid habitats and wetlands, such as pans, dams and rivers.
They are primarily scavengers, behaving in a similar manner to vultures, and indeed they even show a morphology that partly resembles vultures. They are also opportunistic hunters.
And finally we saw another Pied Kingfisher, this time very close our car, again over the bridge that crosses the Sabie river.
We almost lost the gate closing time, however, due to a traffic jam over the bridge!