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 Post subject: Wondercloak's KNP trip : May 2006
Unread postPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 4:30 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:45 pm
Posts: 95
Location: York (UK) & Nelspruit
Righty tighty! Well, in a nutshell, this is kinda how it all happened between 14 April and 1 May...

Sat 15 - Thurs 20: Jo'burg and then Nelspruit where I saw 70-odd bird species including 6 'lifers' - the Redthroated Wryneck, Bronze Mannikin, Yellow Warbler, Bully Canary, Strekyheaded Canary and Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet. During this time I also saw the first Rebilled Hornbill that I have ever seen in Gauteng - in the suburbs near Centurion. Highlights of the avian variety were also seeing Purplecrested Louries and Green Pigeons every day in and around our garden in Nelspruit. Snakes included a Black Mamba and a Centipede Eater, while mammals that appeared were the African Wildcat, Dwarf Mongoose, Common Duiker and Tree Squirrel.

Fri 21 - 28 March were spent in the KNP. In all, over 100 bird species on top of those seen around jo'burg and nelspruit were seen (I dont think 170+ is too bad for 2 weeks work). This included 4 birding lifers and a breakdown of highlights is as follows....

Fri 21 - entered numbi & headed east. Giraffe was the first species recorded some 5 minutes into the park, followed swiftly by a brief Lion sighting - not a bad start! Impala showed themselves in dribs and drabs and were seen individually either side of 2 or 3 White Rhino sightings. We headed south and then across to Lower Sabie, where we spent the night. The evening drive only really produced one thing...serval...but, true to form, he dissapeared as soon as he appeared. Oh yeah, sorry, and a European Roller - the first of 2 for the trip.

Sat 22 - Morning walk with Steve and Irving from LS. A great walk with two class guides that produced an awesome chance to admire a mother and calf White Rhino at around 20 metres. This was to be the last rhino sighting of our trip. Secretary Birds also were sighted. Headed to Skukuza, seeing Barred Owl en route, and enjoyed some quality time at Lake Panic - this produced probably the sighting of the trip - Allen's (Lesser) Gallinule. Thanks to the bird expert observing the bird while we arrived, we were lucky to avoid some serious head-scratching and argument. A beautiful Puffy (Adder) decided to sun himself in his best twig-like pose and almost get himself run-over during our evening drive.

Sun 23 - Woke to a beautiful sunrise, framed dramatically by the railway bridge. Animal highlight of the day was an ecceptional lion experience on the sand road near Hamilton's camp south of Talamati. I've never seen such a full lioness - this lady had gorged herself to the extent that we sat next to her while she hyperventilated and rolled on her back trying desprately to digest an ex-Buffalo that the dominant male was keeping watch over on the other side of the road - 10 lions in all. Got heavily wet in a flash downpour but it stopped in time to watch a pair of Coqui Francolins see off another Puffy. The rest of the evening (staying at Tamboti) was pretty uneventful...just a birthday celebration, proposal to my girlfriend and a Potjie to die for!

Mon 24 - some excellent birding around the tents at Tamboti - all kinds of colourful stuff such as Paradise Flycatchers, Orioles, both Woodhoopoes, Barbets. Then we hit Nsemani where the easterly wind overnight had brought in a small number of Greyheaded Gulls and a White-winged Tern. We were also fortunate to experience watching a pair of Gypo Geese kak their pants - their attention was on us as they posed for photo's in a tree when one suddenly literally fell to the ground I think of a heart attack as Dark Chanting Goshawk caned past at speed. Balule delivered some magnificent Hyena sightings that evening as well as not such a bad sunset from the Causeway. Some great Moz Nightjar action as well.

Tues 25 - Bike ride! Picked up from Balule. Lucky enough to be just on our own. However, we feel the experience could be made so much better by a more leisurely pace and more regular stops and explanations such as on the walks. Some nice Hippo watching though in the Olifants and a magnificent imature Martial Eagle. The only Nyala of our trip were seen today not far from Olifants. The trip up to Letaba in the afternoon revealed something truly magnificent - the dirt road leading down along the Letaba to Engelhard Dam (South bank) brought us into contact with some European folk who warned us about an Elephant in distress further down the road that was obviously ill and didn't like the company of cars during this time. We decided to investigate but if anything seemed too dangerous or emotionally distressing then we'd back out. We came across the ellie lying by the side of the road, not moving but still alive (just)...we let him be and chose to return the next morning to check out what the state of play was (see below). That evening produced a magnificent Quelea extravaganza at sunset on the river.

Weds 26 - Not a bad sunrise over the olifants. Observed a Lanner Falcon checking out the options for Quelea-snatching by the river. The best photo opportunity of the trip presented itself with some wonderful Hyena interaction just south of Balule camp. The long-awaited trip up to the Letaba ellie finally arrived. We missed a Leopard on the way up and, when we got to the sight of the sick jumbo...nothing but flattened grass. Quite amazing - must have been one of those 24-hour bugs. Still the whole experience allowed for a great close-up view of the underside of an ellie's foot...something not too many living people can surely say they have experienced. Got to the Sable Dam hide where we were to spend the night, catching our first and only big Buffalo herd en route. Nothing visited the water that we could see, but in all, what a privilege!

Thurs 27 - battled with 4x4 border-goers all the way from Phalaborwa to Letaba. However, two male Pallid Harriers more than made up for the stress of it all! The second European Roller also appeared on this road. The s100 produced sweet effay but, once again, some great birding made me feel a whole lot better - Talamati's river frontage produced great viewing of Greyheaded Bushshrike and Striped Cuckoo. That night, a walk along the fence revealed a Lesser Bushbaby on the wires - man, they are so small and just awesome to watch - as we were fortunate to for about 10 minutes from never further than about a metre!

Fri 28 - time to leave :cry: but managed to catch some nice Giant Eagle Owls on the way south from Talamati. A lone Hyena was about the biggest the game viewing got for the day before the Hippo's at Lake Panic gave us a warm goodbye...and showed us their rear-ends as the pushed off into the reads...

Roll on Jan 2007...

_________________
- Mopani 21 to 23 Dec
- Shimuwini 30 Dec to 1 Jan
- Punda Maria 2 Jan
- Limpopo Tented Camp 3 to 5 Jan
- Leokwe 6 to 7 Jan


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Fri May 19, 2006 3:44 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:45 pm
Posts: 95
Location: York (UK) & Nelspruit
Hello hello!

Well, there'll be more, better images than these to come, but just to share but a few so far...

No prizes for guessing where this was snapped! Next visit I'm going to play a lot more with the bridge around sunrise!
Image

...pulling the typical sandgrouse pose with his back to the camera! Caught between Skukuza and Talamati on the sand road:
Image

The Olifants River causeway at Balule is a wonderful spot isn't it? The sky was alive with Quelea every evening and morning...
Image

These guys were seen on the northern side of a Baobab about half-way between olifants and letaba on the north-south dirt road near where it joins the river..
Image

...more to follow soon!

_________________
- Mopani 21 to 23 Dec
- Shimuwini 30 Dec to 1 Jan
- Punda Maria 2 Jan
- Limpopo Tented Camp 3 to 5 Jan
- Leokwe 6 to 7 Jan


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Sat May 20, 2006 9:36 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:45 pm
Posts: 95
Location: York (UK) & Nelspruit
Thanks for the great feedback peeps!

Jose, I was going to write my fgasa 2 but now looking at Jan/Feb next year.

Ok, so, some more pics...

We didn't have a great lot of luck with owls, but saw a Barred, 2 Giant Eagle Owls, and 3 of these awesome little Pearler's...
Image

As usual though...plenty of Francolins...
Image

One can never tire of being amazed at the shear size, beauty and overpowering presence of the Martial Eagle...
Image

...or, for that matter, the dainty, fairy-like tooings-and-froings of the Threebanded Plover
Image

Despite their endangered status, we saw plenty of Ground Hornbills. However, worrying enough, only one immature bird..
Image

This Blacksmith Plover (or Lapwing!) balances strangely in this frame..the dark areas at the top and bottom of the frame balance well with the dark on the bird's body - having played with cropping, it doesn't work as well as it does in its entirety..Image

This is the old lady who had gorged herself on prime Buffalo steak to the extent that she cared not that I sat but one metre from her...
Image

This Leguaan was sunning itself in the end of a dead tree in the middle of the Olifants at the Balule Causeway...
Image

What more can you say but...in his prime!
Image

The best photo opportunity of the trip wasn't as successful as I'd hoped...I captured a wonderful moment but not with the pin-sharp clarity or ideal composition that could have made this photo a winner...
Image

And finally, one of my favourite images from the trip...but the electronic representation doesn't do the slide original justice in terms of tones...
Image

I hope that you enjoyed them...there will hopefully be a handful more to come still...

WC

_________________
- Mopani 21 to 23 Dec
- Shimuwini 30 Dec to 1 Jan
- Punda Maria 2 Jan
- Limpopo Tented Camp 3 to 5 Jan
- Leokwe 6 to 7 Jan


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 11:50 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:45 pm
Posts: 95
Location: York (UK) & Nelspruit
Thank you for the good vibes people :D

T&H, I predominantly use the Pentax *ist 35mil, with the Mz-50 and Mz-60 as back-up (one with 400 iso film, one with 100, and one with B&W in the case of this last trip). Did take the odd shot with my fiance's Pentax *ist DL though too.

Ja, Peter, that doesn't surprise me about the nesting hole - a shame though as wagtails are such wonderful birds!

My main reason for not going digital is that with 35mil (film) bodies, it's not the body that makes a good shot...put a good lens on the front of an old and you can still take the same quality shot. However, with digital, the latest camera now may still be producing the same quality shots 10 years down the line, but by then the standard above it will have taken huge leaps....and the digital requirements for competitions etc will have moved with that top standard. And, with me being a competition-entering kinda guy...

cheers cheers for now,

wc

_________________
- Mopani 21 to 23 Dec
- Shimuwini 30 Dec to 1 Jan
- Punda Maria 2 Jan
- Limpopo Tented Camp 3 to 5 Jan
- Leokwe 6 to 7 Jan


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