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 Post subject: Peter Pipers' Kgalagadi Highlights : May 2006
Unread postPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 12:25 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Will have to do this report over a few days, there were some interesting sightings and so many predators the springbok have even resorted to using camouflage!!! :lol:

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Unread postPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 1:25 pm 
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After reading and enjoying some of the wonderful trip reports from the KTP recently, I am not going to try and compete with, or duplicate any of those experiences. Hopefully I can share some photographic insights and give an artist / birders impression of a park that is surely in some ways, at it’s peak.

I had 8 nights there between May 5 and 13, two of those at Nossob, three at Mata Mata and the rest at Twee Rivieren. Unfortunately I didn’t get to any wilderness camps – something to look forward to on a future trip. :)

Camping at Nossob has got to be one of my all time favourite things to do,- the night comes alive with African Sounds like no other place and my time there was punctuated by the growls and grunts of a mating pair of lions very close by. At times his roaring would seem to make the earth tremble as it set off a chorus of howling Jackals, alerting us from all corners to the presence of the King, (- as if we didn’t know). When silence fell briefly, the only interruption was the beautiful call of the tiny, and most beautiful, White faced Owl.

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Strangely I have to admit, I don't really enjoy photographing Lions, - I just have too many pics of them, but these guys just wouldn't take no for an answer. At times the male actually rubbed up against my vehicle! I seriously thought he was considering climbing inside.
More to follow as soon as I have time

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Unread postPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 5:20 pm 
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O.K. so I’ve posted a few in focus ‘good ‘ shots but need you to really excuse these next ones.
First off let me explain the scenario. I’m driving along, daydreaming, enjoying the heat and the very bumpy road, when far ahead I see a jackal on the road jumping around excitedly and trying to attack something.
I grab my camera with long lens attached and point it in that general direction through the not very clean windscreen, all the while trying to hold it with one hand, drive with the other and hoping not to scare the Jackal away.
Like I said, excuse the photographs!

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The Jackal is attacking a very large and angry Puff Adder and as I approach it picks its prey up and runs with it, risking a fatal bite.. I slow down and let things follow there natural course but I can tell by now that although the Puff Adder is very much still alive it is on it’s last legs (so to speak) and the Jackal is trying desperately to carry it off away from me. It drops the snake briefly and I pull up along side to get one clear shot.

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Soon it grabs the hapless victim (by its lower jaw! :roll:) and heads off behind a tree where I watch in amazement as it eats the head, crunching bones and risking a quick prick from the deadly fangs, and then after eating only a few more mouthfuls, it looses interest and wanders off on its merry way back along the riverbed.

I would be very interested to hear comments from anyone else regarding this behaviour as I find it surprising that a jackal, that was obviously not particularly hungry, would take on such dangerous prey. Of course there is the possibility that the snake had already been injured by a car, but the photos seem to indicate that certainly the top 2/3rds of the Puff Adder where in good condition, and I imagine that the snake was still capable of a deadly bite.

Any thoughts?

Only this once I've used 5 images to tell the story. Believe these are hopefully small files.

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Unread postPosted: Tue May 16, 2006 12:24 pm 
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A few thoughts on some of the famous raptors of the Kgalagadi.

Of all the birds of prey, probably the most exciting to watch are the Lanner Falcons although I have decided that when it comes to catching lunch, most of these guys fall into the category of ‘bumbling fools”. The area is known to be a nursery for many juveniles that arrive here from further north each summer, but some of them are fast learners and others simply delinquents that only succeed because of the sheer numbers of smaller birds coming to the water. I have spent many hours paying careful attention to the hunting skills of raptors – White faced owls brought so much food to their new chick within the first hour of darkness that he looked about to pop and fell asleep half way through the second mouse. Pale Chanting Goshawks waste no energy perched high up, waiting for a Brant’s Whistling Rat to appear before popping down and popping him off with consummate ease, always interestingly enough, stripping their prey in the same meticulous way. Gabar Goshawks are at a bit of a disadvantage size wise, but they make up for it with surprise attack skills and of course Red Necked Falcons are excellent if the silly juvenile Lanner gangs haven’t spent the morning chasing everything away.

On a few occasions the Lanners really get it together, and when they do, I can highly recommend spending a few glorious hours in one spot watching their high speed attacks. Just don’t imagine you’ll get too many great shots – many times have I tried.
At Kij Kij, north of Twee Rivieren the doves have foolishly taken to trying to land on the water and whilst suspended there briefly, are easy targets – hope you can make out the lanner with dove and the point of impact, marked only by the slowly falling feathers.

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Secretary birds someone once told me could cover as much as 45 km per day in their relentless search for snakes and insects, apparently a researcher followed behind a bird with a wheel to measure the distance! :shock: Knowing how uneasy they are around cameras, I can’t help wondering how far the bird would have traveled without the wheel guy behind him. :lol:

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That's all for now, really need to start painting!!!

Still to come - cheetah, leopards and landscapes

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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 8:04 am 
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A few points to remember for this time of year, especially regarding birds.
I didn’t feel that it was the best time for raptors – perhaps many of them had already left. On some trips I have seen more, especially things like Black Breasted Snake eagles that are sometimes very common but still very hard to photograph. They just never stick around long enough.
I really battled to find owls- usually very good sightings all along the Aoub riverbed but eventually found all resident species except the Barn Owl. Giant eagle Owls, Africa’s largest owl and only slightly smaller than the Great eagle owl of Eurasia, are usually found in the largest Camelthorn trees and very often in pairs. Although not sitting together.

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White Browed Sparrow weavers that build their untidy nests made of grass, where just at the end of their cycle and still feeding chicks as were the Sociable weavers. Not a bad idea to spend time wandering around camps looking in all the trees as there are often owls there as well.( I have a thing about owls!) I photographed these Sparrow Weavers inside Mata Mata camp which BTW is a good spot for close ups of other birds and squirrels etc.
Like the Crimson Breasted Shrike – which is the National Bird of Namibia.

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Many of the larger raptors breed during the winter months and are busy putting the finishing touches to their large nests.This Martial eagle near Nossob was collecting soft green lining for the nest and later I observed them mating. Seems there was quite a bit of mating going on. :wink: :)

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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 8:39 am 
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Thanks Pardus (And everyone else) for the great comments. Glad you feel inspired to get down there,- it's well worth a trip, but remember it's not Kruger and despite some awesome sightings this time round, I very strongly believe that to really enjoy this place you have to focus on the whole system, small to big.
I've always tried to tell people to go there with a very open mind and let the Kalahari decide what it is going to show you.

Some trips will be predators, some birds, some landscapes and some many other things or a combination of everything. Looking at my report, I would hate to give the impression it is teeming with wall to wall wildlife as it really isn't - you are seeing the highlights of 7 days. But then again, there are many other highlights I cannot even show. The quiet, The space, gorgeous light, these will all ensure you are paid handsomely for your bumpy ride getting there.

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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 3:24 pm 
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Pardus - this is for you. Trying to do my report as I heard you weren't feeling well. Hope this makes you feel a bit better.

Cheetahs were unfortunately, not a major photo opportunity on this outing although I did see them on three occasions. The first north of Nossob on a wide open plain. Walking along quite casualy it spooked a large herd of Springbok and Gemsbok who set off for the hills in a cloud of dust. The most exciting thing about the next sighting near Mata Mata was that Katydownunder was already there, so it gave us a chance to catch up before I headed off in search of more birds. The next day however, a small traffic jam alerted me to a single cheetah wondering along very close to the road and it briefly and half heartedly chased a lone Springbok. No great photos there.

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Spent the afternoon at a ‘salt lick’ of some sort, watching Springbok and Ostriches digging in the dirt for some vital ingredient to their diet. It’s often very difficult to get decent photos of Ostriches, they always seem to be skulking around looking intensely worried and wishing they could still fly. Especially in this place. The males were definitely not in a good mood, bickering and fussing and providing plenty of photo opportunities and inspiration.( I’m working right now on a large fairly abstract interpretation of this scene. I never really paint animals but something about these images really grabbed me, so if it turns out OK I’ll try and post the result next week.

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More to follow soon. Stay tuned :)

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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 4:16 pm 
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You know your horn is really long when you can scratch your --- with it!

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Gemsbok amd other antelope seemed to be finished the rutting season by the time I got there. Obviously no one told these guys about the ceasefire. :)

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Unread postPosted: Wed May 17, 2006 5:01 pm 
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The bit about Kgalagadi leopards and wonderfully kind people.

Top of my wish list for the Kgalagadi has always been to see a leopard. I’d previously been there 7 times over the past 10 years and still no leopard had allowed me my wish. To make matters much worse, I kept reading reports here from people who, on their very first visit sometimes had seen leopard and I was beginning to think I was jinxed.
This past trip I ended up with 3 leopard sightings, although I have to admit if it had not been for people pointing them out to me, I would have missed those as well. I’ve always tried to tell others if there is something exciting there,- probably because I’m so excited I can’t help myself, but clearly not everyone has a habit of doing this. On this trip, I even had one guy, parked in a green 4x4 with a huge lens sticking out the window, tell me as soon as I pulled up that ‘ there is nothing here’. Figuring I wasn’t welcome I took the hint but returned there later to get my own shot of these little guys.

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The first Leopard near Mata Mata was well hidden down a ditch and behind a tree and although close to the road was impossible to photograph.Soon it wondered off leaving me with only a poor photo of its back end and tail disappearing into the tall grass. Typical!!! What is it with these guys.

The second was in a tree around lunch time and although this was a great sighting, the light was behind it, branches obscured it and frankly it was only interested in sleeping. Damn!!!

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On my last day however as I headed back to Twee Rivieren, I came across a family who had just by chance happened to see a leopard walking on the top of the ridge but it had disappeared for now. With only about 10 minutes to go before closing time we waited hopefully until suddenly its silhouette once again appeared on the ridge. Soon it was finding it’s way down to the road, crossing only a few metres in front of us while all of this time I was trying to take a pic in what was now very low light. No direct sun, only shadow. As it crossed the road, I realized to my absolute horror that being the end of my trip, I only had 1 single shot remaining 1 single shot and a Kgalagadi Leopard that had now sat down briefly near the road giving me my chance. Nervously I aimed and focused and then quickly but smoothly squeezed the shutter to capture the shot of the trip.
Hope you enjoy her!

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Unread postPosted: Thu May 18, 2006 3:19 pm 
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Thanks Jumbo and Bunduboi,

Problem is after doing this report and reading Jannies latests posts, I'm having a really hard time getting back into life here in Jo'burg. At least you ( Jumbo) seem to live with the owls and beasts all around you. :mrgreen:

Was trying to convince the SO that I really need to go back as this little guy is really missing me :)

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Unread postPosted: Mon May 22, 2006 12:20 pm 
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Conclusion - An artist in Kgalagadi.

As a professional artist for the past 20 years, I have concentrated my efforts on capturing the landscapes and beauty of our natural wilderness areas. I have traveled widely in the Amazon, Arctic, Antarctica and especially Africa, but the Kgalagadi National Park has become an absolute favourite destination for its combination of enchanting landscapes, glorious light and amazing wildlife viewing. Each trip is different but all leave me with a strong sense of wanting to return time and time again.
Strangely, the creative work is not done there, instead each stay is a time to feed liberally on atmosphere and sights, to gaze deeply into the fire at night whilst remembering the joy of a day filled with privileged glimpses of an untamed world. The sleepy glare of Giant Eagle owls or a reclining Leopard high in an old Camelthorn tree.. The antics of Black Backed Jackals, swooping Lanner Falcons or inquisitive Ground Squirrels. Soul medicine that seeps through my being invigorating my mind and quenching my thirst for solitude, serenity and peace. And the creative fires are well fuelled as each glorious day draws to a close under a wondrous sky of a gazillion stars.

The Kgalagadi is a photographers dream. The wide open views and dry river beds offer endless possibilities to burn up the pixels, be it with a close up shot of a baby Springboks’ first steps, or the golden hues of an evening sky, enhanced immeasurably by the glow and reflected light of the red dunes.

As an artist, I personally have no interest in painting animals. Indeed, I completely shy away from illustration or anything else that might leave me with a cold rendering of an old photo. Once the photo is there, it seems pointless to try and painstakingly copy it on canvas. Painting should show not only what was in front of me but also what was within. What stir of recognition made my soul stir, moved me deep within and demanded expression. Each venture out into the wilderness sets off new ideas that often surprise and always delight me. I’ve certainly never thought of painting ostriches, but watching them inspired this, my first painting from this outing. Their attitude, uneasiness, movement and squabbling all had to come out in one image that is as much a distillation of what I saw and felt as well as an artwork that shows joy of paint, textures, colours and just being there. I hope to do a few more of this potentially exciting theme.


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Unread postPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 10:41 am 
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peterpiper wrote:
The Kgalagadi is a photographers dream.


Isn't that true! I wish I could be in the Kalahari more often.

peterpiper wrote:
As an artist, I personally have no interest in painting animals. Indeed, I completely shy away from illustration or anything else that might leave me with a cold rendering of an old photo. Once the photo is there, it seems pointless to try and painstakingly copy it on canvas.


While I do agree with you, as a photographer I am drawn to (non-photographic) art that has a certain photo-realism. The way I look at it, the more photo-realistic an oil, pastel or watercolour is the more I tend to like it. But that's my preference, and that doesn't stop me from appreciating other excellent artworks. Another "rule" that I tend to stick to, whether looking at photo-realistic art or not, is that when an animal is depicted, it must look correct. So many artists paint a cheetah or lion, and get the face just slightly wrong, and to me that just ruins an otherwise great piece of art.

I do think that your piece shown here is excellent. The ostrich look anatomically correct, and you have perfectly captured the dance that they do. You even captured the colours of the sky at dusk or dawn with the dust that has been stirred by the birds. As a photographer I can really appreciate that. Excellent!

- Craig


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Unread postPosted: Tue May 23, 2006 5:09 pm 
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Guess who's featured on the SANParks home page under travellers' tales...and artist in the kgalagadi...

There's great stuff on the forums so PM me with anything you think should be available on the website!


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