4 May - Skukuza - Hazyview - Skukuza
Today is the halfway point of my trip and time for me to do a resupply run to the Pick ‘n Pay in Hazyview. I'm awake early and since there's no reason for me to linger on my stoep, I'm out the gate shortly after it opens. Along the H11, I spot some hyena emerging from their den and heading up a no entry road. There appear to be 6 or 7 adults, and if there are also pups, I don't see them. I was soon joined by a jeep jockey, who obviously didn't know about the hyena, since he was speeding past when he realised that I was looking at something "worthwhile".
The hyena were soon out of sight and I decided that since I had plenty of time (I didn't need to get to Hazyview too early), I would visit the Lake Panic birdhide, as I'd never been there. I usually have little luck at birdhides (perhaps I'm too impatient and don't stick around long enough), but I really enjoyed Lake Panic. It was magical in the early morning light with the mists (or was it hippo breath?) rising off the water, and there were lots of different birds to see, several new to me, and knowledgeable birders to help with ID. Most of the birds were too far away for pix (except for ID purposes), even with my 300mm lens, and trying to photograph LBJs flitting through the reeds was definitely challenging, but if I can ever work out the ID of some of my LBJ pix, I may have a few more new ticks. One bit of behaviour that I'd not noticed before was how the African jacana turns over each lilypad, I'd guess looking for food on the underside.
I was told that this is a juvenile gymnogene
LBJs in the reeds — can anyone help with ID?
When I left over a hour later, I encountered a group of dwarf mongooses frolicking alongside the road. I was disappointed when some of the birders in a large SUV showed no interest in the mongooses and whizzed past me, but fortunately the mongooses weren't as bothered as I was and were quickly out in the road to see what the SUV might have turned up.
The S3, which has always been a favourite road for me, had been closed due to flood damage when I was last here in July 2000, so it was a special pleasure to drive it once again. I saw a magnificent fish eagle and had a very brief glimpse of a male bushbuck as he dashed across the road and into the thick bush, and the views over the river and along the several spruits leading down to it are as lovely as I remembered.
It's a quick trip into Hazyview from the lovely new Phabeni Gate and I was soon back in the park and heading back to Skukuza with my groceries. This time I drove the S1, which had brought me a leopard in 2000, but was considerably less rewarding this time.
After stowing my groceries, barricading my fridge against the vervets, and replenishing my snacks and drinks, I decided to head towards the S114. My neighbors had had some good sightings on that road earlier, including a lioness walking alongside their car. I didn't find a lioness, but I did find a few cars gathered watching three lazy young lions — and for a change they were right out in the open and quite close to the road. As other cars left, I was able to move a bit and got into an excellent position, so although there wasn't much activity — which is why most people moved on, staying at the most 15 minutes — I decided to stay put and just see what happened. Nothing much did, but even so, for me it was a most rewarding — and relaxing — afternoon, just watching these big cats do the things all cats do, snooze, stretch, wash a bit, roll over, and snooze some more.
: hyena, impala
Lake Panic birdhide
: hippo, pied kingfisher, darter, black crake, woodland kingfishers, hamerkop, hadeda ibis, ?weaver, hoopoe, ?heron, many LBJs, ?gymnogene, redbilled woodhoopoe, immature African jacana, Burchell's coucal
Lake Panic road
: dwarf mongooses, crested francolin
: slender mongoose, baboons, fish eagle, zebra, ?lizard, BBJ, bushbuck, impala, giant kingfisher, Egyptian geese
: waterbuck, hamerkop, pied wagtail, kudu, impala, giraffe, zebra
: dwarf mongoose, impala, crowned plovers, 3 lazy lions
15:06 #3 lion made a brief appearance shortly after I arrived, then was never seen again, except by those in safari trucks, which were high enough for guests to see over the tall grass
16:27 nearly 1 1/2 hours later and little has happened apart from a few tail twitches and rollovers, and then ...
and back to sleep
17:00 now that it's time to be thinking about getting back to camp, there begins to be a bit more activity ...
17:17 ... but not for long and as the sun sets behind the lazy lions, I am the next to last car to leave the sighting and will likely be late getting back to camp