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Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:21 pm

This is my last posting on the forum until my return from Mpongolo. In spite of the fact that we couldn't get another 'mite to join us and make up the minimum requirement of four trailists, Multiflorum, his friend and I were so keen on going that the three of us decided to equally chip in and pay for another 'mite who would be joining us in the spirit!

That 'mite must let us know soon who he/she is... :lol:

A single spot for the March trip is still open, just in case someone likes to join us...

Watch this space for a terriffic trip report!
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby JenB » Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:04 am

Have a wonderful time JvR and friends! :yaya:
Travel safely!

Waiting for the TR!
:popcorn:
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby ndloti » Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:33 am

I am disappointed at not being able to make it for 2 reasons , one of them because getting leave is a problem having recently returned from spending time amongst (sometimes friendly) elephant ...

It is a rare priviledge to be able to be in the wilderness with people who are not solely interested in thrilling mammal sightings

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KNP is sacred. I am opposed to the modernisation of Kruger and from the depths of my soul long for the Kruger of yesteryear! 1000+km on foot in KNP incl 56 wild trails.200+ nights in the wildernessndloti-indigenous name for serval.

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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby ndloti » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:08 pm

Johan , can we expect a trip report ?
KNP is sacred. I am opposed to the modernisation of Kruger and from the depths of my soul long for the Kruger of yesteryear! 1000+km on foot in KNP incl 56 wild trails.200+ nights in the wildernessndloti-indigenous name for serval.

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Thu Feb 23, 2012 11:47 am

Eishhh! I'm getting the "hurry-up" from various quarters!

I can assure you that the ball is rolling... lots of work is going behind the scenes on to enable me to put the trip report together.

I can give some detail just to whet those ferocious appetites: We atlassed pentad 2305_3110 starting at about midday on Wednesday, 15 February. We did approximately 50 hours of birding, walking roughly 18 km in the process through varied habitats ranging from drainage lines to open veld to climbing rocky outcrops.

In the end we listed 135 birds in the pentad that included owls, nightjars, raptors and some of the scarer birds like ground hornbills and saddle-billed stork.
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Fri Feb 24, 2012 2:21 pm

Water on tap, a mattress to sleep on and refrigeration are mundane comforts that I appreciate all over again after our sojourn into the Mpongolo wilderness. We went to this remote part of the Kruger National Park with the singular objective to survey one of the area’s nine virgin pentads… on foot!

I previously met first rifle Brenden during a Kruger NP event at Balule Camp that was arranged by the Midrand Honorary Rangers. I turned that function into a birding weekend by “selling” the idea to some of my birding friends. Balule and the nearby Olifants River walk had a reputation for producing good Pel’s fishing owl sightings and I desperately needed to get some day-time pictures of this elusive bird. On this occasion, we were super-impressed with Brenden as a Kruger birding aficionado. Talking to Niall Perrins before the time about Brenden, Niall gave him the thumbs-up: “He knows how to find birds,” was Niall’s verdict. Our guide did not disappoint!

Brenden, on the other hand, was taken with my ability to get such a general bush event turned into a birding weekend. So the two of us conspired to do the same to a Mpongolo wilderness trail. The 150 000 ha Mphongolo Wilderness Area is the newest adventure activity offered by the Kruger National Park. It is one of the greatest trekking wilderness experiences one could ever wish to have, a unique 4-day-3-night trail in open tree savannah, dominated by mopane, red bushwillow and round-leafed bloodwood woodlands, in the area directly west of Shingwedzi. It is bordered by the Punda Gate road in the north and the Shingwedzi River in the south. The northern section is dotted with low sandstone kopjes while plains gently undulate from these low hills towards the south. The trail has no fixed route, nor daily schedule. This feature lent itself perfectly for what we had in mind. Instead of the usual trek through the wilds, we planned to atlas some of the nine unvisited pentads in this wilderness area.

When I initially started sounding my birding friends to gauge levels of interest, I realised that there will be an overrun. The first trail that we earmarked was 25 – 28 March and that was filled up in no time. So the trail of 15 – 18 February came into the spotlight, it being on a special offer from SANParks and all… In spite of trying all friends, family and birding contacts, I got stuck with only two other interested persons, other than myself. As it turned out, Multiflorum and his mate, Michael were extremely keen to do the trail and suggested that the three of us shared the fee for the fourth person so that the minimum SANParks requirement could be met and this trail could go ahead. And so we ended up with three ‘mites (Multiflorum, Michael and I), two trail rangers (Breden and Julie) and a ghost! :lol:

We met in Shingwedzi Camp on Wednesday morning at around 10:30. By midday all the paperwork and packing were done and we were taken to a drop-off point that would also serve as a pick-up point when the trail concluded on Saturday. Our highly trained and skilled Wilderness Trails Rangers, Brenden and Julie, explained how they were to keep us safe and how we could enjoy this unique area by asking them to interpret the signs, sounds and interactions with the fauna and flora.

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Large view

Brenden who have done numerous trails in various sections of Mpongolo selected pentad 2305_3110 for its diversity in habitats. It sports some low granite hills, numerous drainage lines into the Burubu stream that in turn contains some well-filled waterholes, surrounded by lush riverine vegetation; some open grasslands and mopane stands. The broad black line on the map represents the route we followed over the four days that we spent in the area. The green dot in the "middle" is where we pitched camp.

As per the KNP rules for wilderness trails, we had to carry all our food and equipment ourselves. Brenden and I agreed that setting up camp in one spot for the duration of the trail would be ideal as we could then sally out from a central point to try and cover as much of the habitat in the area as possible. We knew that the event offered us a unique opportunity to set some really outrageous numbers with our atlas card and I did some research into what the current records are. The highest total ever submitted for any card is 212 (a pentad in the northern area of Pafuri). The highest score for a virgin pentad is 197; much higher than I suspected, and probably out of reach for a first attempt, so I looked for other milestones… The virgin pentad record for Limpopo province is 147 – that definitely was an attainable target!

After hiking for about 2 kilometres in the 40-degree midday heat, we gladly accepted Brenden’s call to halt in a shady spot while he started scouting for a suitable place to set up camp. I was sweating like a racehorse and my two-litre water supply was disappearing fast! Finding a good campsite means it had to be reasonably close to a “good” water supply, but not so close that nocturnal animal activity would be a problem. We settled on pitching camp on the eastern side of a stand of shade in open grasslands about 500 metres away from a series of waterholes and started to set up camp. As it turned out in the end, I pitched my tent the wrong way round with the head on the down side of a gentle slope. I also failed to notice a few small lumpy bits that now sat underneath my tent floor and on/around which I would have to manage to sleep…

With tent pitched and backpack turned into a daypack, we next focussed on collecting water from the pools we passed following one of the drainage lines on the way to our campsite. Since we passed the waterhole earlier, a lone male buffalo had moved in!
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Pooh Bear » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:13 pm

What have I let myself in for! Look forward to the next instalment....

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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby MATTHYS » Fri Feb 24, 2012 4:59 pm

You know that I am a disaster at birding, Johan but..... I am actually more than a bit :mrgreen: .
Is there a special reason for doing these hikes in summer ?
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Jazil » Fri Feb 24, 2012 5:33 pm

Johan, fantastic, you are lucky to be able to do this, even though you pitched your tent the wrong way :lol:

More please.
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Re: Testing the waters - Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby stelliegp123 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:16 pm

Meandering Mouse wrote:Sadly, I have had unexpected complications with a very sick dog :( this means the vet gets any spare change.

I will be watching down the line and hopefully one day I can jump on board.



My Jack Russel was poisoned two weeks ago and I had to do a Blood Transfusion etc. I know that feeling so so so well. But there is no way I could put him down, So also paying my debt off.

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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:17 pm

:popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn: :popcorn:
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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:12 pm

Pooh Bear wrote:What have I let myself in for! Look forward to the next instalment....


:lol: :lol: :lol:

I'm sure that your apprehension will grow some more... :twisted:

MATTHYS wrote:You know that I am a disaster at birding, Johan but..... I am actually more than a bit :mrgreen: .
Is there a special reason for doing these hikes in summer ?


A significant number of species migrate to South Africa during our summer months, MATTHYS. In order to have the best chance to record as many birds as possible, there is but one choice... a very hot one!

Amur falcon, Woodland Kingfisher, European Bee-eater, the (five or six) Cuckoos, some Swallows, many waders, warblers, some flycatchers, rollers, Red-backed Shrike, some eagles and European Nightjar, to name a few, all go north from the end of March onward.

BTW, we still have one spot open for the next stint. Anyone who'd like to go - it is from 25 - 28 March.
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Tilandi » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:22 pm

:popcorn: :popcorn: :whistle: :whistle: :popcorn:
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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:31 pm

Before I continue with my story, let me introduce the team: three 'mites (JvR, Michael and Multiflorum) first rifle, Brenden, second rifle, Julie and a no-name ghost! :lol:

Image

This is actually an "after-the-event" shot.

Our campsite enjoyed shade in the afternoon.

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Picking a good camping site in the bush requires finding a balance between "too far" and "too close". And access to water is what it is all about. Too close and the nocturnal animal activities become problematic... too far and lugging water becomes a bane.

OK, so where was I with my story? Oh, yes... finding our waterhole full of bull! :lol:

The buffalo bull quickly vacated his pool when he heard us approach, stirring up mud and leaving behind a pond reeking of buffalo! Our minders had collapsible 9-litre buckets and a 10-litre bush-shower which we filled, scooping the muddy water from the pool with a dixy (Army term for the cup one gets when removing the bottom of a water bottle), trying our utmost best to leave behind most of the sediment. Brenden tried to get to spots in the buffalo wallow where the water remained relatively undisturbed, but the result in the buckets looked scary.

After filtering and chemical treatment the water looked like gingerbeer... and tasted like buffalo butt! My tongue was getting stuck to the roof of my mouth and the easing of a raging thirst became a priority... afterall our protection team assured us that the colour and taste was harmless as all bugs, bacteria and virusses were killed off by the chemical treatment.

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This shot shows Julie filling up water bottles from the collapsible buckets back at our camp... Look at the colour of the buffalo butt flavoured drink! :lol:

Normally I drink about two, maybe three litres of liquid during a day. Here I went through seven to eight litres a day. One quickly learned to look past the colour and get the wet stuff inside where it did most good!
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Re: Atlassing Kruger... on foot!

Unread postby anne-marie » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:45 pm

:D seems to be a nice experience
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planing KTP janv/fev.2016


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