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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: April 2006: Mopani
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 5:05 pm 
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Part One

Mopani restcamp
I stay at Mopani mainly for convenience, as it is a good halfway stop between stays at Punda Maria and Olifants. I don't much care for either Shingwedzi or Letaba, and I've been avoiding Bataleur because of the TVs, although since I've been assured that they are rarely used by guests, I'm now planning a stay at Bataleur next trip.

That said, the bungalows at Mopani are very comfortable, and those with a view over Pioneer Dam are especially nice. In 2000, I had #51 and had hoped to get it or #49 this time, but there were other requests ahead of mine. After some negotiating, I ended up with #101, which overlooks the end of the dam where the Tsende River flows into it - or perhaps it is actually just overlooking the river. In any case, I was very happy with the view and with the relative privacy. Hut #100 may be more private, as it is quite far away from #101, but it is also closer to the restaurant complex. Unfortunately, #102 is quite close to #101, and while it was empty on my first night, on my second night, the start of a long holiday weekend, I had noisy neighbors who talked loudly late into the evening. I think many people don't realise just how far a "normal" speaking voice carries in the quiet of the bush. I finally asked them to quiet down (it was nearly 10pm), after which they ostentatiously whispered, so I gave up and went to bed.

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26 April - Punda Maria - Shingwedzi - Mopani
Since it's quite an easy drive from Punda Maria to Mopani, even with a few detours off the tar roads, I lingered awhile over my morning coffee to enjoy the ambience of my safari tent's deck. Reluctantly, I dragged myself away around 0715, wishing as always that I were staying longer in this part of the park.

Even tho I'd never seen much on the Dzundzwini Loop, I decided to try it again, because I remembered that Salva and others had seen leopard on this road. Shortly after I'd turned in off the H13-1, as I came round a bend, I saw, albeit only fleetingly, a really tiny antelope in the road, which must have been a suni, although I didn't see it long enough for either a photo or a truly positive ID. I drove to the top of the hill and enjoyed the expansive view, but saw nothing further, apart from a few birds. Then, on the eastern arm of the loop, again coming round a bend, I spotted two small cats running down the road. My first thought, as I slowly moved closer, was lion cubs, but it wasn't until the mother came out into the road, much closer to me than the cubs, that I recognised that luck had given me a dream sighting — a mother leopard with cubs! Of which I have about 1.5 minutes of video, but no good still pix (I hadn't yet realised that my digital camera's autofocus didn't/couldn't focus properly through the windscreen as this was never a problem with my old Olympus). Further, despite knowing better, I made the fatal mistake of trying to move a bit closer, and in a flash, mother and cubs disappeared into the tall grass. And I've been kicking myself ever since, because I really DO know better.

It was likely that no other sighting — neither that day nor throughout the rest of my trip — was going to come close to the leopard sighting I'd just muffed, but as I continued south, I did come upon the curious sight of two pairs of fairly rare storks — two saddlebilled and two woolynecked — in a single dead tree. And later, on the Shingwedzi causeway, I saw my first ever malachite (or possibly pygmy — I'm not 100% confident of my ID) kingfisher.

My travels this day were constrained by several matters that interfered with my enjoyment of my holiday. First, I had to arrive at Mopani by 1500 in order to change over my hired car, which had developed a fault. And second, at Shingwedzi I had to make phone calls to continue to follow up on an unresolved problem with a portion of my reservation, since I had again received no updates. Sadly, both the car problems and the reservations problem (which was due to their error and never resolved satisfactorily) dogged my entire stay, so my holiday was not as relaxing and stress-free as I would have wished.

Once I arrived at Mopani, got my replacement car, and settled in, I decided against a late afternoon drive in favour of relaxing on my veranda and enjoying the view, the birds, the distant hippo serenade, my braai fire and the fiery sunset.

sightings
H13-2: nothing
H13-1: nyala bull
S58: suni, blue waxbill, emeraldspotted wood dove, leopard with cubs
H1-7: saddlebilled storks, woolynecked storks, redbilled buffalo weavers, ?mystery raptor, forktailed drongo
S56: darter, tree squirrels, grey heron, crested francolin, Natal francolin, hoopoe, redbilled woodhoopoe,
S135: LBJ, some sort of shrike**
Shingwedzi causeway: hamerkop, malachite kingfisher
H1-6: bull elephant, leopard tortoise, ?mynah
S144: kori bustards, longtailed shrike, steenbok, ?mystery raptor

**My bird books are still "in transit" right now, and I'll need them for better ID. Any and all help with ID of any of my posted bird pix is greatly appreciated!!

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mystery raptor - help with ID?
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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Mon Jul 03, 2006 7:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Arks' KNP Trip Report: 26, 27 April 2006: Mopani
Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:47 pm 
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Part Two

27 April - Mopani - Shingwedzi - Mopani
The day dawned cool and misty, with quite thick mist over the plains, but within two hours it had turned hot and sunny. My plan was to drive the S50, one of my favourite roads, to Shingwedzi, and to also explore the Red Rocks loop if I had time (which as it turned out, I didn't). Today my most notable sightings were birds: my first ever tambourine doves and purple roller. I also spent some time near Nshawu waterhole watching a huge flock of tiny birds that were using a big dead tree as a base, swarming into and out of it. They may have been redbilled quelea, but I wasn't close enough to make a positive ID. Another highlight was my first sighting of dwarf mongooses in many years, as I'd not seen any in 2000. And I had a bit of excitement when I encountered two elephant bulls fast approaching along the S143, while up ahead I had two large old dagga boys. I got across the T-junction and watched the ellies pass behind me on their way to the waterhole and fortunately the buffalo moved away from the road.

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The road to the Shibavantsengele Lookout is new since my 2000 visit, as is the Nyawutsi birdhide, where I saw no birds at all, but lots of vervet monkeys chasing each other about on the rocks and frolicing in the fever trees. I also don't remember visiting Grootvlei Dam before, and I can recommend driving across the dam wall (possible even in a small car and there is a small turnaround space at the far end), which I'd read about somewhere on this forum. I didn't see anything much there apart from dragonflies and a few egrets in a tree (too far away to identify more specifically), but the place, with the view across the dam to the distant Lembobo Mountains, is lovely.

On the Shingwedzi causeway, I again saw the malachite (or is it pygmy?) kingfisher and also spent a long time watching two raptors in the Shingwedzi riverbed along the confluence loop. I'm still not 100% sure of whether or not one of these might be a tawny eagle, but I think in fact that they are both juvenile bataleurs, even tho they aren't entirely similar -- perhaps different ages?

Heading back to Mopani along the H1-6, I spotted another potential emerging tusker candidate, but he was very far away from me in the riverbed. Further along, I encountered a breeding herd of ellies some distance from the road at an unidentified (not on my map) small waterhole or stream. Some of the youngsters had a great time splashing about and the enormous matriarch kept a watchful eye on me. Surprisingly, only a very few other cars even stopped briefly, while most just zoomed on by -- clear indication that there are so many elephant about that many no longer stop (or even slow) for them.

sightings
H1-6: nothing
S49: Swainson's francolin, redcrested korhaan, impala
S50: Swainson's francolin, crested francolin, dwarf mongoose, various LBJs at Nwashu waterhole, longtailed shrike, 2 bull elephants, 2 dagga boys, waterbuck, giraffe, zebra, vervet monkeys, 2 ground hornbills, emeraldspotted wood dove, two sorts of dragonfly, mystery ducks/geese, tambourine doves, ellie bull having a mud bath
S134: impala, zebra, purple roller
Shingwedzi causeway: malachite kingfisher, hamerkop, threebanded plover, blacksmith plover, grey heron, crocodiles
S135: nothing
Shingwedzi confluence loop: juvenile bataleurs
H1-6: bull elephant, breeding herd of elephants
S142: doublebanded sandgrouse, redcrested korhaan, lone zebra, ellie family (5) group


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are these two birds both juvenile bataleurs or ... ???
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does anyone recognise this ellie?
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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 3:31 pm 
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Salva wrote:
I also liked the S50 but I could not get on the Grootvlei dam as my vehicle (not a 4x4) was loaded a bit too heavy for that.

Yes, I did the dam on a day when my car was empty and I wouldn't want to try it with a loaded car as the approach at both ends is quite steep. But for anyone driving the S50 on a day when they are staying in a camp (and car is thus lighter) give it a try, it's gorgeous!

Salva wrote:
didi you go up the Shibavantsengele lookout. The view from there was in our opinion mindblowing and this was our favourite lookout.

Yes I did drive up to the lookout and agree that it is spectacular, also relatively unknown, so no one else there or on the road to it.

Salva wrote:
My D70s is also not able to focus well through the windscreen. sometimes VERY ennoying in KNP.

This is my first AF camera and while I like the convenience of AF at sightings where manual focus might mean missing the shot, I did find that there were occassions when the AF wasn't as precise and sharp as manual focus would be. I'm still just learning to use all this new gear, but later in the trip I would switch to manual focus more often and also try a variety of settings just so I could later compare the results.

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 4:34 pm 
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Posts: 210
Location: Kempton Park
@arks & @salva - maybe I can help out here :wink:

With the D70/d70S have a look on page 66 in the manual:-
Closest subject priority is automatically selected and can & in my humble opinion should be changed using Custom Setting 3 (AF-area mode) to single area or dynamic area.

Doing that puts you in control in where you want the focus to be & not leave it up to the camera software to decide. And, by the way, you do not loose the AF-feature in changing the setting.

PM me if you need more info.


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Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 04, 2006 10:18 pm 
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Definitely the malachite kingfisher - a shame, as I am still looking for my first pygmy.

You also mentiontambourine doves on the S50; whereabouts did you see them. They are another bird that has eluded me so far.

Richard


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2006 3:44 pm 
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richardharris wrote:
Definitely the malachite kingfisher - a shame, as I am still looking for my first pygmy.

Thanks for the confirmation, Richard :D And since it was my first malachite, I'm not at all disappointed!

richardharris wrote:
You also mentiontambourine doves on the S50; whereabouts did you see them. They are another bird that has eluded me so far.

I've checked where the pix fall in the day's sequence, and I saw the doves somewhere between Nyawutsi and Kanniedood birdhides, closer to Kanniedood. They like thick riverine bush and are quite hard to spot. I had driven down a side loop and spotted the doves as I was returning to the main route. I had to look hard before I realised that they weren't just another Cape turtle dove :lol: Hard to see the distinguishing features (or lack of them) with all the shadows. That very shadowy bunch of branches is the very best of my pix — and it ain't great :wink:

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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 Post subject:
Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 8:42 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
MARK CHOWLES wrote:
you saw my 2 favourite antelope that I am yet to see - Nyala and Suni.

There are quite a lot of nyala in the north, Mark, so you need to get there for your next trip. You'll love it! Nyala are especially common up in the Parfuri area, one of my very favourite parts of the park — tho I was surprised that I saw my wild dogs there as those are not so common.

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


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