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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 2:15 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Here I am for a new posting. Still January 5th, second full day in KNP, going from Pretoriuskop to Skukuza by the Napi Road.

S11, the Napi Loop, is just a short detour from Napi Road, but it is great to leave the tar for a while to follow a gravel road. There we saw just 2 Cape Glossy Starlings, 1 Cape Turtle-Dove and 1 Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). The great thing was to see the surprising outcrop of Napi Boulders, with the two rocks on top. I asked a geologist who is a dear friend about it and he told me that is probably the result of erosion. I read owls can be seen there at dusk, but we were still far from that time when we passed by. There is a plaque there as a memorial to Justice J. F. Ludorf, former Parks Board Chairman, who died in 1978. Here are two pictures of the Napi Boulders. I like very much the picture of the two suspended rocks with the bird flying in between.

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Then we came back to Napi Road, on our way to Transport Dam. Up to the entrance to the gravel road leading to the dam, we saw more 3 Cape Glossy Starling, 1 Golden-Breasted Bunting (Emberiza flaviventris), 2 Magpie (African Longtailed) Shrikes (Corvinella melanoleuca), 2 African Buffalos, 1 Fork-tailed Drongo, 1 Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis), and
3 female Waterbucks (Kobus ellipsiprymnus).

In this picture, we can see the Golden-Breasted Bunting emitting his call. This bird has a stable population, being classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List. However, it is regularly captured illegally for animal traffic.

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Here, half hidden in the foliage, our first Magpie Shrike, which I think it is a fascinating bird, which we would still encounter many times in our trip. Although also Least Concern in the Red List, the population trend shows a decline. There are three separate populations of this bird in Africa, one in Kenya and Tanzania, another in Malawi and northern Mozambique, and, finally, the largest one from Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. It can be found both in the wild and in suburban gardens and town parks. It is a versatile insectivore, with a variety of foraging techniques. Maybe the one we saw was using one of the techniques, to perch in a prominent position, searching for a food item and then diving to catch it when localized.

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Then we found two African Buffalos by the road, a much closer encounter than our previous one, with a Buffalo hidden from the rain. When we are in front of them, it is quite clear the feeling that these are powerful animals. No surprise they even fight lions! In the first picture we can see how beautiful the scenery as a whole was, with the buffalos in the middle of savannah woodland.

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The following two pictures show one of the massive buffalos, and then a detail of its horns. These are huge horns and they are certainly part of the reason why Buffalos capture our imagination. They are really formidable weapons against predators and for disputes within the herd, either for space or for dominance. We had already seen four of the big five we saw in the trip, since we had already seen a lion, some rhinos (not disclosed here to avoid giving information for poaching), five elephants, and now three buffalos. Unfortunately, that would be it, since we didn’t have the luck of spotting a leopard in the whole trip. Notice, also, how the buffalo was covered in mud, to protect from the sun.

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One thing we can say for sure: they have scary faces! See the gaze he gave us!

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We were always looking for behaviorally interesting situations. For this reason, whenever we could, we would stay 20, 30 min. watching the same animals. We did so with the buffalo and could admire a whole session of scratching against the shrubs. The buffalo seemed to be enjoying. It is understandable: it is a good thing to get rid of some parasites.

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Finally, another inside joke of the trip. We decided to build a calendar of animal butts. Maybe this is a good one for… let’s say… February.

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Here is one of the Buffalos with a Fork-Tailed Drongo above it.

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We need to just provide, then, a key information. African Buffalos are not threatened, according to the IUCN Red List, but their populations are declining.

Finally, before entering to Transport Dam we saw 3 female waterbucks by the road, in between the grass. We can see one of them in the picture below.

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As African Buffalos, they are not threatened, but their populations are declining. Even though they have “water” as a suffix, these big antelopes neither are really aquatic nor are at home in water. They have this name because they take refuge in water to escape predators. However, this use of water may have led to adaptations, if we interpret the smelly, oily secretion that covers their fur as playing the function of waterproofing. Older waterbucks are also avoided by predators because their meat has an unpleasant odor, resulting from the waterproofing secretions of its sweat glands. Predators tend to prefer, then, other preys. Probably because bad smell usually means unpleasant food, poisonous, toxic, or something like that, it is commonly thought that waterbuck meat is not edible. This is not true, the meat is safe to eat. I didn’t try, not to be found in the Kruger restaurants, but at least in Wikipedia, one says that it is not especially tasty. Maybe some forumite has already tried and could expand on that.

Waterbucks do inhabit areas close to water in savannah grasslands, gallery forests and riverine woodlands. In these habitats, they have enough food, provided by long grasses, but also find watery places to flee from predators. It is interesting that they consume coarse grass species seldom eaten by other grazers, and occasionally browse leaves from certain trees and bushes.

They are mostly sedentary and territorial animals. Young males form herds, but as they mature, they turn into more territorial behavior. However, they do not scent-mark their territories. Females are found in herds, but so loosely formed that they are not really social groups, but just groups of individuals with overlapping home ranges. It is easy to differentiate females from males, because they are smaller and exhibit no horns.

In the last picture of this posting, then, we see another great contribution to the animal butts calendar.

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The waterbuck back is a target! Well, only an animal with so many predator avoidance strategies could have a target at its back! Just kidding. Here is a very nice African tale about how the waterbuck got its white circle: http://bookbuilder.cast.org/view_print.php?book=5272

We have this tale in a book of African tales we bought in the Kruger. Fantastic book! My daughter has now just 3 month and a half. As soon as she understands more, I am eager to read the tales to her.

In the tale, we curiously find a functional explanation for the white ring: it is useful because it shows up in the dark and the young ones are able to follow her to the safety of the forest! It is indeed an accepted explanation for the function of the white ring. It is a “follow me” marking, regularly found in mammals, which allows animals to follow each other, particularly young animals following their mothers. This is, then, a nice example of traditional and scientific knowledge in agreement!

Evolutionarily, we have to figure out populations of variant waterbucks, some showing markings, other not showing, and the selective advantage of the animals showing markings leading to greater chances of successful survival and reproduction. Surely, we cannot figure out such a symmetrical marking appeared at once, but its gradual building up through several generations of waterbucks. It is always nice to think of evolution in front of diverse and beautiful animals!


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 7:54 am 
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Butt Calender........ :lol: :lol: :lol: ...........now I know what to do with all those photos I have!!! :whistle: :whistle:

Lovely story on the waterbuck........thank you for sharing!!!

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:05 am 
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Another excellent instalment - like your butt calender idea :clap: :clap: :thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:43 am 
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:popcorn: LOVELY!
THANKS FOR ALL THE EXTRA INFORMATION!

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Last minute Kruger fix! Can't wait.

26 - 28 April Pretoriuskop (First Time Visit)
29-30 April Olifants
1-2 May Mopani
3-4 May Orpen
5-6 May Lower Sabie



Trip Report Photographs and Memories Kruger June 2013


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:40 pm 
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Hi friends
The butt calendar was a must during the whole trip. Lots of fun doing it! Unfortunately when we came back never realized the idea.... but still in time to do it!

I love the tale of the waterbuck....

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:25 am 
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Love your Bunting 8) they are such beautiful little birds. You certainly have caught one in full song.

:popcorn:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 2:38 pm 
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Hi Meandering mouse,
Yes, the bunting was singing at full voice... very nice!
Unfortunately we did not record it....

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 6:38 pm 
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Going on with the TR, January 5th 2011, on the way to Skukuza, a stop at Transport Dam. In the gravel road to the dam, we saw 1 Lilac-Breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus), 1 Southern Reedbuck (Redunca arundinum), 1 Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover) (Vanellus armatus), 1 Burchell's Starling (Lamprotornis australis), 1 Cape Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia capicola) and 1 Magpie (African Longtailed) Shrike (Corvinella melanoleuca).

In the dam, in turn, we saw 5 White-Faced Ducks (Dendrocygna viduata), 1 colony of Lesser Masked-Weaver (Ploceus intermedius), 1 African Fish-Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer), a group of Impalas nearby the side of the dam where we were, and 4 female Waterbucks (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) on the other side of the dam.

In this picture we see the Blacksmith Lapwing we found by the road in the way to Transport Dam. It is an endemic bird in sub-Saharan Africa, present not only in the wild but also in sports fields, airports, and even heavily grazed areas. This is the kind of animal most likely to survive our impacts in the environment, since it can explore our own modified landscapes. It is the same with the Tamarins that I see everyday walking over the electrical wires in front of my flat. Lovely animals!

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Returning to the Blacksmith Lapwing, it can be sedentary, nomadic or migratory depending on the environmental conditions. For instance, in dry years they can move from arid to more humid areas. When breeding, however, it is mainly sedentary.

This bird not only is not threatened, but its range and population significantly increased in the 20th century. The reason lies in its ability to explore human-modified areas.

As Blacksmith Lapwings search for insect larvae in dung, that was probably the reason why he was found in the road.

This is certainly true of many bird species. In the next two pictures, we can see a Burchell’s Starling dedicated to the same task.

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It was also great to see one more Magpie Shrike, in this case much closer than the previous one we saw, in full singing.

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When we arrived at the dam, it was great to see these White-faced ducks.

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These beautiful ducks are classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, showing in fact a trend of population increase, as a result of the creation of artificial water bodies (e.g. farm dams) and the growing of grain crops, which are used by them as food. However, some populations are decreasing. Its estimated global population ranges from 1,700,000 to 2,800,000 individuals.

A curious fact about this species is that it shows unpredictable local nomadic movements (Johnsgard, P. A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London) related to variations in water and food availability.

It is predated by African-Fish Eagles. There was one hunting at Transport Dam when we were there. What was the eagle hunting? Guess…

This duck is hunted for local consumption and trade in Malawi (Bhima, R. 2006. Subsistence use of waterbirds at Lake Chilwa, Malawi. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 255-256. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK) and Botswana (Herremans, M. 1998. Conservation status of birds in Botswana in relation to land use. Biological Conservation 86: 139-160). It is also hunted and traded at traditional medicine markets in Nigeria (Nikolaus, G. 2001. Bird exploitation for traditional medicine in Nigeria. Malimbus 23: 45-55).

Finally, this is a bird that unites South America and Africa! It breeds both here and there. It is also found in Madagascar and Comoro Islands. In Southern Africa, it is one of the most common ducks.

A marvelous thing to see in the dam was the tree in the middle of it with a large colony of Lesser Masked Weaver. Probably many of you had already seen this colony. Tell me!

In the two pictures below we can see the whole colony and a detail of it. In the first picture, there is another bird in the tree. I just saw it now, when preparing the TR. It is really exciting to discover we photographed a bird we did not even notice back then. It is a Fork-Tailed Drongo. Moreover, we certainly see the huge structures about the weaver’s nests. They are probably hamerkop’s nests.

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Lesser Masked Weavers are charming birds, aren’t they?

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One incredible thing was to remember, when I was there watching the weavers, how fascinated I was with weavers (which I knew only from my books) as a small child. I had forgotten these remote childhood memories, and it was really something to suddenly remember it on the spot, watching these birds I had forgotten I loved so much. It is great to know, then, that they are not threatened: Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, with stable populations.

What fascinated me about this bird (and probably fascinates many of you) is the delicate architecture of their nests, alongside with the size of the colony. This is a polygynous species, with males mating with multiple females during the breeding season. They live together then in colonies of 20-30, rarely up to 200 nests. In this case, we counted 35 nests. It is the male that builds the nest, and it is a hard job. They kept repairing the nests while we were there. I love the kidney shape of the nest and the entrance tunnel facing downward!

Lesser Masked Weavers are also hunted by African-Fish Eagles. But what was the eagle hunting? White-faced ducks, that’s the answer. We almost got a picture but, no, they went down and we photographed just the upper part of their bodies. Anyway, it was great to follow the action.

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What a beautiful bird the African-Fish Eagle is. Elegance at its outmost!

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Also Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, with stable population, this eagle was observed by us several times during the trip. But this encounter in Transport Dam was the most impressive one, with the hunting action. It is a pity we will not find in Kgalagadi. I’ll miss her.

Myths also surround the African-Fish Eagle. In the Shona cultural heritage, this eagle was a sacred messenger, used by the King to communicate with the ancestors. It is also the totem of the Hungwe clan and has been the symbol of the Zimbabwe state, appearing on the national flag and on bank notes and coins, since Zimbabwe became independent in April 1980.

The waterbucks, to finish, gave us some behaviorally interesting pictures, even though they were far away, at the other side of the dam. Look how one of the females, which was laying down with the other two, raised up and called.

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Then she moved to a nearby shrub…

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And found another waterbuck. Oops, she is smaller. Mother and daughter, probably.

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 6:53 pm 
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Still on board. :thumbs_up:

Love all your birdies. :clap:

I have so many photos that would be proud to be in the butt calendar!! :tongue:

:popcorn: :popcorn:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 7:28 pm 
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Hi Crested Val,
Thanks. We saw interesting things in Transport Dam. The light was not good for photographs at that part of the day, so the pictures are not great. But interesting things were there to see.

Maybe we should open a topic in the forum for building collectively a butt calendar!

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:15 pm 
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Another lovely instalment - very informative and such a wide variety of birds (and some butts too :wink: )

Really enjoying your TR :thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 12:47 am 
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Hi Billy,
Thanks. btw, I love birds. I am very happy that this week we will be out in the field (me and some students) studying birds that dwell in the city where I live, Salvador. It is always great!

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 5:16 am 
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Hi Charbel, just found your TR. Great sightings and love the birds -my favorite! I also enjoy how you appreciate every thing and find the time to describe it all in detail, things we take for granted living in SA.
Keep it coming!

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:16 am 
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:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

I love Fish Eagles............ :dance: :dance: :dance: ..........thank you for those lovely photos!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 3:33 pm 
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Dear Super Mongoose and Lion Queen,
Thanks. I do think a trip to Kruger, and, as I hope, Kgalagadi too (probably other parks as well), demands our keen eyes for all things, big and small... It is really one of the fun things I have been doing to put together the TR. It gives me the opportunity to study at least a bit on all these animals I love.... And sharing is indeed a pleasure too!

Cheers
Charbel


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