Finally getting back to the TR. Sorry, friends, the two last weeks were incredibly busy. Interesting how we miss the TR when staying for long without working on it.
Now, during another travel, I managed to finish the next posting. So, friends, directly from Stockholm, where I am on the verge of travelling to Karlstad, countryside Sweden, for two conferences, a new entry to the TR!
I continue with our travel from Skukuza to Tamboti...
In the short connection between the Lower Sabie Road and the Skukuza-Tshokwane Road (H1-2), we saw only a Nile Crocodile from the bridge over the Sabie river. Here is a view of the animal floating as a log in the Sabie river.
Then we entered the Skukuza-Tshokwane Road, where great sightings were indeed waiting for us: the usual Impala group was the beginning, and then a male Impala together with a female Waterbuck. Then, 1 Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus
) followed by the major highlight of this portion of the trip: 2 Klipspringers (Oreotragus oreotragus
) in a very scenic view. Going on: 1 Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina
), 1 White-Headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis
), 2 male Southern-Masked Weavers (Ploceus velatus
). In Kruger Memorial Tablets, we saw 1 Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis
) and a female Southern-Masked Weaver. Another group of Impalas followed by 1 Lesser Black-Winged Plover (Senegal Lapwing) (Vanellus lugubris
) and 1 Crowned Lapwing (Plover) (Vanellus coronatus
). We reached Leeupan, where we saw a tree with Hamerkop nests and 2 Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca
). Before reaching Tshokwane, then, yet another group of Impalas with a lot of cubs.
The waterbuck and the impala formed a great couple particularly when facing us. It is a curious to see then together as an interspecies couple. Obviously they were not, but it was fun anyway.
The Red-Billed Hornbill was nicely perched on a tree.
This bird does not face threats of extinction until now, being classified by IUCN as Least Concern with stable populations. It is a widespread and common bird, but this does not decrease the pleasure of finding them, at least not for a birder. It occurs from south-eastern Angola and Zambia to southern Africa, being common in open, wooded savanna with sparse ground cover. Its feeding is composed mostly by small insects like beetles, ants, termites and flies, but it also eats larger arthropods, small vertebrates, small seeds and fruit. Their chicks are demanding, with 2-7 eggs laid and incubated solely by the female, for 23-25 days, and the chicks remaining in the nest for 39-50 days. And when they leave the nest, they still remain near the nest for a few more days before joining their parents in foraging.
They sing nicely and repetitively: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... rorhynchus
The Klipspringers were in a nice scenario, over rocks, a male and a female, staring at the landscape from a high vantage point.
Klipspringers are dwarf antelopes, with distinctive coat, with coarse, hollow, spiny hair. The hair has a function in regulating the temperature of the antelope, since it insulates them against extreme cold and heat, and reflects the heat from their surroundings during the hotter times of the day. The females are slightly larger than the males and hornless.
This small antelope’s name comes from "rock jumper" in Afrikaans/Dutch, which is quite adequate to its habits, since this antelope is extremely agile at moving across rocky outcrops and steep rocky slopes. Another local name is mvundla (from the Xhosa umvundla, meaning "rabbit"). Well, not so adequate, even though they kinda of look like a rabbit.
They have a large but patchy distribution. That’s because they are only found in rocky habitats, where they can find better protection from predators. They are found from the Cape of Good Hope (in mountain fynbos) through the rest of Southern Africa, where it is found in rocky koppies in woodland and savanna, north to East Africa and into the highly mountainous highlands of Ethiopia. They are active in the early morning and the late afternoon, and throughout the day on cool days.
Among its predators, we find humans, besides leopards, caracals and eagles. They form breeding pairs, which mate for life and will spend most of their lives in close proximity to each other. Just like the pair we saw. When one klipspringer is eating, the other will keep aware of any predators. In this case, none of them were eating, but it was clear that the male was keeping an eye open on the landscape below. Sometimes they are found in small family groups, but in KNP all the ones we saw were breeding pairs. Rams are territorial, marking the territories using communal dung piles and secretions from the well-developed preorbital gland in front of the eye. They are predominantly browser, but sometimes also graze on grass.
They are not threatened by extinction: Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, with stable populations. However, their survival depends on protection within conservation areas.
The pictures are not great, but here it is the White-Headed Vulture we saw in Skukuza-Tshokwane Road. It was perched over a tree and, from time to time, very interested in what was going on below the tree. But for the time we were there, no action took place.
Unfortunately, this nice vulture, with its beautiful coloured face, is under increasing risk of extinction. They are classified as Vulnerable by IUCN, showing decreasing population.
This species occurs in isolated patches around the Red Sea and across sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it is uncommon in north-west-Zimbabwe, Botswana, northern Namibia, Mozambique and eastern South Africa. Thus, we were actually lucky to see this animal. It generally prefers semi-arid woodland, such as Mopane, miombo (Brachystegia
) and mixed woodland.
It not only feed on carrion, but rather this vulture is an adaptable carnivore, also catching its own prey and stealing food from other birds, a phenomenon known as kleptoparasitism. When scavenging, it is often the first at the carcass and is dominant over most other vultures, excluding the larger Lappet-faced vulture. However, it generally stays away from the frenzy at the carcass, instead stealing from other scavengers and feeding on the food they drop.
In South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho, its population is estimated to be just 80-120 breeding pairs. Yes, we were indeed lucky in seeing this animal.
We saw three Southern-Masked Weavers in the Skukuza-Tshokwane Road. Two were males, one of them found working on the nests between an impressive arrays of spines. In Kruger Memorial Tablets, we saw then a female bathing in the water deposited in the ground, which was a nice scene to see.
We can hear them singing here, with a nice variety of songs: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... us+velatus
This species occurs across southern Africa even in arid areas, extending into Angola, Zambia and Malawi. It is generally found in semi-arid scrub, open savanna, woodland edges, riverine thicket, farmland with scattered trees, alien tree plantations and gardens.
Brood parasites such as the Diderick Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx caprius
) take advantage of this species. As it is the case with all weavers, their nests are a show in themselves, so delicately constructed and constantly repaired. We can see that the male above was really interested in protecting the nests among all those spines in the tree!
This bird mainly eats seeds, fruit, insects and nectar. Most of its foraging is done in small flocks, gleaning prey from leaves and branches, taking seeds from the ground and grass stems.
As I love weavers since I was a child, I am always glad to know when a weaver is not threatened (Least Concern with stable populations in IUCN), as it is the case of this one, which in fact adapted well to the introduction of man-made habitats, using Eucalyptus
and other alien trees in areas which were previously barren.
We were in Kruger Memorial Tablets resting for a while and eating something when we saw two things at a distance tree that looked like butterflies. More attention showed, however, that there were two Woodland Kingfishers beautifully showing their wings. For some time, they would be perched.
But they would open their wings from time to time, in some kind of display.
Finally here is a more detailed view of this tiny wonder of nature.
Fortunately, these birds are not threatened, classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List with stable populations.
There are several recordings of their calls here: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... kingfisher
Here you can also find their calls: http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/bir ... lensis.htm
These are adaptable birds, feeding mainly on insects but also on small vertebrates, such as fish, snakes and even other birds! They occupy a wide range of woodland and savanna habitats, provided there are streams, rivers or lakes. Common in Sub-Saharan Africa, this is an intra-African migrant, arriving in southern Africa around September-December, breeding then leaving for Central Africa around March-April.
As far as I remember this was the only time we saw a Lesser Black-Winged Plover, also called Senegal Lapwing
This bird is classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, with regard to its extinction. However, its populational trend is unknown, what makes me feel more insecure about the information. As it is rare in South Africa, it is susceptible to regional extinction there.
The movements of this bird in southern Africa are not well understood. It is mainly resident in Zimbabwe but is a regular non-breeding summer visitor to the Kruger National Park, what explains why we saw it there when we visited. It is also a breeding winter visitor to northern KwaZulu-Natal. It departs from KwaZulu-Natal in the period from December-January, probably heading to Mozambique and the South African lowveld.
It mainly eats termites with a supplement of other terrestrial invertebrates. Most of the foraging is done visually, plucking from the ground by day and night. A curiosity is that it often forages along with other birds, such as Crowned, Blacksmith and African wattled lapwings, as well as Kittlitz's and Caspian plovers. Indeed, we saw it close to a Crowned Lapwing.
It was great to find this other plover in the Skukuza-Tshokwane Road.
According to the IUCN Red List, this bird is also of Least Concern regarding its extinction, but is in fact increasing its populations, as a consequence of habitat modification by humans.
It mainly eats termites (corresponding to approximately 80-90% of its diet), using the typical foraging technique of plovers, running, stopping and then searching for prey on the ground. It often forages in groups,, moving in a regularly spaced line.
In Xenocanto, we find some nice recordings of its calls: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... ed+lapwing
Here is one of the reasons why we never go tired of taking pictures of Impalas. When we were about to reach Tshokwane, we found this group with a great quantity of cubs, and, as cubs usually do, a lot of cosy behaviors were shown by them.
First, a general view of the group
Look how these tiny ones touch each other… We can really think of tenderness between siblings, when looking to something like this.
Here they are cozily together, showing why Impalas have the most beautiful butt in the animal kingdom and deserve, thus, the best month in the butt calendar. For newcomers, if you go back some postings, you will discover what is the idea behind the butt calendar…
And, finally, see how this cub looked at us! It is impossible to be tired of Impalas, no matter how abundant they are.
Another great thing about the Skukuza-Tshokwane Road is how scenic it is. For instance, Eileen Orpen Rocks are very beautiful. This kind of geological formation is found very often in South Kruger.