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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:11 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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btw, Pamelajane, when I booked there was no available place in Urikaruus... a pity...

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:10 am 
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Returning to the postings, just before Christmas, continuing with the Tshokwane-Satara Road.

Just to record the first time (maybe the only one, I do not remember now), a picture of the 2 Ruffs with the 4 White-Faced Ducks, even though it is far from being a good picture. The distance was great.

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I saw Ruffs just some days ago in Doñana, Spain. I think they are nice wanderers. Even though they are still classified as Least Concern, their populations are decreasing. However, the population size and distribution range are so large that these birds are safe for the time being. In this map, you can see the distribution of this bird species: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=106003062.

Anyway, the main threats faced by these birds are petroleum pollution, wetland and flood-plain drainage for irrigation and water management, peat-extraction, and land abandonment and changing land management practices that lead to scrub and reed overgrowth. Global climate change may also affect this species, which is also susceptible to avian influenza, avian botulism and avian malaria. Thus, future outbreaks of these diseases may bring threats to their populations.

From the distribution map, you can notice that these birds are not breeding in Africa. The birds that come to southern Africa come from the breeding population in Siberia. This means that they perform the longest migration of any terrestrial bird, leaving their colonies in July before heading west to the Black and Caspian Seas, then heading south to southern Africa. The total journey comprises approximately 16 000km .They arrive in southern Africa in August and the adult males leave first in January, followed by immature males in February and finally adult and immature females in April and May. A very small proportion of them stay in the region for the winter. They are probably injured birds. In southern Africa, they are found in patches across the region, largely excluding Mozambique. They generally prefer damp meadows with shallow pools and ditches, although they may also be found in salt-marshes, muddy estuaries, temporary pans, dams, vleis, sewage works, salt works and saline wetlands. Moreover, they occasionally move to cultivated land and the open coast.

In Xenocanto, there are two recordings from Ruffs (one is very short), both from Europe: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... query=Ruff

We also saw in the same road six Burchell’s Zebra under the rain that offered us good opportunities for photographs. Here is a general view of the group with the landscape.

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One of the zebras had a bad wound in the leg, maybe the consequence of some encounter with a predator. Notice that it is a recent wound, the blood still vividly red.

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Other animals were covered in mud, making us wonder what has just happened with this group.

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There was a juvenile in this group of zebras. Young zebras are so beautiful!

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It is always nice when an animal stares at us while we are taking pictures, as happened with this zebra.

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And even a double stare!

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Followed by the nice opportunity of seeing communication ongoing between the zebras. We could not guess the nature of the call. Zebras have a keen sense of hearing and communicate through calls and facial expressions. Burchell's zebras, in particular, make six different sounds with different meanings, including an alarm call and a squeal of pain and fear.

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The proximity also allowed some close-up pictures, such as the following.

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And, finally, a Zebra butt to our infamous calendar!

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It was great to photograph this swarm of African Openbill (Openbilled Stork). This is a fascinating stork.

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As the common name indicates, the most remarkable feature of its morphology is the bill specially adapted to extract the meat without breaking the shell of snails and bivalves, their almost exclusive food. The opening in the bill in its most distal part is really curious, showing how natural selection can exquisitely shape the morphology of a species. This bird typically wades (often alongside with Hadeda and African Sacred Ibises) through shallow water with floating plants, probing the water until it finds and extracts a snail. It then holds the snail against the ground, using its razor sharp bottom mandible to sever the muscle that connects the snail to its shell, vigorously shaking its head until the snail body is extracted and can be swallowed. While it takes only 15 seconds to successfully eat a snail, it struggles to open other types of molluscs (such as bivalves), either failing completely or taking at least ten minutes for opening the shell. Sometimes, groups of 50-60 animals can be found on the shoreline, waiting for the sun to kill the bivalves, releasing their hold on the shell.

This species is classified as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List, but with decreasing population trend. The main threats come from pesticides added to water to control mosquito populations, habitat loss and entanglement in fishing lines.

Its distribution can be seen in this map: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=106003829

The African Openbill is found in a large part of Sub-Saharan Africa, generally preferring wetlands, such as temporarily flooded pans, flood plains, swamps, marshes, ponds, streams, river shallows, dams, rice fields, lagoons, lake edges and intertidal flats. It is mainly a resident and sedentary bird, but it may undertake nomadic movements, sometimes migrating in flocks away from arid regions at the onset of the dry season.

In Xenocanto, there is a nice recording of African Openbill chicks calling from the nests in a breeding colony of about 100 storks: http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Anast ... melligerus

The road still reserved for us a good opportunity to photograph a Bateleur flying.

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What a nice silhouette in the sky!

Finally we found 4 (African) White-Backed Vultures drying their wings after the rain.

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He did take a good look at us, maybe pondering if we were food… Nothing but a joke, of course.

We also took a close picture of the head of one of the animals.

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Unfortunately, this is an endangered species, with decreasing populations, facing a number of threats that may eventually lead to its extinction, the most important being poisoning, which caused at least 500 deaths in southern Africa between 1995 and 2002.

The distribution range includes a large part of Sub-Saharan Africa: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=106003373

This species shows a preference for arid savanna with scattered trees, avoiding forests, deserts, treeless grassland and shrubland.

As expected for a vulture, it mainly eats carrion, either searching aerially for carcasses or following mammalian carnivores and other scavenging birds to find carcasses. It is extremely aggressive to the other feeding animals, pushing them away and outstretching its neck and wings in a threat display in order to access the meat. It is generally a subordinate, however, to larger vultures. Sometimes, in the feeding frenzy it become stuck in the carcass and is eaten by the other scavengers! Rarely it hunts and kills its own prey, such as young Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), Red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea) chicks and Warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus).

Cheers
Charbel

1 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
2 June 2013 - Kieliekrankie
3-4 June 2013 - Kalahari Tented Camp
5 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
6-8 June 2013 - Nossob
9 June 2013 - Gharagab
10 June 2013 - Grootkolk
11 June 2013 - Nossob
12 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:45 am 
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Thanks again Charbel

Enjoyed every photo and comments :clap:

On board :popcorn:


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:02 am 
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Beautiful sightings and pictures Charbel! Your landscape picture with the Zebras is awesome! In fact, all your Zebra pics are stunning! :clap: :clap: That wound on the one's leg must hurt badly! Shame! :(

Great shots of the White-backed Vultures too! :dance: :dance:

Thanks for sharing! :thumbs_up:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:13 pm 
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Hi Hilda and Leanawel,
Thanks for the comments.
The wound in the zebra's leg probably hurts, but is a fact of life, to eat or be eaten.. :o)

All the best
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:14 pm 
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Quite impressive list of birdies you saw, charbel :dance: :dance: :dance:

Love your zebras especially with the lush green grass :dance: :dance: :dance:


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:50 pm 
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Hi Pumbaa
Thanks. I also like the zebras pictures...
Hope to do another posting soon...

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Sat Dec 29, 2012 5:24 pm 
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Hi friends,

I'd like to make a correction to my posting of Aug 26th 2012, where I describe a hornbill besides a pile of dung, which I interpreted as coming from an Elephant. In fact,it is not. It is a rhino midden most likely used by a bull white rhino to mark their territory. Thanks, Crackers, for pointing that...

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2012 10:21 pm 
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Time for another posting! :o)

While driving up the Tshokwane-Satara Road, we entered the N'wanwitsontso Loop (S86), where we saw: 1 European Roller, 1 Tree Squirrel (Paraxerus Cepapi) and 1 Serrated-Hinged Terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus).

These are pictures of the Serrated-Hinged Terrapin. They are nice pictures, but the future still reserved for us the most incredible meeting with this species. But this would still take some days.

Image

Image

Concerning its conservation status, unfortunately this species has not yet been assessed for the IUCN Red List. You can check its distribution in the following source: http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/wp-content/up ... 1_2009.pdf

In fact, this is a paper bringing a lot of interesting information about the Serrated-Hinged Terrapin, which is the typical deep water terrapin found in African rivers and lakes. During the rainy season, this terrapin migrates overland and colonizes isolated pans and waterholes. We did not know at the time, but we only saw them so easily in KNP because it was summer, the rainy season. This migration has to do with nesting, which takes place at the beginning of the rainy season.

In this same source we find the information that this species is not considered threatened. It was assessed as Lower Risk/Least Concern by the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group in 1996. This information is not shown in the Red List because it needs updating. Anyway, it is very common in suitable habitats, as we could see later in the trip. An exception for this good conservation state is the case of populations in polluted rivers downstream from industrialized areas. Unfortunately, this is happening with the populations in KNP, whose entire aquatic ecosystem is at risk due to industrial pollution.

This turtle is included in the Pelomedusidae family. It is the largest species in the genus Pelusios, with its carapace measuring up to 55cm. Females are larger than males.

A curiosity about it is that we can often find it basking not only on logs, rocks or mudbanks, but also on the backs of sleeping hippos. Its diet consists of water snails, aquatic insects, crabs, frogs, tadpoles, and fishes. In KNP, they were observed scavenging from the carcasses of animals predated by crocodiles and, also, taking ticks from buffalos. They also scavenge for bird nestlings that fall out of weavers nests overhanging the water. Occasionally, they eat floating fruits.

This species has several interesting defense strategies. Its hinged plastron protects the head and forelimbs when they are withdrawn (as it is typical of turtles and tortoises). Besides, this terrapin exudes or ejects a foul smelling secretion when threatened, for instance, when someone handles it, and is capable of using its sharp claws and horny jaws to bite.

After coming back to the Tshokwane-Satara Road, we reached Kumana Dam, where a rich diversity waited for us: 10 Waterbucks, 1 Comb (Knob-Billed) Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos), 1 Blacksmith Lapwing (Plover) (Vanellus armatus), Impalas, 1 African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus), 2 White-Faced Ducks (Dendrocygna viduata), 1 Serrated-Hinged Terrapin, 1 Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) and 7 Burchell’s Zebras, including cubs.

Unfortunately, the dam is a bit far away from the road, so that good photographing was a challenge.

The Waterbucks were lying down the other side of the dam, with the Blacksmith Lapwing nearby them.

Image

Here is a general view of the savannah behind the dam, with the waterbucks.

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We were there watching the waterbucks and the plover, when this knob-billed duck came flying by…

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He flew down the tree…

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And landed just behind the waterbucks.

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Here is a cropped image of the knob-billed duck. The original picture was good enough to get a nice cropped image.

Image

This duck is widely distributed, being resident in Africa, South America, and Asia, as you can see here: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=100600412

In Africa, it is widespread below the Sahara, but absent from semi-arid and arid regions. This duck prefers pans, lakes or rivers surrounded by woodland, as Kumana Dam. Thus, its distribution basically follows the distribution of mature woodlands.

According to the IUCN Red List, its conservation status is Least Concern, but with a decreasing population trend. IUCN registers as threats to this species: hunting, logging and wood harvesting, natural systems modifications resulting from large dams, herbicides and pesticides.

Another source registers no significant threats, claiming that the population has in fact expanded as a result of the building of dams: http://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/bir ... anotos.htm

In this case, it is better to rely on the IUCN.

There is only one recording available in Xenocanto: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... illed+duck

The vulgar name of the species, either comb duck or knob-billed duck comes from the round knob that the male shows on the top of the bill. The word “comb” has a number of meanings related to “crest”. The knob is particularly prominent in the breeding season, from September to April. The animal we saw was a male and we were in the breeding season of the species.

During the breeding season, males defend territories, to which they often attract more than one female. However, males can only maintain harems of females in rich habitats. In poorer habitats, they tend to be monogamous. Sometimes, males are sequentially polygynous, i.e., forming a bond with one female at a time, moving on to the next one once she has laid the eggs.

Nests are built by females, usually a tree cavity, 4-12 m above the ground. It also nests on old Hamerkop nests, as many other birds, on rotten palm stumps, clumps of sedges or among rocks. Females compete for nest sites and can even fight each other for nests. Interestingly, ducklings have very sharp claws and can climb vertical wooden surfaces.

The longest lived knob-billed duck recorded lived for 21 years and 6 months.

The species moves extensively round Sub-Saharan Africa, as shown by data collected from ringed birds. Nearly 10% of recoveries were more than 2,000 km from where they were originally ringed. Many birds ringed in southern Africa have been recovered north of the equator. The longest distance traveled recorded for the species exceeds 3,500 Km.

It eats plant matter and a minor amount of aquatic insects when foraging in the water, and crop residues of wheat and groundnuts, seeds and fruits of grasses and herbs, and termite alates when foraging on land.

The picture is not great, but this was our only sighting of an African Jacana while in KNP. So, I cannot resist including it here.

Image

African Jacanas are waders classified in the family Jacanidae. One can identify them by the long toes and long claws that enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes, their preferred habitat. They can also be found in freshwater wetlands and margins of slow-flowing rivers with low vegetation. They are especially present in areas dominated by water-lilies (Nymphaea), Willowherb (Ludwigia stolonifera), pondweeds (Potomogeton) and hornwarts (Ceratophyllium).

They are a species of Jacanas, which are found worldwide within the tropical zone. The name “Jacana” comes from the Brazilian Portuguese “jaçanã”, the vulgar name of birds of the same group in Brazil. The Portuguese word, in turn, derives from the Tupi name of the bird, ñaha'nã, that is, from how the bird was called by the Indigenous people that contacted the Portuguese when they invaded the land that would become Brazil. “Jacana” in turn is the Latinized version of “jaçanã", introduced by Linneu.

In the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Least Concern, with stable populations. Evidence that it is not threatened is that its distribution has remained largely unchanged for the past century.

African Jacanas are found basically in all Sub-Saharan Africa, breeding throughout this territory. Here is a map of its distribution: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=106003068

In southern Africa it is locally abundant in northern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and eastern South Africa, while more scarce elsewhere in Namibia and South Africa. This explains why we did not see them much in KNP.

There is only one recording of its calls in xenocanto: http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?sp ... an+Jacana+

That’s a noisy bird.

They feed on insects and other invertebrates they pick from the floating vegetation or water surface. When foraging, they walk or run with their large feet while plucking prey.

They are highly nomadic, often moving in search of new temporary wetlands.

Among the predators of chicks and eggs of the African Jacana, we find the Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus), the African Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio madagascariensis), the Cape Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis) and the Hippos.

This is a polyandrous species, one female mating with multiple males in a sequential manner over the course of a breeding season. The male alone cares for the chicks. It has the ability to pick up and carry chicks underneath the wings, a remarkable adaptation for parental care. When they are small the male can carry up to four chicks under its wings.

It is a highly territorial bird, the males fighting each other for controlling the prime breeding territory, displaying and calling from a calling post made by pulling a few plant stems together.

Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from November-March. The eggs are laid by the female in a nest that is a heap of aquatic plant stems, often just 2 cm above the water surface. Thus, the brood are vulnerable to changing water levels and the breeding pair may be found hastily assembling a new platform to move the young or eggs to a higher level.

The Serrated-Hinged Terrapin and the White-Faced Ducks were close to each other, allowing us to take this nice and tranquility-inspiring photo of two species I already wrote about.

Image

Another nice sightings were the Zebras nearby Kumana Dam, with cubs, and mixed with Impalas. In the first picture, this looks like a caring mother.

Image

The Zebras were resting from the hot day.

Image

That’s it for today. I will come back soon with the second portion of the Tshokwane-Satara Road.

Cheers
Charbel

1 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
2 June 2013 - Kieliekrankie
3-4 June 2013 - Kalahari Tented Camp
5 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren
6-8 June 2013 - Nossob
9 June 2013 - Gharagab
10 June 2013 - Grootkolk
11 June 2013 - Nossob
12 June 2013 - Twee Rivieren


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:58 am 
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:gflower: Stunning sightings and photos. Poor Zebra. Love your TR :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 9:55 am 
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Thanks for an informative TR.
I have learnt a lot from it and would welcome some more.

Happy New Year!


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:53 am 
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Awesome scenery pictures with Waterbuck, Zebras, Knob-billed duck, White-faced Ducks and Terrapins Charbel! :clap: :clap:

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:02 pm 
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Dear Hilda, Philip and Mandinga,
Thanks for the nice comments. Hope to come back soon with another posting!

Happy New Year for all forumites!

Cheers
Charbel


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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 7:01 am 
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Another great episode with lots of beautiful photo's combined with informative info :clap: :clap: .
Thanks so much for sharing :thumbs_up: .

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 Post subject: Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:54 am 
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Hey Charbel, a blessed year for you and family and hope your trip in June will be a great one!

Love the zebras, they make nice pictures walking around in their pajamas all day......

Thanx for all the interesting facts!

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