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Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

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Meandering Mouse
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:08 am

Charbel, I was rather disturbed to read the statistics aroung the decreasing numbers of Giraffe. Very concerning.

Please, more of this very informative and comprehensive report. 8)

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lion queen
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby lion queen » Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:50 am

Thank you for sharing ............I love giraffes.............. :dance: :dance:
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charbel
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby charbel » Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:59 am

Meandering Mouse wrote:Charbel, I was rather disturbed to read the statistics aroung the decreasing numbers of Giraffe. Very concerning.

Please, more of this very informative and comprehensive report. 8)

:popcorn:


Yes, it is something to be concerned about, not only in Africa but in the whole world, including Brazil, the tension between human activities and biodiversity conservation is really scaring...

I'll go on soon with the report in the same mood.

Cheers
Charbel

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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby barryels » Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:57 am

Thanks for sharing all your sightings and info with reference to these sightings :clap: :clap: . Quite interesting info that is shared during your postings :thumbs_up: .
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charbel
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby charbel » Wed Aug 29, 2012 7:56 am

In Crocodile River Road (S25), another nice thing was to see this group of three male impalas silhouetted against a beautiful evening landscape in the Kruger. They ran through the road, crossing it to delve into the savannah. Impalas are very abundant in the park, with a population estimate of 150,000 in 2003, while in 1980 92,000 were estimated. It is a noticeable growth of the impala population, what makes it very likely to find this wonderful antelope while driving through the park. However, they are so nice that it is inevitable to take many pictures of them and, in the end, have such a large collection of impala photographs!

Image

At this point, we were travelling faster because we had to arrive at Pretoriuskop until 6:30PM, when the gate would close. We followed through only a short stretch of Rhenosterkoppies Road (S114), very commented in the forums on Kruger as excellent for animal sightings. However, in the short way we followed it we only saw a Crested Francolin and a large group of Impalas (Aepyceros melampus). After Rhenosterkoppies Road, we followed Timfenheni Loop (S25) in order to reach H3 again. We saw the following animals there: 1 Eurasian (European) Hobby (Falco subbuteo), another group of Impalas, 2 Burchell's Zebras, another Crested Francolin. We photographed the Hobby and the Zebras, but obtained no good pictures. It was the only time we saw this Hobby in the visit to the Kruger.

There is such a nice landscape in the Berg-En-Dal region, really worth visiting in an afternoon like this.

Image

In Malelane Road, besides two groups of Impalas, we found exactly the same herd of grazers we had seen hours before. It was really amazing to find them at that spot again, with the advantage that they were closer, leading to better photographs, as the one below.

Image

In the picture, we see a Burchell's zebra with a cub. among three blue wildebeests. Zebra's cubs are really cute, as we could see several times during the trip.

Burchell's zebras are the subspecies of plain zebra (Equus quagga) found in southern Africa (Equus quagga burchelli). They populated the savannahs in impressive numbers, with groups of thousands of zebras being reported. With the colonization, it was thought for most of the 20th century that this subspecies had been hunted until extinction. However, Groves and Bell (Groves, C. P. & Bell, H. B. 2004. New investigations on the taxonomy of the zebras genus Equus, subgenus Hippotigris. Mammalian Biology 69:182-196) showed, by means of a careful study of the original zebra populations of Zululand and Swaziland, alongside with museum specimens, that the subspecies Equus quagga burchelli and Equus quagga antiquorum (Damara zebra) are so close to each other that it is not really possible to separate them. They should receive the same subspecific name, with the older name, burchelli, showing precedence over the newer one. Thus, the subspecies of plain zebra from southern Africa had not been extinct.

In the IUCN Red List, plain zebra appear as Least Concern, because the sizes of their populations are still relatively large. A concern regarding its conservation lies, however, in the fact that they breed with other equids, such as horses and donkeys, generating hybrids that are generally but not always sterile. Actions are taken, anyways, to prevent these crossings, which were once popular as a way of generating draft animals.

Unfortunately, we followed our way without taking a long time watching the herd of grazer. We had to cross the whole Voortrekker Road (H2-2_ and time was closing on us, making us feel worried about reaching Pretoriuskop in time.

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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby lion queen » Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:06 am

Zebras are just such beautiful animals!!! And the babies ever so cute!!!

:dance: :dance: :dance:

I do hope you made it to the gate in time!!!! :pray: :pray:
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby Sharifa » Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:28 pm

Just caught up with your TR and I am loving it :clap: :clap: :clap:

The wonderful and informative narration and beautiful photos as well :thumbs_up:

You had some great sightings already :dance: :dance: :dance:

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charbel
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby charbel » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:51 am

Dear Sharifa and Lion Queen,
Thanks. I am working on the next posting.... soon...

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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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby barryels » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:50 am

Another beautiful day in Kruger :clap: :clap: . Just love the landscape at Berg-En-Dal :dance: Thanks for sharing :thumbs_up: .
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charbel
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby charbel » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:32 am

With the afternoon getting old, we went up Voortrekker Road driving at maximum allowed speed, 40Km/h. Yet, we spotted a number of animals and had to take our chances and stop to watch them for a while. This added to the excitement, ‘will we get to the camp gate in time?’ It was sincerely also part of the fun to have our hearts pumping faster as we drove the long and winding (Voortrekker) road.

We changed our approach to the animals back then. Usually we stopped during the Kruger trip for several minutes watching the animals, paying a lot of attention to their behaviors (as biologists cannot avoid doing, especially when they work with behavior). Up Voortrekker Road that afternoon we did faster stops, needless to say, for our desperation, since we did saw interesting animals. The road offered us that afternoon: 1 Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus), 1 group of Impalas, 1 Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta), 1 Magpie (African Longtailed) Shrike (Corvinella melanoleuca), 1 European Roller (Coracias garrulus), 1 blue wildebeest, 1 african elephant, among other animals.

It was great to see a Hamerkop for the first time. Beautiful but a bit asymmetrical birds… Here are two pictures, whole body, and beak and eye detail.

Image

Image

Everybody should have noticed Hamerkop massive nests, which have on average 1.5m in depth and 1.5m in width. It weighs 100Kg! These are not just massive nests, they are very resistant and when completed can support the weight of a man. But these birds are still more industrious. They decorate the nests (with a developed preference for man-made objects) and build not one but a half a dozen nests in their territory! They use, however, only one of the nests. Many other birds benefit, then, from their constructions. Why do they do this? Here is my hypothesis: to divert predator from the real nest. But you know, hypotheses have to be tested and I didn’t test this.

On an evolutionary tone, I can say, however, that there are two hypotheses in the literature for the peculiar shape of the hamerkop beak: Liveridge (1963. The nesting of Hamerkop Scopus umbretta, Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology 34(2): 55-62) regarded it as “ideal” for manipulation of large twigs used to build the nests. Siegfried (1975. On the nest of the hamerkop, Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology 46:267), in turn, explained them as specializations for feeding on tadpoles. None convinces me: these are adaptationist just-so-stories (assume it is an adaptation and explain it by natural selection). They are hypotheses that should be – just as mine – tested and many other evolutionary factors can come into play, leading to different hypotheses.

What we cannot put into question, however, is that hamerkops are amazing birds!

Finally, as its population trends are stable, Hamerkop are classified in the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.

In the picture below, we see a Magpie Shrike. It is an outstanding bird, with its beautiful long tail. It is likely that this bird was foraging at the end of the day, since it often perches in a prominent position to search for a food item, mainly insects. When it sees something that can be eaten, a variety of foraging techniques can be used, but typically the bird dives to the ground to catch the food item.

Image

It is interesting that magpie shrikes can breed just as a pair or facultatively in a cooperative manner, with the breeding pair assisted by 1-3 helpers, usually juveniles from the previous brood. It shows, thus, facultative alloparental care. These birds are not threatened (Least Concern in the IUCN Red List), but the populations are decreasing in number.

The most outstanding event took place, however, in the last third of Voortrekker Road, when we saw this marvelous elephant quite close to our car. First close encounter with an ellie!

Image

Image

It was a male and had a strange rounded hole in his ears. We tried to explain it but had no clear ideas about what might have caused that hole. It was a solitary wandering male calmly eating below a tree. We stayed there for a while peacefully looking at him, and then hurried up to get to the gate in time, just a few minutes from the gate closing hour. To see that beautiful ellie was the perfect end of an incredible day travelling through the south park of KNP. We went to bed feeling so satisfied, so happy of being there! We were in the middle of one of the most remarkable experiences of our lives. For Pedro, that was just the second day in South Africa. And what a day! Me and my wife already lived two wonderful weeks in Capetown, visiting places like the Cape of Good Hope, where we saw baboons foraging sea animals and the raging waters around the cape while admiring rock hyrax. And now a day like that! And we still had 12 days to go!

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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby barryels » Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:43 am

Hi Charbel,

What a beautiful Hammerkop that was :clap: :clap: . Great ellie sighting so close to the road :thumbs_up: . Also wonder what happened to its ear :hmz: . Thanks for sharing :thumbs_up: .
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby lion queen » Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:15 am

Just love your hammerkop photos!!! :clap: :clap:

Sometimes during bull fights the bulls ears get torn of punctures by the other bulls tusks........could be where this one got his earringhole from.... :thumbs_up:
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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby Leanawel » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:45 pm

Hi Charbel

Again, thanks for this amazing TR - I love the photos, but most of all I like to hear all the info that I do not know :clap: :clap:

Can't wait for the following episode :popcorn: :popcorn:

Leana

KTP Dec/Jan 2013
KRUGER May 2013

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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby charbel » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:27 pm

Dear Leana, Lion Queen and Barryels,
Thanks for the comments. Maybe the hole in the ellie's ears comes from a fight with another bull... This can indeed happen...

We so many many ellies just so close as this one... and we were threatened by an ellie... more to come....

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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Re: Report of our first trip to Kruger - 3-14 January 2011

Unread postby normana53 » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:08 pm

Very interesting TR, thank you for sharing your sightings and photos.
Flight Booked,Tamboti, Talamati, Satara and Olifants Trail Booked, can't wait for November 5/11- 18/11


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