Day 3, continue
Looking around at all the birds all around us, we spotted our first lifer for the day: Collard Pratincoles! (Afrikaans: Rooivlerk Springkaanvoël) There were 2 of them near the edge of the road.
Collard Pratincoles are rare migrant breeders during our summer months and are now considered near-threatened in Southern Africa. They are always found near a large water body or on flood plains. What is incredible is their wingspan: 60 to 65 cm! Their wings are long and pointed like that of a seagull and a rusty red colour underneath the wing only visible when flying Their nests are only little hollow scrapes in the ground and the eggs look like little rocks for camouflage. They mainly feed on insects early morning and around dusk again and will follow cattle or game disturbing the insects. That’s why we found them here in the little “Massai Mara”.
Looking through the binoculars at all the animals behind the waterhole we saw another lifer: Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest! A bit far away and not great pics, but there they were, two of them.
The Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest has very poor smell, but very good eye sight and are often found on ant hills surveying the area. They were hunted to extinction in the late 19th early 20th century in South Africa and a total of 18 were reintroduced from Malawi into Kruger during 1985/86. They were kept in breeding enclosures and 91 were released in to the park between 1990 to 1994 in Northern Kruger and another 31 in the South in 1994. About 40 free-living Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest survived between 1994 to 1998. It would be interesting to know what their numbers are at the moment.
The lifers did not stop, at the edge of the water sat a huge Great White Pelican!
Great White Pelicans are classified as near-threatened in Southern Africa due to the ongoing degradation and human disturbance of wetlands, lakes and lagoons. They are normally found in big flocks up to a several hundred. Males can weigh up to 11kgs and females 8kgs, but impressive is their wingspan: 2.5 to 3.6 meters! They spend a lot of time sleeping during the day and diet not only on fish, but regularly scavenge and eat other water fowl’s eggs and chicks!
There were dozens of little Barn Swallows sitting in the road trying to warm up a bit and now and then they flew up to go and sit half a meter further.
Right in front of the waterhole was an old Elephant carcass that’s obviously been there for a long time. Two Hooded Vultures was still looking around for some left over scraps. They pair for life and are classified as vulnerable in Southern Africa.
A Lesser Grey Shrike came to sit on a branch right next to us. They are common to uncommon non-breeding summer visitors to South Africa and are not under thread, but mostly found in protected areas. They diet on insects, mainly on beetles.
To our delight the 2 Tawny Eagles took off and gave us a little show, they were either courting or fighting, not to sure. Then they landed on the other side of the waterhole as if nothing happened. They are resident and move locally depending on the food available like the Red-billed Quelea colonies. They are predators, scavengers and pirates! In South Africa they are classified as vulnerable, but in Namibia they are endangered!
The White Storks were in abundance all around us and these two Storks took off just to go and land on the other side of the road.
White Storks are non-breeding migrants during our summer months October to March. They were formerly classified as rare in South Africa, but they are no longer a concern, which is great! They like open woodland, grassland and wetlands and that’s why they just love it here at Tihongonyeni. What is impressive is their size: 100-125 cm tall, weighs around 3,5 kg and a wingspan of 1.55-1.65 meters! They mainly feed on insects especially caterpillars, but will also eat mice and small reptiles.
The Plovers were all in abundance too, Three-banded Plovers and White-fronted Plovers, along with the Crowned Lapwings and Blacksmith Lapwings. Since the grass was so tall it was hard to get nice photos of them, but this White-fronted Plover sat in a small clearing not too far from us.
We stayed there at our “Massai Mara” AKA Tihongongeni waterhole for more than 4 hours just soaking up everything around us. It was time to leave this place of wonder and see what the rest of the S143 and S50 would show us today. Our day was far from over!