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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:28 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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To be honest, I actually enjoyed the drive to Mopani.

I know. :o :o :o

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There was a lot of veldt that had been burned in the winter, so it was open and green and the Mopani shrubs were under control (until we got to the Mopani Camp turn off).

Forgot to take my camera in, but I do remember that Pioneer Dam was alarmingly full.

Some sightings from the trip back:

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Another ellie skull

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I began to realise that this was our 6th or so day without a single cat sighting. When I spoke to the ranger and Mooiplaas, he informed that lions had been eating a zebra nearby, only yesterday :? Another guide we spoke to in the Elephant Hall had informed us that he had not seen lion for 3 weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!! However, one guide told us of a leopard sighting nearby, where apparently the leopard had been all day…. So naturally we went to check it out!

Along the S46 we ventured, and along the few km’s that are wonderful (before the dense Mopani hits) we came across the most incredible car crowd. 3 lanes of cars, at least 4 cars long each. And we knew there was a leopard nearby.

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We had arrived just on time, as he moved off about 5 minutes after we arrived.

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Happy New Year indeed!! :dance:

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 23, 2014 8:53 pm 
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Thanks for the comment err'body :) Was very happy to find a leopard!

Today we decided that it was time to go to Phalaborwa to get more supplies (food etc.) as it was getting very low. So we woke up late and hit the road at about 6am.

The sun was out, and the first thing we did was go to check on the leopard sighting. Unfortunately he was lurking somewhere else, but we found some other carnivores…

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So then we hit the H9. I keep insisting that his road has potential But my mother had to be back by 1h30 so I couldn’t dawdle.

We found Ground Hornbills! Two of them on this tree were calling and calling away, it was wonderful to see.

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Then suddenly they were gone! But down the road we found the one they were looking for…

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But he was in no hurry.

On the 6km loop off the H9 I found some cool little fish

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Some water birds!

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Back on the H9, I found one lucky boy!

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On this one there is a yellow-billed oxpecker! Always so lovely to see

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A leopard tortoise…

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And then a leopard!!!

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 8:08 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Thank you for all the kind comments everyone. :)

Heksie, welcome and thanks for such a lovely comment :gflower:

Just a quick update on the rest of that day...

The leppie was gone on our way back in. Was feeling a bit sick so when I got to camp I napped and then went to swim (the pool was absolutely lovely).

Then went on a short afternoon drive.

A full river

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A happy hippo

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A grumpy hippo

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And the sky like an oil painting...

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That night, the wind was picking up. We were wondering if it was going to rain again.

Our first week of two was over, and we were reminded of how lucky we were to be there and how much we love the park - our very special second home.

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:00 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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The next morning I was up at 4 for an alone drive because my family was too tired to join me.

I made it to the gate before 4h30 and saw a queue of no less than 5 or 7 other cars.

I had no idea here I wanted to go buuut I did know I wanted to avoid them!

Anyhoo as I got to the intersection 100m outside of camp, a car stopped dead and I could see nothing around. Weird. So I passed him.

There, before the intersection onto the H1-6 or H1-5 or H9 I saw a game truck and other cars stopped.

And there on the road I saw one of the funniest, craziest, luckiest things I have ever found.

Maybe it’s just me.

I think it’s hilarious.

What do you guys think?

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 1:28 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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The leppie was gone in less than 5 minutes, I felt so lucky to have seen him!

I ventured onto the H1-6 to see the river. I followed the morning drive for a while but I could tell that the driver was getting annoyed so I moved off while he spoke to his guests about some baboons.

I crossed the high water bridge and went off towards Engelhardt. Look at the sky

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The first bit of the road was great. It was riverine and bustling with birdlife, I even saw a nyala in the bushes! I haven't seen them near Letaba before.

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After a Senegal Coucal spotting near Shingwedzi, I looked for the barring on the tail of the Burchell's Coucal, you can see it in this picture

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I kept my eyes on the trees and hoped for an owl, but was unlucky that day.

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As I headed towards the hide, I saw a car had stopped. He was looking at a Red-crested Korhaan, which I feared I may have scared away. So I stopped him and told him there was another one just down the other way right next to the road.

For a while we chatted about the revamp of Shingwedzi, where they had just been, and it sounds as if the park has done an amazing job. They only had good things to say. But other than that he said there was nothing along the road.

I took the turn to Mathambeni and was astounded by how corregated the road was. I tried to push on and hoped it was just a bad patch. As I was about to turn around in a huff, I saw the hide at the end of the road, so I went on through.

I was all alone.

It became alarmingly clear to me that I am a lonely and defenseless human with no form of protection the moment I leave my car. The bush around me was still and the hide before me hopefully empty of any baboons or worse.

It took several minutes for me to build up the courage to go in alone. :redface: :redface:

When I finally did I found the hide empty (THANK GOODNESS) but it also proved empty of any sightings, even birds.

All that for nothing.

I trudged forward to Engelheardt, the road was rocky and harsh and I worried about the little car and my all alone-ness. The birds fled form my car, to my sheer annoyance.

I crossed a beautiful weir and enjoyed the view very much before going on.

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As the landscape rose the road became worse, and I huffed and puffed and cursed and turned around. The road was atrocious. And I huffed and cursed all the way down again because the bush was so quiet, and all I could hear was the rocks of the road. :evil:

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I stopped at the weir and sat for a good mount of time, allowing the peace to calm my nerves, and enjoing antics of some Pied Kingfishers.

Then a car approached me from behind. So I had to move on, and he sped off past me.

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Not 100m later I found an amazing surprise.

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The other guy must have sped right past him!

That's two (short) leppie sightings in one morning!!! :dance: :dance: :dance:

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 8:35 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Further along the road I found another special sighting.

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Isn’t he handsome?

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These guys are all over Letaba, so I took and good shot of one closeby. (For you, Trrp-Trrrrrrr ;) )

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Found some nervous zebbies on the smaller river loop

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This one looks so healthy

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Still barely any sign of the Green-backed Heron’s log.

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Onto the S94 I decided to diver the first few km’s of good road. Found my special guest again…

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A line of impala ahead of me in the road…

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Then I went back to camp as it started a drizzle.

A few hours later, the sun was out in full force! So we headed to the pool to get some tanning done (at this point, because of all the rain, we had barely tanned at all!) While relaxing there, I spotted some movement and there was a chameleon! He was coming into the pool area, straight towards us. So we picked him up and moved him to a quieter spot. Picking him up was so cool.

Being in that contact with a wild animal, we were very careful not to make him angry. We named him Charles. Never saw him again (I think he decided that the pool area had too many annoying kids for him, as they all crowded around him after we had moved him.)

Anyway we went on an afternoon drive and the most exciting thing we saw was the flooded river loop.

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After 8 full days with not a single good sighting in the afternoon (except the leopard who had arrived in the tree that MORNING) we decided that Letaba is no good for afternoon sightings. We certainly had evidence of that. So from then on we decided that afternoons should be for sundowners only.

That evening I went to stand at the river somewhere away from the annoying, loud people at the river view. I was watching some birds play around in the trees when a screech sounded from above me. It was a bushbaby! He was maybe a metre above me, and then moved away when he realised I had heard him and was not pleased about being half-deafened by his yelling.

He visited again later that evening. Gotta love those Letaba bushbabies… 8)

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:17 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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This morning we decided it was high time to take one of the loops along he H9. Apparently lions had killed a zebra somewhere in the area, and we were missing lions!

So we went on the main road first, at 4h30 sharp….. ish

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and we found that hyena den first thing. There were so many of them, so lovely to see them thriving so much.

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(Maybe we were seeing so many leopards and hyenas because lions are scarce in the area?)

We drove a few meters down to warn some impala about the hyena down there :tongue: when suddenly animals everywhere started running. Impala were running all over the place, some zebra galloped past and we scanned the thick bush like mad. We went up and down and up and down but we saw nothing and the game had disappeared. Aha! So predators are around (secretive but still around).

We the turned up the S96, and I stopped to scan the rocks. Hmm I see some funny looking elephant dung over there…

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Saw our first duiker of the trip on this road and had some wonderful birding. Saw my first White-browed Scrub-Robin here. No leeus though. All was rather silent in the animal department.

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Then we turned onto the S131 where someone told us there were some buffies lying sown. So we stopped next to them and had some morning tea. It was so peaceful.

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Our THIRD ellie skull (actually if we count the carcass by the river it was FOUR)

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Oh! I found lion!!!! ……. Spoor.

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Catching some long awaited sun.

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Late on we had a lovely birding drive on the small river loop…

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 31, 2014 5:39 pm 
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I want to mention that sometime in this day, I’m not going to say when or where, we found rhino. I have never, ever seen rhino higher up that Olifants. They were crashing through the bush and disappeared as quickly as they had appeared, leaving us shell-shocked with sheer luck! And the best part about the sighting – it was three of them, one was a baby!!!!

Anhoo to finish off the morning drive we headed onto the small river loop and found it abuzz with birding life!

A little critter next to the road...

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First a Pygmy-Kingfisher, a first for KNP, hidden deep in the bushes

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An Emerald-Spotted Wood-Dove calling for us.

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Then I followed a call, to find something stunning (difficult to get a good pic).

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Then another bird appeared. A Chinspot Batis (I loe the name).

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Then another, a first for me!!! Brown-Crowned Tshagra.

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And another new tick…. An African Pipit!

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While reading about the Wood-Dove I saw a comment under African Mourning Dove. It says they are abundant in Satara and Letaba.... but I hadn't seen one anywhere!! Overloads of Cape Turtles and Laughing, but no Mourning.... Am I getting lazy?

So I went hunting for them in camp.

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:13 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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Thank you MM :thumbs_up:

Day 10

The days have entered double digits! Getting up so early is starting to take it's toll... but we were still up at 4h30. Went towards Mopani for a short morning drive. We decided to first go and visit the hyenas on the H9.

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Then up the H1-6 and on towards Engelhardt (but not too far because of that road! :evil: )

We watch the morning sun kiss the sky and play on the waters of the river....

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On the Engelhardt Road we found a Perl-Spotted Owlet! Too far for pictures, unfortunately.

And a Common Sandpiper

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And a little chameleon

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Back at camp I watchedd some documentaries in the elephant Hall and swam. And watch the bushbuck

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 02, 2014 6:54 am 
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My afternoon drive...

We went along the 6km loop off the H9.

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Difficult to get a picture of this shy antelope in the tall grass
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The next day we found that this guy had pulled an enormous branch off a tree and blocked part of the loop!!
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The setting sun painting gold on the coat of a zebra
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Our first good warthog sighting!
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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 9:21 am 
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The bad thing about where we stayed in the camp was that our night sounds were very limited (other than the shrieking bushbaby) but this morning, for the first time in 11 days, I heard hyena howling! I froze and listened to him for a while, and then we went on our morning drive.

We decided to head to Makhadzi for breakfast on the skottel.

It was a scorching hot morning, and that presented me with a breath-taking sunrise.

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We found some beautiful feathered friends on the small river loop..

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The full river

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And then some much bigger friends on the H1-6. A herd of ellies that came and went from our vision through the thick Mopani. There were babies for us to see (finally) and some of them had attitude!!

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I adore this landscape, just look how beautiful it is…

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Then, at the turn off to the H15, we saw some cars up ahead and investigated.

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This intersection is just not complete without these! And they had babies!

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It seemed very strange that they were so nervous… some wildebeest were even running.

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So we turned the 50m or so back to the intersection to go see what was freaking them out.

And we found a predator at the waterhole!!!!!

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2014 10:29 am 
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As we turned onto the road, we saw two cars sitting at the waterhole. I edged closer and closer and look what I found…

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One of the cars drove off, so it was just us and one other car!!! That's the North for you!

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He must have just eaten, he was so fat!

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The real treat was when he started to roll around in the sand, oh it was so adorable. I fell in love with cheetahs all over again...

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This is the second time in two trips that we have seen cheetah in this area. Last year it was a little further up this road. He was walking through the bush and lay down under a Mopane bush next to the road. Countless cars drove by and didn't notice him at all. This time he was quite in the open, though.

He got up and marked his territory

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The he moved a little further down the road

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Observed us humans for a little bit

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Marked some more

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Then we lost him in the bush. It was just one car and us, parading up and down, looking for this cat, and as we gave up and we crawling away, we found him.

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We sat alone with him for a while, listening to the warning calls of nature and smelling his marking. It was very peaceful.

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2014 5:01 pm 
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Virtual Ranger
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Thank you for all the comments everyone :D

We then went on down the H15 to the picnic spot. The road was quite bumpy but we managed when we went slowly it was alright.

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Then on our way back we saw our friend, all alone.

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A lark in the grass.

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Animals of the plains on the way from Mopane

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Little bums

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Still no Mourning Doves!

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On the little river loop

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:02 am 
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Day 12

It was raining, again, so we only woke up this morning at about 6am. My mom called me to a river, where we were very lucky to find a GLOSSY IBIS! I ran to get my camera, but by the time I was back, the bird had flown off!

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We sat at the river for what must have been an hour. I miss that most of all...

(remember this pic for what happens tomorrow!)

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Today we went towards Olifants on the H1-5. Nothing was happening. Not even hyena at the den. We saw zebra. No birds. We got fed up and turned back to try the H1-6.

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We found many blocked roads!!! This rain, eish!

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On the tiny bit of the river loop possible to drive we found nyala

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Breakfast anyone?

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We tried the S86, just until the weir.

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It was beginning to clear up and get hot, so we decided to head back to camp.

I found something amazing about being in the bush for so long was that I was beginning to smell things before I found them. Particularly elephant, buff and predator. Predator smells were everywhere!

That night, I heard that sneaky Scops again. I darted out of the front door, alas he stopped calling!!!!!!!!! :evil: So I went hunting for another bird call that I could hear. And then the Scops called! I bolted towards the Elephant Hall, where he was calling, and found the little bugger. HA! African Scops-Owl, tick!!

Then I decided that I loved that so I went walking around the camp. By now, many of the huts were empty and I fell in love with the solitude, where the bush was the very life around me.

I heard a terrible, eerie, creepy screaching sound and recognised it immediately: an owl. More specifically, that darn Barn owl that has been evading me for 11 nights now! Not tonight.

I followed the blood-curdling calls, and every time I got close I caught a flash of it's wings as it flew off again. I would pain-stakingly follow that darned bird all over but he would NOT let me see him!!! The time was running over an hour of me trampling through grass in nothing but slops and sneaking closer to bunches of trees and craning my neck in all kinds of effort to have a moment alone with an owl.

When a couple began to shine their spotlight on me I realised that an angel wandering alone through their circle for half an hour with her head constantly and maddeningly craned upwards, occasionally cussing as the bird took off again, was beginning to get creepy itself. So with a couple of choice words under my breath, I went back to my hut for a lovely Kruger dinner, swearing to find that bird before I left.

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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 Post subject: Re: Exploring Letaba: Disproving All Expectations
Unread postPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 11:12 am 
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Our last full day in Kruger...

The last 4 am alarm goes off.

Actually that was pointless. We were tired from our adventures so we woke up later than usual. We decided to hit the H9, onto the S131 and then the S96.

We found the H9 hyena clan. They were all out and about for the first time since we had arrived, and they were fussing and moaning around the entrance of the den. We thought this was weird (I will tell you why later!).

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On S131 we saw a lot of game

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And then on the S96 something awful happened. With all the rain going on... WE GOT STUCK IN THE MUD!

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Next SANPark: Mapungubwe 2014

Birding Weekend 2014 - Satara 3

Exploring Letaba - '13-'14


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