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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:27 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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On the side of a small hill, a grand old lady, Mrs Adansonia Digitata, dressed in lichen

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bore a strong resemblance to her Australian cousin, Boab, whose nickname is Bottle Tree and whose formal name is Adansonia Gregorii.

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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 11:13 am 
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Power poles in single file marched like a row of old fashioned porters bearing modern day necessities to the camps

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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2013 9:42 am 
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Near the dam, a marabou eyed us from its tree top perch.

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Apparently, in hot weather, a marabou has the rather unsanitary seeming habit of urinating down its legs to provide itself with evaporative cooling.

I had always believed that birds did their number ones and number twos all mixed up together, in a sort of combined one and a half, if you like. But Roberts Bird Guide, that trusty source, says that they urinate, so presumably that is what they do.

In looking for more information on this, I found out that some vultures share this method of keeping cool and that it has a name: urohydrosis. I also read that marabous’ legs are naturally black but that they look white due to the salt from the urine having crystallised on them.


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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:32 pm 
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At the dam a lone impala grazed on the far shore and Egyptian geese pecked at the ground as they wandered along the grassy apron on the near side.

The geese fussed and honked. They nodded their heads and flapped their wings. They seemed to have a lot to discuss.

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A stork party was underway towards the dam wall.

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The storks strutted self importantly back and forth. They looked like old fashioned professors wearing academic gowns.


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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:54 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Chacma’s camera had always seemed too complicated to me, but now I asked him to show me how to use it. He explained where to press to take a shot and where to twist to change the focus. Then trustingly he surrendered it into my hands. I balanced it gingerly on the window frame and set about twisting and pressing as instructed. After a lot of spectacularly blurred efforts, I felt quite proud of my final attempt at capturing this little blacksmith plover as it dashed to and fro

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As well as these pictures of another busy little body,

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Kittlitz’s plover, who scurried about in the tyre tracks at great speed

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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:05 am 
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After we had eaten our breakfast we stayed a while, watching the goings on of the birds on the ground and admiring a couple of fish eagles that were keeping watch from the bare branches of a drowned tree.

Then we drove down a track that ran beyond the dam wall.

We passed a spider commune.

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The track led to a sort of secluded hollow that, although there was no sign marking it as so, seemed likely that it was the site of Joubert’s grave.
The little dell was greener and softer looking than the surrounding landscape.
It felt peaceful.

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It seemed like a good spot for a final resting place.


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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:10 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Back on the S146 to Mopani, a large male elephant was walking slowly towards the road.

Now it could be said that Chacma and I do not share an identical view on the best place to be in relation to an elephant. Words such as “paranoia” and “gung-ho attitude” have been known to pass between us on that subject. My preference is to get in front of an elephant with plenty of room to spare and only then stop to take photographs.

Chacma was driving that day and I mentioned that right then we were lagging a little too far back for my liking. It looked as if the elephant would cross the road in front of us rather than behind. Chacma began talking about triangulation and how the elephant’s speed and position were relative to both us and the road ahead (or something along those lines).

He said something about the EPI and I asked if that meant estimated point of impact. He laughed and said “No, estimated point of intersection.” Then he promptly stopped and began to photograph the elephant who, although still some distance away, was definitely heading our way.

Chacma’s head and shoulders had blocked my view of the elephant, so I turned to look out of the passenger window.

It was as I was turning back, to try and see where, in the imaginary triangle, the elephant had got to, that I saw something through the windscreen that literally took my breath away. I was rendered speechless.

The only sound I could make was “a”. So I kept on repeating it until at last I managed to say “Look!”


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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:40 am 
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A leopard had stepped silently out of the bushes on the right and was crossing the road about three metres in front of our car.

Now we had an elephant proceeding steadily towards us in a direct line from the right and a leopard in front of us who was heading equally steadily towards the bushes on the left.

We were faced with a dilemma.

What to do?
Who to turn our backs on?
How to keep an eye on the elephant and at the same time marvel at the beauty and grace of the leopard?

Chacma thrust the camera into my hands. Shaking with excitement, I pressed the shutter button. It would not click. I pressed it again. There was still no click. I pressed again and again, but it just would not click. The button seemed jammed.

I shoved the camera back at Chacma, just managing to catch a quick glimpse of the advancing elephant before it was hidden from view again as Chacma stretched towards the passenger window. His attention was now firmly fixed on getting a photograph of the leopard. I dared not get in the way of the camera by craning to see the elephant. I gazed in awe at the leopard.

It was a magnificent creature. Its coat was bright gold, the spots on it the deepest black. Its tail was long, the tip a fluffy white curl that almost brushed the ground.

Afterwards I learnt that the camera needs time to focus between one press of the button and the next. In the excitement of the moment I had not been listening for the little beep by which the camera says “OK, I am focussed, you can go ahead and take the picture.”

Luckily Chacma knew what to do. He managed to capture these parting shots before the leopard slipped silently into the vegetation and vanished from view.

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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2013 6:46 am 
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The elephant, meanwhile, had kept walking steadily towards us. We moved forward just in time to allow him to step onto the road behind us. We drove a few metres further and turned our heads to look back at him. He seemed to be a peaceable fellow who had simply been heading for the road in order to take a stroll along it.

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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 8:27 am 
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Just past Shipandani two vehicles towing sturdy trailers had stopped. They were standing side by side, an effective road block.

As we came to a standstill behind them we saw that they too were subject to a road block. A male elephant was standing in the ford over the Tsendze river.

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Two more bulls arrived. They all had a leisurely drink.

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They were clearly enjoying themselves. They dabbled their trunks in the water and swished them about. They sucked in water and squirted it into their thirsty mouths.


Then one moved off.

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He walked to a group of low rocks which he stood over. He touched them here and there with the tip of his trunk. Then he reached into a shallow crevice and swiftly grabbed and flicked something away. It appeared to be a bit of toilet paper or a tissue.


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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2013 8:20 am 
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It was getting hot and we were feeling cramped sitting there in the car. So we made a three point turn and drove to the hide. We decided to watch the elephants from there in comfort and shade.

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The toilet was locked, but we were grateful to lie down full length on the benches and stretch our backs.

There were hippos in the water below the hide.

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They were doing what hippos do. Floating just below the surface. Bobbing their heads up from time to time. Waggling their little ears and blinking their froggy eyes.

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There was some jostling and grunting, but it seemed half-hearted.

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Yawning and snorting, they sank back in the ripples to doze and dream.


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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:35 am 
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Eventually the elephants had had enough of the water and they moved on, allowing us to cross the river and return to our bungalow in Mopani.

There, we made a fresh salad and tossed into it thin slices of the steak left over from the previous night’s braai. With glasses of cold white Auslese wine in hand, we sat down on the verandah to enjoy a lunch with a view.

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Replete and rested, Chacma tackled the task of transferring airtime to data on his new SIM card, so that he could access his email account. It proved to be an exercise in frustration; trying to decode and follow prompts in unfamiliar jargon. It involved a lot of pressing zero and waiting for the next confusing instruction, until the recorded voice firmly and finally refused to recognise his number.

It was with less than the best grace that Chacma abandoned the task.

There was still time for a short late afternoon drive and so we set off for Shidlayengwenya. Although the sun was behind it and a bit dazzly, that peaceful place soon soothed from Chacma’s spirit the scratches that the telecom encounter had left upon it.

We lingered a while and then, restored, we reluctantly returned to camp.

On the way back, silhouetted against the evening sky, stood a large, but distant group of eland.

They looked like ancient rock art come to life.

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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 11:40 am 
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Back at the bungalow, the tricky data transfer was tackled once more. This time, with human help from the phone company, the transaction was a success.

That night we slept well and at some point Chacma heard lions roaring.

When we awoke, the next morning, we were greeted by five little francolins wandering about on the verandah.

Unable to see our plastic water bottle anywhere and anxious to get out and about, I rinsed and filled the previous evening’s wine bottle at the kitchen tap. We got into the car and saw that the missing bottle was on the back seat where we had left it the day before.

Out of camp, we turned right onto the H1-6.

Before long we saw three ground hornbills. One of them had no red markings. It must have been a young one, even though it was as large as the others. Its colouring camouflaged it well among the matching Mopani stems.

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Mooiplaas picnic place was peaceful. On the river bank across from the thatched shelter, an elephant softly swished its tail and ears. It was calmly eating the fallen fruit beneath a big fig tree. Further back, a herd of giraffe was browsing the high branches. While somewhere out of sight, a couple of bottle birds (Burchell's Coucal) were melodiously pouring out their hearts out to one another.

A young male and a female waterbuck, accompanied by three nyala males, came for a quick drink and then went quietly away.

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Nyala males, it appears, may have a somewhat chivalrous nature.
Last year, while driving on the Mahonie loop, we came across a nyala male walking along with a group of kudu females. It seemed a little unusual. But then, maybe not.


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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:25 am 
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Leaving Mooiplaas to its own reflections,

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we headed towards the confluence lookout.

A huge herd of buffalo slowed our progress as we approached the river.

Milling about and mooing,

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they seemed to be as interested in us as we were in them.

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The hideous hippo carcass was still lying in its putrid puddle. A hamerkop, preening its feathers, was perched upon it.

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Back on the main road, where the sign says Shingwedzi via Shilowa, we turned onto the Tropic of Capricorn loop.

At the first Nshawu, beyond the far side, the top of an army style tent, poking up above the bushes, posed a puzzle.

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Whose could it be? Why was it there?


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 Post subject: Re: Things Wild and Wonderful; Creatures Great and Small
Unread postPosted: Sun Apr 21, 2013 11:11 am 
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Further on we stopped to watch a group of wildebeest. There were three adults, absorbed in the here and now, and an adolescent who was focused on something further afield.

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We drove on. The plain stretched hot and flat around us. To the east, a recent fire had rendered the grass to scorched stubble.

Ahead, at the edge of the road, a lone tree loomed. An elephant stood beneath it. It was scratching its hide on the rough bark.

As we drew nearer it ambled out into the middle of the road.

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It began to walk up the road ahead of us.

A car that had been approaching from the opposite direction was obliged to reverse as the elephant advanced.

We followed at a snail’s (or strolling elephant’s) pace.

The elephant was in no hurry. On it walked. Backwards drove the car it faced.

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We passed a wildebeest that was nibbling on the bright green shoots that had sprouted among the burnt grass.

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Still the elephant strolled on up the road. Still the other car reversed up the road.

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The day was hot. The sun blazed from a lightly clouded sky as we crept along behind the elephant. We were glad of our wine bottle of water. Gratefully we drank every drop of its slightly strange tasting contents. It was good that nobody else could see us.

Then three other elephants appeared away off in the veld to our left.

Finally, at long last, the elephant turned off the road and headed towards them.

As we passed the oncoming car, the driver, rather red in the face and clearly somewhat overheated and agitated, told us it had been four kilometers that he had travelled in reverse.


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