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 Post subject: Peter Pipers' ongoing KTP adventures : November 2006
Unread postPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2006 9:47 am 
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Virtual Ranger
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I recently shot off to the KTP for a quick 6 night stay and here is a short but glorious trip report. :)

I was last there in May and had an amazing trip so shouldn’t really have been heading back so soon, but as an artist there were 2 things that lured me miles across the bumpy roads and out into the desert heat.- something I am really not very good at. ......Dying of heat, that is.

My first goal was to try and capture the arrival of the first rains and along with that some atmospheric landscapes and skies, and the second goal was to try and get another opportunity at photographing a Cape Fox den with their young cubs as many years ago I had spent a glorious hour with an adult and 2 cubs in perfect light but had not really gotten THE shot. And so with high hopes as always, I set off on the long journey at 4.30 am to see what lady luck would bring and man, did she deliver!!!

On arrival at the gate I asked the guys if there had been much rain and was told they had had very little. A good sign. Certainly there were no pools of water anywhere and the temperature was a cool 37 deg. After a quick swim, I fitted in a short game drive that afternoon and soon found myself enjoying the antics of a pride of lions, the young ones were very active and although the light frustratingly was on the wrong side, coming from behind them, there were still some great moments.

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Headed back to the bungalow, phoned home and then lit the fire under a moonless sky ablaze with a zillion stars. Felt very good to be here.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2006 10:03 am 
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Day 2, I headed off to Nossob for 2 nights camping and found the lions still hogging the water hole and playing fairly close to the road. There were 14 lions in this pride including one majorly beautiful black maned male and a number of youngsters that were energetic and playful and provided at least an hours entertainment before the male wondered off to a distant dune and the rest of the pride followed in his tracks.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2006 10:39 am 
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At Kij Kij, a tawny eagle posed in the last good light of the morning



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Heading north during the day, the road was very bumpy, it was extremely hot and stopping briefly at a picnic site, I was amazed at just how keen the birds were to gather around and get any scraps, more so than on previous visits. I know you shouldn’t feed these guys but this is as a result of about a quarter of an’Eat some More’ biscuit broken up and left on the table.

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Clearly this was the end of a long dry winter, food out there was scarce, the animals were thirsty and everyone including myself eagerly awaited the arrival of the first real rains. Clouds were already starting to build up and as I checked into Nossob, the air was alive with the promise of an afternoon storm so I eagerly continued north to capture the drama.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Nov 23, 2006 3:15 pm 
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Chasing the storms further North I was often driving along a wet road, the smell of rain filtering through the open car windows and pools of water both on the road and in the riverbed glistened in the reemerging sunlight. In the distance, the storm moved ever further North as lightning snaked across a darkening sky. A jackal family played on the road, their bodies soaked as they bounced around from one pool to the next in between furiously licking the water from each others coats.

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Soon it was time to head back to my campsite at Nossob. That evening the next storm blew in, almost flattening my tent and I awoke to huge puddles of water, this time only an arms length from my pillow! But nothing could dampen my enthusiasm for this changing season, this new beginning in an age old cycle. The desert rains were here and there is much to look forward to.

Heading North once again the next morning, the landscape was illuminated in reflected early morning light from clouds and red sands as rain continued to fall.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 2:51 pm 
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I decided to just keep pushing further north today and by midday made it to Unions End, something I had not done for quite awhile. For most of the journey there wasn’t much around although I did find lions a few kilometers from the end and in another area near the top, there were a lot of vultures gathered on the ground, something that I remember seeing up there on previous visits and again it struck me as odd that I did not see many vultures further south during the trip. Only one Lappet Faced vulture amongst this group, the others were all White Backed vultures.

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I stopped briefly at the picnic site for a lunch break but soon found myself peering once again through a long lens trying to get a shot of these 2 guys. The first is possibly a male Blue headed Agama, the second, although very common, I don’t know. Really need some help here as I have temporarily misplaced my little red Reptile book.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 9:09 am 
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Heading back from Unions End provided a few good things as the rain had left a lot of puddles and birds and animals were arriving to take advantage of this extra water. At one puddle a Bateleur had arrived for a drink and bath but before it could do anything a car (despite my vehicle being parked there with a long lens sticking out the window… :evil: growl!! ) decided to come shooting past, through the water and chased it away. I’m always amazed at how often this happens and then people tell me they didn’t see much! :?

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On muddy patches, butterflies were gathering in large groups, something that always seems a little strange in this normally hot, dry place. The scenery around the Nossob area is a lot more open than on the Mata Mata side, but by the afternoon the clouds had disappeared and the light was again very harsh. I love these open landscapes, the vastness of this special place is a lot more apparent and although this can be more difficult for game viewing, there was still plenty to see.

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Ludwig's Bustard - only ever seen these on the Mata Mata side so was keen to see a few around here. They were very far away so pic is a bit feable :)
Thanks Salva for ID

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Last edited by peterpiper on Sat Nov 25, 2006 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Nov 25, 2006 11:56 am 
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One thing that is unusual about the KTP in summer is the large amount of snakes that you see. Like raptors, they too are dependant on a lot of mice etc and the openness gives us plenty of opportunities to witness them in action. On this occasion however, it was one of those things that happens to all of us quite often – you go past something and about 20 meters on it registers as possibly something that might be worth looking at, or possible just a stick, stone etc… and you then have to decide if it’s worth going back. By the time I decided it warranted another look I was already a good 100 meters down the road so doing a quick 7 point turn and heading back, I was quite excited to see this guy on the side of the road. This is a small molesnake that has bitten off more than he could chew so to speak and was doing his very best to swallow a striped mouse. When I got there he had only just started trying to get the whole meal in and after some time there and to my surprise he decided to give up on this fruitless task and he spat out the poor mouse, leaving it there for someone with a bigger mouth. I didn’t take pics at this point as I initially thought that perhaps being there was disturbing his behaviour so I moved a long way away, but he spat it out and then stayed nearby for quite awhile before slowly heading off to pick on something a bit smaller.

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Later that night, I spent a bit of time in the hide at Nossob watching the antics of a couple of Bat eared foxes and the ever present Black Backed Jackals nearby.Tomorrow it's off to Mata Mata as I still have to find my second wish, a den of Bat eared foxes. Stay tuned :)

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Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 11:55 am 
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Day 3 I packed up the tent and moved on to 2 nights camping at Mata Mata, not really seeing much during the morning although the scenery as always was good and a few good birds provided a few opportunities.

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This Pale Chanting Goshawk for example led me to a log under which I could see a clearly terrified mouse, so I turned off the engine for awhile and sure enough saw a fairly large Cape Cobra doing his best to catch lunch. Interestingly it didn’t seem to have much luck and was even joined by a second smaller Cobra for a short while, before the second one headed out into the open for a bit of strange ‘sun tanning’, lying there with its mouth open and not moving at all.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:19 pm 
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That same afternoon I came across a guy called Henning, who was a very keen photographer and was here for a week and he very kindly told me about a couple of Cape Fox dens in the area including one at Dalkeith that was apparently fairly close to the road and good for morning light. I headed straight there in the morning, soon found the den but the foxes were not at home so I waited at the water hole for awhile. Later I returned to their den to see that both adults and the 1 single cub were relaxing outside and although clouds covered the early morning light for most of the time, I was able to spend a relaxed hour or so with this family and get a few photos. Wow!!! :D What a privilege and to think my friends are back in Jo’burg sitting in rush hour traffic. Sadly Henning had come past when they were not around and had gone on somewhere else, so I felt a bit guilty hogging ‘his’ den but watching the antics of the cub, I was soon lost in their world completely and amazed at how children of every species are so much alike. Adults as well for that matter. Remember my first day with the lions at Leeudril? That old man was also trying to get some peace and quiet when junior jumped on his head!

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In this case Mom and Dad were clearly a bit tired after a long night foraging and really just wanted to chill out and put their feet up. Junior on the other hand was full of beans and wanted to play, moving around the whole area non stop. Into holes, out of holes, playing with beetles and sticks and trying his best to get the mother to join in the fun.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 12:46 pm 
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Thanks Duques, I took a total of about 90 shots of the family, mostly the cub on its own as they were really close and the last time I was in this situation (using film back then!) I only took a few and was sorry I didn't take more. Unfortunately there was only the one cub and the light was difficult so I'll one day just have to go back and do even better :twisted: . Any excuse!

The family dissappeared very suddenly when a jackal came along and interestingly, the adults ran off to a distant Camel Thorn Tree leaving the cub on its own and it then dissapeared down a hole. I visited them again the next 2 mornings but on both occassions no one was home.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 9:21 am 
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As I promised before I headed off to Antarctica, I am going to now finish this trip report. Sorry for the long delay but if you are interested you can check out what I’ve been up to by clicking on my web site and once there just click on ‘artworks’ and then on ‘photographs’ I have added 12 new images from Antarctica. This past season down there – my seventh – was very good and many photos were taken. You should really try and get down there sometime.

Staying at Mata Mata, camping for the last few nights, I was surprised on this visit by the number of lions that I saw and not a single cheetah or leopard during my stay. Each trip is different, but I couldn’t help wonder whether the amount of lions is putting serious pressure on the other predators as clearly the lions are doing very well and cheetahs are not able to spend much time on the river beds. This large male walked a very long way to Dalkeith Waterhole for his morning drink.

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Later I sat there and was given plenty of opportunities like this Secretary Bird and these very pregnant Springbuck.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 9:27 am 
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On my last day there, I witnessed something very unusual and quite sad, but I guess this is all part of the natural rhythm of this extreme environment. Far across the river bed. 2 Jackals were harassing a group of Springbuck that quickly moved up the ridge and headed off, leaving a new born calf hidden amongst the small bushes. Unfortunately it later broke its cover and tried to run for it and the jackals were quick to pounce, and try and drag it off. Then surprisingly to me, a male springbuck ran down the steep slope and tried to save the calf, bravely fighting off the jackals and trying its best to get the calf up and running. The jackals relied on a continuous attack from different directions, rushing in and out and generally causing as much confusion as possible. Each time the Spring Buck chased the one jackal, the other one would attack the calf, until the calf was too injured and they eventually were able to grab it and run off a short distance with their prize. Within minutes of this violent attack the male Spring buck continued eating grass as though nothing had happened but he did not return to the herd, instead choosing to stay very close to where the jackals were lying and as night fell, he was still sitting very close to them. Other spring buck came passed and he joined in with them for a short while but as they moved off he returned to stay near the now dead calf. At one point a third jackal arrived, trotting casually along the river bed, and both jackals immediately gave chase and attacked him quite viciously, clearly not wanting to share their hidden bounty.
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These images have been cropped to within a pixel of their lives as this all happened a very long way from where I was parked.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 07, 2007 9:35 am 
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Owls are always a major attraction for me in this park and every visit gives a few good sightings, mostly on the Mata Mata side. Not far from the camp. I came across a family of 5 Spotted eagle owls that had made their home on top of a Sociable Weavers nest. The 3 chicks were already quite large. Obviously keeping Mommy and Daddy very busy.

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Further along the road a Giant eagle owl posed for a few photos and the White faced owls at the picnic spot decided not to. (They were there but too well hidden!) Oh well, next time!

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I’ll certainly be back in this wonderful park. Hard to say when perhaps but it’s the kind of place that keeps me coming back for more and never lets me down. When I set off for Antarctica this year, someone asked me why I was going back there again and even added aren’t you tired of always going to the same places? I thought about it and replied that that would be like being tired of going to church just because you’ve been there lots of times.

I might be back very soon in fact. :)

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