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Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by lion queen » Wed Sep 17, 2014 11:32 am

Great news MZNP Guides.......... :thumbs_up:

Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us!! :clap: :clap: :clap:

The cubs are getting big now..... :dance: :dance:
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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by Puff Addy » Sat Nov 08, 2014 2:42 pm

Hello forumites,

My wife Lida and I returned home from South Africa on November 6. We were at Mountain Zebra from October 26 to October 31 and went out with Charl twice, once on a night drive (on the 27th in the rain) and once for Cheetah tracking (on the 29th).

Charl is simply an outstanding guide. His vision and hearing are amazingly acute, he has a great deal of knowledge and passes it along in an accessible style, he has a good sense of humour, and he is a nice guy to boot.

My wife has written a report on our whole trip (which included Addo and Camdeboo as well) which we will post in the Travel Tales section in the coming days, but here is an excerpt dealing with the night drive:

It was raining and thundering when we drove from our cottage to the reception building's parking lot and we thought the night drive in a 4x4 vehicle for nine passengers would be called off. The Toyota Land Cruiser did have a roof, but of course did not have any back or side windows. While we were waiting, a woman from Cape Town chatted with us and in the end she and her friend switched to a morning drive the next day.

We and a couple from Oudsthoorn were ready to face the weather as soon as our guide, Charl, arrived. We were issued fleece-lined rain ponchos, which we put over our legs as we were already wearing our own rain jackets, and set off on our adventure. When we encountered the first windy spot, we put on our winter hats for additional comfort.

In the dark, using just the vehicle’s headlights and a torch that Charl was holding with his right hand (while steering and shifting with his left), we first encountered three Mountain Zebras, one of them heavily pregnant, the other two being a mother and a foal. When the attention was too much for the young zebra, it brayed and ran away.

Our next sightings on the Umngeni Loop (4x4 only) were Red Hartebeest, Gemsbok, an unidentified frog and a Spotted Thick-knee, at times with the howling of invisible Black-backed Jackals in the background. After we passed another lone Gemsbok, we came across a Red Hartebeest calf that was staying away from the herd for protection (jackals track the movements of the herd, and thus to protect the young and vulnerable ones, nursery groups away from the herd consisting of the young and their mothers are formed). There was a Springbok and another male Red Hartebeest and soon after we encountered two Bushpigs and woke up an Eastern Clapper Lark. After passing another lone male Gemsbok, we saw a Scrub Hare.

When we left the 4x4 roads and returned to the main road, we saw Pied Crows sitting in the rain on telephone poles. Somewhere just before marker 4, we saw an Aardwolf digging and defecating in a midden. These animals eat termites, licking them out of termite mounds as their teeth are quite small. According to Charl, there was an Aardwolf den near the tree to the right of the animal we spotted.

After marker 4, we saw two distant Porcupines, two sleeping Ostriches, three Mountain Zebras, a male Steenbok, a female Kudu, and two Black-backed Jackals. We drove off the main road to have a better view of some Springhares, three of which we saw in action. No wonder they are nicknamed Karoo Kangaroos, as they were certainly springing about like them.

The rain attracted many frogs onto the road and thus the remainder of the trip turned into a sort of frog slalom. We saw a male Kudu and two more Porcupines, this time more clearly. We got back to the reception building shortly before 9 PM, said good-bye to Charl (we would see him again in two days for Cheetah tracking) and drove to our cottage in the pouring rain.


Next, a post about our Cheetah-tracking session (including photos).

Kind regards,

Adam
Last edited by Puff Addy on Sat Nov 08, 2014 8:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by MATTHYS » Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:06 pm

Great sightings, Adam :dance:
Looking forward to the cheetah-tracking session and Lida's TR :D
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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by Puff Addy » Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:42 pm

Hello again to everyone and hello, Matthys!

First, an excerpt on our Cheetah-tracking excursion from my wife's pending Travel Tale:

We paid for our tour at reception and were told there would be eight of us going on the tour with Charl, our guide from the night drive.

There are five adult Cheetahs in the park, two of which are female. The females are fitted with radio collars which allows the park people to monitor their movements and, as in our case, to locate them and bring the watchers to them.

There are also Lions in the park which are fitted with radio collars and just before we left on our tour, there were reports of two Lions having been sighted nearby. Charl took out his telemetry antenna to pick up the signal and roughly a kilometre after we set off we found the two Lion brothers lying in the grass to the right of us below the main road. They would be very easy to miss when traveling without a guide, as when they are lying down you could mistake them for boulders.

These Lions are around four years old and came to the park from a private reserve within the framework of the re-introduction project. Lions as well as Cheetahs are also moved between various parks to ensure the genetic integrity of the next generation. Two new female Lions will come to the park by the end of this year.

As we continued further up the main road, Charl stopped to try to find the Cheetah signal and we finally saw our first Acacia Pied Barbet of the trip along with a female Cardinal Woodpecker. Before turning right off the main road past marker 4, we encountered two territorial Gemsboks flanking their own sides of the road and a Malachite Sunbird was seen in a blooming bush.

By then, Charl had picked up the signal of the female Cheetah that happens to have four eight-month-old cubs (the cubs aren’t fitted with radio collars yet as they are too young to be tranquilized). Charl parked the vehicle and took his rifle from the rack above the dashboard, and our troop set off on foot to get closer to the Cheetahs. There are three male cubs and one female, and the three males will form a coalition when they are old enough to leave their mother. As we walked towards them, we could hear Eastern Clapper Larks and Eastern Long-billed Larks singing.

When we finally got close enough to see them, the mother was by herself and the four cubs were moving slowly to join her. The five of them then continued and we began stalking them single-file, with Charl leading the way.

The youngsters (Charl called them teenagers) were quite restless as they were hungry, and they all sat down and lied down in the shade of one of the bushes. The youngsters jumped on each other and played with each other and one of them showed off his skills on his mother, who actually joined in on the fun for a short while.

As we were quite close to them, all one could hear for a while was the clicking of shutters of people photographing with their DSLRs. When the Cheetahs moved a bit further away, we followed, and the photo session continued further.

Adam was quite impressed by the galloping sound the young cheetahs made when chasing each other around. I was happy to look at them through my binoculars and enjoy their faces and spots as well as the fact that at one time we couldn’t have been further than 15 metres from them (and not in a vehicle).

As the Cheetahs continued further along, so did we, and as we were returning to the vehicle, Charl spotted a Puff Adder which must have sensed us from afar and which hid in a shady hole (disappointing my Puff Addy). Anyway, the braver souls of the troop had a look into the hole and the less brave looked through their binoculars.

After this exciting sighting, we saw a Rock Agama under a bush. In the breeding season, the male’s head (along with other parts of its body) turns bright blue. This one was in ‘plain colours’, but as soon as we hit the main road on our way back, Adam spotted one with a blue head. Charl was nice enough to stop for us after we saw two Pied Crows mobbing another bird, which turned out to be a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk.


Now, some photos:

Mother Cheetah enjoys a spot of play (that's her on her back)

Image

One of the young ones waits for a sibling

Image

Stalking practice

Image

Image

On the lookout, Cheetah-style

Image

Mother scans the area as her brood almost behave themselves

Image

Many thanks to Charl, who guided and accompanied us on an excursion that was not only one of the highlights of our time at Mountain Zebra NP and of our travels in the Eastern Cape, but was one of the highlights of our life!

Kind regards,

Adam
Last edited by Puff Addy on Sat Nov 08, 2014 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by MZNP_Guides » Mon Nov 10, 2014 2:12 pm

Good afternoon all

I am the newest member to the MZNP team, I formally started in July this year as a field guide but I have been involved with the lion and cheetah research since January 2013. It has been an unbelievable journey so far.

The past few weeks of game viewing has been very rewarding especially with regard to the smaller mammals. We have managed to find a bat-eared fox den and looked forward to see a few pups in the coming weeks. The highlight, however, has been of a black-footed cat foraging on the Ubejane loop.

Many of the summer migrants have also started returning to the Park, most noticeable have been the cuckoos and eagles. I will continue to keep my eyes open for any other migrant or rarity that will make its way through the Park.

The lions and cheetahs continue to move throughout most of the Park and the cheetahs still avoid the lions (understandably so) at all costs. The cheetah cubs are growing at an alarming the rate. The first litter of cubs, are almost the same size as their mother!

I will try and post updates of the interesting happenings within the Park.

Regards
Dan van de Vyver

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by Hugh » Mon Nov 10, 2014 2:43 pm

Welcome look forward to more postings .... :popcorn:
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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by MATTHYS » Mon Nov 10, 2014 2:45 pm

Warm welcome to the forums, Dan :D
Updates would be wonderful, thank you !
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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by Puff Addy » Mon Nov 10, 2014 3:16 pm

Hi Dan,

My wife and I were at Mountain Zebra from October 26th to the 31st and may have run into you briefly one morning on the valley portion of the Kranskop Loop.

We missed the Bat-eared Foxes when we were there, unfortunately, and would have been thrilled to see a Black-footed Cat. Maybe next time!

We encountered a total of one cuckoo during our stay, but it was a very cooperative male Red-chested singing out in the open at the rock-pool picnic area.

Looking forward to more reports from you and Charl.

Kind regards,

Adam

P.S. For those who would like to see just how big the Cheetah cubs are, I posted some photos from our excursion with Charl on Oct. 29th on the previous page.

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by lion queen » Tue Nov 11, 2014 2:34 pm

Baby BEF............ :dance: :dance: :dance: They are super cute, so photos will be most welcome!!!

And then a black footed cat sighting, WOW, that must have been special!!!

Puff Addy you had a very special trip and those cheetah cubs are stunning!!! :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by MZNP_Guides » Wed Dec 03, 2014 4:24 pm

Thank you everyone for the welcome.

It goes without saying that there is never a dull moment here and the sightings keep getting better!!
The black footed cat has since been seen on 3 seperate occassions all in the same area and I am assuming it is a territorial male.

The bat-eared foxes have had a litter of 3 pups (what we have managed to count so far) and they made their first appearance last week at midday. However, they did not hang around and disappeared into their burrows as soon as the adults ran away from the vehicle.

The night drives continue to produce exceptional sightings. We were treated to 2 caracal sizing each other up but sense prevailed and they did not confront each other any further but moved off in opposite directions. 2 more brown hyaenas have been seem near the main road and provided us with a good 10 minutes of foraging before moving off into the night. A lone aardvark was also seen foraging near the main road and this proved to be a real highlight considering I had a full compliment of guests!

Most of the summer migrants have arrived with some or two strugglers poping up here and there, the most recent being a single white stork. One cape vulture has been seen in the park and was observed feeding of a dead zebra 2 weeks ago. This caused great excitement because the last comfirmed vulture sighting was over 5 years ago soaring in the upper atmosphere above the park. We are hoping it will take up residence and hopefully attract a few friends in the coming weeks.

I wish everyone a happy holiday and hope to see you soon in the park.

Thanks
Dan

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by MZNP_Guides » Mon Dec 22, 2014 9:14 am

Good morning all

The pre-christmas sightings have been exceptional of late. 3 different aardvark have been seen on 3 successive night drives! The first sigthing was of an aardvark standing on the bridge just outside the camp gate and we followed it walking down the tar road. Last night (21/12/14), we saw another foraging aarvark, once it realized it had been seen, it disappeared down a hole only to find it was too small to hide in it! So it frantically started to dig down and splayed heaps of soil as it tried to make itself invisible. Not 2 minutes later, we saw a caracal leopard crawling its way towards an unsuspecting springhare, after what seemed like an enternity, a high speed chase ensued and the springhare managed to escape leaving the caracal to rethink its' strategy.

Later that same night we saw a male aardwolf moving along marking his territory only to encounter a jackal, he (aardwolf) raised his mane and chased after the jackal disappearing into the night. Just when we thought it could not get any better, a lone water mongoose was seen foraging in the Ubejane Loop Dam.

Sightings have been truly exceptional over the festive season and hopefully it will continue into the new year!
May you all have a merry christmas and safe travels

Regards
Dan

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by MZNP_Guides » Wed Jan 28, 2015 9:03 am

Good morning everyone

I hope 2015 has started well and may it be a prosperous year. The Park has experienced fantastic rain, the vegetation is thick and the sightings have been a bit more difficult. Despite the dense vegetation, sightings continue to be exceptional.

The brown hyenas have been recorded on 5 different night drives and provide us with snippets into their secretive lives. A striped polecat has been seen on 2 drives but has since disappeared. One of the rangers saw a hedgehog late one night and we are hoping it will present itself again in the not too distant future. The bat-eared fox pups have grown up and follow their parents while foraging. We have been very fortunate to see a very relaxed female caracal and her 2 kittens on the night drives.

We have been fortunate to track the progress of 2 spotted eagel-owl chicks that inhabit the main road and it has been amazing to see their development from fluffy chicks to elegant hunters.

Hopefully 2015 will keep pace with our amazing sightings from 2014.

Regards
Dan

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by saraf » Wed Jan 28, 2015 10:43 am

Thanks for the updates Dan.

The caracal and kittens, how wonderful.
Want to say Thank You or Well Done to a fellow 'mite? Why not nominate them for a Kudu?

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by MZNP_Guides » Mon Feb 02, 2015 10:55 am

Good morning all

We were blessed with some good rains the past weekend at Mountain Zebra and the Park looks as good as ever. The game are in very good condition and there are still lots of young ones of all species. The Park is a bit more quiet now but we had some very good holiday sightings and they are still continueing.

One of the male lions received a new collar and they are in prime condition. Sadly, one of the older female cheetah, Nixi, passed away after more than 7 great years at Mountain Zebra...we suspect from a snake bite. She was a formidable hunter and great mother! She raised several large litters successfully and gave us some great sightings! She will be remembered for a long time. Her cubs are still with us and are doing well.

PS. Thank you Adam for the report on your cheetah tracking and those lovely comments.

Till next time,
Charl

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Re: Mountain Zebra National Park Activities Sightings

Unread post by MZNP_Guides » Mon Feb 16, 2015 1:41 pm

Good afternoon All

We have had some amazing sightings during the month of February. The night drives continue to provide us with insights into nocturnal animal behaviour. Three different brown hyena have been seen during the week, with one particular individual providing with exceptional views before disappearing into the darkness.
Nearly every drive has yielded aardwolf, and last night (15/02/15) provided four, it is interesting to watch these creatures go about their nightly activities despite the presence of an overly excited vehicle nearby. The bat-eared fox families have also produced some sensational sightings, with one particular family showing off their unbelievable speed and agility while playing with each other. We were fortunate to witness a bat-eared fox engaged in a serious stalk towards an unsuspecting crowned lapwing but it failed to catch it. I am not sure how well documented this phenomenon is but it was exciting none the less.
The buffalo herds have made themselves more visible in the recent weeks and have treated us to some exhilarating experiences by completely surrounding the vehicle on a few occassions. We witnessed an unusual scene of buffalo bull having a stand off with a gemsbok bull. The gemsbok took exception and charged the buffalo, which intially stood his ground but soon turned an ran away after the third charge, another unusual sighting to add to the list.
Hopefully the theme of unusual sightings will continue into the coming months and further provide us with some captivating memories and experiences.

Regards
Dan


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