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Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

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Waterbuck
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Waterbuck » Sun Dec 15, 2013 9:56 pm

I see there is some confusion regarding the occurrence of Springbok in Kruger. Let me set any confusion aside - there is no doubt that Springboks have been found, yet, they are rare and its is a highly sought-after sighting. The Bash team was however very lucky in sighting a heard around Balule. On recalling the trip I can confirm that Springbok and the fabulous Jackal-berry Cuckoo, which was seen around the Mooiplaas picnic site, count among the special sightings for the trip. The Jackal-berry Cuckoo was a lifer for the whole group :thumbs_up:
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Waterbuck » Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:13 am

Thanks for the explanation JvR. Springboks aside -back to the Jackal-berry Cuckoo.

While the Bash group were quietly training their binoculars on the large fig tree across the river from the Mooiplaas picnic area, Mr. Bird standing at our shoulder recalled every bird name he could (and some which he could not) remember..........Brown-headed Parrot, Green Pigeon, Black-headed Oriole......Kurri(?x&*) Thrush and Jackal-berry Cuckoo. A lifer for sure..... :tongue:

Anyway - he was/is trying hard. He's got a good bird book, has started a list of sightings and he is trying to help visitors as best he can. I would rather have this than the bloke at Afsaal a year or two back that told me they had never seen owls in the vicinity. Credos to this guy at Mooplaas for trying and I hope he goes on to become one of those legendary local birders.........with or without the Jackal-berry Cuckoo :thumbs_up:
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Waterbuck » Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:34 am

Before JvR throws me off his TR.......

The eventful story of the warthog bolting from its hole with a earth shattering "roar" a midst the Bash group while we were walking on the final day was accurately narrated by JvR. The part he missed is how some of us (me), tried frantically to climb to the upper branches of the closest 4-foot tree, only to be poked in the ribs by one of the protruding branches - not as a result of my poor climbing skills, but as a result of sharing the tree with a fallow Basher :D

On a more serious note - it was later on that walk that we came across the anti-poaching personnel, the poacher's water bottle and the blood stained cloth that was written about earlier. I'm not sure if there is a forum policy about posting photos of these rangers, but I want to share this with you as a picture of one of the unnamed hero's out there.
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The text I wrote with this photo on another social media platform:

No............this is not a photo of a soldier in some war-torn country crippled by some political or ideological differences, land grab, disagreement, disrespect for human rights or genocide.

This is what I saw in our own Kruger National Park. I was lucky enough to briefly walk in Kruger over the past weekend. Two rhino were poached close to where we were on the night before my arrival. Another was shot close to where we were walking on my second day in the park. Heading towards the spot where we had seen vultures rising from a distant carcass we were turned around in the bush by this gentleman. The military had also deployed in a number of other areas and although I have always been shocked by the poaching, I think the reality of the situation has not hit home for most South Africans. I want to silently salute this man and his colleagues. It was well on its way to 40 degree C when we came across him as he was gathering evidence before heading off with another ranger to deal with the situation. Difference is that after another hour or two of walking I had a icy drink waiting in the vehicle that took me back to camp....a cold shower, snacks and luxury, while these guys were out there in the sun fighting a war for our rhino....hot, tired, away from their families, staring ruthless poachers in the face and under fire (literally).

By now we are all a bit punch-drunk with all the anti-poaching media and the save-the-rhino campaigns, and personally, I am not always sure which of these make sure that these soldiers are supported and honored. Be that as it may, I have had a reality check and the cliche phrase of "this is a war" is as true as toast. Perhaps I should end by sticking my head out there and saying: if the political will was really there to deal with this war, the picture may have been different.
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Waterbuck » Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:52 am

With the tensions and mixed emotions from the poaching incident tangible in our walking party we found a small shady spot along the drainage line on the way back to the vehicle. Although only a few feet wide, the drainage line had formed some deeper pockets of shaded water and the presence of a single irritated hippo in one of these could never be ruled out. Brendan and John (second rifle) walked close to the water to scout the situation before we sat down in the shade for a break. Necked peering up and down the drainage line with some group members also scouting.........dushhhhh. After a feisty warthog and the poaching drama, this loud splash in the water was all it took to have some Bashers again going into adrenalin overdrive and one was looking for a 4-foot tree to climb :redface:

Damn water-monitors!!!! This one was siting aloft the small pocket of water and announced himself with a splash as we stood beneath the same tree. :big_eyes: :big_eyes:
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Waterbuck » Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:05 am

To break the somber mood from the poaching incident, Brendan (our legendary guide) went fishing........baboon spider fishing to be precise. With a blade of grass as bait one can coax one of these guys from their hole with some degree of patients.........

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Waterbuck » Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:12 am

It was on the way back from our swim in the Olifants that afternoon that we came across this Great Spotted Cuckoo. Worst photo you'll find on the forum, but my first pic of this species. Cool species if you consider that its brood hosts include crows and starlings..........
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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:32 am

Waterbuck wrote: Great Spotted Cuckoo... Cool species if you consider that its brood hosts include crows and starlings..........


Crows! :shock:

I didn't know that! I would have thought crows are too clever to be fooled into believing a cuckoo chick is its own. Yet, Roberts tells us that crows are the major hosts in SA with more than 10% of nests hosting a GC chick, both pied and Cape crows being duped!

As you say: Cool bird! :thumbs_up:
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Waterbuck » Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:41 am

Its a pity I only took pics of the dinner table every night and not of the food (probably because I was so tucked up in eating it) :lol:. One cant see much of the fairy lights in the tree, but I was witness to Mama (Pooh) Africa herself scaling this tree to hang them. :whistle:

Well, this was the setting under the stars on the last night of the Bash. For those of you that haven't done a Balule Bash, you really need to get onto one of these. I am not sure how the internal arrangements work, but I am sure if you keep contact with JvR, he will provide you with the details. And if you are considering it, just remember that there is already one fewer spot that can be taken up - my spot :dance:
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Waterbuck » Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:52 am

Let me end my formal contribution to the TR with pics of the two Kruger locals. I know you've seen hundreds of these on the forum, but they will always symbolize Kruger for me.

On that note I once again want to thank Johan for the TR and the arrangements he made, the fallow Bashers for their company, John and Brendan as our great guides, the HR's for all the arrangements and for pampering us like little spoilt warthogs and especially Mama (Pooh) Africa. I'll be back........

Thanks Johan for allowing me the space to add my inputs to the Balule Bash TR - over to you to close out.
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Dec 17, 2013 6:28 am

Waterbuck wrote: Thanks Johan for allowing me the space to add my inputs to the Balule Bash TR


Allowing you? :shock: :lol:

It was one heck of an effort to get you to post... :twisted: But it was worth every frustrating email, SMS and phone call! :dance: :dance: :clap: :clap:

Thank you so much for giving different angles, illustrating uncaptured moments and especially for those barbed remarks about “soft spots”… the secret is out now! But if you looked long and hard enough, you are sure to find many more such Achilles' heels! :lol:

I was up early on that last morning and enjoying the camp sounds, like a ghost, just being there was the point. Do nothing; take pleasure in being…

Some time later pots started to clatter in the kitchen and in the dim light I saw Pooh Bear starting the day’s chores… It was time for coffee.

The morning activity for the Bashers was to be a short walk from camp heading out east along the Olifants River. We had to be back for breakfast, get packed and be gone from Balule by 10:00 am. Before left we found ourselves saying goodbyes to T bird and Cecilia who were leaving early.

The mood during the walk was somber. I guess every Basher felt a bit done in by time being so fleeting. The few trip ticks we managed on our walk included Bennet’s Woodpecker, white-browed robin-chat and a grey tit-flycatcher. We had fleeting views of the olive-tree warbler as we approached the camp on the return.

Clive, scorpy and Pooh Bear were ready with breakfast which we attacked with gusto after refreshing showers. The Bash was ending in a blur…
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Dec 17, 2013 8:41 am

Dreams and memories are time machines. Dreams take you forward to what may be; memories take you back to what has been… special moments we treasure.

Soon we had to say our goodbyes. The Bash had both tears and laughter; crossings of paths that left some mark on each one of us; milestones to cherish.

The Bash went by too fast. Words in the moment of saying goodbye fail me every time… There is tightness in the throat that constricts the mind as well. I keep on missing the opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to me. Maybe this lesser salute can make up for another Achilles’ heel…
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Dec 17, 2013 9:13 am

You would think that more than a week of birding in Kruger NP would be enough… I planned to travel via Phalaborwa on my way home and, as a final treat, pop in to Sable Dam. Not a bad decision as this two-hour detour netted me a handful of trip ticks: Curlew sandpiper and little stint…

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…collared pratincole, ruff and black cuckoo, the final one also turned out to be an addition to my KNP list.

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Sable Dam always has something special in store as a farewell…

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The sounds of the joyful trumpeting of these giants enjoying an invigorating dip and the crash of tusks as they wrestled each other playfully reverberated in my mind long after I left.
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Tue Dec 17, 2013 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross

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Johan van Rensburg
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon May 26, 2014 5:26 pm

We are doing the 2014 Stiffnecks Balule Bash from 23 to 26 November.

Unfortunately it is oversubscribed without it having been announced. But, all followers of this very special event will be happy to learn that forum reports will probably be even beter this year. We have some of the past contributors back on the team, plus some new ones with high forum profiles...

However, this post now concludes the 2013 adventure. I will link both the old and new to ensure continuity.
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Tue May 27, 2014 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
685 2016 lifers: Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser, Rufous-tailed scrub robin, House crow, Manx shearwater, Antarctic prion, Northern giant petrel, Northern royal albatross


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