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Puff Addy's Frontier Parks Adventure (Addo, Mountain Zebra & Camdeboo) - Oct/Nov '14

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Puff Addy
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Puff Addy's Frontier Parks Adventure (Addo, Mountain Zebra & Camdeboo) - Oct/Nov '14

Unread postby Puff Addy » Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:22 pm

Hello forumites,

My wife Lida and I made our first trip ever to South Africa last month, choosing the Eastern Cape as our destination and spending the majority of our time in three of the Frontier Parks: Addo (only the southern half), Mountain Zebra and Camdeboo. We flew from Prague via Munich and Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, leaving P.E. immediately upon arrival for Addo. We spent the last two days of our trip in P.E. and had hoped to take a boat trip to see the African Penguin and Cape Gannet colonies on Bird Island (part of Addo), but the trip was called off due to gale-force winds. This was the only part of our travel plans that didn't work out.

We are birders, so this report may be a little bird-centric, but of course we were also enthusiastic about all the mammals and other creatures we saw and hope this comes through. It is written from Lida's perspective, but I made (almost) all the photos (some good and some bad).

The next post will include the Prologue and Day 1.

Happy reading!

Adam
Last edited by Puff Addy on Mon Nov 10, 2014 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:28 pm

Prologue - October 19, 2014

I had just sent an e-mail to our German friends from Regensburg, adding in the P.S. that we hoped they’d pick us up in Munich in the event that Lufthansa’s pilots were on strike when we returned, when to my amazement I read on the Internet that some pilots were indeed going to go on strike the next day (our departure day) beginning at 1 PM and that our flight would be affected.

Conveniently for Lufthansa, their customer center for the Czech Republic doesn’t seem to be operational on weekends, so I set off for the airport hoping to catch a live person to see what could be done about our trip. A lonely lady at an empty Lufthansa service desk was kind enough to re-book us on an earlier flight – at 9:30 AM instead of our originally scheduled departure time of 4:50 PM.

Day 1 - October 20, 2014

Waking up at 5:30 AM to have time to actually get out of bed in time for the re-scheduled taxi trip to the airport was hard, but somehow we managed it. We got to the airport in a little over 20 minutes and both of us were amazed at the length of the line at the very same service desk I had visited the day before. There were a few dozen people waiting in line for assistance from the one person working there.

We were worried that our suitcases might be overweight (the limit is 23 kg), but they were both just shy of 20 kg. They were checked in all the way to Port Elizabeth, but we were told that we had to pick them up at the baggage claim in Johannesburg, take them through customs, and then re-check them again. We had already printed our boarding passes at home, so we sleepily continued through the passport-and-boarding-pass and security checks and settled down at our gate (C12).

Our plane was late on arrival from Munich, which suited us just fine as we were in for a very long layover, and we were bussed to its parking spot on the tarmac. Adam took some pictures of the Canadair Regional Jet 900, but it was still quite dim as the clouds were low and it had been raining earlier in the morning. As we got on the plane, we were issued two mini chocolate-covered muesli bars to serve as refreshments and were assured by the female first officer that if we did not have to circle around Munich to get permission to land, we would actually arrive on time. Apparently the actual flight time is just 20 to 25 minutes and the other half is taxiing from/to the gate and waiting for take-off/landing permission. We flew up above the clouds, which had a few breaks in them here and there which enabled us to see what we were flying over. We caught glimpses of some rural Bavarian baroque-style churches and found ourselves in Munich around 10:30 AM with the great task of whiling away ten and a half hours (the length of our Munich-Johannesburg flight, by the way) in the airport terminal.

Our boarding pass for the Munich-Johannesburg flight of course did not have a gate assigned to it yet, but Adam figured out, and a friendly woman from Lufthansa’s boarding personnel confirmed to us, that we would be leaving from a gate on the upper level of Terminal 2. We gathered our heavy photo backpacks, the laptop bag, Adam’s small camera holster, and the Birds of Southern Africa field guide, and ventured through passport control, as we would be leaving the European Schengen Zone. This was no problem for me, but Adam had to explain to the border officer why he did not have any stamps in his passport. Our hero explained he was a resident of the Czech Republic and that his passport did not have any stamps as it was issued through the U.S. embassy in the Czech Republic. In the end he was let off with a warning that next time he should take his Czech residency card with him.

Are we there yet?

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The next nine hours seemed like nine days as we shifted between empty seats at unused gates and even tried out the so-called ‘relaxation zone’, but after leaving a cushy sofa for two comfortable looking but very non-cushy lounge-chairs, we returned to the padded seats near the gates. We watched the ground personnel at work and were amazed at the way the pusher vehicle that pushes the aircraft away from the gate lifted the nose gear off the ground. We grabbed a couple of sandwiches for lunch and a smoked-salmon salad and a sandwich for dinner, knowing we would probably not eat dinner on the plane as it would be served at 10 PM. As it got darker, it also started to rain. By the time we boarded the Airbus A330-200, it was pouring and it got even worse as we were taking off.

Our seats were located four rows behind business class and in the 2-4-2 seat layout we had two seats above the wing on the left side of the plane. We only took a small bottle of water each and said no to dinner, although Adam felt like the pasta that was on the menu (the other choices were veal and chicken). Unfortunately for him, the pasta ran out before he could have it so he didn’t have anything. Another round of beverages was offered and then, finally, the cabin lights were dimmed and we tried to get a few hours of sleep.
Last edited by Puff Addy on Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:38 pm

Day 2 - October 21, 2014

The sun comes up over south-eastern Angola

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Still on the plane bound for Johannesburg, somewhere above Libya we saw stars from the airplane windows, recognizing the constellation of Orion, and later, somewhere above south-eastern Angola, the sun rose. Roughly two hours before arrival in Johannesburg, around 5:30 AM, the cabin lights were switched on and breakfast was served. We had a ‘full breakfast’ which included scrambled eggs with two mini white sausages, fried potatoes and tomatoes and a bit of spinach, a cup of yogurt, a fruit salad, and a mini croissant with butter and apricot jam. We asked for another bottle of water each to have for the transfer and then everything was cleared in no time and we were ready for landing. Adam was sitting by the window and made pictures as we approached and landed safely at O. R. Tambo International Airport.

We disembarked and were stamped into the country and proceeded to the baggage claim, where we hoped to find our two suitcases on the carousel so that they could be re-checked. We felt a sensation of relief when we saw our two blue hard-shell suitcases coming down the belt toward us. It was quite chaotic at the four operational South African Airways desks. Economy class was served by two desks and there were a lot of Indian people with trolleys full of suitcases lined up for re-checking. By the time we finally dropped off our suitcases, I was on the verge of losing it, whereas Adam stayed cool and was reminded of his time in Israel.

We managed to exchange our euros into South African rand (there is no direct exchange between korunas and rand), but we didn’t succeed in getting stamps at the airport post office as the staff was on strike. We continued to the domestic departures level where we had to spend roughly 45 minutes before our boarding call and used this opportunity to brush our teeth (with the spiffy travel toothbrushes and mini toothpaste we got in our South African Airways amenity kit), to look for birds (our first Pearl-breasted Swallow of the trip was resting just outside the window near our gate) and to watch planes (we were happy to see an Avro RJ-85 wearing an SA Airlink livery as the ‘Jumbolino’ is one of our favourite aircraft).

Our "Baby Bus" awaits

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As we walked down the jetway through which we boarded the Airbus A320 to Port Elizabeth, we saw a Cattle Egret flying over. This time there were three seats on each side of the plane and we had a window and a middle seat. Adam took the window seat and I had a nice conversation during taxiing and before landing with a nice lady who had just been to Perth, Australia and whose son was picking her up at the airport. She thought that we might be on our honeymoon and seemingly couldn’t believe it when I told her that we had been married for eight years, telling me: ‘You look so young!’ Like Chicago, Port Elizabeth is also known as the ‘Windy City’, and we felt it on our approach, but the captain landed as if it was absolutely windless. The airport is quite small and apart from a smaller plane on the tarmac, ours was the only plane there. As we walked between the gangway and the terminal, the wind welcomed us warmly and Adam took some photos of our plane. Our luggage had made it all the way with us, so we grabbed it and continued to the Avis desk to pick up our car, a white Hyundai i20 with just over 3000 kilometres on it.

Now the fun began, as in South Africa they drive on the left side of the road, not the right as I am used to in Europe. The steering wheel is on the right and the levers on either side of it are the other way round (the blinkers are on the right and the windshield wipers are on the left), and you have to shift with your left hand (I had been practicing shifting South African-style at home). We had prepared a photo guide made up of screen-grabs from Google Earth’s Street View to which we added our own written directions, and this helped tremendously. After a few intersections we were on the main highway through Port Elizabeth whose four lanes eventually ended up being two when we got onto the N2, along which we saw Kelp Gulls on the ocean side of the highway and what were probably Greater Flamingos (we couldn’t positively identify them at the distance they were) on some industrial saltpans on the other side. As we turned off the N2 in Colchester for the Matyholweni gate at Addo Elephant National Park, the welcome wagon consisted of Pied Starlings along the road and a Greater Double-Collared Sunbird right at the parking area in front of the reception building.

Matyholweni reception - we made it!

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We were checked in to the Matyholweni rest camp, given the key to our cottage (No. 15, at the end of the rest-camp road, which has the advantage of having a great view and just one set of neighbours), and issued an entrance permit with the license number of our car. We signed in at the gate and proceeded to our cottage, where we were welcomed by a Bar-throated Apalis and an inquisitive Vervet Monkey. After unpacking, we left the camp and the park briefly for a grocery run in nearby Colchester.

On the road out, Adam saw a Red-faced Mousebird, and in the parking lot of the grocery store in Colchester we saw a few Grey-headed Gulls, two Pied Starlings, and a fly-by Hadeda Ibis. Then our breath was taken away by a nesting colony of Cape Weavers that were happily working on their nests in a eucalyptus tree above the parked cars. On the road back to the park gate, we saw a couple of Southern Tchagras in a bush, a Pearl-breasted Swallow on a fence and a Southern Boubou near the roadside, and five Speckled Mousebirds showed themselves on the rest-camp road. We unloaded the groceries, fixed ourselves a quick dinner, and were treated to a cackling serenade by three Green Wood-Hoopoes. We went to sleep early, as after almost a day and a half spent traveling, including a night with very little sleep, we were absolutely exhausted.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Mon Nov 10, 2014 5:20 pm

Day 3 - October 22, 2014

We decided to investigate the southern part of Addo Elephant National Park in the morning and set our alarm for 5:00 AM (this was no holiday, dear readers, this was a serious nature-watching trip) to be able to get to the gate near the opening time of 6:00 AM. Adam wanted us to take the Ngulube Loop (see the map at http://www.sanparks.org/images/parks/maps/main-game-colchester-area-map.jpg) as it had recently been one of the places where the resident lions were being seen. Before leaving, Adam recorded the morning chorus on his digital recorder and made a few photos of the cottage. Two Vervet Monkeys checked our house out, perhaps hoping we’d leave a window open allowing them to sneak in and get some food. (A large sticker on our fridge said: ‘Don’t Monkey Around by Feeding the Vervets.’)

After loading all our photographic and spotting gear and properly defrosting the front and rear windows, we left the cottage at 6:11 and headed straight for the main north-south road. The paved road turned into a dirt road which had a few potholes and some washboard sections here and there, but was otherwise problem-free.

A couple of 'flashers' dry off from a bath in their own special way, giving us the 'full mousebird'

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The birds started appearing and we were treated to Speckled Mousebirds (pictured above), Cape Turtle-Doves, and a Sombre Greenbul eating berries and singing. Between the turn-off for the Ndlovu Lookout (marker 35) and the southern turn-off for the Mbotyi Loop (marker 34), Adam spotted an African Firefinch and an African Hoopoe, and we both saw the already familiar Southern Boubou and Bar-throated Apalis. Right at marker 34, Adam got a glimpse of a White-browed Scrub Robin. We avoided the elephant dung in the road and kept our eyes peeled for the Flightless Dung Beetle (the first one we saw was surprisingly large!). Past the southern turn-off for the Vukani Loop (marker 33), we saw Cape Robin-Chats, Fork-tailed Drongos and a Dark-backed Weaver, and an African Hoopoe nonchalantly walked down a narrow path towards us.

Just before the northern turn-off for the Mbotyi Loop (marker 32), we left the dense bush and found ourselves in more open country, our jaws falling open as we saw our first Burchell’s Zebras (four of them walking together single-file) and six Warthogs. Further afield to the left of us, we saw more zebras and some Red Hartebeests grazing. Before we turned right onto the Ngulube Loop, we saw an Ostrich, a flying Denham’s Bustard, two Helmeted Guineafowl, a Cape Glossy Starling, three Hadeda Ibises, a Southern Fiscal, and a Neddicky on top of a tree in which we also spotted a Cardinal Woodpecker.

Dunes and the sea from the Ngulube Loop

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Past the southern turn-off for the Ngulube Loop (marker 31), we stopped to admire the sand dunes and the Indian Ocean in the distance, had a good look at an African Stonechat, and made a video of a suspected Rufous-naped Lark (which was singing) for identification purposes (Adam was so happy when it was confirmed back at the cottage that his initial identification had been correct). We continued and saw three Pied Crows soaring up high and ten mousebirds of some kind flying between the trees.

At 8:55 AM we saw our first Elephants of the trip, seven of them with a calf (and one of them was a one-tusked bull). They and eventually three male Kudus were very distant and were crossing a cut in the so-called Albany Thicket. While we were stopped we saw a Dark-capped Bulbul and a soaring Yellow-billed Kite. We had to descend a bit, and while doing so accumulated some more new species for our bird list: Jackal Buzzard, Cape Crow, Brimstone Canary, and Black-headed Heron. At the bottom of the descent, we stopped and reversed a bit uphill, because Adam had spotted a large Leopard Tortoise with two fin-like projections at the rear of its shell.

A bull ellie enjoys a mud bath

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At the northern turn-off for the Ngulube Loop (marker 38) we saw a female Kudu and then two Elephants bathing at a more-mud-than-water-hole, with the supervision of two Egyptian Geese. We pulled over to the side and made photos and just marvelled at them, both with and without binoculars. These were two bulls, one of them larger and older than the other, and when the older one took a mud bath you could see in his expression that he was really enjoying himself. After we turned around, we saw three Kudus grazing right by the roadside and had a very good view of a Southern Tchagra.

When we passed the southern turn-off for Harvey’s Loop (marker 29), we saw grazing zebras and Red Hartebeests on our left and then Adam spotted a Black-backed Jackal in the distance. There was a Karoo Prinia perched on top of a bush and an African Pipit running in the grass adjacent to the road. At another water/mud-hole, seven elephants were taking a bath, this time supervised by two Hadeda Ibises on the ground and more than 15 Little Swifts in the air.

Cracking morning in the field, Gromit!

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We got back home at 12:30, had a cup of coffee and a few rusks and decided to stay in for the rest of the day. We saw a Southern Boubou right from the kitchen window and later in the shrubs next to the driveway. Two White-necked Ravens were spotted over the cottage and then further over the hills after being heard first. Two Vervet Monkeys had a wrestling match on our terrace and later three Vervets crossed the driveway, one of which was a female that had an infant hanging on to her from underneath. Before the afternoon turned into evening, a Jackal Buzzard made an attempt to catch dinner on the slopes facing the cottage. Fiery-necked Nightjars began to call as we prepared things for the following day’s destinations, Addo’s Alexandria Forest and the Sundays River Estuary, and by 9 PM we were ready for bed.
Last edited by Puff Addy on Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:06 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Mon Nov 10, 2014 5:51 pm

Day 4 - October 23, 2014

We got signed out of the park gate few minutes after 6 AM and between here and the N2 saw Swee Waxbill, African Firefinch, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Helmeted Guineafowl, Red Bishop, Pied Starling and some kind of Cisticola species. Once we hit the N2 and further on the R72 towards Alexandria, we maintained speed and the only birdwatching highlight (for the co-pilot) was a flying and landing Denham’s Bustard.

After roughly sixty kilometers from the park gate, we turned off the R72 onto a very dusty dirt road, where we slowed down and saw a Southern Fiscal on a post, two flying Blacksmith Lapwings, and a couple of Spectacled Weavers. In one of the eucalyptus trees along the road we saw a large weaver colony. The nests are intricately woven and add a touch of ornament to whatever type of tree they happen to be in.

Two kilometres before we turned off for the Alexandria Forest area of Addo Elephant National Park, we saw a Sacred Ibis and two unidentified ducks on a small pond while a Jackal Buzzard sat on a telephone pole and two Hadeda Ibises flew over.

We parked at the reception building and signed in. We asked for directions to the Tree Dassie Trail, which is a seven-kilometer hike through the coastal forest, and set off on foot to follow the green-and-white Dassie signs after confirming that we were not professional cameramen (the park staff didn’t like the looks of the furry microphone mounted atop Adam’s camera).

Shortly after proceeding down the dirt road to the first Tree Dassie Trail marker, disaster struck! The camera and 400 mm lens that Adam had mounted on his tripod and had been carrying on his shoulders fell to the ground, as the screw on the tripod plate hadn’t been tightened enough. Fortunately for us, it seemed that everything was all right and we could continue. We were compensated for our mental shock by seeing our first Southern Black Flycatcher.

Our mood, however, immediately improved after Adam spotted a Caracal sitting on a log near the first trail marker. It was gorgeous with its tufted ears, the backs of which appeared almost black, and it wasn’t the least bit startled by a passing park ‘bakkie’. It, however, was apparently quite camera-shy, as it slinked into the bush before Adam could focus on it. But we saw it! What an elegant feline it was! All of our earlier misfortune was then forgotten.

Alexandria Forest was dense, moist and windy

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As we starting going uphill, we saw a Speckled Pigeon on the chimney of a small building, a huge grasshopper landed in front of us, some butterflies were flying around, and a lizard rushed across the path. At one clearing in the dense vegetation, we could see low-lying pastures. The wind picked up and carried moisture with it from the nearby ocean. Once we had hiked up a steep part of the path, we saw a female Bushbuck in the trees on our right. She had lovely white spots and kept pricking up her ears. Adam got to see a Tambourine Dove shortly after and at the end of a steep descent we (finally) encountered a mixed flock of birds, seeing Collared Sunbird, Olive Bushshrike, Mr. and Mrs. Cape Batis, and Southern Boubou. Later, a couple of Terrestrial Brownbuls were seen skulking down low, and a Black-headed Oriole tried to hide itself from our searching eyes in the crown of a tree.

Puff Addy takes a breather on a steep section of trail

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When we reached the end of a narrow path through the dense forest, there was no sign to follow, so we first went right, then returned back and went the other way, and then Adam had the great idea that since we had always been turning right (and it was a loop trail), we should have turned right again, and in the end it was the correct decision. As we were approaching our parked car, we saw an Amethyst Sunbird nectaring on a Cape Coral Tree blossom. Black Saw-wings were chasing each other above the meadows to our left. We had a brief conversation with a couple from Port Elizabeth (the lady turned out to be Scottish) at the picnic table under the Cape Coral Tree. Just before we drove off, a Fork-tailed Drongo and a pair of Cape White-eyes put in an appearance in the trees above us. Roughly one kilometre after leaving the Alexandria Forest area of the park, we saw a Burchell’s Coucal calling right next to the road.

On the way back towards Colchester, we stopped at the Nanaga Farm Stall (more a compound than a stall) for a warm spinach-and-feta pie, a sausage roll (any resemblance between this ‘sausage’ and the sausage we know was purely coincidental) and another package of rusks and took them with us to the Pearson Park Resort from which we needed a permit to get to the Sundays River Estuary. We were a few minutes early for the end of the lunch break, so we ate our own, still-warm lunch in the parking lot. We paid for the day-visitor permit and left for the estuary. The dirt road had some potholes and some ruts in it and gradually narrowed to the width of one car, but we luckily didn’t encounter any opposing vehicles.

The Sundays River just before it meets the Indian Ocean - with totally different weather conditions than we had up the coast

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When we reached a day visitor’s parking area, we got out of the car and were treated to a view of six Greater Flamingos, a Greenshank, six Black-winged Stilts, a Grey Plover, four Sacred Ibises and a Common Sandpiper on our side of the river. At this time, we still hadn’t reached the estuary itself. On the opposite side there were impressive sand dunes with some Kelp Gulls relaxing on them while a White-fronted Plover and seven Whimbrels foraged and preened near the river. Two Cape Cormorants (one adult and one immature) were drying their feathers on a boat dock. Before continuing to the end of the road and the estuary, five White-breasted Cormorants and a Caspian Tern flew by, and en route we saw a Karoo Scrub Robin.

The author at the estuary (what lies beyond the closed gate is within the purview of Addo)

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We were the only people at the estuary parking area but had two Hadeda Ibises for company who flew a bit further when we approached the shore, but returned to their original places once they assumed we didn’t pose any danger. A Cape Wagtail was on patrol. We were quite disappointed that we couldn’t walk all the way to the point where the river meets the Indian Ocean, but still enjoyed the place and posed for some photos of each other. We saw an Osprey with a fish in its talons, a Blacksmith Lapwing flew by, and on the other side of the river there was a tern roost and White-breasted Cormorants were sunning themselves on the warm sand. As we were leaving, Adam managed to see a Pied Kingfisher, and we stopped briefly to watch a Leopard Tortoise walking on the verge with a blade of grass hanging from its mouth. We met only one vehicle in the opposing direction and luckily for both cars’ occupants there was a pull-off possibility. Nearer to the resort gate, we saw three Red-necked Spurfowl.
Last edited by Puff Addy on Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:15 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Tue Nov 11, 2014 8:55 am

Hi billyf, jaytea and hilda,

All of the credit for the narration should certainly go to my wife!

Bird-wise, we did a lot of studying in the seven months we had between deciding to make this trip and then actually departing, but then once you are in the field, things like Cisticola species aren't sitting patiently two metres from you, preferably with a cousin for comparison, letting you leisurely peruse their field marks like you can in the field guide!

We had a small digital recorder along and we used the recordings from it to compare with the vocalisations in the Roberts program we have on our laptop to confirm (or determine!) some identifications.

Yes, it is truly amazing what you can see if you are looking, and even what you can see by just showing up and not really trying! There were plenty of birds we saw (and heard) that went unidentified and in the end we had some embarrassing holes in our trip list, but we also had some unexpected, pleasant surprises along the way.

Seeing the Caracal on foot at Alexandria Forest was indeed a wonderful experience. There will be more cats seen on foot later in the report, but it was a completely different species and a completely different experience!

Kind regards,

Adam

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Tue Nov 11, 2014 12:06 pm

Day 5 – October 24, 2014

This morning we drove into the southern part of Addo, still hoping to be lucky and find Lions. The weather was warm, but it was overcast and windy. We were out of our cottage driveway by 6:15 and the first birds we saw after turning onto the park’s main road were Emerald-spotted Wood-Doves and Cape Turtle-Doves. They were soon joined by a Southern Double Collared Sunbird, a Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongos (one of them was eating an insect it had picked up from some dung on the road), and two Olive Thrushes.

Me and my shadow stripes - Burchell's Zebra

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Past the southern turn-off for the Ngulube Loop (marker 31), the landscape opened up and we were treated to our first glimpses of the day of Red Hartebeests (including two young ones) and Burchell’s Zebras grazing, while a Black-backed Jackal was lying in the grass and yawning. On the bird front, there were Southern Fiscals, a Bar-throated Apalis gathering nesting material, and a pair of Karoo Prinias. At a small waterhole shortly thereafter, seven Pearl-breasted Swallows and two Burchell’s Zebras were drinking. Past the waterhole on our right, there were more Burchell’s, some Warthogs and several grazing Red Hartebeests. Another Black-backed Jackal showed up while a Cape Crow flew by, three African Stonechats chased each other, two Streaky-headed Seedeaters were perched in a bush, a Zitting Cisticola sang in flight, and a Jackal Buzzard flew over the ridge.

We turned left onto Harvey’s Loop at marker 29 and encountered a singing Karoo Scrub Robin, 14 Cape Buffalos crossing the road (including two younger ones with ‘plain’ horns), a few Speckled Mousebirds near the buffalo path, a Neddicky singing in a bush, a Dark-capped Bulbul, and a five-member family of Warthogs before turning around and returning to the main road, where we saw Cape Longclaw, Dark-capped Bulbul and Brimstone Canary.

As soon as we started descending towards the waterhole located past the northern turn-off for the Ngulube Loop (marker 38), we saw that it was occupied by a family of elephants and we could also see there were at least two calves among them. We got into a good position and Adam made a video of them using the 400 mm lens (unfortunately without audio as we were having microphone issues). One of the young ones was having fun just waving his trunk around. While we were there, the two resident Egyptian Geese watched the performance from a safe distance. When the ellies left, we prepared to leave too, but not before seeing a Red-necked Spurfowl on the road verge.

[video]http://vimeo.com/111462105[/video]

We turned onto the Ngulube Loop, which we had investigated two days ago, but this time we drove it in the opposite direction. We encountered a Sombre Greenbul, three Cape Glossy Starlings, a Cape Robin-Chat, a Brimstone Canary, two African Hoopoes, two Dark-capped Bulbuls, a Southern Boubou, and two Helmeted Guineafowl. An immature Ostrich was grazing near the edge of the road, as were two Burchell’s Zebras and two Warthogs who sparred with each other between their grazing duties. An immature Black-headed Heron walked close to us from a nearby waterhole. When we stopped to have our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (we lived on these during our whole trip), we saw two Common Waxbills, a cawing Cape Crow, a Southern Masked Weaver, and two Bokmakieries (one adult and one immature).

By now it had started to rain, but it was only a short and not intense shower. As we got to the end of the loop with the view of the sand dunes in the distance, a Rufous-naped Lark was signing from a top of a bush while two Cape Longclaws were quite cooperative about letting us observe them.

We returned home and decided to stay in for the afternoon. While experimenting with our video microphones on the porch, cackling Green Wood-Hoopoes were heard in the cactus “trees” next to the drive and a Dark-backed Weaver was in top of one of the trees. A Cape White-eye came by and a Fork-tailed Drongo was observed on the wooded slope opposite. While we were sitting in bed and listening to the birds singing, some Speckled Mousebirds flew into the bushes right in front of our terrace and later a Vervet Monkey mother and infant came to peek in through the kitchen window.
Last edited by Puff Addy on Mon Dec 15, 2014 7:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Wed Nov 12, 2014 8:56 am

Day 6 – October 25, 2014

We were woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of rain, but by morning it was just wet outside and thus we set off outside the park gate to go to the Sundays River Saltpans (to see if we could find some waders and waterbirds) and the Tankatara Road area, which are adjacent to each other and which are just across the Sundays River from the southern part of Addo. As we exited the park grounds, we met a female Cape Sparrow, a Sombre Greenbul, a Karoo Scrub Robin, a Streaky-headed Seedeater, a Fiscal Flycatcher, two Helmeted Guineafowl, a couple of Black-headed Herons (one adult and one immature), a Rufous-naped Lark, and a Southern Fiscal. Soon after turning left on the connecting road to the N2, we saw Pied Starlings, and once we joined the N2 there were two White-necked Ravens in the median.

Accessing the saltpans would have been so much easier had it been possible to cross the Mackay Bridge (it would have meant one right turn after the access road to the park), but since this bridge has long been in no condition to cross in a vehicle, we had to go via the N2 all the way to the next proper exit, turn around, and then turn off the N2 onto the Mackay Bridge road. Luckily the traffic early on a Saturday morning wasn’t that busy, so we had an easy time on the highway. By the time we reached the saltpans, we could add another Fiscal Flycatcher, a few Speckled Mousebirds, a Neddicky, a flock of Common Waxbills, a Fork-tailed Drongo, a Cape Batis, and another Karoo Scrub Robin to our list.

At the first building within the saltpan property, we stopped and scanned the area with our binoculars first. This gleaned us a Karoo Scrub Robin on the roof of the small building, two Cape Sparrows and two Karoo Scrub Robins taking a bath in a water-filled pothole in the road, a Streaky-headed Seedeater singing from the aforementioned building, a Dark-capped Bulbul, a singing Karoo Prinia, a fly-by White-necked Raven, a Malachite Sunbird, and a fly-by Little Egret.

We took the spotting scope out and set up proper shop to scan the pans for the aforementioned waders and waterbirds and found the following: two Three-banded Plovers, a Ringed Plover, a few Little Stints, dozens of Pied Avocets (swimming!), Cape Teals, Black-necked Grebes (both in breeding and non-breeding plumage), Black-winged Stilts, Curlew Sandpipers, Greater Flamingos, and a lone Marsh Sandpiper. A Southern Masked Weaver in a bush, Cape Bulbuls on a wire, and a Lesser Flamingo were spotted while wader-watching. Just before we moved further towards the Tankatara Road, we saw four more Little Stints and a possible Grey-backed Cisticola.

As we turned onto Tankatara Road, a dirt road which leads to the Tankatara dairy farm, we saw three Cape Sparrows, and before we made our second spotting-scope stop we saw four Little Stints, one Ringed Plover, a Pipit species, two separate Malachite Sunbirds, a Karoo Prinia, a Denham’s Bustard in flight, a Rufous-naped Lark, two Southern Masked Weavers, a Zitting Cisticola, and a White-rumped Swift. As Adam was busy scanning his side of the road, I discovered a Southern Black Korhaan on my side. What a stunning bird!

We took the spotting scope out again and saw a Barn Swallow, a Red Bishop, a Brown-throated Martin, a Bokmakierie, yet another Malachite Sunbird, a Pearl-breasted Swallow, a Pied Crow, two Cattle Egrets hanging out with the cows, and Pied Avocets and Lesser Flamingos (including immature ones) in the adjacent saltpan. Just as we were turning the car around at the Tankatara gate, we saw two Crowned Lapwings. It started to rain a bit and the wind wasn’t exactly a mild breeze, either.

On the way back on the N2, we saw another White-necked Raven, and once on the highway we proceeded to Colchester to fill up and to get a few items in the grocery store. When we got back to our cottage, we spent a few hours just relaxing before our afternoon drive in the park.

As we headed out for our first stop of the afternoon, the Ndlovu Lookout, we saw a Warthog munching on grass while kneeling on his front legs. From the lookout point we could see a path in the valley between two hills, a rocky outcrop on the left, and a Jackal Buzzard kiting in the wind (before it plunged into the vegetation below). Adam got out of the car (at his ‘own risk’ as it said on the sign) and photographed the view.

Looking northwards from the Ndlovu Lookout

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Back on the main road, we saw two young Warthogs with one of their parents and encountered two Flightless Dung Beetles, each on their own, crossing the road. As the landscape opened up just before the northern turn-off for the Mbotyi Loop (marker 32), we observed two Ostriches (adult and immature), a Fork-tailed Drongo, two Hadeda Ibises, a Southern Fiscal, and two Denham’s Bustards, one calling in flight and another one further in the distance displaying. The mammals we spotted included Red Hartebeests, Burchell’s Zebras, and finally one enormous male Eland.

Just past the northern turn-off for the Vukani Loop (marker 30), a Black-shouldered Kite was perched in a dead tree along the road and Adam spent some time photographing it. Then we reversed to turn onto the Vukani Loop itself and were welcomed by low-flying swallows, a singing Malachite Sunbird, another Ostrich, a Southern Fiscal, and two Cape Glossy Starlings. A Black-backed Jackal pup was sleeping outside its den under a bush right next to the road, so we stopped and made some photos. The shutter clicking woke it up and it gave Adam a dirty look. We saw Burchell’s Zebras, Red Hartebeests and Kudus grazing in the distance, while an adult Black-backed Jackal was on patrol closer to us. We encountered one male Elephant in the still-open area and two more in the dense thicket. Past the thicket, Burchell’s Zebras and Warthogs were grazing on both sides of the dirt road, and a Spotted Thick-knee was spotted preening.

Some pictures from the Vukani Loop:

A Black-backed Jackal pup seems unperturbed by passing vehicles as it sleeps outside its roadside den...

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...but noisy cameras are another story

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Once this ellie wouldn't fit in the viewfinder anymore, we knew it was time to move on

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Well spotted! A Spotted Thick-knee preens away for the camera

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Back on the main road, we saw a Fork-tailed Drongo and a Rufous-naped Lark in display flight. We turned right onto the Mbotyi Loop (marker 32) and encountered Warthogs, Red Hartebeests and Burchell’s Zebras in the distance, a Cape Glossy Starling and a Bokmakierie, Cape Turtle-Doves, a Cape Longclaw, another Flightless Dung Beetle, and two large Cape Buffalos flanking each side of the road.

Once we had made it back to the main road, we saw five Fork-tailed Drongos in a row and two young male Elephants, one on each side of the road, that were close enough for an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter.

When we got home, we made an early dinner and went to bed, waiting only for darkness to set in so that we could fall asleep to the calls of Fiery-necked Nightjars.
Last edited by Puff Addy on Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:12 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:27 am

Thank you, Margriet and Trrp-trrrrrrrr!

Before the next installment, which involves leaving Addo for points north, I would just like to say that we really enjoyed exploring the southern part of the park, the adjacent Sundays River Saltpans and Tankatara Road, the Sundays River Estuary, and the more distant Alexandria Forest.

In four days we managed to see just over 100 species of birds and a host of mammals. Maybe the Domkrag Dam would have yielded us a few more birds for our list, but we didn't feel like we had missed out by not venturing to the northern part of the park.

Matyholweni was a super place to stay. The open-plan cottage was comfortable and suited us very well. The only negative I can think of is that at night you can hear the droning of lorries on the nearby N2.

So, that's it from me for now. Stay tuned for Lida's Day 7!

Kind regards,

Adam

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:42 am

Day 7 – October 26, 2014

We were up with the Fiery-necked Nightjars calling in the morning just before the sun rose, and started packing. A Collared Sunbird took a peek at us through the kitchen window, holding onto the thatch. A bit later, as Adam was putting the first suitcase into the car, it came to visit him and even vocalized a bit. Two calling Hadeda Ibises flew by and a Cape Robin Chat hopped onto the terrace. Vervet Monkeys came to investigate the terrace and also looked at us through the kitchen window. At 7:25 we cleared the park gate and dropped off the cottage key at reception and were seen out by a Red Bishop in a bush by the park exit road and an adult Martial Eagle soaring high above. Our next destination was Mountain Zebra National Park, near the town of Cradock.

It’s hard bird-watching and driving at the same time, especially on a highway like the N2 (the speed limit is 120 km/h), so I stuck to the driving and just pointed out birds to Adam to see and identify. Once we changed onto the N10 (and the sign said ‘Cradock 195 km’) the traffic calmed down and the road narrowed down to one lane in each direction, with the occasional extra lane on hills for slow ascenders. We managed to see Yellow-billed Kites, a Southern Fiscal, a Malachite Sunbird on a wire, two Pied Crows, three Chacma Baboons just past the turn-off for Alicedale, and two female Chacma Baboons with young and one younger Chacma Baboon with them along with a Pied Crow at the Olifantskop Pass. The topography changed as soon as we descended, and large farms with grazing animals (cows, ostriches, sheep) flanked both sides of the road. A Fork-tailed Drongo ‘waved’ to us and a Pied Crow was seen on a nest on a telephone pole just a few kilometres before the Boesmans River. There were more Chacma Baboons in the vicinity of the picnic pull-off near the R400 junction, where we stretched our legs for the first time on our drive.

The Daggaboer Padstal awaits

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Our next stop was the Daggaboer Padstal, where we got a belated birthday present for my friend Katrin, a jar of strawberry-rooibos jam, and a small bottle each of ginger beer and lemonade to go, and sat at a table outside to relax and drink some very good coffee and eat a slice of milk tart (Adam) and a slice of cheesecake with strawberry sauce (Lída). As we were departing, a Malachite Sunbird came to nectar on a blooming succulent.

Cheesecake time!

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Just before 10:45 we arrived at our first stop-and-go roadwork; the road was being resurfaced and the lane borders were being repainted and traffic was alternating in one direction only. We waited just six minutes for our turn and were rewarded for our patience with a sighting of a dark/buff-morph Booted Eagle. Soon after we set off again, Adam saw a European Bee-eater in flight and a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk flying and then landing on a telephone pole. A White-necked Raven flew by and some five kilometres before the first township on the outskirts of Cradock, Adam said he saw what looked like an adult Egyptian Vulture landing on a cliffside above the road.

Going through the Lingelihle township was an eye-opening experience. Tin-roofed shacks built right next to each other lined both sides of the road and people were crossing the road, hitchhiking or waiting to be picked up. This was our first encounter with the living conditions of many South Africans and it was quite depressing.
We drove into Cradock and while Adam stayed in the car with the windows open to prevent our camera gear from getting cooked in the heat, I went grocery-shopping. Just before we left the town, we filled the car up again and encountered another stop-and-go. Still in the one-direction-only zone, we turned left onto the R61 and some six kilometres later turned left again to get to the Mountain Zebra National Park gate, observing a Fork-tailed Drongo and a few Springboks along the way.

We cleared the gate at 12 o’clock, after presenting our accommodation reservation letter and Wild Card and signing the necessary documentation. We were to present ourselves at reception with one of the papers that was signed at the gate and were issued a map of the park by the friendly gate attendant. Adam learned that his surname may also be an African name, and the guard was happy that an American had made it to the park and that he knew how to spell my nationality, saying that he had learned it because Czech visitors were actually not that infrequent at MZNP.

We saw a lot between the gate and the reception building, which are roughly 12 kilometres apart. There were Black Wildebeest and Springboks, an Agama species, and a Scaly-feathered Finch. More Springboks, including a young one that was springing around in a joyful manner, were seen to our right, while to our left we saw the skeleton of an Eland. Further on, we saw two Ant-eating Chats, an Ostrich, and our first two Mountain Zebras, and three Springboks crossed the road in front of us. We heard a Neddicky singing, two more Scaly-feathered Finches were observed, maybe near their nest, a pair of White-browed Sparrow-Weavers sat in an acacia tree full of their nests, a Fork-tailed Drongo sang for us, a Fiscal Flycatcher put in an appearance, and two Red-throated Wrynecks (the only ones we would see the entire trip) were spotted in a dead tree on our right.

One hour after clearing the gate, we arrived at the reception building. The welcoming committee consisted of a serenading Karoo Scrub Robin, two Red-winged Starlings perched on the building’s antennas (seen only by me as Adam was checking us in), and an Amethyst Sunbird. Even though it was a bit too early to check in, our cottage had been prepared already and we got the key. As we pulled into the driveway of chalet 20, a couple of Cape Buntings were busy at the base of the shrubs next to it and didn’t seem particularly bothered by the fact that our vehicle was almost on top of them as we parked.

From our back terrace (hereinafter known as ‘the terrace’) we could see a few Eland grazing in the distance, a Bar-throated Apalis outside the bedroom window, a Southern Fiscal, a White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and a White-backed Mousebird, and I saw a Four-striped Grass Mouse running here and there in the vegetation. While we were sitting on the terrace, two Southern Double-collared Sunbirds flew in, one of them singing. A pair of Southern Boubous came to check the new tenants out, and they were quite dauntless as they hopped all over the terrace. Just before dinner we spotted a Red-eyed Bulbul and a Red-winged Starling (which Adam could now add to his list as well).

Never far from the chalets - a White-browed Sparrow-Weaver

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While we were having dinner, a White-browed Sparrow-Weaver came to have a look at us and Adam made a few photos of it. As it got closer, we saw that the bird had been ringed. Other sightings from the terrace included a Pale-winged Starling on the rocky slopes above the chalet, a Hadeda Ibis, a Jackal Buzzard flying in the distance and Red Hartebeests grazing far from us. A Cape Bunting visited us on the terrace, while four Cape Buffalos and two Kudus were spotted feeding.

It got dark and cooled off very quickly, but a Neddicky still sang for us while it was getting dark. Once it was completely dark, our breath was taken away by the starry sky and a waxing crescent Moon before it was hidden by clouds. We slept with the sliding glass door between the bedroom and the terrace open and the sliding screen door closed.
Last edited by Puff Addy on Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:13 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Patto » Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:38 am

Puff Addy wrote:Day 6 – October 25, 2014

:

A Cape Fox kit seems unperturbed by passing vehicles as it sleeps outside its roadside den...

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...but camera shutters are another story

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Thanks for the awesome trip report from "my back yard" :D

The Cape Fox Kit, is actually a Black Backed Jackal pup. This is the second year that they have used the same den site.

Kind regards,
"Wealth is not measured by how much you own, but by how much you give to others!"

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:19 am

Day 8 – October 27, 2014

The first bird we saw from bed after we woke up was a Pied Starling strolling on our terrace, and two other bird species perched in the vegetation adjacent to the chalet: Red-winged Starling and White-browed Sparrow-Weaver. A female Kudu was grazing in the distance, while a Southern Masked Weaver was sitting in an acacia tree. While I was making PB&Js with the new jam, Adam finally saw the Four-striped Mouse for himself. As we were leaving the chalet to get to the Rooiplaat Loop just before 7 AM, a Red-eyed Bulbul saw us off.

As we were climbing up a steep hill up to the plateau, we saw a Fiscal Flycatcher on a wire, a female Kudu on a rocky slope, and two Familiar Chats. Further up the hill, a troop of Chacma Baboons lined the side of the road and one male Kudu and one Pied Starling completed the first-gear ascent. We stopped at the first lookout point and the paved road along the steeper section turned back into a dirt road. Past the second lookout point, we spotted a Southern Fiscal, three Karoo Scrub Robins, a Fiscal Flycatcher and some Greater Striped Swallows.

At marker 9 we turned right towards the Rooiplaat Loop and in an acacia tree on our right we spotted a Familiar Chat, Cape Sparrows bringing nesting material into the tree, and a Pied Crow patrolling the area. Further on, we saw our first Blesboks, one Springbok, two Black Wildebeests, and six Mountain Zebras, one of them still quite young with a coarser-looking coat. A Sickle-winged Chat was a new species for the day (and the trip).

From marker 8 onwards, we saw an African Pipit and a herd of 16 Black Wildebeests, some of which were lying down while others were standing. A Crowned Lapwing was spotted as was an Eastern Long-billed Lark. At another lookout point where one is actually permitted to get out for a while to stretch, Adam tried making a panorama of the landscape.

Looking over the Rooiplaat

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As we progressed further, three Blesboks crossed the road, six Wildebeests (one standing, the rest lying down) were on our right, two Cape Longclaws were flying between the bushes and the grass, and a Rock Kestrel was seen hovering. More herds of Blesbok were seen on our right. We passed an area with fenced-off plots and soon an explanatory sign informed us that a project was going on in connection with monitoring the impact of grazing inside and outside the plots. A Large-billed Lark was another new bird species we could add to our list before we turned left at marker 7 onto the Link Road.

There we were absolutely thrilled to see three Blue Cranes whose darker tail feathers were dancing in the wind. As we passed an old windmill, two Crowned Lapwings were seen and six Mountain Zebras walked by, probably the same six with the young one we had seen earlier. They walked to an inconspicuous waterhole where they joined two Pied Crows.

Adam photographed a dozen Mountain Zebras at Graham’s Corner and as we reached a low bridge across a dry stream we saw a Cape Bunting. There were five more Mountain Zebras past the dip and shortly afterwards a steep descent began at whose bottom we saw four Kudus grazing. There was another steep drop in elevation at whose end we were rewarded by a gorgeous Gemsbok, a lone Mountain Zebra and one Red Hartebeest.

Lovely Mountain Zebras

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We turned left at marker 3 onto the Ubejane Loop and sighted two Ant-eating Chats, a singing Neddicky, a Yellow-bellied Eremomela and a Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, a few Scaly-feathered Finches, and a Familiar Chat. There was supposed to be a dam area ahead, but when we got there it was dry and hosted two Ostriches, a troop of at least 12 Vervet Monkeys, and some Red Hartebeests and Springboks. Past this area, we spotted another Familiar Chat, saw Springboks by the road and sighted Red Hartebeests resting in the shade.

As we stopped to have a better look at an Ant-eating Chat, three Ground Squirrels appeared out of nowhere and headed straight under our car. As we were waiting to see whether they would pop out and leave from underneath us, we saw five Helmeted Guineafowl taking shelter under an acacia tree and a Jackal Buzzard flying above us. When we started the car, no Ground Squirrels ran away. We started rolling slowly and to our utter astonishment we saw them in the rear-view mirror looking at us, probably thinking: ‘What is this? We had such lovely shade.’

Soon after, we joined the main road, went back to our chalet to drop off all our photo equipment so that it wouldn’t fry in the car, and went back to the reception building to get postcards in the shop and to have lunch in the restaurant. We both opted for a juicy grilled-chicken fillet with a side salad accompanied by the best-tasting vinaigrette I had ever had. Our restaurant bird list included a Karoo Scrub Robin, two Pied Starlings, a Grey Tit, a White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, a Fork-tailed Drongo, and a Rock Martin (Adam only). In the shop, Adam got Lída a trip gift in the form of a handmade bag with zebras printed on it.

When we got back to the chalet, I took a nap, while two vocalizing Red-eyed Bulbuls and a singing Karoo Prinia were observed by Adam just off our terrace. After 3 PM there were few sprinkles and five minutes later it started to pour and thunder, which woke me up.

In between short showers and rumbles of thunder, I caught up on my travelogue duties, while Adam went for a stroll down the rest-camp road. He returned shortly after leaving to fetch me and the spotting scope to see a new mammal – a Rock Hyrax – resting on one of the boulders just a short distance from our abode. After coming back to our lodgings, we set up the spotting scope on the terrace and observed a Malachite Sunbird, a White-backed Mousebird, a pair of Mountain Wheatears (grey morph), a Red-eyed Bulbul, a Cape Bunting, a couple of Cape White-eyes, and a Karoo Prinia.

As I was taking a shower before the night drive scheduled for 6:30 PM, a pinkish, almost translucent gecko appeared on the outside of the bathroom window. It was raining and thundering when we drove from our chalet to the reception building’s parking area 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 invisible Black-backed Jackals howling off in the distance. After we passed another lone Gemsbok, we came across a Red Hartebeest calf that was staying away from the herd for protection (jackals follow 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 a roadside 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 a tree to the right of the animal we spotted. After marker 4, we saw two distant Porcupines, two sleeping Ostriches, three Mountain Zebras, 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 had 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 chalet in the pouring rain. It continued to rain throughout the night, but sometime towards the morning it stopped.
Last edited by Puff Addy on Thu Dec 18, 2014 9:20 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Kaapsedraai » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:43 pm

Puff Abby, apologies for getting on board late, but thoroughly enjoying your detailed TR.

Just a pity you could not go on the boat trip to the island. :wall:

Nguluvb - means Warthog...and the bottom end got a beautiful view of the sea. :thumbs_up:

Just love the Black-backed jackal cub - cute little youngster :clap:

I also love the variety of birding in Addo and the elephants being very relaxed, unlike there family in Kruger. :D

Now, Daggaboer - guess the dagga (cannabis) was sold out very early already - did you see the note on the door. :lol: :lol: :lol: 8) Daggaboer actually got is name from 'Daar gaan die boer' (There goes the boer). There is another meaning as it direct translated as 'Cannabis farmer' - 'Daggaboer' n Afrikaans. A few years ago, one of the travel magazines had a competition for best farmstalls in SA. Guess who won? - Daggboer. :dance: :dance: :dance: It is a must stop for everyone travelling from Craddock to PE. :thumbs_up:

MZNP is one of my favourites and look forward to more of your experiences there. :thumbs_up:
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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Sat Nov 15, 2014 10:06 am

Hi Kaapsedraai,

Thanks for the explanations! Dagga was indeed sold out!

Yes, it is a pity that we didn't get to go to Bird Island as we had hoped to see some cetaceans and pelagic birds on the way, but I am sure we will try again in a couple of years as we are already thinking about a return trip to the Eastern Cape. On the day of our cancelled boat trip we went to Cape Recife to do some birding and also to visit the SAMREC rehab centre.

In the end I think we put an excellent birding trip together with a good mix of habitats. More competent and hard-working birders would certainly have done better than we did, but as novices in South Africa we were quite pleased with what we managed to see (and hear!).

MZNP was my favourite SANPark even before I visited, and our itinerary was created primarily around our visit there. Next time we will spend at least a week.

Kind regards,

Adam

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Re: Frontier Parks Adventure - Oct 20 to Nov 5, 2014

Unread postby Puff Addy » Sat Nov 15, 2014 1:31 pm

Day 9 – October 28, 2014

When the alarm woke us up at five o’clock, the sky was cloudy and we could hear thunder in the distance. A Cape Robin Chat was singing on the chalet chimney as Adam was loading the car with our gear. En route to the gate, we only saw a Red-eyed Bulbul and one Vervet Monkey. We cleared the gate at 6:30 and encountered a troop of Vervet Monkeys after marker 15. Before we reached marker 14, we saw a Scrub Hare and our first Common Duiker. Before reaching the Doornhoek Dam, we saw a Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler singing in a small acacia tree and encountered a park bakkie coming from a side road. One of the men inside asked what we had seen so far that morning and wished us a nice day. A Fork-tailed Drongo was perched in a dead tree to our right.

At the dam, we saw three African Black Ducks and two Three-banded Plovers. While we were stopped at the dam, two Four-striped Grass Mice appeared on the road; one of them crossed it quickly while the other remained on its side of the road happily munching on grass. Two Hadeda Ibises flew over calling.

A pair of Kudus ran across the road just past the dam and we encountered another female Kudu further down the road. Before we crossed the Wilgerboom River for the first time today, we met a total of six female Kudus and one male. Then we passed marker 13 (for the burned-down Doornhoek Chalet) and saw a pair of Bar-throated Apalises, three Pied Starlings and a Cape Turtle-Dove, while a lone Eland grazed on the slope to our left and three Rock Hyraxes were busy checking out the scene below them on a boulder to our right. Another Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, Fiscal Flycatchers, Helmeted Guineafowl and a very wet Southern Fiscal were our other sightings on the road before we turned left to access the Weltevrede picnic site at marker 11.

We pushed the button to open the electric gate to the picnic area and had it all to ourselves for some time before another couple, probably birders themselves, arrived. There we saw an Egyptian Goose, a singing Southern Boubou, a Familiar Chat, two grazing Hadeda Ibises (wonder if they were the two that had flown loudly above us while we were at the dam?), a Streaky-headed Seedeater, a Cape Wagtail, a singing Southern Masked Weaver, two Chestnut-vented Tit-Babblers, and two pipits on the lawn. After we cleared the electric gate and exited the enclosed picnic area, we saw a pair of Leopard Tortoises mating.

The Kranskop Loop is stunning, rain or shine

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From marker 11 we continued along the Kranskop Loop in a clockwise direction and were constantly amazed by the stunning landscape around us. In one tree we saw three different bird species: a Fiscal Flycatcher, two Cape Buntings, and a Cape Robin Chat. A Southern Tchagra said hello to us as we passed it, and at the Laaste Kloof fording point we finally saw a Neddicky well. Just before the southern end of the Kranskop Loop, an adult Black Harrier flew low in front of us, which made us very happy. We forded the Wilgerboom River for the second time again and saw Greater Striped Swallows gathering mud from there to use for their nests. A Bokmakierie flew by as we begun a long, gradual climb along the mountain’s contours and near the end of the climb we saw another Bokmakierie and a male Kudu.

Looking north-east from a high point on the Kranskop Loop

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It began to rain lightly again and we could see a thunderstorm to the north of us. Just before the first lookout on our descent, we saw a new bird species for us, a gorgeous Buff-streaked Chat. A Familiar Chat was our companion at the first lookout point, where we got out of the car to stretch and make photos of the spectacular landscape. After we left it, we saw two Cape Longclaws with their beautiful orange throats. Further on at the junction with the Rooiplaat Loop we had investigated the day before, we saw two African Pipits. On our descent, just past the boulder area, a Rock Kestrel flew by and the rain intensified. When we got to our chalet and got our stuff into it safe and dry, from the front door we observed a male Mountain Wheatear on a boulder just behind our chalet.

We had coffee and rusks and Adam put his photos from the morning onto the laptop. I started writing postcards and Adam moved out onto the terrace to keep an eye out for close and more distant birds. He called for me after having spotted a Jackal Buzzard soaring with a reptile in its bill. A White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and a Red-eyed Bulbul visited him on the terrace, a Southern Tchagra appeared at the chalet, and a Fiscal Flycatcher was seen chasing an Ant-eating Chat from ‘its’ tree.

As we got into the car to leave for our afternoon loop drive, it began to rain harder, but it was just one of the showers we would encounter during our time outside. Our afternoon destination was the Ubejane Loop in the lower-lying part of the park, as we didn’t feel like being lightning targets up on the plateau. It was a good decision as soon afterwards we saw Springboks lying down, a Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk flying and landing in a tree off the main road, and five Mountain Zebras. As the rain stopped from time to time, we saw more animals grazing in the fields, including numerous groups of Red Hartebeests, one of which contained a little calf.

Hartebeest calves are adorable

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And the adults are strangely beautiful

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Birds started to bathe in water-filled potholes and puddles and we finally saw our first Golden-breasted Bunting of the trip. This particular one was bathing in a pothole across a fording point from us. While we were observing it with the car windows down, a Pearl-breasted Swallow almost visited us inside.

We also had a great look at a Yellow Mongoose, which co-operated with the designated photographer by staying in one place long enough to be photographed (though still at a longer-than-desirable distance). Around this open area, we also saw two White-necked Ravens, a flock of at least 15 Scaly-feathered Finches, a few Cape Sparrows, and half a dozen Grey-headed Sparrows (another new species for us this day). The field was also full of Ant-eating Chats. Two Crowned Lapwings were screaming, chasing each other, and then having a bath, and we had a great time observing and photographing them. As we were leaving the area, we saw four Ground Squirrels busy munching.

A Crowned Lapwing takes advantage of the rains by having a bath

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We completed the loop and started returning towards the chalet via the main road. A few Mountain Zebras and a Black-backed Jackal crossed our path, while further on several Springboks were in the Springhare field from the previous evening next to which a female Southern Masked Weaver was feeding by the roadside. Several more Ant-eating Chats were in the same field and just after the field another Black-backed Jackal crossed the road. Before we got to the reception building, we saw more Mountain Zebras, another Golden-breasted Bunting (a real eye-catcher of a bird), one Red Hartebeest and a few Kudus.

We stopped at the park shop to reward ourselves with a bottle of Windhoek beer to have with our dinner and saw a Fiscal Flycatcher in the tree under which we parked, a Laughing Dove (another new species for the trip) sitting on a stone in the shade of a bush, two Cape White-eyes busy in another tree, and Rock Martins flying above us.

While we were having dinner, two Cape Robin Chats flew into the tree in front of our kitchen window and we enjoyed having a close look at them.
Last edited by Puff Addy on Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:17 am, edited 2 times in total.


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