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Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

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

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:06 am

On this final day working out of Berg-en-Dal, I added another eight birds to the Pentad list (black cuckoo, the southern boubou, a southern masked-weaver, scarlet-chested sunbird, golden-tailed woodpecker, black crake, African hoopoe and crested francolin), closing it on 73. I didn’t feel like doing Afsaal again, so I chose the Crocodile River Drive to Crocodile Camp and back as my day trip, including another turn at Malelane Gate which netted another four sighting for that Pentad (noteworthy were Sabota’s lark, red-faced mousebird and Swainson’s spurfowl), taking its tally to 93.

The drive along the river is a bit disappointing from the PoV that access to river views are few, especially the close-up kind where one would be able to see a Cape wagtail (a bird that still remains unseen by me in KNP).

At one of the low-water crossings, I found the water monitor.

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…and in a nearby culvert (their favourite nesting sites) this red-breasted swallow waited for me to move on so that he could continue with nest construction.

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Raptors were again plentiful and I managed shots of a martial eagle…

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… and a Tawny, both within a hop-skip and a jump of each other.

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At the Hippo Pools, I met up with Daniel, the field ranger that accompanies tourists onto the short walk originally designed to show the Bushman paintings at the top of the cliff. Daniel has been doing this specific job since 1990. He tells me his day starts at 06:00 when he leaves Croc Bridge on his bicycle. If he cycles the long way around (which he does in summertime because the one-hour shortcut is then too overgrown and therefore too dangerous) the trip takes two hours, if he does not get a flat tyre. Punctures occur about once every two weeks, he says. His day at the Pools ends at 14:00 when he tackles the return trip.

Daniel took me up to what remains of the Bushman paintings after the 2000-floods: the front half of an eland. We sat at the painting site and surveyed the river. I told him of my mission to find a Cape wagtail.

“Ons kry hom hier,” he assured me in Afrikaans. The two of us sat down and thoroughly scanned the river. Tawny-flanked prinia in the reeds close by, Grey and Goliath herons, Hadeda, pied kingfisher, Wood sandpiper, little and great egrets, black crake, African Jacana, water thickknee, wire-tailed swallow, reed cormorant, three African black ducks (again!), blacksmith lapwing and even a fly-over of a young fish-eagle… but no wagtail other than the pied version.

Daniel says he has seen some amazing birds at the Pools in his time, including flamingo and pelicans. We talked birds for quite a while until I cut our conversation short, realising that it could go the whole day if it depended on Daniel.
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:27 am

Noteworthy birds on the return to Berg-en-Dal were Steppe buzzard and huge flocks of white-winged widowbirds. A crested francolin provided a pose next to the road…

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I got caught in some traffic that was following a pride of lions, so I took a detour along the S119. Just couldn’t get away from the carnivores, though. At least this snarling hyena was mine alone to enjoy…

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679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:26 am

hilda wrote: Daniël has such a lot of experience with animals and birds as well, I believe, with lots of stories to tell. An absolute legend at the Hippo Pools! :thumbs_up:


I don't think one realises exactly what treasures are locked up in the memories of these field rangers, hilda. One can pick worse projects than interviewing these guys to record their stories for prosperity...

@ naomi c: There is a good project too... I'm sure Daniël will appreciate uninterrupted travelling to the office... :lol:

@ Pumbaa: Daniël is naturally a people person and appreciate anyone spending time with him. I think sometimes his days can be very lonely and 'mites travelling in that part of Kruger should make the effort to meet with him and tap into his knowledge and understanding of the bush. Time spent with this man is very rewarding.

@ barryels: an in-flight shot of the turaco remains on my bucketlist as well. Maybe we can run a poll on which is the PC turaco capital of KNP and make that sighting a weekend project at the suggested "capital"?

Moving day - Lower Sabie

I was out of Berg-en-Dal as soon as the gates opened.

No detours today, still on route to Lower Sabie the trip list grew with my first Purple roller, black-shouldered kite and willow warbler. I stopped to photograph a very young zebra foal! :hmz:

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The youngster had a itch and had already learnt about the usefulness of scratching posts!

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The day's list grew steadily. Along the Lower Sabie Crocodile Bridge Road where it follows the Sabie River I glimpsed a little Bittern in flight, not a bird one sees often!

Then there was this huge traffic jam! I inched my way through and around cars, found the cause of the jam down on a sandy beach on the near bank of the river...

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Overhead this lappet-faced vulture glided past, probably wondering when the king of beasts planned to have a snack...

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...and in the vegetation closer to us a Diderick cuckoo came to see what the fuss was all about...

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Nobody noticed any of the sideshow while rubber-necking to see the prone King of the Jungle down below.
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:13 am

Pardon the short period of silence from this end. I spent some time with my Mom this weekend. She also loved time in Kruger but her health does not permit her trips of any sort lately...

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Anyhow, turning onto the road leading to the low-water bridge over the Sabie I got this inquisitive spectacled weaver. I ticked an extensive range of waders and water-loving birds, including the first common waxbills, little stints, ruffs and hamerkops of the trip. I had another two hours of birding ahead of me before time would allow me to book in at Lower Sabie. I chose to drive the Old Tshokwane Road up to the intersection with Salitje Road and back. This route is overgrown with sickle bush on both sides, not allowing one to see much. I did, however, get the first lesser grey shrike of the trip on this road. Other birds found on the bridge:

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A tame pied wagtail...

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...and equally relaxed pied kingfisher...

My final stop before turning in to Camp was Sunset Dam.

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I parked next to this fellow surveying the Dam from the shade of an acacia. He tried to ignore my close presence, looking a little peeved at the intrusion. I guess he quickly figured out he was not the sole focus of my attention and remained in his bush, enjoying the respite it gave from the heat of the sun.

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A young 3m-crock nearby supplied lovely texture.

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And a common sandpiper ventured close by my vantage point in search of a snack.

My stay at Lower Sabie was in Safari Tent #28... the one with the best view in Camp! The vista is exceptional and the birds one sees from the stoep is such a windfall! Admittedly one has to be sharp as many of these sightings are fly-bys... white-faced ducks, Goliath and purple herons and yellow-billed stork, while visitors to the wild fig tree 100m or so away, standing in the river floodplain included yellow-fronted canary, African green-pigeon and Village weaver; overhead African palm-swift and African black swifts were mixed in with large numbers of other swallows and swifts. In the thick rushes fronting the tent, a feeding buffalo hosted a pair of red-billed oxpeckers. His activity flushed a long-billed crombec and Jameson's firefinches.

I booked a night drive for that evening and added spotted thick-knee, fiery-necked and square-tailed nightjars and a Verreaux's eagle-owl, just managing to top the century-mark for the day.

I have said it before: The animals in the park are VERY considerate... Not a PEEP out of any of them for that whole night until my alarm went off letting everyone know it is alright for their loud meets and greets!

I had a very important meeting scheduled at Tshokwane for 9 am this morning...
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Pooh Bear » Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:28 am

Hi JvR - you can add Scorpy and I to your list of readers! Love looking at your stunning photos.

We stayed one extra night after you left and Balule camp was almost full that night - the next morning while packing up the last few goodies we noticed that someone had nicked one of the kettles so I reported it to Josephine. We got back on Friday afternoon and had our AGM on Saturday at Rietvlei when we all swopped goodies that we had carted for each other to Balule (Webers, lanterns, crates etc.) for the three weekends - and lo and behold out comes the kettle from one of the HR vehicles. :slap: Now we have an excuse to go back to Balule I guess!

Look forward to the next instalment....

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Nov 25, 2013 7:15 am

This post is especially for Pooh Bear...

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After the rains of the previous days, dung beetles were all over. A while back, Pooh Bear asked me if I had shots of rhino beetles and I immediately thought this was an opportunity to get one of the Little Five in the bag... To no avail! Where have the rhino beetles gone?

Interesting critters, these rollers… They bury their dung ball to lay their eggs. When an animal such as an elephant chews, swallows and digests, there are always parts of its meal that pass through undigested. Those undigested bits pass out of the animal in its dung, providing food for the dung beetles. Dung beetle larvae eat solid dung while adult dung beetles stick to liquids. There is a good bit of nutritious moisture in dung and adult beetles suck up that juice. Their sense of smell plays a large role in finding animal droppings.

As a dung beetle rolls its ball of dung, other dung beetles will often try to steal it, resulting in a comical ball-stealing, counter-attack strategy until one gets away with the prize.

Dung beetles are part of nature's clean-up crew. By eating and burying other animals' waste, these beetles recycle nutrients into the soil. Dung beetles help new trees grow as some seeds pass through the herbivore’s gut undigested. When a dung beetle rolls away a ball of waste and buries it, seeds and all, soon, up sprouts a new tree!

Next time you're served a meal you're not crazy about, just be thankful you're not a dung beetle.

Lots more information can be gleaned from the forum about these super-strong rollers...
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Mon Nov 25, 2013 8:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Mon Nov 25, 2013 4:03 pm

With Pooh Bear’s spoor (#19), we have equalled the Breakfast Show in popularity!

I had no idea how close Tshokwane Picnic Site actually is to Lower Sabie, always having gone there via Skukuza. The direct route took me to the intersection with the Old Tshokwane Road (S128) by 06:00. Realising I was going to be way too early for our meet at the Picnic Site, I decided to turn back along the S128 and make this into a loop drive via the S129 back onto my original route. This turned out to be an inspirational decision!

First off I found black-bellied bustards in display mood all over. One finds them standing on a small mound from where they take off on a slow flight, going as high as maybe 100m.

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It is impossible to capture the majestic extravagance of the slow display flight of this bustard that includes a graceful gliding descent at the end.

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While relishing the frequent bustards encounters, an unusual shape caught my eye… a ringtail!

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Now, this is one flyer that one cannot just ID like that (snap of fingers!) I guessed it to be a pallid harrier and later at Satara I would contemplate the series of shots that I managed to get, hoping for something good enough to confirm the sighting ID. This shot stood out as best by far for that purpose and confirmed that the ringtail was a juvenile pallid harrier indeed.

Other good birds included rufous-naped and red-capped larks, pin-tailed whydah, cinnamon-breasted bunting and yellow-throated longclaw.

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This loop also held LOTS of ellies! Some stood off the road in little groups, feeding on freshly sprouted vegetation…

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…others lazily fed alone, not bothered by passing vehicles…

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…and then there are those that allow you to JUST queeze by…

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…and those that make you reverse…

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Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Tue Nov 26, 2013 6:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Nov 26, 2013 7:27 am

Thanks saraf and arks for your continued attention.

Tilandi wrote: I just love the Black-bellied Bustard when it makes it's sound. Whoooop ............. pop!


:lol: :lol: To me it sounds like a frog: on the first sound it is a quizzical "huh?" then the following note: "coo-wick!"

hilda wrote:Have you ever been chased by an Ellie? I mean, really chased? An experience I don't envy anybody! :lol:


Once as a result of stupidity / ignorance. I got away unscathed, but have since then learned to read the situation from a long way off. It is just idiotic to ride your vehicle right up to any ellie and expect the same reaction of them making way for you every time. Anyhow, that is a discussion thread in its own right...

Ladybirder wrote: we all will do some planning before leaving for KNP next time.


:thumbs_up:

Brenden wrote:I am shackled to my desk and forced to write.

So many things I can think of doing while sitting here. Madagascar Cuckoo and Brown-throated Weaver just for starters and then so many more to add to my KNP list in the far north. :wall:


I have the same frustrations... :lol: :lol: :lol:

You should further complicate matters by writing a bit more in this thread! :twisted:

I have a few mates that are true wildlife photographers, fellows that would stake out a specific place where a specific animal may be living/breeding/hunting to get that special cover shot that causes that WOW! moment for the viewer. I know the basic requirements of getting such a shot, but the one ingredient in that recipe that I don’t ever have enough of is patience…

The light was just perfect, the perch was at the right height, maybe a little too far off, but what-the-heck… I was going to nail that roller in a classic open-winged pose, either landing or taking off. I set up and waited. Every now and then I checked all the camera settings. Every now and then the bird squawked, but nothing else happened. My eye started to water from peering at the bird through the viewfinder without blinking. Eish! I tried to mentally force the bird off its perch.

Then it stretched.

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Got that. :hmz:

“Squawk!”

Yes! Same to you.

I left. Two “lifers” waited for me just around the corner…
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:58 pm

Trrp-trrrrrrrr wrote:Johan don't know how I missed this one. :slap:

Had a great time catching up though. :dance: ...amazing sightings and superb images of all. :clap: :clap:

More please :popcorn: :popcorn:


Thanks for joining this bunch bashing Balule, Trrp-trrrrrrrr. Your addition to our readership numbers officially makes this trip report more popular than the Jacaranda Breakfast Show! :lol: :lol: :lol:

Glad you enjoyed the roller, hilda. Like with the PC turaco, a roller taking off or landing still remains on my wishlist.

naomi c, I'll try my best to keep the entertainment levels high... :thumbs_up:



It feels a bit creepy to me reporting about the meet with DinkyBird and Hawk at Tshokwane Picnic Spot considering the trials and tribulations those two bush disciples are going through currently… I have had very little news about how they are coping after they had to cut short their KNP visit only days after our get-together at Tshokwane due to their house getting caught in the unseasonal Western Cape floods. Before I started writing this part of my trip report, I felt rather uncomfortable not knowing that they are OK. I requested an update from a “source” and have been assured that they have the situation comfortably in hand.

I pulled into the parking area minutes ahead of schedule and found DB and Hawk already standing there waiting. With me flying a large yellow scarf as my ribbon, there was no way for them not to realise immediately that a very proud and excited ‘mite has just arrived. Large smiles all round meant we were all pleased to finally meet. A few years ago we came close to pulling off a meet in the Western Cape, one I had to scuttle after getting stuck with car trouble in the West Coast National Park.

Meeting ‘mites of the stature of DinkyBird (‘mite since 2004, 91st member to join the forum, a long-standing moderator, over 40 000 posts) and SO Hawk (a little less prominent presence on the forum as a ‘mite but sharing an equally deep appreciation for Nature) for me, turned out one of the coolest and most enjoyable occasions in recent times. We settled at one of the tables under a shady tree and started just talking, sharing and showing. (Had some breakfast and coffee that DB arranged during the meet – wonderful female skill to cater while you kuier!)

Hawk showed me a very special video clip that the two of them teamed up to make of a red-crested korhaan mating ritual. I posted a little earlier about the ingredients required to produce a hit… They got it spot-on with this video.

Time is the enemy when you enjoy yourself. Two hours had flown by and if we didn’t call a halt, another two would have flown by as rapidly.

Thank you to two super ‘mites for taking time out of your precious Kruger spell to meet.
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 27, 2013 4:31 am

Bush Baptist wrote:More stunning pics Joh, but none of you and your latest 2 lifers?


BB, the photo-thingy is not high on my priority list. Can you show one with you, WTM and me? :twisted:

If the DB and Hawk insisted, (or, for that matter, anyone else during a meet) I would have done (would do) the "CHEEEEESE" bit with them. But for a whisper that I didn't catch too well, nothing about :cam: was said...

hilda wrote:So glad you enjoyed your breakfast and meet with DinkyBird and Hawk Johan! I really hope that we will also one day have the privilege to meet those two 'mites! :clap: :clap:


Privilege indeed...
Last edited by Johan van Rensburg on Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:41 am

Thanks Barryels and Meandering Mouse.

The slow drive up to Satara was rather uneventful. In fact, it was a little disappointing, like the low-level Leeupan that I went to first before tackling the road to the north. It held none of the usual specials one expects to find there when the pan is full. At the current low levels, nothing unusual showed up. A saddle-billed stork landed nearby for a quick look at me, then moved off to the opposite side of the pan.

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It was another scorcher. Midday driving in the heat happened with one eye open at a time… I guess I missed quite a few birds!

This kudu with its widely spaced horns in amongst some thickets caught my eye and made me reconsider what I was told as a youngster: narrowly spaced horns indicate it is a bush kudu and widely spaced horns that it is a plains kudu. I have seen both in habitats that are atypical, so I’m now thinking those childhood “teachings” were just bush legend…

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Because they are diurnal, common reedbuck are not often seen in KNP as most sightseeing takes place during the day when these antelope will normally be hiding out amongst the tall grasses or reeds fringing a wetland. This ewe was a very welcome sight on the crawl north.

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Satara Camp provided the next trip ticks with mourning doves and a lone Woodland kingfisher, my first Woody for the trip.

The afternoon was spent shopping and walking around in camp. I was going to light a fire on this final night that I had to cater for myself...

:lol: :lol: :lol: I have already mentioned that it was a little mistake...
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 27, 2013 9:49 am

:big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes:

We haven't seen it yet!

Must be for last year's... :dance: :dance: :dance:

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679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by DinkyBird » Wed Nov 27, 2013 10:34 am

JvR, the legend.

Thank you for the kinds words and lovely report of our meet. It was such a special time, and for us too, just too short ... and hence why we totally forgot to take a pic or 3. I would love to have one to put on our wall of fame 8)

Thank you (and all) for caring about our 'situation'. It is under control ... but still very damp. How easily our material possessions can be destroyed. Makes one realise what is of true value in life. Fortunately our most precious possessions, the photos and videos of our family life together are not affected. The rest, we can replace. We were lucky compared to our neighbours, we live on a corner without a wall around half of our property, so the water did not dam up and reach the depth as with others, but it was deep enough to cause damage that means we need to move out of the house for a month while the builders repair it. But only next year. Until then, we will 'camp' in our home. And maybe visit Kruger and hopefully it will be when you are there and we can arrange that photo shoot :D

(Did you really have to destroy my image that I do not serve musketeers and spill the beans that I managed to carry a tray?! :twisted: )
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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 27, 2013 11:50 am

yoda wrote:JvR,

Where did you see the Reedbuck?
(Sorry to go off topic)

Great photos. :cam:


Not off-topic at all... It was quite close to Tshokwane, yoda. Thanks for adding your presence to this thread.

DinkyBird wrote: Did you really have to destroy my image that I do not serve musketeers and spill the beans that I managed to carry a tray?! :twisted:


:hmz:

I had no idea you were trying to foster an Iron Lady image, DB. To me Hawk looked totally comfortable with you running between kitchen and table, tray-n-all! :twisted:

Jokes aside, I thought you were an angel in every sense of the word, going out of your way like that to make sure the little time we had together turned out so very special. If he does not get to see this in person, please convey my gratitude and admiration to Hawk for his easy way with which he made me feel at home...
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser

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Re: Balule (birding) Bash, 2013

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:48 pm

hilda wrote: Congratulations with winning the best bird sighting of the year Johan! :clap: :clap:


Totally unexpected, hilda... I did not even know my pic was in the running! But it was such a special sighting that I have to agree: the shot deserves to be framed this way! :thumbs_up:

hilda wrote:Awesome close-up of the Reedbuck ewe! You were lucky to see her so close with no grass or branches to spoil the picture! :dance: :dance:


The more you try, the luckier you get! :lol:

@ Bush Baptist: The :cam: situation does not improve over time, hey my friend! :twisted:

The final trip to the north produced two more trip ticks in Secretary bird and lesser kestrel, the latter a super-tick for Kruger. The drive on Thursday morning to Olifants Camp went wrong in the sense that I had my times for arrival and registration for the Bash two hours too early. I only realised I got the times all wrong when Tobie and Cecilia arrived and I voiced my anxiety that all the bashers, including the HRs and guides seemed to be running late. A little later after expressing the same concern to multiflorum and Shane, they suggested that it was I who had the times screwed up. Checking the registration forms I realised my folly.

Olifants Camp, before the 2010 renovations, had some wonderful sections holding specials, particularly along the segments along the edge of the cliff. I had time to kill, so reviewing birdlife in the Camp was a good way of doing that. A pied crow soaring overhead represented another trip tick. Pied crows are not seen inside Kruger all that regularly.

A crested barbet had a nest in one of the dead branches of the knobbly fig growing at the edge of the cliff, the branches making part of the supports of the restaurant deck. The geometrical distribution of the characteristic wart-like, leafless growth points on the trunk and main branches is fascinating. It is on these structures that the large fruit will grow in late summer.

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Eventually the final members of the Balule Bashing team arrived and we transferred our baggage to the transport vehicle that would take it to the Balule Satellite Camp. Greetings exchanged and introductory remarks made, the Bash was underway!
679 Last 5 lifers: Rüppell's vulture, Spotted crake, Lesser jacana, Burchell's courser, Double-banded courser


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