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Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

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Jesscan1
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Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Wed Oct 12, 2016 7:45 pm

25 September Day 1

Part 1

It is somewhat unusual that we visit Kruger in September.

On the other hand the entire year has been somewhat unusual.

Our February and May trips went according to plan, but we missed our usual July Kruger trip, with me being away in Alaska and Andy cruising Kgalagadi.

October too, proved difficult to fit in a Kruger as we had a friend’s wedding in Cape Town that had been planned for more than a year in advance and that could not be missed.

In addition we had grandchildren’s birthdays to fit in.

We had also planned for a December Kruger trip to see the baby impala being born, so seven days in September would have to suffice.

The bookings were duly made with four nights at Lower Sabie followed by three nights at Satara.

We would leave for Malelane gate on Sunday the 25th September and exit at Orpen gate on Sunday the 2nd October.

The traffic on a Sunday, especially on the N12 and N4, is not nearly as hectic as during the week, as is the traffic on the drive home through the Strydom Tunnel, R36 and R540 via Lydenburg and Dullstroom.

The car was duly packed on the Saturday night and all that remained to be loaded on Sunday morning was the cooler box.

We made really good time with just the one stop at the Middleburg Ultra City, followed by a very quick but most important stop at the Malelane Spar for biltong and droë wors.

Malelane Gate was in sight at 10:25 and as it is custom to take photos of the Crocodile River while crossing the high water bridge I snapped a few pics of a very low level Crocodile River.

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The water level at this point in the river was a lot lower than what it was in February, with just a trickle of water passing through the rocks above the now rather large island.

Malelane Gate reception was very quiet and as we had completed the gate entry and indemnity form before leaving Edenvale, the gate formalities were completed in record time.

The little garden at Malelane Gate is always well maintained and while Andy was busy unpacking the cameras and tying our yellow ribbon to the driver’s side mirror, I grabbed my travel camera and captured some of the local flora in the garden.

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20 minutes after arriving in Kruger, we set off towards the S25 river road, aiming for Lower Sabie.

The immediate area around Malelane Gate was barren.

The morning had a freshness about it and we had all the windows open to enjoy the sounds of the bush … the bush however was strangely silent.

There were no bird calls and not even the song of the Cicadas could be heard.

Along the S25, where on previous trips we would try and identify the grasses along the side of the road, there was nothing.

Besides the lack of any grass, the bushes, which should by now be showing a tinge of green, were all a sad looking dull grey brown.

The one consolation was that one could see very far into the bush.

The drawback though, there was nothing to be seen.

We had travelled for almost an hour when our fortunes changed.

Firstly some Impala were sighted and we were happy to stop and watch these quite beautiful animals, which were quite happy to pose for the cameras.

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Considering the dire conditions, the Impala were in a reasonable condition, although a few of the younger ones had ribs showing.

What was a good sign, was that some of the Ewes looked distinctly pregnant.

Some minutes later we were joyed to have a private sighting of a great big horned creature not far from the road.

Of the birds that do not seem troubled by the dry conditions were the Go-away-Birds, the Magpie Shrikes and of course the Fork-tailed Drongos.

I seldom manage to catch a Drongo in the open in cloudy conditions, but on this occasion my luck was in.

The bird sat quite still for a while, focusing intensely on some hapless food item before taking to flight in an attempt to nab whatever was the target.

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Minutes later, the unmistakeable call of a Brown-headed Parrot had us searching the trees.

A short search revealed one bird high up in a tree, but against a bright grey overcast sky in the background.

As we had not much in the way of photo subjects I took some pics of the Brown-headed Parrot anyway.

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(Andy kept on mumbling about how he missed the crystal clear blue skies of the Kgalagadi. I had to be content with a washed out sky).

The lack of animals was sort of made up with more bird sightings and we were both rather pleased to see a Greater Honey Guide ten minutes after spotting the Drongo.

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Guineafowl are always fun to watch as they often chase one another in between their constant search for food.

Their striking colourful heads with their bizarre adornments are what fascinates me.

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The bush was very sparse and spotting what animals there were, way off the road, was easy.

We did see some Kudu and Elephants and although we stopped to see whether they would come a little closer, they did not.

The Giraffe that we passed were a lot more obliging and this fellow stopped his munching to look at us and provide a portrait opportunity.

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With the bush being so sparse, we were able to pay more attention to scanning the trees.

This definitely paid off, as soon after seeing the Giraffe, Andy spotted a Leopard in a tree very close to the right side of the road.

Our first Leopard of the trip and we had only been driving for a little more than an hour. :D

We stopped a little way away from the tree, but before we could produce a camera, the young Leopard fled down the trunk of the tree and made a hasty retreat towards the river.

Oh. What a disappointment. :(

The disappointment however was short lived.

A car travelling in the opposite direction flagged us down and told us about a Leopard just a kilometer further down the road.

The S25 is generally a quiet road and on arrival at the Leopard spot we found just two cars at the sighting.

The cat was so relaxed as he lay on a branch and posed really nicely for me.

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He must have been a little sleepy as he gave a couple of big yawns.

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We watched the beautiful cat for some time, until he stood up on his branch.

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He then turned around and lay down, facing away from us as if to say. “Ok folks. The photo shoot is now over. I really need my nap”.

Speaking about having a nap, we had barely driven for another 5 minutes when we spotted a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl with rather heavy eyelids about to take his nap.

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We joined the H4-2 at the site of Sardelli’s store.

It was here where we found our first Baboon Troop for the day.

Most of the Baboons were in a tree picking off any green shoots that they could find.

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There was nothing to be seen until we got to the Lower Sabie Bridge, except for a few pockets of Impala near the Mativuhlungu Bridge.

Even the Warthogs that used to range in that area were missing.

Oddly, on the trip, we never saw any Warthog south of Satara.

The Lower Sabie Bridge never fails to produce.

On this occasion we found our first ever Kruger Black Heron.

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We have seen them at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, but never in Kruger.

To make the sighting even more special the bird was in ‘hunting’ mode.

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Also in a never ending search for food, patrolling the shallows was an African Jacana.

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Food during the dry months is generally scarce. Food during the drought is even scarcer.

The Hippo have been trekking miles in search of grass. There just isn’t any.

The situation is so dire that this poor Hippo has resorted to eating the reeds in the river bed.

This is something that I have never seen before.

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At the far end of the bridge, the Lower Sabie Baboon Troop were also in foraging mood.

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It was well past check in time and we too were now a little hungry, so it was about turn, across the bridge to check in at Lower Sabie.

To be continued ….

Jan van Wyk
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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jan van Wyk » Wed Oct 12, 2016 8:35 pm

Wow........what a start with so many winners and dream images :clap: :clap: :clap:

Specially the Black Heron poses :dance: :dance: :dance:

Super other birdies......all of them superb :thumbs_up:

Love all the Bobbies and all the other animals :clap: :clap:

On the Buss all the way.... :dance: :dance:

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by manicwalker » Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:33 am

Jesscan,
How good to find another TT from you :D
Goodness your first few hours in the park were so good to you...
Your bird photos are beautiful :clap:
especially the Kruger Black Heron :clap:
I have such great admiration for our animals the way they are trying to survive :(
Lets :pray: :pray: :pray: for rain soon....
What a beautiful leopard, and how lucky for you to get such amazing photos... :thumbs_up: :thumbs_up:

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:47 am

Yay, :D :dance: :dance: :dance: great to see you back.

Andy did a really good job with his KTP report. I can see that photography and nature is a shared passion.

What a wonderful start. I have been to Kruger a few times in September and I have found it to be very brown and dry. I am sure that this was worse than ever.

I must say that I do love your leopard pictures. What mesmerizing creatures. It has cattitude written all over. :wink:

Lovely images of my favorite place. I am looking forward to more.

:popcorn:
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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by hilda » Thu Oct 13, 2016 6:51 am

So glad to see you started your trip report Jesscan1! I loved Andy M's Kgalagadi trip report, and am now spoilt by another one by you! Great start as always! :clap: :clap:

Sad to see the Crocodile River at such a low level! Still a beautiful picture! :clap: :clap:

Awesome close-up of the beautiful Impala ram, and beautiful bird sightings with pictures to match! The Drongo taking off, the sleepy Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Honey Guide, the hunting Black Heron .... all so beautiful! :clap: :clap:

Your Leopard luck started very soon during this trip! Stunning pictures of this gorgeous cat! :dance: :dance:

I feel so sorry for the poor Hippos! But it is all part of nature, although not nice to see. :cry:

Looking forward to more please! :popcorn:

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Robbert » Thu Oct 13, 2016 11:53 pm

What a great way to start your trip to the KNP! Amazing pictures!
I :mrgreen: your black heron pictures, very, very well done, thanks a lot for sharing!
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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by jjames04 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:23 am

Hi Jesscan - what a great start to what I am sure will be another stellar TR.

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:46 pm

by Jan van Wyk » Wed Oct 12, 2016 8:35 pm
Wow........what a start with so many winners and dream images

Specially the Black Heron poses

Super other birdies......all of them superb

Love all the Bobbies and all the other animals

On the Buss all the way....


Hello Jan van Wyk. Thank you. Yes … we had stacks of great sightings and all on day one.

The midday light was rather harsh though making good photography rather testing.

Late that day we did a lot better light wise.

A front seat for you Jan. :D

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:48 pm

by manicwalker » Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:33 am
Jesscan,
How good to find another TT from you
Goodness your first few hours in the park were so good to you...
Your bird photos are beautiful
especially the Kruger Black Heron
I have such great admiration for our animals the way they are trying to survive
Lets for rain soon....
What a beautiful leopard, and how lucky for you to get such amazing photos...


Yes manicwalker, here I go with another of our adventures. We are so fortunate to be ‘reasonably’ in close proximity to Kruger. A 5 hour drive is reasonable, I suppose.

It is those super sightings, quite often on the first and the last day, that keep us coming back so regularly.

Thanks for the compliments on the piccies. As I mentioned to Jan, the light was not the best in the middle of the day.

The animals are the true ‘heroes’ of the bush. They manage to manage with what they have around them. The Hippo eating reeds is one such an example. In a subsequent episode I will relate how innovative the Kudu are when accessing food.

As for rain … we can pray a little harder.

We went for years without any good Leopard sightings. In the last three years our luck has changed for the better. :D

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:50 pm

by Meandering Mouse » Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:47 am
Yay, great to see you back.

Andy did a really good job with his KTP report. I can see that photography and nature is a shared passion.

What a wonderful start. I have been to Kruger a few times in September and I have found it to be very brown and dry. I am sure that this was worse than ever.

I must say that I do love your leopard pictures. What mesmerizing creatures. It has cattitude written all over.

Lovely images of my favorite place. I am looking forward to more


It is great to be back meandering mouse. I really do miss my bush trips, but I must confess that Alaska was simply awesome. The wild life is so different.

Yes, I agree that Andy’s KTP trip report was most entertaining.

Thankfully we both enjoy the great outdoors, all facets of nature and photography in general. :D

I have seen the Park in good times and bad times. During drought, floods and fire … she (The Park must be a she) is so resilient and always bounces back.

Glad that you liked my Leopard. I have another one for you in this next episode.

KNP … my most favourite place too.

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:51 pm

by hilda » Thu Oct 13, 2016 6:51 am
So glad to see you started your trip report Jesscan1! I loved Andy M's Kgalagadi trip report, and am now spoilt by another one by you! Great start as always!

Sad to see the Crocodile River at such a low level! Still a beautiful picture!

Awesome close-up of the beautiful Impala ram, and beautiful bird sightings with pictures to match! The Drongo taking off, the sleepy Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Honey Guide, the hunting Black Heron .... all so beautiful!

Your Leopard luck started very soon during this trip! Stunning pictures of this gorgeous cat!

I feel so sorry for the poor Hippos! But it is all part of nature, although not nice to see.

Looking forward to more please!


Hi hilda and thanks for the accolades. Andy’s KTP trip was most entertaining reading and I hope that you find this September TR just as good.

I have not seen the Croc River at Malelane that low ever. I would not like to see what it looks like downstream at Croc Bridge. The cane farmers along the river extract so much on water from the river.

We did have tremendous luck with our sightings in just four hours from Malelane to Lower Sabie.

It is heart-breaking to see the animals under such strain. The majority do somehow survive.

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:52 pm

by Robbert » Thu Oct 13, 2016 11:53 pm
What a great way to start your trip to the KNP! Amazing pictures!
I your black heron pictures, very, very well done, thanks a lot for sharing!


It was a great start to our trip Robbert and thank you for the compliments.

The Black Heron was a special and although the pics were shot at 2pm the results were not too bad.

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:52 pm

by jjames04 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:23 am
Hi Jesscan - what a great start to what I am sure will be another stellar TR.

Hello jjames04. It was a super duper start I must concede.

I do hope that you enjoy the rest of the ride with us … it was quite a good one.

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 6:56 pm

by Robbert » Thu Oct 13, 2016 11:53 pm

What a great way to start your trip to the KNP! Amazing pictures!
I :mrgreen: your black heron pictures, very, very well done, thanks a lot for sharing!


Welcome on the bus Robbert. Thanks for the compliments. It is the first time we have seen a Black Heron in KNP, although we do see them often at Marievale Bird Sanctuary.

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Re: Jesscan’s Journal – Kruger 7 days in September

Unread post by Jesscan1 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 7:32 pm

25 September Day 1

Part 2

The staff at Lower Sabie reception were expecting us and the procedure was the swiftest ever.

It was simply the case of producing our Wild Card and putting a signature on the reservation slip.

Before walking back to the car, we had a quick glance at the sighting board and were pleased to see plenty of red and some black markers on the sighting board.
Lion and leopard. :D

Chalet number 18 at Lower Sabie is our favourite chalet and Dorcus Nxumalo ensured that bungalow was allocated to us.

A huge thank you to Dorcus who is always willing to assist.

After unpacking the car and filling the fridge and freezer with the contents of the cooler box it was time for a spot of lunch, followed by a short Sunday afternoon nap.

It was a short nap as we were raring to go in search of the cats.

We headed northward on the H4-1.

There were no cars at Sunset Dam, but that did not deter us from making our usual stop at the Dam.

The good news is the Dam was pretty close to being full. I have not seen the dam this full for many a year.

Yes, the water in the Dam is supplemented by water pumped from the river, but I am of the opinion that the level was boosted by the rain from the previous day.

I will post some ‘before and after’ photos of the water level in a subsequent episode.

The usual local waders were in and around the Dam.

Some Yellow-billed Storks sat almost motionless on the far side of the Dam.

Some had their heads tucked under the wing, others were standing on one leg.

On the near side a Black-winged Stilt patrolled the edges.

Image

One of the Yellow-billed Storks awoke from its slumber and with four or five flaps of its wings flew lazily across the Dam to join the Stilt on the near side.

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A rather unusual but a most welcome visitor to the Dam was this Squacco Heron that was trying its luck in the shallows.

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Those that know the Lower Sabie to Skukuza road may recall a dead Leadwood tree on the right hand side of the road less than a kilometer from Sunset Dam.

This particular tree has been a favourite spot for many a Raptor.

We have seen Yellow-billed kites, a Martial Eagle, a fair number of Tawny Eagles and the odd Vulture use the tree a resting spot or vantage point.

This afternoon it was the turn of a Tawny to keep watch from the tree. {Insert pic of Tawny}

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About 500 meters from Lubyelubye, sitting peacefully very close to the left side of the road was quite a special Raptor.

We had not seen an African Hawk Eagle in Kruger for quite some time and Andy in particular was rather excited to see this one.

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So far our day had been pretty good, what with two Leopards, a Rhino, some Ellie, a Black Heron, some Vultures, a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, a Tawny and now a Hawk Eagle.

Little did we think how much better it would become in the next hour and twenty minutes before gate closing at 6pm.

We had driven almost halfway between the Lubyelubye Bridge and the N’watimhiri Causeway road when we decided to turn around and continue our search in the hope of spotting the ‘new’ Lubyelubye Leopard.

Well, what a good decision it turned out to be.

Not 100 meters from where we made our U turn we had the fortune of an awesome Lioness sighting.

The lady was about to cross the road right in front of us.

She had come from the river side and walked in the middle of the road for about 30 meters while we reversed to give her space.

She seemed intensely focused on heading towards some unknown goal, or for us, an unseen target behind us on the right hand side of the road.

With some skilful manoeuvring while reversing and taking photos through the driver’s window, Andy managed to fire off a number of shots before the lady finally crossed the road and walked off into the sunset.

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We were quite elated with ‘our’ Lioness as we were the only visitors to have had the time with her.

A Fish Eagle in the lower reaches of a tree caught our eye and on closer inspection with the binos, we saw that the bird had caught something for supper.

It was too far off for a positive ID of the prey, but it seemed to be a red blooded creature of some description.

The light was rather poor and the subject a very long way off, but we took some snaps anyway.

Image

As we drove back to camp, the Sabie River revealed the usual water loving animals.

We had Ellie on the far bank, some ‘dagga boy’ Buffalo in the reeds along with a pod or two of Hippo, most of which were out of the water, and of course a whole bunch of Waterbuck.

Image

We were just ambling along with 20 minutes to while away before having to be back in camp, when lo and behold, we found (most likely as it was virtually at the same location) the same African Hawk Eagle that we had seen exactly an hour before.

This time the bird was on the river side and posed oh, so beautifully for us in the very soft light before flying off.

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Andy, by this time, had a huge grin on his face which was about to become a lot broader.

Not three km from the camp, in a tree on ‘my’ side of the road, I spotted another magnificent spotted cat.

It was my turn to have a huge smile on my dial as Ms Leopard looked directly at my camera while I did some quick portrait work. I had her in view for about 20 seconds!

Image

I was most fortunate as just when another car pulled up, she slid down the tree and lay down in the low brush at the base of the tree.

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The lady in the car was quite distraught when I told her about the Leopard that she had just missed, as she was desperately wanting her young son to see a Leopard.

We had marked the spot where the Leopard was in the bush and pointed this out to the excited pair.

I guess it was some consolation that the lady and her son were able to see ‘parts’ of the Leopard as it lay under the bush, like the tail flicking from side-to-side.

What a day this ‘part’ of a day in Kruger had been for us.

Three Leopards, a Lioness, some Buffalo, lots of Ellie and a Rhino to boot … to say nothing of the great bird sightings … especially the Raptors.

The sundowners, as the braai fire was being prepared, went down really well.

To be continued ….


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