Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bird Paradise

Other than encountering the BIG 6 during the tour in July [SEE: last 3 blog-entries] SA is also a paradise for "birders" - so today I'm posting a couple of bird "highlights":

Although I've often photographed the Crested barbet in our garden (= this bird is quite common in the eastern half of our country) its so colourful that I will snap it whenever I have the opportunity AND the setting is pretty idyllic.

A Scops owl, on the other hand, is found in the northern half of our country & although that includes Joburg, I've only seen it so far in the Kruger National Park, where it is quite common IF well-camouflaged.

Now this colourful little rascal, an Orangebreasted Bush shrike, with its much repeated, musical call, mostly frequents the eastern & north-eastern parts of South Africa. I was happy to find it (also the Scops owl - above) in the Satara camp during our lunch "break".

Although most of the hornbills feature "strongly" in my photo-collection, they are just such great "models" that I can't resist taking more photos of when I encounter e.g. this Yellowbilled hornbill. These hornbills are also mostly found in the northern part of our country.

I did say I can't resist "snapping" hornbills - this Redbilled hornbill more or less shares its habitat with the previous bird BUT isn't quite as common a bird as its yellowbilled "cousin".

One bird that "never leaves me in the lurch" is the Ground hornbill - although it's classified as an endangered species I encounter it regularly in the Kruger National Park. The largest of the hornbill family its size is just under a meter.

From large to tiny - this Greater Doublecollared sunbird is only 14cm big and only a common resident in a much smaller region than the previous species. Like most sunbirds its a very "busy" little bird that continuously flutters from one source of nectar to the next, i.e. difficult to get a good visual of (to photograph).

Even more "difficult" to find is this Orangebreasted sunbird, because its "confined" to the (very narrow) south-western coastal strip (= the fynbos-Cape Floral kingdom). Strangely this "representative" sat most serenely (> fluttering around) so for once, I got a clear visual = much appreciated!!

Last but not least - a couple of African penguins (of which a colony is "stationed" permanently)
at Boulders beach on the Cape Peninsula. I think the "down"-collar on the immature penguins has the appearance of a shawl (& they "needed it" because
it was pretty cold - haha, its winter in our country, after all!)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Close Encounters

During the last tour, we encountered this "busy" family of baboons in the Kruger National Park - whilst I did my best to "include" the adults grooming each other, I mostly concentrated on the shenanigans the cute little baby baboon revealed.

As those "following" my blog-entries know, one of my aims in life is to photograph as many different bird species as I can find, so I always get excited when I "meet" a new "specimen" - but that was also the case when I had the opportunity to get my first clear visuals of a rather rare species - Samango monkeys! I realised I had snapped one of them before at the Hilltop camp in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve when I downloaded my photos at home and noticed that it didn't have the distinctive black face associated with the far more common Vervet monkey. It wasn't a very "clear" photo though but after this latest "visual" I'm happy to add a new specimen to my photo-collection. [If you click on the photo to enlarge it you'll "find" a youngster well-camouflaged to the left of the adult monkey].

Since I've "developed an eye" for smaller creatures (because I'm constantly on the lookout for "hidden" birds) I discovered this tiny Dwarf mongoose at the roadside in the Kruger National Park. Typically curious the little fellow stood upright to "survey" his environment. [Unfortunately it isn't too clear a visual but it does "give a good idea" that other creatures than e.g. the BIG 5 are around in the wilderness].

As all visitors to Kruger National Park know there are usually "masses" of birds like hornbills and Glossy starlings "present" (sometimes also Vervet monkeys) in the various camps - but at one of our "stop-overs" we encountered this handsome young bushbuck.

As if to say it's even more handsome than a bushbuck, we had a "close encounter" with this young kudu male.

At St.Lucia (= UNESCO World Heritage Site) in KwaZulu-Natal, we were, during a boat trip, "presented" with this visual of a crocodile basking in the sun at the edge of the lagoon.

On to a really close encounter with the giants of the oceans - Southern Right whales, which we were privileged to experience during a boat trip in the bay of Gansbaai.

The whales were so close and occasionally, it appeared as if they were as interested in us than we were amazed by them - this whale seems to "invite" us to stroke it - that's how close (and calm) it was.

Some of the birds we encountered during this trip are "on the menu" for my next blog-entry, so here's a taste of what's to come:

A Helmeted guineafowl, which is a common resident all over SA and which I snapped in the Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden (Cape Town) because it represented a "close encounter".

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nature Unfolds

I wasn't able to "post" anything for a week because our land-line (telephone) was "cut" (= probably sabotaged) because the employees of the one-and-only telephone provider in our country are on strike. But ...... I'm back "on-line" so here are more photos (as promised) taken during the recent tour = an overview.

The last "intimate" encounter with the most northerly "reaches" of the Drakensberg

[For more on the Panorama Route SEE my blog-entry 19 April 2008 ]

Next stop: Kubu (= Hippo) Lodge in the Hoedspruit area, run & owned by a resourceful couple (= represented by the cute hippo-couple in their garden??)

A typical Lowveld sunset

On to the rolling hills of the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve in Kwa-Zulu Natal, where watching nature unfold is "on par" with game spotting.

The petrified dunes at St. Lucia always form
an interesting backdrop = a paradise for photographers of landscapes.

[For more on this UNESCO World Heritage Site, SEE: my blog-entry 20 April 2008]

Sunrise over North Beach in Durban - as observed through a window of our hotel.

A view of Gansbaai from Grootbos - a haven in nature, with whale-watching "on the menu".

Getting "kitted" for the said whale-watching by boat.

More of what we encountered [Also SEE: previous blog-entry] will "be revealed" in the next "posting".

Last but not least - a glorious sunset over the bay as seen from Grootbos (with Hangklip in the background).

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Big 6 Plus

Whilst most of the guests I guided through South Africa during the last 2 weeks are still on their way home (after flying back to Germany, Austria or Switzerland) I'm already posting some of the photos we "shared" during this trip [CLICK on photos to enlarge].

Today is "dedicated" to what is being marketed as the BIG 6 in SA - the BIG 5 plus the whale - all of which we hoped to encounter during this tour.......

...... PLUS a cheetah - which was the first wild animal we saw when entering the Kruger National Park. Unfortunately we didn't have the chance to get a good "photo-visual" because a man in a car behind our bus got out of the vehicle (!!! to our disgust) & this move frightened the 2 cheetah we originally saw. As a result the cheetah ran away & we only got a "so-so" visual of one cheetah.

Number 1 of the "real" BIG 5 is the elephant - although it wasn't the first animal we saw.

In actual fact the first of the BIG 5 which we encountered were 2 lions on the prowl - it was an exciting moment even if it were 2 females & a more "handsome" male was missing. We certainly had good visuals of them as this photo of a lioness 'serves' as proof.

Next in line & soon after, we "discovered" this leopard in a tree concentrating on some impalas, which were grazing blissfully unaware of any danger lurking in the vicinity.

The occupants in our open safari-vehicle were also "blessed" with this sighting of a couple of old buffalo bulls.

Before the day ended we "clocked" the BIG 5 once we found these 2 'lazy' rhino lying on the ground - 1 in the shade of a small tree whilst the other one in the sun was better camouflaged (= not as easily visible as the 'darker' shape). So our day in the Kruger National Park was very "successful". [I'll soon "post" photos of some of the other animals we also encountered = other than the BIG 5].

A few days later we were even more lucky when we sighted a Black rhino in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Although this park is "famous" for its rhino, visitors seldom encounter this notoriously shy animal.

In contrast visitors usually encounter some of the more numerous White rhino - but again, less seldom a female & its newborn, which we were lucky to observe (unfortunately these last 2 visuals aren't the clearest of photos, because it was late in the day = quite dark).

Last but NOT least - number 6 (of the so-called BIG 6) = whales!! We encountered these Southern Right whales during a boat trip in the bay of Gansbaai [I'll soon post more photos of these giants of the oceans].

So: during this tour we had the luck to encounter the largest mammal on land (= the elephant) & the largest mammal living in the sea (= a whale).