Four frogs, a cricket and a snake

So let’s assume you’re a young man who’d like to attract a partner.  What would you have to do to make yourself appealing?  I guess you’d probably opt for personal grooming and fancy clothes and jewellery to enhance yourself, then you’d add an accessory like a smart car and you’d flash your credit card around.  Unless you’re really ugly and arrogant you’d probably catch the eye of some eligible female pretty quickly.  This sort of mating behaviour isn’t peculiar to homo-sapiens – birds have to do it as well in order to attract a mate.  Obviously they don’t have the same tools as humans, but they do have to be quite well equipped to prove their capabilities of providing for the needs of a mate.

Southern ground hornbills

Most male birds have lovely plumage to make themselves attractive to the rather dowdy females of the species.  They often have beautiful long tail feathers or are brightly coloured, like the Southern ground hornbill.  Sometimes they even have their legs adorned with jewellery!  This hornbill is quite a heavy bird that looks rather like a turkey, with a gorgeous red face and a red inflatable throat.  It uses a deep booming call to advertise its territory and then struts around gathering food to show that it’s a good hunter.

Southern ground hornbills

It’s always exciting for us to come across Southern ground hornbills in a game reserve.  They are not often found outside protected areas and are listed as vulnerable in southern Africa, so we feel quite privileged when we see them.  They’re usually found in pairs or in groups of up to five birds and because they spend their time foraging, it’s not uncommon to see them with loads of food in their beaks.   This must make them very appealing to the opposite sex – what mate wouldn’t like to be presented with a number of crickets, frogs and a snake to snack on or to feed her young with.

What a mouthful!

Good providers they may be, but when it comes to feeding babies, they don’t measure up at all.  They usually have two little ones and the firstborn, being stronger, is fed all the food.  The second young one usually dies of starvation within a few days.  Perhaps this is why there are so few of them around.

Mealtime

They are excellent foragers and spend their time gathering insects and small reptiles and mammals, often co-operating with each other in the quest for food.  Once they find it, they keep adding more to the collection, often putting the food down on the ground and then gathering it up again until they have full beaks.

Look out for them next time you’re in a national park – and check out what they’re having for dinner!

Callfinder© – A winner from SAPPI

What would life be like if we were unable to get out into nature to rejuvenate and restore our minds and spirits?  I can’t imagine actually.  For me, getting out into the garden or into the bush and watching the birds and wildlife is an integral part of my life.  So imagine my delight when my family (thanks Pete and Lauren) gave us a wonderful tool as a Christmas gift.  Not just any garden or household tool, but a nature tool!  An innovative tool that teaches you about the birds and their calls and actually helps you call them to you.  Let me tell you more …

African Paradise Flycatcher

SAPPI (originally South African Pulp and Paper Industries Ltd) is big in conservation in South Africa and they are a major contributor to education and knowledge in the field of birds.  Together with other sponsors they have collaborated with birding experts to bring out the amazing Sappi Birds of South Africa Callfinder©.

Sappi Birds of SA Callfinder

Not only did we get an informative bird book with beautiful photos, but it came with an electronic device that communicates with the photo of the bird and plays its call.  How neat is that!  This of course adds an entirely new dimension to birding and should be an absolute boon to beginners and experts alike.

A nifty device - Callfinder

We tried ours out in the Kruger National Park with mixed results.  We had seen an Indigobird on a tree in the distance and couldn’t make out the colour of its beak and legs, which obviously is key to identifying it.  We decided to play the Callfinder© to see if we could match the call it was making.  Rob pointed the device at the photo of the Village Indigobird and its call rang out.  Imagine our amazement when the bird flew right up to our vehicle.  We were able to identify it immediately.  We unfortunately thought that we’d be able to call all birds with the device, but the majority weren’t quite as obliging as the Indigobird.

Magpie Shrike

We have by no means tried every photo in the book, but on our trip we found quite a few birds that came closer on hearing a call, and they were :  Magpie Shrikes, the African Paradise Flycatcher, White-crested Helmet Shrikes and a Grey-headed Bush Shrike.  The Magpie Shrikes were most successful – we were trying to photograph one, played the call and about twelve flew up to our car.  So it looks like the Shrike family is the most curious of the lot.  The Grey-headed Parrots shrieked back at us on hearing the call and we were able to locate them in the tree above us.  Such fun!

Grey-headed Bush Shrike

I doubt whether it was the developers’ intention to call the birds to one, but it does happen and great care has to be taken not to distress the birds by playing their calls repeatedly. The calling of birds needs to be done judiciously at all times.  This is a wonderful tool for identifying their calls and committing them to memory for your field trips.

This fabulous book and Callfinder© will really help folks learn more and aid them in identifying all those birds that have previously been labelled as Unidentified Flying Objects!  And I certainly hope that my blog helps boost their sales – they really have brought out a winner in my humble opinion.  Well done Sappi!

KNP – Punda Maria and Pafuri

Punda Maria, on the north-western edge of the Kruger National Park, is definitely worth a visit if you’re into bird watching.  We’d heard many times that it was a bird lover’s paradise in summer and our long drive north certainly proved worthwhile for this very reason.  According to the guide book this remote little camp that was built in the 1930′s was named Punda (meaning striped donkey or zebra) and Maria after the wife of the ranger, J J Coetzer, who founded it.  I doubt whether the ranger meant any disrespect by linking his wife’s name to a striped donkey!)

African Hawk Eagle

It’s a pretty camp set in rows on a hillside.  There’s a magnificent camping area overlooking a waterhole, which must be amazing in the dry season.  The only fault that we could find with our comfortable little chalet was that the thatched roof extended right down over the verandah and we managed to bump our heads on it a lot.  But as I said to Rob, if we bash our heads once or twice it’s an accident – after that it’s our stupidity.  After that comment we both kept our stupidity to ourselves.  There are some nice walks around the treed camp and lots of birds to be seen without even going for a drive.

Beautiful Baobab

We’d read that nearby Pafuri, on the border of Mozambique, was a must-see place for birds so we packed up a picnic basket and headed off slowly in that direction.  The vegetation in the area is somewhat different from the rest of the Park, which is probably what attracts the variety of birds that you don’t find further south.  Our first ‘lifer’ of the day was an African Crake that was wandering along the edge of the road.  Too fast for our cameras unfortunately, but we did manage to get a positive identification before it disappeared into the long grass.

Sharpe's Grysbok

I might have been unfair in a previous blog when I said that animals were few and far between in this area.  I’ve subsequently read blogs by folks who raved about all the game they saw in winter.  I guess the rainy season isn’t the time to see many animals as they don’t frequent the waterholes like they do in the dry season.  We were therefore grateful to catch a sighting of a shy little Sharpe’s Grysbok which isn’t common in the rest of the Park and was also a lifer for us.

Fiery-necked Nightjar

There are loads of raptors in the area and we ticked off an African Hawk Eagle, an Osprey and numerous Bataleurs and Peregrin Falcons.  The Bee-eaters and European Rollers provided lots of colour, as did the Violet-backed Starlings, Grey-headed Parrots, Red-headed Weavers and African Green Pigeons.  I learnt a new trick – focus about a meter off the ground when driving slowly and you could pick up a nice photo of a Nightjar taking a nap!  You have to have good eyes as they blend into the bark so well.

Rob on the Luvuvhu Bridge Pafuri

At Pafuri our next lifers were Lemon-breasted Canaries and Green-capped Eremomelas that were nesting right next to the Luvuvhu Bridge.  Unfortunately the river was about to come down in flood, as we found to our dismay when we drove to Crooks Corner.  The water was already lapping over the road when a police vehicle raced up to warn us to get away before we were trapped.  That was quite disappointing because the scenery along the river is probably the best in the entire Park.  Beautiful woodland picnic areas with lots of birds to be seen.

Woodland area along Luvuvhu River

We spent three days at Punda Maria and enjoyed every minute of our time there.  The Mopane Woodland and enormous Baobab trees make the scenery lovely and you never know if you’ll round a corner and come across an elephant munching on the leaves or rubbing up against a tree.  I definitely want to go back there in winter even though the summer migrants will have left.  It’s a place in Kruger that deserves a lot more of one’s time.  I only hope that it isn’t modernized too quickly so that the visitors pour into the place.  I think it would lose a lot of its charm if this happens.

KNP – Hyenas well spotted!

Anyone who knows me, knows that apart from birds and animals, the next great passion in my life (apart from Rob of course) is playing the card game of Bridge.  In case you’re wondering what Bridge has got to do with a nature blog, please just bear with me for a minute or two.  Often when one plays Bridge there are days when there is a predominance of contracts in the same suit, so for example a day will be dominated by Heart contracts or Spade contracts .  Most players comment on it when it happens, so it’s not just something that I notice.  Getting back to nature, I have found that a similar thing happens on our trips.  We find we go to different places and come across loads of a particular bird or animal even though they were not particularly on our wish list.  We saw this in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park with Secretarybirds (fourteen of them at one water hole) and it happened again on our recent visit to the Kruger National Park, when we seemed to see more Spotted Hyenas than usual.

Beautiful young Spotted hyena

We came across these animals just about every day we were in the Park.  We must have just been very lucky, because other folks commented that they hadn’t seen any.  So here is a selection of photos taken on different days at different times.

Spotted hyena on the hunt

These rather ungainly creatures have an important role to play in nature.  You can read more about them in our previous blog written way back in 2010.

This mother and baby came out of the bush and then lay down in the road and started a feeding session.  Too cute!

Mother and baby Spotted hyena Feeding time on the warm asphalt

They are nocturnal creatures, so one shouldn’t really see them about much during the day.

Spotted hyena - early morning Spotted hyena - early morning

In my next blog I will chat about our time in the Punda Maria/Pafuri area where the birding was especially rewarding.  Until next time ….

KNP – The Drive from Satara to Punda Maria

Most people who visit Kruger National Park make a point of going to the southern part because of its accessibility and proximity to international airports and the main centres of the region.  Fortunately the landscape is favourable for seeing an abundance of animals, including the Big Five.  Whilst it is nice to be able to see all these, one pays a price and the price is overcrowding, with many vehicles vying for positions to see the animals.  If, like us, you’re used to the relative peace and quiet of the game reserves to the north of South Africa’s borders, these crowds can be a bit off-putting.  So it was with happy hearts that we left Satara as soon as the gates opened and headed north to the quieter part of the Park – our destination for the day being the camp at Punda Maria.

Grey-headed Kingfisher

It’s a long drive of 245 kms and with a speed limit of 50 kms per hour it’s a good day’s journey.  It takes a long time to cover the distance because you stop often to look at birds and animals.  Our first great sighting was a tree full of White Storks.  They looked like baubles on a Christmas tree!

White Storks

We hadn’t gone much further when we were confronted by a small herd of elephants walking down the road towards us.  There was no way of getting past them and they seemed determined not to leave the road.  They ended up pushing us back a kilometer or two as they plodded steadily towards us, unconcerned about the time we were losing.  After what seemed like an eternity they left the road and we were able to proceed.  The area north of Olifants Camp has large tracts of Mopani trees, a favourite with elephants, so we were to see many more on our trip up to Punda Maria.

Elephants on the march

Dawn in the Park is an awesome time.  We came across a Yellow-billed Kite feasting on a hare.  The Kite was undaunted by our presence and made the most of its meal while we clicked away and got some nice photos.  The Kite wasn’t eating alone – can you see the beetle that was also interested in getting a piece of the action?

Yellow-billed Kite

Spurfowls and Koorhaans are also found in great numbers along this route.  They favour the road for some reason, which makes it easy to get photos of them.

Swainsons Spurfowl

The variety of animals thins out as you head north, so unless you’re a birder, you could be disappointed.  We saw loads of Spotted Hyenas, which I will blog about separately, but apart from them and the elephants, there were hardly any other animals.   Raptors, both large and small were plentiful, the smaller one’s being Amur Falcons, which were everywhere.  Close to Shingwedzi we saw a Broadbill Roller for the first time on the trip.  This, together with colourful Red-headed Weavers (both male and female), was very exciting.  There were European Rollers everywhere – it would be nice if the Broadbills and Racket-tail Rollers were as prolific.

Broad-billed Roller

We actually arrived at Punda Maria in good time, but the heavens opened up as we were unloading our vehicle, so poor Rob was drenched.  Nothing that a good cup of coffee couldn’t sort out though.  Next blog about the lovely area between Punda Maria and Pafuri – new ground for us.

Birding Weekend at Kruger

We’ve been silent on Wilkinson’s World for a while now, but that’s only because we’ve been away having a number of adventures.  A visit to Kruger National Park is always a treat for us, and this year we were fortunate enough to be invited to a birding weekend at Satara, hosted by SANParks Honorary Rangers West Rand Region.  And what a treat it turned out to be.  Not only did the Rangers take us to places that are normally off limits to the public, but we also had expert guides telling us about the birds and animals that we saw.  The night and dawn drives were especially exciting.

Golden-tailed Woodpecker

We were well prepped before arriving at Kruger and had been given official lists of birds we were likely to see in the area at that time of the year.  Our bird count could start within a 50km radius of Satara, which meant that once we came through Orpen Gate our list was open.  Needless to say, there were birds aplenty and it took us over four hours to cover the short distance from the gate to Satara.  By the time we reached our lovely thatched rondavel we’d already seen quite a number of the summer migrants (like European Rollers, Southern Carmine and European Bee-eaters).

Yellow-billed Oxpecker

The birding around Satara is especially good and there are a couple of great bird hides and dams within easy driving distance of the camp.  We arrived a day earlier than most of the other birders, so had an afternoon and morning free to drive around on our own.  Rob and I were in our element.  I drove so that Rob could work with his camera without having a steering wheel in his way.  We are at our happiest when we’re looking for birds and animals and when the animals are obliging about having their photos taken we are delighted.

Black Crake

The S100 road to Gudzani was especially profitable and we had magnificent sightings of Southern Ground Hornbills, which are the most vulnerable of the Hornbill species.  The shrike species were well represented, as were the cuckoos – we saw Jacobin, Levaillants and Dideriek Cuckoos regularly and there were Woodland Kingfishers in abundance, their distinctive calls always letting us know of their presence.   With the aid of our expert bird guides, the next day we saw both Common and African Cuckoo’s.  We only found them because the guides heard them calling and stopped to look for them.

Jacobin Cuckoo

As I said earlier, our night drives were special.  We were mainly on the look-out for owls and nightjars and they didn’t disappoint.  Spotlights swept over the trees and ground as we drove slowly along and we soon spotted a number of night animals – African Civits, Small Spotted Genets and of course owls, nightjars, lots of thick-knees and a tiny Buttonquail.  We came across a lion fast asleep in the middle of the road – sprawled out, he was obviously enjoying the warmth of the asphalt under his body.  He didn’t even lift up his head to acknowledge our presence even though we were less than a meter away from him.  We also saw a family of Spotted Hyenas as they came out of a culvert and stalked off into the night.

Fiery-necked Nightjar

Most of us were brave enough to rise before 4.00 a.m. to be in time for the dawn chorus.  We came across a pride of lions resting in the long grass shortly before our vehicle got stuck in the mud.  It took many minutes and lots of brainpower and manpower to extricate the truck as many of us stood by, risking life and limb while the drama was playing out.  Talk about living on the edge!

Lending a helping hand

The dinners provided for the birders were excellent and it was great to be in the company of people who share one’s passion for birds and the bush.  The weekend was sponsored by a number of high profile companies, whose generous product donations were well received.  We came away with quite a haul of useful items, plus plenty of reading material about the work of the Rangers and the Eco Trainers.  All money that we spent on the weekend went to further the important work of the Honorary Rangers and we were assured that their fund-raising efforts went to where they were most needed for the betterment of the National Parks.

Woodland Kingfisher

As numbers are limited for the birding weekends with the Honorary Rangers, we will feel very privileged if we are invited to attend next year – it was certainly well worth the long drive from Durban.  From Satara Rob and I took a slow drive through the Park up to Punda Maria to see what birds we could find further north.  More about that in our next blog.

Elephants and Idiots

I don’t know about you, but I think the world is going a bit loopy at the moment.  Perhaps I should check out the phase of the moon because it’s usually the cause of people acting like lunatics.  I don’t often stand on a soap box and moan about the stupidity of some people, but when ignorant folks do things that directly harm animals and nature, then I feel strongly about it.

I blogged recently about lion hunting in South Africa because a lady visitor from America came here and bragged about shooting a magnificent lion for fun.  This week a British couple takes centre stage for their destruction of another of our Big Five animals, this time a beautiful bull elephant in Kruger National Park.  Admittedly they didn’t physically shoot the animal, but they were directly responsible for its death by not showing due respect.

Making at splash

As can be seen in the SkyNews video footage of their encounter with the elephant, the visitors were given a warning by the elephant when it turned to face them with its ears flapping.  This was a clear indication that the animal was not happy and it would be a good idea for them to remove themselves from the situation, which they had every opportunity to do.  They stayed put, however, and waited until seconds before the attack to attempt to move their car.  This only incensed the elephant more and they were shown in a no-nonsense manner what an angry elephant does when it rolled their car a number of times.  Fortunately they weren’t killed, but that can’t be said for the poor elephant as rangers shot it shortly afterwards for its perfectly normal behaviour when feeling threatened or annoyed.

I’m not saying that the elephant was threatened, but they react when humans come too close for comfort and their reaction is normal for an animal in the bush.  How absurd that it has to be shot for ambling innocently through its own bushveld territory to appease the tourist industry and future business for Kruger National Park.  I’m sorry, but this should never have happened.  Perhaps it’s a lesson for the authorities at Kruger to make foreigners watch the video upon entering the Park, or give them a pamphlet to read and sign so that the animals don’t need to be put down when humans do silly things in parks.

And down under we have our second lunatic of the week – an Australian man who jumped into the sea in a budgie cage to look at a great white shark.  The shark, that had been caught by fishermen and was able to swim alongside the boat, was probably in pain and enraged when it saw the human in its environment, and it came in for an attack.  Did the diver expect to be welcomed by the shark and left alone, and did he think that a flimsy budgie cage was any measure against the powerful jaws of a great white shark?

In South Africa people can view great white sharks from a heavily reinforced cage that is lowered into the water, but the sharks that are viewed are not captured and injured first and the people can do this in relative safety.

When are we going to learn to leave animals alone and let them live in peace without being harassed by humans?  Wild animals are just that – wild animals – and that is their beauty.  Why do we have to go into their domains and ruin everything for them and for all the other nature lovers who just want to enjoy God’s creatures in their natural environment?  Come on humans, we are supposed to be the one’s with brains and intelligence!

The Tale of the Tortoise Shell

Christmas is a time of traditions, stories and folklore.  In Africa it is no different, although the folk tales are told throughout the year to many willing listeners.  With acknowledgements to Chinua Achebe, the renowned Nigerian novelist who wrote Things Fall Apart (the most widely read book in modern African literature according to Wikipedia) – let me tell you the tale of how the tortoise got the lovely patterns on its shell.

Leopard tortoise

Tortoise was a cunning fellow, who was known to pull a trick or two on the animals in the district.  When he heard that the birds had been invited to a feast by the sky people, his mouth watered at the thought of the delicious food that would be on offer.  The land had been stricken by drought and Tortoise was so thin that his shriveled body rattled inside its shell.

He used his powers of persuasion to get the birds to allow him to accompany them to the feast.  Of course he didn’t have wings like they did, but they were a friendly lot and each bird kindly donated a feather to Tortoise, which he made into two nice big feathered wings.  As I said, Tortoise was a sly reptile and the birds didn’t really trust him at all, but he assured them that he was a changed man.

They all dressed themselves and then took off together for the feast in the sky.  Tortoise, being widely traveled and knowledgeable, told them that it was important to note that when they were invited to such a great feast, it was customary that they should change their names for the occasion.  This was news to the birds, but they respected Tortoise for his great wisdom.  After the birds had all assumed new names, Tortoise renamed himself  “All of you.”

Leopard tortoise

When the party eventually arrived at its destination in the sky, they were warmly welcomed by their hosts.  Tortoise, in his beautiful feathered plumage, stood up to thank them for their invitation and he was so eloquent and grand that the sky people assumed that he was the king of the birds.  The feast began with pots and pots of delicious food being set before them.  Tortoise could hardly believe his eyes.  The sky people invited the birds to eat.  Tortoise immediately jumped up and asked them who the food had been prepared for.  “For all of you,” the man said.

Tortoise turned to the birds and reminded them that his new name was “All of you” and he said that the custom here was for the spokesperson to eat first and then the other birds would be served after he had eaten.  Tortoise ate and ate and ate and the birds grumbled angrily.  The people of the sky thought it was the bird’s custom to allow their king to eat first.

Leopard tortoise

Tortoise ate his fill and left the birds nothing but bones and meagre pickings.  They were so angry with him that they chose to fly home with empty stomachs.  Before they left, they each took back their feather that they had given to Tortoise.  He stood there in his shell, with his belly bloated from all the food and wine.  He had no wings to fly himself back home again.  He asked the birds to take a message to his wife, but they all refused.  Eventually an angry parrot offered to relay his message.

Leopard tortoise

Tortoise asked parrot to tell his wife to cover the ground around his home with soft things, so that he could jump from the sky and make a soft landing.  Parrot promised, but his message to Tortoise’s wife was the opposite and he told her to put lots of hard things around the home (like hoes. guns and a cannon).  Tortoise could see her working hard, but was too far away to see what she was putting out.  When she was ready, he let himself go and dropped out of the sky.  He fell and fell and at last he crashed into the compound around his home.

His landing caused his shell to shatter into many pieces.  Tortoise survived the fall, but his wife had to call the local medicine man to fix him up again.  The medicine man gathered all the broken pieces of his shell and stuck them together.  We can still see where all the joins are today.

A lovely African tale, don’t you think?  I’m enjoying the book too.

 

The ladykiller and the lion

I’ve been following the Melissa Bachman lion killing debate with great interest.  As a nature lover I’m heartened to see the outcry that her callous behaviour has spawned.  I guess it would be naive to think that hunting doesn’t take place, but I think that the shock value of the Bachman incident is twofold – one, that she’s a woman and two, that she dared to brag about hunting one of South Africa’s Big Five animals.

A young male lion

South African women tend to leave the more robust sports to our men folk and it really doesn’t sit easy on our minds to see a woman sporting a hunting rifle and grinning from ear to ear because she has just shot a magnificent, defenceless lion.  I know that women have fought long and hard for equal rights in the world arena, and I appreciate their efforts on our behalf, but somehow as nurturers of the world, hunting just doesn’t seem like one of those jobs that women should share with men unless it’s an absolute necessity.  If women start hardening their hearts and becoming cold blooded killers of animals, who will take over from us as nurturers and carers?  And what is the next step from killing animals – killing humans?

Lion cub Botswana

And talking of equal rights,  why didn’t she challenge him without a gun in her hands?  What a shame she chose the cowardly way of taking him on.  Anyone who has camped in the wilds in Africa can tell you of the thrill of living amongst wild lions.  To lie in a tent and hear the deep roar of a male lion nearby is about one of the most thrilling sounds in the world.  I guess for Ms Bachman the sound of a gunshot does more for her than listening to an animal calling to its mate.  Shame on her!

Kalahari red-maned lion

It’s a sad indictment of our society if this awful act was a publicity stunt because she’s a TV presenter (Michelle hosts “Deadly Passion”).  If people need to boost TV show ratings or their image by killing proud animals it doesn’t say much for the rest of the world if we continue to watch these shows and stroke their inflated egos.

Magnificent beast

Our rhinos are being poached into extinction in this country so it won’t be too long before we are left with the Big Five minus one!  If people are going to start on our lions as well, then they are going to have to face the wrath of South Africans.  Thank you to all those people around the world who signed petitions (hell yes, I did too!) and who voiced their anger at this woman.  It was a debate that I wish hadn’t needed to be brought to light, but if it raised the consciousness of people’s inhumanity to dwindling populations of animals on our planet, then our poor brave lion’s death was not in vain.

Ms Bachman’s post on Twitter alongside her photo – “An incredible day hunting in South Africa!  Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion … what a hunt!” – elicited a magnificent retort from Ricky Gervais : “Spot the typo!”

Well said Ricky!  My sentiments exactly.

Once Upon a Campsite

Most of the campsites that we stay at have one or two local residents that come and welcome us as soon as we arrive.  We like to think that they are just being hospitable, but we secretly know that they have been lured in by all our predecessors and they’re really hoping that we will keep up the tradition of feeding them scraps.  They vary from birds to jackals and monkeys, but when we visited Cape Vidal we had a marvelously different array of hungry souls that came in search of food.  With the Park’s strict “No Feeding” policy we were hard-pressed not to give in to the pressure as they scrounged around our vehicles.

Red-capped Robin Chat

During the day we had this sweet little Red-capped Robin Chat (and his wife) getting underfoot.  With their beautiful bright feathers they were welcome guests (or perhaps WE were actually their guests) and we were glad to have them around.  Their happy chirping always heralded their arrival and they weren’t scared when we moved around the campsite doing our daily chores.

Large Spotted Genet

Night-time brought other visitors.  On our first night around the campfire we were visited by a Large Spotted Genet.  As we sank a few beers and/or Gluwein we debated whether our Genet was a large Spotted Genet or a Large Spotted Genet – there is a difference you know.  As you can see, the conversations are very deep and intense when you’re in the bush and staring into the dancing flames of a campfire.

Bushpig

Our second night brought in a rather large visitor in the form of a wild Bushpig.  When he came bumbling into our campsite humans and chairs scattered and we dived for our cameras.  It’s always a good policy to keep a camera close on hand when you’re in the bush – you never know what is about to come into your viewfinder!  The Bushpig was a first for us, as we’d never seen a wild one so close by before.  He snuffled around in the sand hoping for some leftovers and then disappeared back into the bushes without so much as wishing us good night.  He came back a couple of times during our stay, but this was the best photo that we got of him.

Mongooses raiding the refuse bin

We were woken up every morning by the chattering of dozens of Striped Mongooses that swept through our campsite like little vacuum cleaners.  They weren’t content just to scour the dusty ground, but even managed to climb into the sealed refuse bin to feast on peels and bones that had been thrown away.  Of course they were always in competition with the monkeys that I wrote about in my last blog.

Tree Squirrel

Competition for food is tough in the bush and every animal is on the lookout for easy pickings.  Next up was a sweet little Tree Squirrel that also wanted a piece of the action.  His magnificent tail looked like a golden bottle brush in the early morning sun.  He was rather shy and fled if we so much as moved a finger.

Bushbuck

Last but not least was a pair of Bushbuck.  They looked so vulnerable on their delicate long legs, but they could take off very quickly when the need arose.

Imagine having all these different creatures in one campsite.  We didn’t even have to take a game drive to enjoy them either.  What an amazing place to park off for a few days to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.   As an added bonus, the game drives during the day also offered up opportunities to enjoy lots of animals and birds.  Definitely worth a visit and a revisit sometime soon.