All creatures great and small

My previous blog was about the spotted hyenas that we saw on a visit to the Kruger National Park.  I also spoke about the majority of people wanting to see the Big 5.  It never fails to astound us, when we’re in a game reserve, to see how much people actually miss because they’re only intent on seeing big game.  I’m not knocking them really, because obviously some people go to game reserves for that very reason, but there are so many different little worlds in the Park that folks who are interested in all creatures, great and small, get to see in addition to the bigger animals.

One can always see when something interesting has been spotted, because a car will stop and then everyone coming (from either direction) will pull in to see what they are looking at.  This can be very helpful, because not everyone’s eyes are equally sharp and we would often have missed an exciting sighting of an animal deep in the bush if they hadn’t spotted it first.  We would have missed these slumbering lions, for example.

Lions sleeping in a river bed

One gentleman was extremely helpful when we stopped next to him and he gave us detailed directions of where to find a pair of cheetahs a few kilometers away on a side road.

Cheetah

Often we’re watching a beautiful little lizard sunning itself on the road, or photographing a tiny bird, and it doesn’t take long before we have accumulated an entourage of cars befitting a royal cavalcade!

Blue-tailed Sandveld lizard

When they finally give up in disgust because they can’t see anything they pull up next to us and ask what we’re looking at.  On hearing that it’s a bird, we get a wave of the hand and a look of frustration as they announce to everyone in their car that “it’s only a bird.”    Don’t they know that we’ve just got a shot of an incredibly beautiful orange-breasted bush-shrike?

Orange-breasted Bush-shrike

We came across a sensible fellow birder who had a sign in his window saying: “Please pass we’re watching a bird.”  We also saw two guys who were tree-spotting.  How interesting – at least their subjects didn’t run away out of sight or fly off.

Monitor lizard

Some of our most remarkable game reserve moments have been when we’re quietly sitting at a waterhole having a cup of coffee.  Some visitors drive up to the waterhole, see nothing and drive away.  Literally seconds after they’ve left, in will come an animal or a bird that makes the whole trip worthwhile.  (It’s probably also happened to us dozens of times; there simply isn’t time to sit for hours at each spot.)   This beautiful white-headed vulture was a case in point when it came in to land at a waterhole we were watching after everyone else had left.  Minutes later it was joined by a juvenile so we had a double treat.

White-headed Vulture

Rob always says that you have to be “out there” to have these incredible moments in nature, but being out there is often not enough.  Added to that you have to look at the whole of nature and, most importantly, have endless patience, which any bird or animal photographer will tell you is the key element.  Birds and animals seem to have a sixth sense about cameras – they will sit quite still for ages until you bring out a camera and then they’re off!  Oh yes, we know all about patience…

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