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  1. 35 likes
    The next morning we were up and out before dawn to try and catch the sunrise and those iconic sunrise sillhouette shots. We followed the photography group to a spot where the guides of course knew would give the perfect vantage point. As I started to shoot from the vehicle, Jackson and Gerard encouraged me to get down and lay on the ground--as we now saw that the photography group was doing. The results... Little did we know that this would be just about the only clear sunrise of the trip--nor would we ever get a beautiful sunset. As it turned out, we had an unexpected amount of rain on the trip; fortunately, it only interfered with a couple of drives, but we just never again had any good opportunities for sunrise or sunset photography. After the sunrise, we decided to return to where we'd left Olare the night before. Sure enough, he was back in his tree, and apparently just waking up... a nice stretch... resting... At the same time, Dad was lying in the grass a little further up the river. Soon Olare came down and joined him. Seeing the two together was amazing--even if the grass made for a messy photo. (Update--just checking the Exif I see this photo of the two of them was actually from the evening prior, not the morning. I told you my memory wasn't that good!) Olare then moved to the kill which was now on the ground...or perhaps this was a new kill, I'm not sure. He is a most gorgeous leopard! What eyes! Well, his mom is Fig, after all. Would we see her later? We really hoped so, as I'd heard so much about her and seen lovely photos from several trip reports here. Eventually we had to tear ourselves away to see what else we might find.
  2. 33 likes
    Well that should have been a question mark in the title, but there's no way to change it oh well! As I've done in prior trip reports, I'll be posting highlights and impressions and a few special sightings at each location, but not always day-by-day--I don't keep a journal, and my memory isn't that great! Porini Lion Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy On arrival at Porini Lion we were met by Jackson, who was to be our guide, and Gerard, our spotter. But in actuality, they both seemed to do equal spotting work and were equally skilled and fun to be with. We were also really thrilled to discover that even though we'd not booked (nor paid for) a private vehicle, we would have one to ourselves for our entire stay! The reason being that there was a large photography group who were using three other vehicles, and just one other couple who had booked a private vehicle. On our last day, that couple left, but another family of five came, and so they had their own vehicle as well. What incredible luck! I won't go into detail about the camp as I have already done a camp review in the "Reviews" section. Suffice to say that it was very comfortable, with good food--very home-style, simple buffet cooking, with some really outstanding dishes--especially the ribs! Our tent was #3 which looked out into the riverbed. For some reason on this trip I forgot to take photos of most of the accommodations. But there was plenty of wildlife right around the camp and in fact, the river below our tent was active with Zebra and Wildebeest most days. After a wonderful lunch and a rest we headed out for our first afternoon game drive. Well, we didn't get far...and I mean not five minutes from camp...when we spotted this: He was perched in a tree on the other side of the riverbed right above camp. We spent a while watching him, until he descended the tree and went into the forest. And then shortly thereafter...he came back...or did he? Wait! This is NOT the same cat! Check out that split ear in cat #1--this guy didn't have it. Sure enough, we were told this is Olare...son of the famous Fig! The other leopard (who had no known name) was apparently his father. So we spent most of our evening drive with Olare...even if it was hardly a "drive" as we had barely left camp! Olare was climbing in and around in the branches, making photography difficult--the vegetation was thick and the light was low. Soon we realized that there was a kill in this tree (actually, I'm pretty sure Gerard and Jackson knew this all along, and knew the leopard would come back to this tree for the kill. After awhile the light was getting very low and it seemed the leopards had settled in for the night, we decided to move on--with some assurances that the leopards would likely still be in the same area in the morning. We started to drive further away from camp and soon came upon a lioness with a cub. But we didn't stay with her long, because somehow...and I'm not even sure how, because it all happened so fast...Jackson said "there's a lion on the hunt"!!! And so we quickly found ourselves in the midst of a kill situation! The light was terrible and this was the best I could get... I was rather unprepared and it being our very first night I didn't have my settings down, this is ISO 20,000 (yes that's right, no extra zero by mistake.) It all happened so fast and before I could even see what was going on, it was over. But it was successful! At this point we were close enough so that I could switch to my faster lens and down to ISO 8000...but the light was almost non-existent by this time. WELL! What a way to end our very first game drive in Kenya! Two leopards and a lion kill before we even went to sleep! Could it only go downhill from here? We'll see tomorrow....
  3. 30 likes
    In 2014, there were only a handful of flamingoes in the lagoon, although we were there almost at exact same time. This time, Mother Nature more then make up in numbers. Flamingoes were walking in groups, very close to the shore, enjoying the sun and the feeding and, obviously, also enjoying themselves! Yes, I know, too many photos. But they are so pretty in pink, and for me, I like even more the deep orange colour of their eyes. I think we have done enough photos for next 10 years . (to be continued)
  4. 27 likes
    An elephant bull enjoys his mudbath in the Mwamba waterhole. Safari is full of surprises. A few minutes out of camp on a morning drive and we noticed that lions had walked down the track during the night so we were quietly following their spoor. Imagine our astonishment when we rounded a bend in the road and this scene presented itself. Patrick the guide was agog. "Wow, that's rare" he said. In 24 years of guiding he had seen Spotted Hyaenas mating only once before.
  5. 27 likes
    And yet... I still have five leopards to go! Never dreamed we'd see so many individual leopards in the Mara. @offshorebirder Birding around Porini Lion was quite good. There are many trees around. Of course, we were primarily in camp in the heat of the mid-day, so birding wasn't THAT active, but there was always something. While hubby napped I was usually sitting in front of our tent watching for something to land in the big bush in front of me. I was going to save the birds for later, but since you asked here are a few that were taken right in the camp. In fact, I may as well use this post to highlight some of the wildlife that was right in the camp itself. So all of the following images were taken right in Porini Lion Camp. This Brown-throated Wattle-eye was a lifer for us! Speckled Mousebirds frequented the trees and bushes by the river. This Little Bee-eater was actually below me on the river bank. A bit too busy of a background, but I like his spread tail. We also got a lifer White-throated Bee-eater, but unfortunately it was far on the other side of the river bank, so no good photo. There were some other interesting critters around camp. This Yellow-winged Bat was hanging in the tree directly next to our tent. And as I mentioned, the river below held many zebra and wildebeest during the heat of the day. Here's a typical mid-day view from our "porch." Well, actually you couldn't see the river from the porch, you had to get up and walk ten steps to look down at it from above--there was a steep drop-off. We kept hoping for a leopard to come through--and its entirely possible--but we never saw one. And this Olive Baboon crossed below our tent as well. There were also many sunbirds and a variety of LBJs, not all of which I could confidently identify. I'm pretty sure this one is Zitting.
  6. 26 likes
    SLNP is synonymous with night drives. Many guests love them. Me, I'm in two minds about them. Often I think you end up in a hypnotic trance watching the spotlight flash back & forth in front of you and yet at other times they can be crackers. On one particular drive we were looking for ardvark, at one point a strange shape moved ahead of us... Is it!?, nope, ...only a leopard. I've never been so disappointed to see a leopard. Even so my consolation prize from that drive was this little gem. An innocuous chameleon. It's disguise revealed by backlighting from a spotlight. The young elephant from the family group shot in post #9. It's possible this was caused by a crocodile and I'd hate to think that a poacher's snare was involved. She seemed to be coping well enough and was healthy otherwise. The Last waterhole hide at Mwamba camp is not in an ideal location from a photography perspective as usually you are shooting into the sun but other than that it is incredible. Often guests spend hours in the hide between brunch and the afternoon game drive. An amazing amount of game from elephant to the smallest birds visit the waterhole. I witnessed a lion hunt there in 2008. The animals can be incredibly close too, at times if I had wished I could have reached out and touched the elephants standing next to the hide. Buffalo frequent the waterhole too. This is a full frame image with the buff suspiciously looking at the hide whilst listening to the sound of my camera's shutter. Behind you!, Behind you!. This impala herd was completely oblivious of the male lion and I could swear the 3 lioness (out of picture) deliberately forced them to run in his direction but the big fella was completely uninterested. He had found a nice shady spot with a cooling breeze off the river and wasn't moving. An ox-pecker either whispers sweet nothings or looks for parasites in a zebra's ear.
  7. 25 likes
    Day 5 : Pretty In Pink We have woken up into some damp cold misty morning. Of course, as it was Swakopmund. A quick breakfast, then trying not to get too wet while collapsing the tents. Out of the camp late yet the weather looks not too inviting. Walvis Bay was our destination of the day, and yes, the lagoon. While pink is not on top of the beloved colours by anyone of us, and specially not by Tanja, when it adorned flamingoes, such animosity is well cured. The sun dispersed the fog even before we have parked the car, and voila, hundreds of Lesser Flamingoes were feeding very close to the walking path. From there on, it was clicking only! I have had no idea how many photos the three of us have done, at least not until we came back home. Way too many, at first glance, but then, for those that have really succeeded it was worth the time and the space. I do hope you will survive the overdose of both the colour pink and the flamingoes . Constantly pruning themselves Sometimes disputes broke out Not all are pink Dancing Queens His Majesty and The Reflection (to be continued)
  8. 24 likes
    Having several African safaris under our belt--South Africa twice, Tanzania, Botswana--and having read so many wonderful Kenya trip reports on SafariTalk, Kenya seemed the logical destination for our next safari. But where to go? I knew that the Mara had to be included. Should we add other areas and parks? Usually for a first trip to a country we like to get an overview and see as much as possible of different habitats but in the end, mainly due to time and budget constraints, we decided to concentrate on the Masai Mara--and do it at the optimal time to witness the "Great Migration" and the famed river crossings. The only other thing I was certain of was that we wanted to stay primarily in the conservancies, so that we would have less crowds and the ability to off-road. So, with the expert guidance of our safari planner, Bill Given at The Wild Source, we decided on the following itinerary, commencing mid-September 2016. 1 night Eka Hotel, Nairobi 3 nights Porini Lion Camp, Olare Motorogi Conservancy 4 nights Encounter Mara Camp, Naboisho Conservancy 4 nights Wild Source's private mobile camp, Enaidura, in the Mara triangle 1 Night Ololo Lodge, Nairobi The Wild Source has a new collaborative model with two local Masai guides, who have co-ownership in the Enaidura operation: Johnson Ping’ua Nkukuu (Ping) and Paul Kirui. They also have arranged with some camps to allow these guides (who are very well respected across Kenya) to bring clients to those camps in Wild Sources' specially configured safari vehicle. So this unique arrangement enabled us to have our own vehicle with well-known and highly regarded Ping as our private guide while we were at Encounter Mara and Enaidura Camps. At Porini Lion, we were to be in a shared vehicle (or so we thought...) As departure approached I started to get a little apprehensive--were we making a mistake staying in just one location--the Mara--for our whole trip? As birders, I knew we were unlikely to add many "lifers" in this area, since being contiguous with the Serengeti, where we'd been in Tanzania, there would be few birds that were unique or new. Would there be enough photographic opportunities?? Would we drive endlessly through featureless savanna without seeing much of anything?? Would we be bored with so many nights in one area...were the three camps different enough? Well...as those of you who have been to the Mara must know, there was no need to worry. I can honestly say that we have not been anywhere else on safari where there was never a dull moment--never a lull--always something to see just around the corner! And each camp was unique with its own attractions. And we learned a few things: the Mara is THE place for cats--we saw 7 unique leopards, countless lions, 12 different cheetahs, and 2 servals. And we even picked up 152 birds, with 15 of them lifers--more than I expected! Not to mention the endless plains of wildebeest, zebra, and all the other game species. And one other thing I learned--although I am glad that we saw a few river crossings--I don't ever have to, or want to, do that again. More on that later. So enough preamble, I'm sure you want to get to the meat of it--and some photos! A bit later...
  9. 24 likes
    It's hard to believe that 3 years have passed since my last visit to the Farne Islands. That memorable visit was organised as a Get Together by @Safari Cal and gave me the chance to meet up with safaritalkers @JohnR, @kittykat23uk, @BigBaldIan and @africapurohit. Farne Islands 2014 - TR The company was great but the weather wasn't kind to us on that occasion and the grey, wet and windy conditions were not ideal for photography. I was hooked though and promised myself that I would go back again as soon as the opportunity presented itself. The visit to the UK of @Bugs and his wife Jenny seemed like just the incentive I needed to plan another visit. When we arrived in Seahouses the omens were not good. There had just been 3 days of storm force winds and rain and the campsite was littered with leaves and small branches torn from the trees by the wind. I checked with the Billy Shiels office and they told me that they had not been able to go out at all for the past 3 days due to high winds and choppy seas making it too hard for them to let people ashore at the islands. Tomorrow was looking much better though. We crossed fingers and toes. Sure enough as the day wore on the wind dropped and the clouds cleared, leaving us with a lovely evening to walk along the cliffs to Dunstanburgh Castle. A huge improvement on how it had looked at 8 o'clock that morning The morning brought blue skies. Not the same deep blue of an African sky but a much paler British version of a blue sky; very welcome nonetheless. The quayside was heaving as we picked up our tickets; packed with people who had been unable to make the trip on previous days. The weather was typically British; alternating between clear sky and clouds, with even a short rain shower, but it was good enough. Unlike my previous visit we were able to go ashore at both Staple Island and Inner Farne. As we approached Staple Island we could already see puffins in the water, which was god as it meant they were out there collecting sand eels. For anyone who has not seen it before, the sheer volume of sea birds congregating on the islands is incredible. Guillemots and kittiwakes cover the cliffs And when we went ashore, the puffins were right there to meet us.
  10. 24 likes
    One disappointment we had on this trip was that we were only able to do two night drives. Two other evenings, we attempted night drives but had to turn back due to torrential rain (once was here at Porini, and once at Encounter Mara.) However, we did get one night drive at Porini which was productive. A nice thing about night drives in the conservancies is that you can actually go out AFTER dinner, instead of trying to fit it in at the end of an afternoon drive and then have to rush to dinner with no chance to clean up or relax even for a moment. Our night drive at Porini started at around 9 p.m. We were super excited to have barely pulled out of camp when we saw this Serval! Well, the back of a Serval is better than no Serval at all In fact, it seemed that Serval was rather common in the Mara (more to come later) and there were many sightings in the area around Porini Lion Camp. I think this fella was seen quite often, but it was a thrill for us (only our 2nd life Serval, the first being in the Ngorongoro Crater.) One cat we were really dying to see was Caracal. A Caracal was seen during the time we were at the camp, and we spent quite a bit of time searching and waiting in that area, and another vehicle even saw it while we were sitting there (the brush was really, really dense at this spot) but alas, we missed it. Hoping to see one on our upcoming trip to Zambia! The only other mammals seen on the night drive were Hares and Spring Hare, but no other photos worth posting.
  11. 24 likes
    There is a shortcut road that goes first to Spitzkoope Lodge and then crossing the whole camping area to reach the main reception of the community camp. IMO it is better to follow the signed approach road. After a brief drive through local community village, and local "shopping mall" there is the small reception to check in. The map of the camp is basic, and as the camp covers really huge territory with only about 15 campsites, chasing the right one is not that easy. They work on "first come first serve" basis. Some of the photos from our exploration of the camp to find the right campsite for us: Reception hut Two iconic items of Namibia More granite mountains This one is occupied already ... ... and this one also ... ... maybe this one? No, there are tents ... Anyone sees any bears? The famous Rock Bridge ... also taken This couple obviously likes its home ... ... so why not staying next to them?!
  12. 23 likes
    Finally we have decided for campsite #4; it has a gorgeous view over the inner amphitheater of the Spitzkoope group, it has a long drop toilet, and a braai,. What else one could ever need for camping?! While me and Tanja were busy working on the RTTs, Zvezda put some steaks on the braai, while taking many photos. Below is my feeble attempt to capture the majesty of the place using the panorama option on my little P&S camera: From the ground floor ... ... and from the balcony Granite itself is high on iron, thus reddish, but when the sun started to set down, and the angle of the light becomes more horizontal, the nearby rocks explodes in a fire! Firefighter on duty Looks like lava flow Deep red and long shades Not only flamingos are pretty in pink The sun is already deep below horizon I have seen some of the @Peter Connan night sky photos when we met him in Solitaire; enough to effectively surprise any idea of trying to compete with him. That one is the only one I have done. Just for fun, with Sony RX100 MkII, in JPEG, etc. If not for its funky colour that matches the previously posted photos, it would end up in the "round bin". Milky Way the wrong way Everything idyllic, one would though?! Not exactly! Well into the deep of the night, a strange noise woke us all up! And then the shaking of the tents, and finally, the whole car was shaking !! Nope, no elephants or buffaloes here, only a very strong wind, and our site, while having perfect views, was also perfectly exposed to it. It was quite scary as on some moments the part of the tent that is not attached to the roof was blown upper 10-20 cm. Me and Tanja's (we have shared one tent) combined weight was just enough to countermeasure the force of the wind while Zvezda has had much bigger problems. While no-one was looking at the clock, the wind died down in about 2 hours. Lesson learned: next time we should tied the tent down to the ground or to the bottom of the car.
  13. 23 likes
    Thanks everyone for your kind comments Since I've already managed to mix up dates, I'm not going to try too hard to stay in sequence. We're still at Porini for awhile, though I do believe it was this first morning that we came upon this group of elephants in a small stream. (Make sure you click on the image to see it full size, as its wider than most.) The light was kind of flat, so I did a little creative processing here with Nik ColorEFX. At one point, photographing this Secretary Bird, we got photo-bombed by a lion! This is one of my favorites of the trip! Speaking of lions, we saw some good-sized prides. Now I know some of you are keen about knowing the pride names and names of individual lions and other cats. I confess that I am terrible at taking notes and often we just forgot to ask. I paid more attention to Leopard names because they are my favorite cats. I did ask about the lion prides and I know that we saw the Enkoyonai pride and at least one other in this area, but I am sorry to say that I don't know which lions I photographed are from which. I'll try to do better next time! I do believe it was that first morning that we came upon this very photogenic group in the early morning light. and this lovely couple... I actually learned the name of this magnificent male from the couple above just recently, as I posted the following photo on Facebook and he was identified by someone as Lolparpit. Isn't he grand!! and his lady friend..
  14. 21 likes
    Still Day 6: Granite On Fire After the coffee break, and salt licking experiment, it was time to head inland, to our first "not been there yet" stop of this year itinerary: Spitzkoope! The gravel road D1918 which turns off coastal salt road C34 right in Henries Bay showed its ugly face right away. The gravel was deep and loose, and car was dancing all over the surface as soon as the speed goes above 60 km/h. Luckily it only lasted for about 50 km, then the surface hardened and the speed reached the usual 80 km/h. It is a barn and desolate country (but not as boring as the one along the C14 toward Walvis Bay). Then there it was: the Spitzkoope group! A collection of bald granite peaks, the main one also referred to as the "Matterhorn of Namibia". Me and Zvezda loved the granite boulders at Ameib Ranch in 2014 and I have read enough praise for this camp to brave its otherwise quite basic standards. Spitzkoope group in distance Coming closer the contours becoming more dramatic. The Spitzkoope itself is a very pointed (for Namibia anyway) and high granite mountain. Sign to the campsite Matterhorn of Namibia This Black-chested Snake Eagle is able to get to the best viewing position over the magnificent mountains!
  15. 21 likes
    Walvis Bay has several interesting activities, one being kayaking with seals, and the other jeep drives in dunes. None of those for us. We have went into the saltworks in search of colourful sights. This is what we have found. Huge piles od salt Strongly coloured pools Lost cars ... ... and houses And pelicans (to be continued)
  16. 20 likes
    Staple Island The main attractions of Staple Island are the Puffins and the Shags. From the moment we stepped ashore the puffins were there, on the rocks beside the stairway, seemingly unbothered by the influx of people and the number of cameras being pointed at them. Although the pufflings (yes, that is what they call puffin chicks) were not out, we did see plenty of adults flying back to their burrows with a beakfull of sand eels. The puffins nest in burrows, either ones they dug for themselves or old rabbit burrows that they have taken over. The sand eels must be one of the reasons for the huge congregation of sea birds as almost all species seem to rely on them for food. We saw guillemots, kittiwakes, terns and gulls with sand eels in their beaks. Shags Inner Farne A different kind of welcome here as we ran the gauntlet of diving Arctic terns that had laid their eggs beside, sometimes even on, the boardwalk. Each nest site – I say nest site but the Terns don't actually build a nest, they just lay their eggs on the bare ground – was marked with a hand painted pebble and National Trust Rangers were on hand to make sure that no eggs got stepped on. Arctic Tern The advice to wear a hat was well given as the terns chittered and dived to peck at heads. This one guy had a tern perched on his head which kept pecking at his ear. I wondered why he didn;t shake it off until I saw that he was using his phoen to take a video of the tern pecking him. Suffering for his art. 3 kinds of tern on Inner Farne, Arctic, Sandwich and Common. Plenty of Black Headed Gulls too as well as Shags, razorbills and Eiders. Sandwich Tern Black Headed Gull with chick Razorbill It was a fantastic day; made all the more special by the fact that when we awoke next morning the rain had returned.
  17. 18 likes
    On our last full day at Porini Lion, our guides asked if we wanted to do a full day out and head towards the reserve to try and find a river crossing. We really weren't that keen on it since we knew that we'd be spending five days in the Triangle at the end of our trip, with the aim of seeing a crossing or two; but Gerard and Jackson twisted our arm, assuring us that there would be plenty of wildlife along the way, and we'd see some different areas of the park. Okay, why not... I might mention that at this time there were vast herds of wildebeest in the plains right outside the camp. Every drive we saw something like this (click to get the full size image in better resolution, its another wide one.) I also might mention, in the aim of transparency, that some of these encounters may not have happened in the order or even on the dates they are assigned but I assure you they all happened. I really do need to start taking better notes, but I am just too occupied with photographing! So off we went heading towards the Mara River. When we first were picked up at the airstrip, on our way to Porini Lion Camp the guides mentioned that they knew where there was a jackal den with pups. In fact we passed the area but at that time there was no jackals to be found. So we asked if we could drive by the den area and see if the pups were visible. We were fortunate enough to see two pups right as we got near, but I could only grab a photo of one before they scurried back into their den. Mom (or Dad, not sure which) was around too. and gave us a little stretch... and some other nice sightings along the way. Like this Banded Mongoose... A Topi who had JUST given birth... a Hyena having fun in the dirt... Some hippos... and then this... (not for the squeamish!) We knew this meant there must be lions around. Sure enough, not far we found some flat lions, doing what flat lions do after a nice hippo lunch (sleeping...) She was nice enough to raise her head for a little washing... Well the lions weren't going to do much, so we continued to the river. We actually got there just in time to see the end of a small crossing. We literally just saw the last few wildebeests climbing the bank, and then it was over. Rather anticlimactic, but we were sure we'd see more and better later in the trip, so we were fine with it.
  18. 18 likes
    Thanks @xelas. If you believe camera reviews, that camera is called the D500. Or the D5. Or that new Sony A9. Not that I do, anymore, and sadly I will probably not find out either. Day 21: (Warning: Raptor Overload!) Back up to Rooiputs. First stop, the leopard tree. Soon, another car arrived. I had stopped next to a small bush, and because my car is relatively high, when they stopped next to me they couldn't see over my bonnet, so I moved over a little so that they could fit in between me and the bush. I had scarcely finished, when the leopard started chewing on the vulture. But then, it dropped the vulture. After a half-minute's indecision, it followed the vulture down! The light was still pretty bad, with the sun not reaching the ground yet. Fortunately, the leopard was patient for once, and remained until the sun reached it. The tree it was in was about half-way between the main South African road, and the little twee-spoor that is supposed to be used mainly by the residents of Rooiputs camp. Because the verge of the main road was by now pretty jam-packed, some guys started using the twee-spoor. But as soon as the first car stopped, the leopard obviously felt trapped, and it got up and slinked off into the dunes. And so I headed on for Kij Kij, with sporadic bird sightings along the way. At Kij Kij there were hundreds of Turtle Doves sitting in the trees, and it wasn't long before a Lanner pitched up. Then, a large raptor being harried by a Pale Chanting Goshawk flew past. I am not sure whether this is immature Black-chested Snake-eagle, or immature Martial Eagle, but judging by the yellow eyes I am leaning towards the former? Either way, it was my first (and only) sighting of whichever one it was. Back to Rooiputs, where I at last got some useable images of the Sandgrouse coming in. Apologies for the overload, but to me they are such an enigmatic species. A pair of Lanners swooped in, but all three of us missed. I was just thinking that it was strange that I had seen two Pygmys in one drive, and then notheng again, when: But when he flew off, he went behind the branch, so I shall just have to return for an in-flight shot... And so with my heart jubilating at how the Kgalagadi always seems to leave the best for last, yet heavy that this was the end, I moved along. Between Samevloeing and Twee Rivieren, in that patch of dead ground where nothing ever happens, a juvenile goshawk was sitting on a bush right on the verge of the road. A car was parked right next to him, probably not three metres away. I pulled up and maneuvred to get a shot. The Goshawk then took off and hovered above the Driedorings just next to the bush. I have never seen such behaviour. The photos that follow are virtually un-cropped! Eventually, having missed whatever prey was there, it flew off a little way. My last sighting was this Common Fiscal. I had seen many, but always too far away. And so, barring a long slog home which included an overnight stop at a strange little resort north of Vryburg, the magnificent adventure came to an end.
  19. 16 likes
    Day 3 On the morning of day 3 we went out on a boat on the Rio Negro. I was expecting a lot of bird life so was surprised to see very little along the river. It was beautiful though and I have never seen a river so glassy and tranquil before. We did see a few varieties of birds around (plenty of kingfishers!), some capybaras, caimans and giant river otters Caiman. Ben took us out onto a sand bank with these guys hanging around. Supposedly they aren't a threat to adults which is hard to reconcile when you have been around Australian crocodiles, but they encourage you to go swimming in the rivers and lakes despite them being full of caimans and piranhas so it must be alright Jacana and chicks Whistling heron We got our first glimpse of giant river otters! Gosh they are funny. They appeared out of nowhere and started barking and whistling and making all kinds of commotion, bobbing up and down in the water and craning their necks to check us out As it turns out we were floating past their den! And on closer inspection, one of them was carrying a pup! I thought it was a fish at first. Sorry these photos aren't very good but the sighting was too exciting not to share
  20. 16 likes
    I'm mixing days here, but one of the most beautiful sights we got at Barranco were the sunrises. Dare I say, best I've seen?? It was always a tough choice between breakfast and running outside to keep trying to take photos. As is always the case, photos don't do the real thing justice. It was even pinker in real life! Some of my favourite memories came from just walking around the lodge during break/siesta time. I loved that we could still see amazing things without getting in a jeep or boat. I spent many hours watching hummingbirds chase butterflies and waiting for a toucan to appear. All the toucans I saw were extremely shy and were constantly eyeballing me to make sure I didn't get too close. We also saw a lot of macaws around the place. In fact, so many hyacinth macaws that they became ho-hum . "It's just another hyacinth" I would say every time we saw them. We had seen so many that I was getting impatient for another sighting of the red and green, and we still had not yet seen the blue and yellow. The super shy toco toucan Male and female bare faced curassows Funniest birds ever. I'll have to check if we have video of the calls they make. They sound like kids' laser toys. Lesser yellow headed vulture Hyacinth macaw Horse running around trying to escape the cowboys Shortly after he ran into the middle of the lake and just sat there We went looking for more macaws in the middle of the day and we were told to try a specific set of trees on the other side of the airstrip that they favour. We were almost on the other side when we heard the familiar squawking of macaws from back where we had come from. Using my camera as binoculars I looked across the airstrip and saw perched on a dead palm were a pair of blue macaws. Probably hyacinths again, but the shade of blue wasn't quite right. Then, a flash of yellow. Could it be?! Blue and yellow macaws!! We ran like Usain Bolt back across the field. Sure enough, the blue and yellow!! Behold these beauties!! This is the hummingbird that lived outside my window. I've since learned that he is a swallow tailed hummingbird. I'm very fond of this little guy. And this is my favourite little friend He is so close to my heart. He is a stunning glittering bellied emerald! He was so relaxed flitting from flower to flower with me just standing there. I spent at least a half hour every day with him. Impossible for a novice like me to capture him in motion properly but I tried! He kindly rested from time to time and let me pretty much put my lens right up in his face. Here he is trying to work out what I'm doing. You can see he has pollen all down his messy front, and he shines like a jewel in the sun. Can you tell I just adore this little guy?
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    Well in that case!! It was mid May so while we weren't expecting the place to be overflowing with guests yet, we were concerned to learn that we were the only guests there, at least until later that afternoon. As it turned out it was just us and one other couple staying for our entire 5 night stay. On the one hand it felt more exclusive but on the other we wondered if we had completely got the seasons messed up for wildlife viewing and if we would see anything! The staff had made comments about late rains and X or Y animal being trickier to spot. Still, we didn't know what to expect so we stayed positive. On our first excursion that afternoon we went for a drive around the property and the first animals we saw were capybaras. We were yet to learn how prolific they were, so were super excited to see them. They are such comical looking things. They look like big guinea pigs but always have such regal expressions. Okay maybe not all the time.. We also saw quite a variety of birds on our first outing. Apologies in advance if I get the names wrong which I'm sure I will at some point. Burrowing owl Greater rhea Juvenile greater rheas Roseate spoonbill We also saw our first hyacinth macaws as well as our first giant anteater. I don't have good pictures because it was dusk, the anteater was running and in and out of tall grass. Still, I was so excited we got to see one and to follow it on foot! At night we were stopped and directed to look at a potoo sitting on a fence post. I thought it was your run of the mill brown/camouflaged bird.. until it turned around. This thing has some serious crazy eyes!! Here's a short video we took of it:
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    In the afternoon, I decided to do the Leeudril 4x4 route (for which I had bought a permit the previous day). Now I have a love-hate relationship with 4x4 trails in national parks, and I feel they should be called something else. They are never particularly challenging. I guess I understand why, since the Parks Board's first priority is to safeguard the environment, and secondly since there are dangerous animals around and you don't want anybody to have to walk around (the first rule of real 4x4ing is to walk the obstacle in advance, and getting stuck should be almost a given). Thus, I really only take them to get away from the crowds. This was the only other car I saw on the route. Arriving at the Aub, I turned North, then took the Lower Dune road. The Aub was again pretty quiet. On the lower dune road, there was a little bit of life. Back on the Nossob, and heading back south. Kudu! At Rooiputs, the Leopard was still hiding in the tree. The mongoose family were out though. And, for the first time this trip, so were some Suricates At Leeudril, some Gemsbok Back at camp, some fun with a bubble-gun. And so concluded our last full day. Just one morning drive left, and then the long slog back home.
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    Last year I went to Africa for the first time and did my first safari in Kruger Park in one of the private reserves. I kept a journal, but not defeated notes to match some of the incredible trip reports I've seen on here. My notes are my photos and I though I'd share a few. These first photos are from my first game drive except for the Giraffe which was outside the window in my tent. i was lucky to get the hyena. He came out just a short it was getting very dark.
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    It was midday when we have finished with seals colony, and it was time for coffee break. Cape Cross Lodge is very nice lodge, but its location does not attract that many guests. The campsite, OTOH was full although definitively uninviting by the first glance. The coffee itself was good, and views over the ocean (from inside) relaxing. Testament to the past Already on our way to Cape Cross we have seen many roadside stalls with nice white rocks on it. On the way out we have inspected them. Each has a selection of what I thought were minerals, with prices written on desk or on pieces of paper. Payment depends on how fair the client is. I do understand that no one would like to seat under the scorching sun watching for the rocks. Zvezda and Tanja wanted to get the most pinkish coloured one. So we did two trips up and down the road before they have decided for one stall. When I've picked one "rock" it seemed a bit light for a rock. So I lick it . Salty it was! I should know better; those were all salt mines around us!! No purchase this time, the wet and humid air in Slovenia would dissolved the salt crystals quite quickly. Salt Crystals Mall
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    With no moon that night the starry sky was particularly striking. The Milky Way was the brightest and clearest (and seemed to be the closest) we had ever seen it. Tonight was the first time we had ever seen fireflies as well. I wish I knew how to take photos of them, they are so magical twinkling away. On the way back we saw a pair of crab eating foxes too. Quite a lovely introduction to Barranco Alto. We could tell how special it was. Day 2 The next morning we went horse riding with Ben and Margot (I hope I haven't spelled her name incorrectly). The other couple had decided to go canoeing instead so it was only 4 of us. Horse riding was really fun and still worthwhile but in hindsight probably a big mistake! My husband and I are both completely novice riders. I wasn't able to prevent my horse from walking me straight into branches or suddenly galloping and my husband was collected by a slanted tree after his horse kindly walked right under it. I had attempted to take my camera with me - another big mistake! By the end of it all I had bruises up and down my arms from where the camera had kept hitting against me, a gash on my neck from the branches and a nice big hole in one of my 3 shirts that needed to last us another month! On the bright side, the scenery was beautiful and we did see red and green macaws and an armadillo! Red and green macaw - not too shabby for a photo taken on horse back! That evening produced more giant anteaters!! We were on foot and I crouched next to a bush, and before I knew it I had a giant anteater walk straight towards me! Some other critters of note were white lipped peccaries, various deers, more crab eating foxes and toco toucans. Sundowners were overlooking a lake full of waterlilies with frogs calling. The sky was pink and reflected beautifully in the water. We also saw wild pigs which apparently are a pest preying on the farm's lambs. White lipped peccary - These guys make a noise smacking their lips together that sounds like snapping branches I want to say this is a brocket deer?? Marsh deer?? Teeheehee
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    Soon we found the Cheetah standing on a fallen tree We were standing next to an open safari vehicle equiped with a number of gimbal heads sporting serious lenses, and I saw the driver notice something to the right of us. A couple of springbuck were shambling along towards the Cheetah! What followed was my worst moment as a photographer... Fast food: Rapid acceleration: The other end: Focus on the background: Still. Getting worse And we all just give up The other Cheetah then displayed an interest in the second Springbuck, which was still standing nervously to the right, but it had seen the Cheetah and left the moment the cheetah came down from the tree, so this Cheetah went to join it's partner. We had orders to be back at camp for brunch at ten, and it was 20 past nine now, so we started back. At the water-hole, I got distracted by some Sandgrouse. Photographically though, it was another bust, with this being my best result, still far short of what I want to achieve. Back at the Leopard tree, the Leopard was now, for the first time in two days, actually eating during daylight. The morning drive had been an unbelievable parade. The first (and second) time I had ever seen an apex predator make a move (something I guess almost all aspiring wildlife photographers dream of), and I had duffed it both times, I was left in a bitter mood, which was not fair on Sonja. Sometimes I wish I could just watch and remember...
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    Day19: First out the gate, and strangely with nobody behind me, it felt like I was in my own world. None of the dust-clouds of being in the convoy! On my previous visit, it had been strange to drive past a water-hole without seeing one or two Jackal, but this time I had not seen any yet. Just past Leeudril, I struck the jackal jackpot! Four youngsters chasing each other around and through a patch of Driedoring. Mom was trying to rest while keeping an eye out for danger. Some more ostrich chicks Then, just short of Rooiputs, I found a car standing against the verge. The occupants are staring at a tree, but I can see nothing. So I ask them the nature of my blindness. A Leopard! Apparently a different one from the day before, this one had a dead vulture to gnaw on, but for the time being it was climbing the other side of the tree, and hiding in the thick stuff. I eventually give up and move along. Close to Kij Kij, another nice surprise: Verraux's Eagle Owl, with what appears to be Goshawk prey. I have no idea whether it caught the Goshawk or somehow picked it up. Next up (the Kgalagadi really sometimes feels like a parade of amazing sightings to me), a Tawny eagle Being harrassed by a Pale Chanting Goshawk Eventually, it leaves At Kij Kij, a couple of Namaqua Doves fly past. There are a lot of Turtle Doves in the tree. Soon, a Lanner comes swooping in! I think this is about the closest it got though A friend (and ex-guide) recently told me a story about a colleague who had told some clients that Wildebeest hibernated under-ground. Heading back, I come across one that had just crawled out. Don't believe everything your guides tell you! Some Sand-grouse at Rooiputs Another young PCG At Leeudril, a small flock of Finches and Quelias keep me entertained for a few minutes Cinnamon-breasted Bunting perhaps? And lastly, this little guy crossing the road. The stones around him are normal road gravel. He must have been less than 10cm long, all stretched out!
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    After the school visit and sumptuous lunch, it was time for game drive three. Lesson learned at lunch was to always have the right lens with you. I didn't take my long lens to the school and consequently did not have it for lunch, as my tent was a good walk from the main lodge and I didn't feel like walking there prior to eating. A leopard walks by across the river (the only leopard we saw) and I only had a wide angle. So no photo for me. Still, it was a thrill to see. Game drive three resulted in ellies, hippos, lions feasting on a kill, a rhino, sundowners under the guise of a flat tire, vultures and an amazing sunset. Oh, and a chameleon too! All in all, it was a thrilling day!
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    Game drive two was early in the morning. We were provided with coffee, tea and a light snack prior to heading out. It was a beautiful morning. After the drive, I visited a school supported by Lionsands. That experience was a real highlight. Lots of giraffe that morning as well as kudu and a variety of birds. Nice to see hyena out that early as well.
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    Just testing out posting since the site upgrade. Grey Headed Kingfisher. Naboisho conservancy, Mara 2016.
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    Day 20. This morning, Sonja accompanied me for what must be both my best and worst days on Safari ever. Best in terms of the sightings, worst in terms of my ability to capture it on film... It started off pretty early with this large Steenbok ram. Then, some mongoose. Then a Springbuck displaying A Crimson-breasted Shrike doing athletics Just before Rooiputs, the Leopard was still hiding in it's tree. Just 200m after Rooiputs: 4 Lions on the move! A little chase started building. But the finale happened behind a tree from me, and I still have no idea what the quarry was. And then, of course, movement ceased By this time, there were quite a lot of cars spread along the road. Our temporary neighbors told us there was another set of four lions a couple of kilometers further along. Can somebody help with ID please: Soon we found them. They were moving towards the first group, but too far away to make a meeting likely. And soon, they also settled down. Heading further on, we came across a small herd of Gemsbok, of whom one seemed to have gotten some Wildebeest Disease. And then a dust-bathing Kori Bustard At this point, somebody took pity on us and asked us if we had seen the Cheetah. Apparently, there were two cheetah between the two prides/groups of Lions. So back we went. The first group of lions were still sitting where we had left them, but also at least still aware, not just sprawled out.
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    The next day, I decided to go for a whole day drive in order to visit the new Dave Carson’s bush camp, simply called Hwange Bush Camp, which is located near Deteema and to explore the area. In the early morning, a couple of hammerkops at Shumba Pan. Waterbucks at Masuma. Along the road to Robin’s Camp : A dark chanting goshawk, and double-banded sandgrouses. Little grebes at Salty Pan. At noon, we stopped for lunch at the bush camp. I made a separate topic regarding my visit: http://safaritalk.net/topic/17586-dave-carsons-new-bush-camp-in-hwange/
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    #92 Razorbill (Alca torda) Farne islands. June 2017
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    #87 Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisea) Farne Islands. June 2017
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    #86 Puffin (Fratercula artica) Farne islands. June 2017
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    #84 Striated Heron / formerly Green Backed Heron (Butoides striata) Chobe River, Namibia. May 2017
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    For my first game drive, I was, as in March, welcomed by the Super Models, for the record, four lions, two adult females and two sub-adult males. And again as in March, I will not see them anymore during my stay. The concession is part of the territory controlled By Liam and Mandla, the two big males who rule over the Masuma pride. Their territory extends, north and south (to Bumbumutsa Pan) of the main road Sinamatella/Main Camp, from a little before Shumba until a little after Masuma. The distance between the two pans is around fifteen kilometers. When they do not sleep, they spend the majority of their time patrolling over the whole extent of it. We heard them roar continuously for several nights and tried to find them in the early morning, without success unfortunately. As they have to cover long distances, they are extremely mobile. They are aware of the presence of the two sub-adults and probably looking for them to kick them out. That is probably the reason why the Super Models are regularly seen but not too often. There is another lion, a male older than the two Super Models that appeared on the concession a few months ago. In the beginning as soon as it saw a car, it scampered away. Now, it got habituated and tolerates, to a certain distance, the presence of a vehicle but it’s very difficult to find it. Because of Liam and Mandla, it is extremely cautious, staying during the day in thick bushes and tall grass. But during the night, it shows signs of territoriality and roars when Liam and Mandla are on the other side of their territory. I’m sure that they are also looking for it when they are on the concession. On one occasion, however, Washington managed to find it but its mistrust prevented me from making a suitable photo of it.
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    The afternoon drive was relatively quiet. I crossed the Lower Dune Road to the Aub for a change. By the time I reached the Lower Dune Road, I still hadn't taken a single photo. I am not sure whether the mouse/rat carried this flower in, or whether it was growing there. Black Crows Some Springbuck in Aub Eventually, I ended up at Samevloeing, where some Gemsbok were getting ready for a drink. Tawny Another young Goshawk hunting And lastly, across the road, two Secretary birds on their nest
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    #93 Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotellis) Farne islands. June 2017
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    #91 Guillemot (Uria aalge) Farne Islands. June 2017
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    #89 Eider (Somateria mollissima) Farne Islands. June 2017
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    #88 Sandwich Tern (Stern sandvicensis) Farne Islands. June 2017
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    Thanks,@Marks. My first full day was not too busy but nevertheless interesting. A couple of girafes. Encounter of two bulls challenging each other. Southern white-crowned shrike. The first zebras. The night drive was great. I managed to take some decent photos of springhares. Then a hyena emerged from the darkness and approached the vehicle. It had had to take part in a violent battle, perhaps with one or more lions. The right side of its skull was only a large healed area. No more hairs grew there and the ear had disappeared.
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    #85 Black Crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) Chobe River, Namibia. May 2017
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    #83 Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) Chobe River, Namibia. May 2017
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    Martial Eagle, Naboisho conservancy, Mara Oct' 2016.
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    #101 Blackbird (Terdus merula) My garden, Suffolk, UK. June 2017 This year's crop of cherries is better than previous years, but it looks lik eI'll have to hurry as the blackbirds are already helping themselves. Male Female
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    #97 Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) Farne Islands. June 2017 Notice the difference between this and the Yellow Legged Gull (#94). The legs. Herring Gull has pinkish legs.
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    #96 Dunlin (Calidris alpina) Low Newton, Northumberland. June 2017
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    #94 Yellow-Legged Gull (Larus michahellis) Farne Islands June 2017

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