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  1. 19 likes
    We still had a little time so drove down to the area where the Dogs had been yesterday. A few minutes of thorough binoc scanning, and indeed, Doug found them. Would we want to go over to say Good Bye? Come on now, is the Pope catholic? They were all resting. Very nice to see them one last time. And again, of course, the pups were the most restless, and they were coming down (and thereby closer to us) to drink. Arrividerci, my young little friends, you have been very good to us this time. Hope to see you again next time! It was finally time to make our leave from the flood plains. On my request we had one last stop at Trichellia - I love the Zambezi, and just wanted to be there one more time. It was very windy and cloudy today, a sign of the things to come very soon - in only five days the dry flood plains would be completely transformed by more than 160 mm of rain! After getting our things and saying Good Bye again to the nice people in camp (which we had enjoyed a lot) we were off to Kanga, going as fast as this IIF. The bone-dry inland area - nothing to be seen on the drive to Kanga. So how would our last two nights go? Had all the animals left?
  2. 17 likes
    It was our last morning on the flood plains, we were expected at Kanga Camp (our very last stop for this trip) for lunch. Originally we had planned to just do a longish walk from camp but the heat had finally gotten to me - I had not felt on top form last evening, barely eaten anything (which is highly unusual for me ) and was still a bit wobbly on my feet. So we decided to just do a drive around. And we were lucky! We had almost given up hope of seeing them again, but after only 15 minutes, before 06:00, we found the Lions and their cubs again, not far from where we had tracked them the day before. They were reasonably close to the road but the still low light and all the grass made photography quite difficult. A lovely sighting! Cubs, be it Lion, Leopard or Cheetah, are always wonderful to see, and we were very happy about this farewell present the Flood Plains had granted us. All five cubs were around. Sadly, I heard that as of November they are down to four (which is of course very normal - mortality is high). Let´s just hope that the rest of the little rascals will be fine and will grow up to be big bold and fearsome hunters. Meanwhile, however, they are just little kittens needing mommy´s love. When more cars arrived mother did not appreciate all the attention and soon led their offspring into the bushes again. A good thing we had started so early, otherwise we would have missed them!
  3. 17 likes
    Difficult decisions for the afternoon - should we stay with our three Lions who were obviously hungry and would in all likelihood try to hunt again? Or try to search for the Dogs who had been seen in the morning at Croton? Not an easy choice but we love the Dogs and so our path was clear. Some of the fig trees were fully ripe now and attracted a lot of fruiteaters, Green Pigeons and Trumpeter Hornbills. We left the car and walked towards the area where Doug hoped the pack would be. A little adrenaline rush on the way - an Elephant bull had been out of sight for us down in a gulley and when we suddenly noticed each other he was not too happy about us intruding. But fortunately he just calmed down and went the other way. It turned out to be pretty easy to find the Dogs - a lot of people had heard about where they were today, and some of them were already on their way. So we just had to walk towards them, and indeed, the pack was there. Doug offered us a choice again: There were two possible waterholes where the Dogs would probably be off to after getting active, one quite close where all the people (around 20 over the afternoon) were waiting. Or we could take a risk and wait for them at the second one (where nobody else was sitting), and if we were lucky, maybe the Dogs would come towards us. We went for the second option and waited quite a while, seeing which way they would go. If that had worked out it would have been the best plan ever. As it was, it turned out to be a pretty lousy one since the Dogs cheerfully ran away from us, straight to the crowd, and settled again there. Oh well, you can´t win them all. We quickly went back, joined all the others, and Doug managed to get some reasonable spots for us. This was the first time we ever experienced a crowded Dog sighting, and obviously it´s so much nicer if you get them on your own. But this is also Mana Pools, and Doug told us, it can happen that up to 50 people walk in on the pack when everybody knows where they are. Still, it was a nice sighting, and you just can´t help but smile when the pups are playing with each other. Or, in the case of this little lone wolf, try to catch butterflies. The Impala were getting nervous, and rightly so - the Dogs were getting restless and soon left, probably on their way to hunt. It was already too late to follow them, it was dawning, and so we went back to the car.
  4. 16 likes
    So we´d mostly just sit around on the main deck or in front of our tent and waited what would come down to drink. Very often we´d also go under deck to be on eye-level with the animals. We had some comfy chairs down there, and camp made sure we had everything we needed. We shared the space with Neil, a cameraman doing a documentary on Kanga who had spent already two months here. He showed us some really awesome footage, a Croc killing a Genet and - most exciting - a Leopard going after an old Baboon. The old guy put up a good battle but had no chance in the end. I was very sorry to hear that Neil had left his gear down there when the rains came shortly after we left - the poor guy lost a lot of equipment. Many Thick-Knees around this time. Last time there were some Saddle-Billed Storks, Herons and a Fish-Eagle - none of them this time. I can only assume they had already eaten out all kind of fish they prefer. Many, many Baboons coming and going all the time. The camp manager told me they have identified at least five different troops, and they all have different ways in and out and favourite places to hang out. They were also the source of some drama - the sinking water allowed them to get into the middle of the pan where the Thick-Knees were nesting. All the birds´ hard work was rendered futile when this Baboon found out how tasty eggs are. Eland were a bit shier than the other antelopes, they mostly kept to the far end of the pan. Black-Winged Stilt I was delighted about this Duiker coming out. They are not rare of course, but it´s not very often that you get a good close view of them like that. The most numerous animals were Impalas of course. Mammalwise, to be precise. The number of birds coming to drink was staggering, especially the Doves late afternoon. Which attracted several Birds of Prey. We often watched these Goshawks trying their luck with them but did not see a successful kill. Warthogs with their best Iggy Pop look. I had hoped for these Crested Guineafowl but unfortunately they only put in appearances after the light was gone. The antelopes and Zebras were always on edge, always watching, looking in all directions, easily spooked, and a breaking branch could be enough for them to stop drinking and run. With good reason, the pan is a perfect ambush place for predators. The local lions were visiting one morning, and hung around in the vicinity, which did not exactly help in making the animals less nervous. We´d often hear them roaring, and they were close when we were having dinner - we saw them drinking right in front of the tents. Made going to bed just a bit more exciting. Many Hyena at night as well, also some Genets and Civets. I was a bit too lazy to try for them during dinner, but of course a wonderful atmosphere with all these cool animals around. We also had two Leopards coming out to drink, always something special. Unfortunately they both kept to the far end of the pan. African Wood Owl And my personal highlight at night - a Honey Badger! Neil the cameraman had told us that he was still missing Badger footage. When this guy showed up Neil was just having a break. After he came back under deck and we told him the Badger had just been here he laughed and would not believe us. A look at my camera made him kick himself, however.
  5. 15 likes
    After a nine year wait I was able to return to Africa. After reading so much about Doug and Mana Pools on this site, I knew this is what I wanted. The Zambia part was suggested by Doug as he had already had a trip planned to Kafue and Liuwa Plains with a client who wanted other people to join in order to keep the costs down. I was originally concerned about going in November but the price was right and I didn't want to wait until next year. We arrived in Victoria Falls on November 9, stayed at Bayete Lodge and took a flight to Hwange the next day. Doug was not joining us until we got to Mana. We had a great guide at Davison's Camp saw elephant, buffalo, hippo, wildebeest and eland on our game drive from the air field to camp. Upon arriving at camp about 6:00pm we heard a lion close to camp and jumped back into the vehicle and found a beautiful male. After dinner that evening when we were escorted to our tent we saw the lion walking through camp not far from our tent. It was wonderful to hear his calls during the night and I was thrilled to be back in Africa! The next day we came upon two lionesses with their kill and the rest of the day produced zebra, buffalo, impala, sable, eland, giraffe and lots and lots of elephants. Sundowners were at a water hole where dozens and dozens of elephants keep coming to drink. It was great to see how calm they were even with their young. I found Davison camp much less regumented then the Wilderness camps we were at in Botswana eleven years ago.
  6. 15 likes
    Last post of Kanga Camp, Ladies and Gentlemen. The pan is a good place to look out for some of the smaller creatures - like this Slender Mongoose. Or this Rock Monitor - quite a big guy. I was experimenting with slow shutter speeds to capture the sense of constant movement of the drinking animals here. Bushbuck are beautiful antelopes, and as with the Duiker you don´t get to see them that relaxed and posing for the camera too often. A lovely couple. The Lady was presenting here for a moment but then decided she was a decent girl after all and would not become the object of gratitious Bushbuck porn. One more Warthog - actually the very last animal I took a photo of at the pan. Emerald-Spotted Wood Dove a bit closer - abundant as they are it´s actually not easy to approach them. Western Banded Snake Eagle, in flight and resting. This bird is the reason for many, many deleted photos - a Broad-Billed Roller, high up on my target list. Not an easy one to get.
  7. 15 likes
    Greater Kudu are among my favourite animals, and Kanga is a terrific place to watch them. I just love these majestic spiralled horns with the white tips! This was incredible - a bachelor herd of 10(!) good-looking males! The name of the animal was imported into English in the 18th century from isiXhosa iqhude, via Afrikanns koedoe - part zebra part deer.
  8. 15 likes
    Zebras were much more common this time than during our 2015 visit - they must have had a good year, like the Waterbuck. Quite a few young ones among them. We tried our luck at Shumba Pan again but all the Buffalo-Hyena excitement two days ago must have been just a bit too much fun for the Dogs, they had vacated the area. The resident pair of Saddle-Billed Storks - the female in the foreground with the yellow eyes. This is a bird that´s not uncommon but probably very often not identified for what it is - an Intermediate Egret, just a bit smaller than a Great Egret, neck not quite as long, and the gape not extending behind the eye. One of the most common safari birds - Helmeted Guineafowl. Abundant as they are they are actually quite tricky to get decent photos of. We found Lion tracks and walked around for quite some time hoping to find them with their cubs but they were playing a game of cats and mouse with us, going in circles, off to the bushes, backtracking - it was not easy for Doug to stay on the track, and finally we could no longer follow them because it would have led us into very thick vegetation. Not a sensible thing to follow them in there. Doug was certain that they had to be close but we just had to admit defeat this time. It was already past 11:00 when we returned to camp, and the heat was back into full-powered hairdryer mode. Just on a hunch Doug decided to do a quick detour to Old Ndungu 1 (just a few 100 metres upriver from our campsite), and indeed, the Lions were there. Some of them, to be exact. Three sisters were resting here. This was pretty far from where we had tracked them so the pride obviously had split up. While we were having lunch they were trying to have some too - they had a go at some Zebra just a few hundred metres next to camp. We quickly left our food and drove up but they were in no mood to try again. The Zebra were gone, and Waterbuck is not the most popular choice on their menu. The hunt had not gone too well for this Lady.
  9. 14 likes
    Kanga is usually not top game drive country. Animal density is not that high, and your chances of seeing something exciting are much higher at the pan than being out. We only did two hours in the morning on our full day and the 45 minutes going to Kanga airstrip (across the Rukomechi) when we were leaving, otherwise we stayed put. A few scattered Impala, maybe a Zebra now and then, the odd Kudu and birds - that´s mostly it. Dwarf Mongoose Crowned Hornbill The ground is very sandy in parts, and we actually got stuck once. Doug had us collect elephant dung and put it behind the wheels, that was enough to get out again. The structure in the background is Kanga´s sleepout btw - one can spend the night on that platform under the stars. Crested Guineafowl again - I really like them. Little Bee-Eaters were very cooperative.
  10. 14 likes
    Kanga Camp, the last chapter of this trip. A lovely place in the middle of nowhere, and the perfect spot to enjoy and relax. This is armchair safari at its best. No need to go anywhere, the animals are coming to you. This late in the dry season the pan is normally pretty much the only watersource near and far, and all the animals in a radius of many kilometres have to come here sooner or later. Rain was good in Zimbabwe in 2017 and so there were more pans active than is usual but the activity at Kanga still was very good. I´m sure the experience will be quite different, however, early in the season or after the rains have started. Our Foam-Nesting Frog, following us everywhere we´d go this safari. The dining area. Food was excellent, staff friendly and motivated - it´s a really good camp. And after three weeks of non-stop activity it felt quite nice of doing things at a slightly slower pace at the end. I rarely use plunge pools but in the incredible heat this was a godsend - I never wanted to get out again. A very bold Yellow-Bellied Greenbul. He´d participate as much on the breakfast buffet as any of us. It was already there in 2015 - or maybe it has learned the tricks of its elders. It´s sensible to keep your eyes open when going to tent - Elephants were a constant presence. Terrestrial Brownbul Our very comfortable tent. Wonderful to sit there in the afternoon and watch the animals amble by. Greater Kudu Cattle Egret Our rooms. I have striking pictures of AndMic in these very flashy bathrobes but he swore to kill me if I put them up. The bath"room"
  11. 14 likes
    Thanks, @Zubbie15, @Peter Connan, @Atravelynn, @janzin and @xelas! On to our last full day on the flood plains! It had been uncomfortably hot at night, with no cooling breeze at all, so were a bit knackered. This young Gymnogene had obviously detected something inside this dead tree and tried its best to scare it out but we could not work out what it was after. We drove around hoping to find signs of the Lions or Dogs again but they remained hidden. The western end of Long Pool was full of life but no predators near or far. But we were very happy when we found a small troop of some relaxed and impossibly cute Dwarf Mongoose, just right next to the road! Definitely our best sighting of these so far.
  12. 13 likes
    The last batch of photos: I seem to remember that the males were father and son but I could be totally wrong - I really should take notes again. A very relaxed and pleasant sighting in the morning light - photowise the best Lion one of the trip. If she is not in the mood there are other ways to get affection. And that´s it from me, we have reached the end of this report. Thank you for reading, commenting and liking, trip reports are much more fun with a little feedback. I was more than happy with this return to Mana Pools, against my fears it totally lived up to our (high) expectations. My main worry now is that the 2018 trips are booked without any Mana in them, and it does not look too good for 2019 either. That can´t be quite right, I wanna go back - soon! After all, it really is the best place in the world.
  13. 13 likes
    Do not worry I may have become one of these silly people running after birds but I´m not ending this report with a Roller. No, of course I´m concluding with Big Cats. I mentioned that game drives around Kanga usually may not be too rewarding but we were lucky. We had a top Lion sighting at morning, not more than 10 minutes from camp, and that will be the last sequence for this trip report. This guy looked very timid and like he did not belong. And obviously he did not - the pride (two males and two females) were resting a bit farther off, and obviously were not welcoming the other guy. One of these is called "Scruffy" because of the not exactly super-impressive mane.
  14. 13 likes
    Elephants are Kanga´s main stars. We had a lot of fun watching the gentle giants. Though present all time of the day most of them came out at dawn. It was interesting to see that they would use different spots for drinking and mudbathing. They like to keep clean what they drink, and only ever suck in the top surface water. Note the Hippo in the background. This guy must have felt miserable, because this spot seems to have been his very last refuge in the whole pan. A preferred spot for the Eles, and the Hippo cannot have liked that. The local Croc was also staying there. It´s still small, and not yet a danger for the antelopes. But if it stays (and I cannot see why it would not) it will make for some very interesting scenes at Kanga in the future when it´s fully grown. Both Hippo and Croc must have been immensely happy when the rains arrived in force shortly after our departure. Taken from "down under". The Elephants were curious about us and often eyed us but did not really seem to mind our presence here.
  15. 12 likes
    More life in the pan: No herds out here but these dagga boys were coming and going. An abundance of Queleas. Dovesdovesdoves. Red-Eyed Doves Hamerkop, the succesful fisher African Hawk Eagle Baboon familiy life Note the baby - must have a good grip!
  16. 11 likes
    Scruffy was getting in the mood here. That does look promising, he must have thought. What a smell! But the Lady was not too keen. Sleeping was the more preferrable option. Hm, Scruffy thought, maybe - could I - would she? Definitely not! Get *"§)(§&)(§% off me or ELSE! Men! Now what did I do wrong this time?
  17. 10 likes
    This is the start of a report of a solo trip I made to Majete. The purpose was to learn about African Parks' past, present and intended future conservation plans for this, its first Reserve. I stayed at Thawale Lodge, originally built and run by AP, but now leased to Sunbird, a Malawi hotel group. While essentially staying as a tourist, I was also lucky enough to have been able to arrange meetings with several of the Reserve Management team which were invariably helpful, open and highly informative. Majete is a Reserve of 700 sq km in the southern part of Malawi some 2 hours by road to the south west of Blantyre. It is surrounded by a perimeter fence of 140 km length. Permanent water is available from a 10km stretch of the Shire River in the north eastern section and from some 12 artificial water holes (water from bore holes). Only the north eastern quarter of the Reserve (about 175 sq km) is developed for tourism. Of this, 75 sq km has access restricted to visitors at the Robin Pope Safaris' luxury lodge, situated in the extreme north east. Thawale Lodge is situated inside the Reserve, 3 km from the main gate. It has an adjacent water hole about 150 m from the Lodge verandah which is well visited during the dry season by many species of mammalian wildlife (I saw 11). Very close (about 15 m) to the verandah is a raised circular tank into which clean water flows. This overflows into a muddy ditch. Individuals or groups of many of the species using the water hole to bathe in move up to the clean water to drink. In addition, some drink from and bathe in the ditch as do a large selection of birds. Thus, the Lodge itself represents an excellent game viewing area as do the two outlying hides reached by vehicle and each overlooking their own waterholes. I spent most of my activity time on game drives and hide visits, but took two boat trips on the Shire River upstream of the hydroelectric dam. Two post sundowner night drives were undertaken. Walking trips were available, but it was hot and I disqualified myself on grounds of infirmity and old age. The Reserve was more or less bereft of mammalian wildlife when AP took control in 2003 because of very heavy meat poaching. It has now been re-stocked and is reaching or has just reached capacity for herbivores. Predator numbers are still lower than targeted (e.g. currently 11 lion against a target of 30). The area is unsuitable for agriculture. The ground is very undulating and stony. Along the river, there is very attractive riverine woodland which gives way to mixed and then to miombo as one moves south. There are well-maintained roads in the tourist zone and ,in addition, a couple, less used, that head south east and south west. It takes a one way drive of 2.5 h to reach the southern boundary from Thawale Lodge, but I only ever got halfway. My enjoyment of the trip was much enhanced by meeting up with other Safaritalkers for some of the time. @Bugs and his friend, Ted Newton, flew up from Joburg and arrived more or less simultaneously with my flight on Ethiopian from Addis. We were able to share a taxi to the Lodge, pre-arranged for us by Sunbird Thawale. @Bugs and Ted stayed for 6 days. @Soukous was also present when we arrived and we spent the whole of the following day with him, but he thereafter departed, but not before laying down a challenge which @Bugs found irresistable. @Soukous had just come from Zambia and, when he left, he had amassed a bird list of 122 from both countries. @Bugs was determined to beat this from Majete alone. With extremely able assistance from our excellent guide, Jimmy, and armed with Robert's Bird Ap(p? - I don't own a mobile phone, nor know whether aps have one or two ps), he managed to accumulate 134. This was an education for me - mainly enjoyable. Bohm's bee eaters and twinspots were very pretty and I was delighted when they were pointed out to me by the others, but I was somewhat underwhelmed, albeit relieved, when the long search for rock pratincoles was fulfilled. Of course, once they had found one, they popped up like London busses. Anyway, for serious birders (and I doubt you could get more serious than the lot I travelled with), I can state that we clocked 67 on day 1 and 100 by the end of day 2. In my second week, focusing on mammals and trees, Jimmy and I added 6 further bird species to reach a total of 140. My mammal list summed to 31species, with which I was happy, particularly as it included five firsts (suni, grysbok, tree squirrel, Lichtensten's hartebeest and, surprisingly, nyala - which were prolific in the Reserve. I will mention the weather because my visit fell within what is sometimes described as suicide month. I was somewhat dreading the expected high temperatures and humidity that typify the build up to the rainy season. I was lucky in that I dodged the worst of it and only had one day of 45 deg C. Most were below 40. The rains came slightly early and Jimmy demonstrated that his weather forecasting wasn't on a par with his many other attributes, having elected to put us in an open boat and take us way upstream just as a thunderstorm dropped about 12mm of rain on top of us - certainly cooling. The greening of herbage within 2-3 days of this first rain was dramatic. By the second week of the trip, many animals and most birds had stopped coming to the Lodge, though one of the water holes serviced with a hide continued to produce. I am not intending this to be a day to day account of the trip, but I will attempt to show potential visitors what they might expect to see on a stay of more typical duration than mine. I will, therefore, conclude this section of the report with photos of what I saw from the Thawale Lodge verandah. I would also like to refer readers to @Africlan's excellent Malawi trip report. His photography is infinitely superior to mine, but I would have to say that his description of the raised circular tank near the Lodge verandah as a birdbath was inaccurate. The only bird visiting on my trip was a pied crow! This is more or less the best I could do for the waterhole with my camera. It needed a longer lens to do it justice. (I was using a Nikon D3200 with 70-300 lens). @Africlan's visit was in June and there's much more green vegetation in his shots. I did have one dusk sighting of a serval at this waterhole. These 3 female nyala were much closer and drinking from the muddy ditch formed from the overflow from the circular tank as was the waterbuck (below). Nyala mother and calf at the circular tank (birdbath!) This waterbuck is wearing a very pale jacket. Jimmy explained this on its having been forced to exist on browse rather than the typical grazing diet, something of which I'm a bit sceptical. The strategy of emptying the tank to encourage inflow of even cleaner water from the tap failed on this occasion. The tap had been turned off. Much sucking at the point of inflow probably resulted in a stomach full of air and much subsequent belching. This nyala wasn't going to let a couple of buffalo stop it from drinking - well, only temporarily. The path to my tent (5), from which there was also a good waterhole view, often had a sentry on duty. We occasionally had company in the dining area, but the baboons were generally quite respectful and only raided when no people were present.
  18. 10 likes
    @xelas, yes you should catch them August, @Peter Connan, @ImSA84, @PeterHG, thanks. @TonyQmy mistake, sorry. @Galana, @Dave Williams, well Qantas is starting its non-stop Perth-London route next year (vs stopover Dubai 21hrs), only 17hrs non -stop! Ok if you are in Business Class I guess, but a hell of a long flight in Cattle. @janzin, you will see a lot of similar Eastern varieties, "they" have their Superb Wren vs our Splendid, Golden Whistlers, Yellow Robins, Pink Robins (now thats a beauty), Scarlet Robins, Eastern Spinebills etc etc, some of the prettiest "little" bush Birds. Anyways, trickling through a few more.... 129. Red Eared Firetail, Perth foothills, December 130. Red-Capped Parrot, A/A, these beautiful Parrots are quite shy and will quickly fly off once they spot you 131. Horsefields Bronze Cuckoo A/A, it mainly parasites those cute little Fairy Wrens posted earlier 132. Varied Stella A/A 133. Pink and Grey Galah, common as, everywhere all year round (male). Bibra Lake, December. But as you don't see a lot of Lolly Pink birds, well I don't think so anyway, and I always enjoy watching them. Female, red eye 134. Black Swan, our State Bird emblem, December, Swan River (appropriately)
  19. 10 likes
    9. Time to go back home, unfortunately. As our flight did not depart before 11 pm we could take our time and still enjoy as much of the Kruger park as we felt like. In view of this we decided not to exit through the Open Gate, which would have been the most logical option from Satara, but drive all the way down to the Kruger gate. This gave us the excuse to do our favourite S126 road again. After only a few kilometres we saw two cars parked at the side of the road. It turned out they had spotted a Cheetah, lying in the shade of a tree, at quite a distance. Hardly visible against the sun and in the tall grass, but after some intensive searching we found it. Not the best view, obviously, but a Cheetah on our last day was a nice surprise. We waited for some time, hoping it would get up, but in vain. But there were other interesting things to be seen there, like the majestic Saddle-billed Stork that came flying by. The S126 was an elephant-rich drive the three times we had driven it before and also this time it did not disappoint. The drive south did not produce any new sightings, but was nice enough. We said goodbye to the Zebras And to the Giraffe and Oxpecker. And the Steenbok, always single and wary. Near Skukuza we crossed the Sabie river again where a single Marabou Stork stood on a sand bank. The only one we saw on the trip. At the other side of the bridge a familiar wader was searching for food: the common Greenshank. We decided we had time enough to visit the Lake Panic bird hide and soon found the turn-off and the parking lot. We were not the only ones there. Apparently this is a popular hide and for the first ten minutes we could not even find a place to sit down. The reasons for its popularity were soon obvious. The hide is L-shaped and overlooks a dam. The south leg of the L overlooks the short end of the dam and there are plenty of reedbeds and water plants. The view to the east is of the wider part of the dam and there are tree stumps in the water, serving as a perch for Kingfishers and Herons. Like this Striated Heron We managed to find a spot near the corner, so we could reasonably see both sides. A Squacco Heron was feeding quite near the hide. A Fish Eagle landed in one of the trees on the opposite bank. As this was early afternoon the light was not ideal for photography, but I still needed a Fish Eagle shot. A beautiful Jacana was feeding on the waterlily leaves, showing its incredibly long toes. We had already seen the Water Thick-knee on the opposite bank, but suddenly it was joined by a chick and later even by two. When a hippo yawns it’s the right moment to take a shot. Impressive jaws! The Lesser masked Weavers were busy gathering nest material. In spite of the crowd the hide had been well-worth visiting, but our time was up. We exited the park through the Paul Kruger gate and started the long drive to the airport. We stopped again at Milly’s, as we had done a week before and had a meal on the terrace overlooking the dam, in the company of Lesser Striped Swallows and Pied Starlings. We made everything in good time and had an uneventful flight back to Amsterdam. Only a week, but what a week it had been! We’d had a great time together, enjoying our many game drives together, the shared photography interest and the long talks about all the things that mattered in our lives, both in the present as in the past. We managed to see 135 species of birds, of which 3 were lifers for me and some 20 mammals. I brought home too many photos, as always, and a firm conviction to do this again. Thanks for taking the time to travel with me on this little trip!
  20. 10 likes
    Here's a new one! Taken in Ocean Park, a theme park in Hong Kong which was included in our tour but somewhere I didn't really fancy going to. Turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip with the few captive species they keep there appearing to be well looked after and in decent accommodation. 320) Red-whiskered Bulbul. Red-whiskered Bulbul. Pycnonotus jocosus. Hong Kong by Dave Williams, on Flickr
  21. 10 likes
    I have been feeling quite rough all week suffering a case of genuine Delhi belly from the named source but silly me for accepting BBQ offerings in the half light of the night sky that I suspected might be undercooked. Seems they probably are the cause as a few others from our tour are still suffering too. My great adventure to the Far East certainly fell short on many expectations, birds being one of them however I'm not too disappointed. I took your good advice and went with the flow savouring what was on offer, both the good and the not so good. I decided to set a new objective of photographing birds with well known background locations. I wasn't particularly successful but it made for an interesting challenge until the novelty wore off mainly due to my lack of success. Black Kites. I presume the same species classification to those I saw in Spain earlier in the year. Black Kites over the Taj Mahal by Dave Williams, on Flickr
  22. 10 likes
    De Hoop Nature Reserve Cape mountain zebras. Those are the last pictures taken at De Hoop.
  23. 10 likes
    11. Sika Deer Two individuals seen in a forest area called Baixi, close to the grassland. Long distance and very early in the misty morning. So, another proof shot only. 12. Chinese mountain cat Also called Chinese desert cat. Endemic to western China and a big target for me as this would be my 13th species of wild cats in the world. The first photographs of a wild Chinese mountain cat were taken by camera traps in May 2007... Now these grasslands seems to produce regular sightings since a few years back. Since one known quarry for this cat was destroyed, our chances had decreased a bit and no mountain cat our first night. The second night we tried a road that we knew had some sightings a few weeks back and I managed to find one with my spotlight. Just a very quick look of a cat head in the thick bush. We stopped the car and tried to sneak upon it but it was gone... At least it was a mountain cat but only a brief glimpse and not very satisfying. The next evening we went to the same area. Put ourselves on top of the ridge, behind some rocks and start scanning the area. Nothing the first hour. Nothing the second hour. The third hour I was so freezing cold I could barely hold my binocular anymore. Nothing... A huge dissapointment. On our way back, approximately 4-5 kilometer from this area my companion found some eyeshine with his spotlight and YES! It was a Chinese mountain cat! Totally chaos in the car while the cat ran away. This was probably the same cat we had a brief sighting of yesterday. Now 4-5 kilometers away from the area we had been freezing on for hours... Not much is known about this cat, not even what they feeding on, but they have quite a big territory. Not a wild guess that they feed on rodents and Pikas though. But they are much more nocturnal than the Pallas cat and Pikas are sleeping during the night so who knows what they searching for during the night. This time, the cat stopped and thought he was invisible in the bush... I sneaked closer to him. He was still thinking he was the invisible-man... Hmm, where is the cat? I was just a few meters from this elusive cat! Unbelieveble sighting of a cat no one have photograph in the wild before 2007. If the Pallas cat is cute and have a friendly look. This one is much rougher. Not very friendly looking. But who can blame him? A spotlight right in the face... He decided that this is enough. No more close to humans. Time to flee. This is a big male. Short legs, short tail, compact body and quite thick fur. This big male disappeared in the dark. My 13th species of cats was now a fact and I were very satisfied. No... I was freaking happy 13. Irenes mountain vole A small rodent we saw running on the road one night and before any pictures it was already inside his hole. 14. Chinese zokor How to see this underground living rodent?? Their mounds are basically everywhere on the grassland and there must be "millions" of them underground. Well, we found a way. You need a shovel. Then just dig away one mound so that you can see the hole. Step back a few meters and wait 5-10 minutes... The Zokor will come and repair the broken entrance Probably to much fresh air in the home... Unfortunateley no pics as I was to close for my big lens. Summarize 14 species of mammals on these grasslands and managed to see all our important species. Success! Some more birds. Another rodent hunter in the air, Steppe eagle. This is also a home for the "vulnerable"-status Black necked cranes. They should be gone by now from the Zoige area as they spend the winter on much lower heights. But a few couples with their young ones was still there. They must have been very, very late born or something. These birds don´t like humans. They don´t let you come close and always walk away from you when you approach them. Time to leave Zoige after 3 nights. The next night was a bit different one. We stayed in a place we can call Panda valley. A very rarely visited area and our guide, Roland´s second time here only. The rumour is that this place have a few Giant Pandas. As you can´t see them easily anymore in China as they have closed all the easily available areas. Nowdays you more or less need 4-5 days trekking to have a fairly good chance for them. However, we were told that we had about 20% chance for one if we did a day-hike in these mountains. And so we did. But it was crazy steep, muddy and the conditions was miserably with fog and rain. The Giant Panda loves this conditions. I don´t. We didn´t reached the top of the hike, the conditions was too bad. No Giant Panda but a nice misty bamboo forest. We stayed in this homestay. Next post we will be in Tangijiahe reserve for completely other species. Stay tuned...
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    476/ZZ136.) Banded Martin (Riparia cincta) / Weißbrauen-Uferschwalbe Musekese, 10/10 -/ZZ137.) Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) / Rauchschwalbe Busanga Plains, 14/10. -/ZZ138.) Wire-Tailed Swallow (Hirundo albigularis) / Rotkappenschwalbe Kafue River, 15/10 I´m sure we saw more from this familiy but I rarely even tried for them.
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    458/ZZ113.) Southern Carmine Bee-Eater (Merops nubicoides) / Scharlachspint Zambezi River, 20/10. Spending two hours with a colony here was a trip highlight for me.
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    456/ZZ110.) Striped Kingfisher (Halycon chelicuti) / Streifenliest Konkomoya, 8/10. Another ebc unfortunately. A dryland Kingfisher which can turn up far away from water - I had my best sighting in the Kgalagadi last year (really just a pathetic excuse to show a better photo).
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    We enjoyed seeing lions, baboons, wildebeest and hyena at the water hole by Davison's, but we were hoping to see cheetah or leopard and went looking in our evening game drive. As we were driving a thunder storm developed and we had to abandoned our search, but did see two giraffe courting and hyena. The next morning we had a game drive on our way to the airstrip for our flight to Mana. We spent some time watching elephants having a mud bath and then our guide got a call that our plane wouldn't be leaving as the airstrip was too wet in Mana. An additional night at Davison's was fine with us as we were treated very well and were moved into one of their remodelled tents. On the way to the airstrip the next morning we saw six hyena playing in a large pool of water and about eight giraffe. A wonderful farewell from Hwange. We arrived at Mana to find a dry runway, sunshine and Doug.
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    326) White Wagtail One of a pair of stowaways that travelled from Hong Kong to Vietnam on our cruise ship. White Wagtail. Motacilla alba by Dave Williams, on Flickr
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    The other important stop of this trip was the Walker bay Nature Reserve, between Hermanus and Gansbaai. I stayed four full days (five nights) at Lagoon Lodge in The Mosaic private sanctuary near Stanford. There are only five spacious chalets and the food is really excellent as well as the staff. Several activities are on offer : walks, quad bike, excursions to the beach, boat on the lagoon. Some pictures of a chalet (outside and inside). View of the Klein Rivier, from the chalet. The Kein Rivier lagoon, from the sky. I visited Hermanus and the coastal little towns. Apart from the whale museum, Hermanus is not really exciting. I also visited the beautiful Hemel-and-Aarde valley, known for its fine wines.
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    A Tawny Frogmouth family perched in a gumtree in my front garden this morning. They are a species of Nightjar. The two fledglings, image taken from the upstairs balcony.
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    226. (UK.162). Willow Tit Poecile montanus Ladywalk Reserve, West Midlands 30.11.2017 Ladywalk Reserve, West Midlands 30.11.2017 One of the most "at risk" birds in the UK. Numbers have fallen by about 96% since the 1970s. A sad loss.
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    After brunch Patrick transfers us back to Kaingo for our last 2 nights. He is to be our guide for this period. During the transfer we arrange to go to the Hippo hide before the afternoon drive. Arriving at the Hippo hide around 3:00 pm there is more action than earlier in the safari. I generally concentrated on one particular cantankerous individual. Say Ah. A bit of biffo And if you're wondering where the lions are from the morning drive
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    335. Greater White-fronted Goose. Arkemheen, Netherlands, Dec 2017. They have now arrived in large numbers.
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    212) Green-backed Heron Groenrugreier Butorides striatus 3 December, Rietvlei.
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    Day 10. Our last full day at Kaingo. We are out very early, the Mwamba pride had not eaten for days and we are hoping they will be active in the relatively cooler temperatures. The documentary film crews have the same idea. The lions are snoozing in the thickets and there is a buffalo herd approaching. Now this could be interesting but we all look on in astonishment as the pride members barely lift their heads to watch the herd meander past their position. So we moved on... Carmine Bee-eater The Luangwa is thick with crocodiles. During morning tea large numbers of impala were coming to drink at the river. As we were out of the vehicle they were nervous as they passed. This allowed for a few action images. When they weren’t photobombing what would have been my better impala in flight shots some puku joined in too. On the way back to camp we checked on the lions. They are still in the same location. After brunch I collected some sausage tree flowers, placed them in a suitable location and sat on the ground with my back against the chitenge wall. The camp’s bushbucks found them irresistible. Vervet monkey
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    465/ZZ122.) Southern Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus) / Südlicher Rotschnabeltoko Mana Pools, 19/10. Abundant in the park, one of the birds impossible to miss there.
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    462/ZZ118.) Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) / Kaffernhornrabe Busanga Plains, 15/10. Only a handful of sightings this time.
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    459/ZZ114.) Swallow-Tailed Bee-Eater (Merops hirundineus) / Schwalbenschwanzspint Konkomoya, 8/10. Only two sightings of this species which is so numerous in KTP. -/ZZ115.) Little Bee-Eater (Merops pusillus) / Zwergspint Busanga Plains, 14/10. Several good sightings of this confiding little beauty.
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    451/ZZ103.) Böhm´s Spinetail (Neafrapus boehmi) / Fledermaussegler Mana Pools, 19/10. Many kms away from the river in the dryer inland area. Puh, I could really need some Swift photography lessons, @PeterHG.
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    447/ZZ98.) Western Barn Owl (Tyto alba) / Schleiereule Kafue River, 10/10. Very difficult to get something here inside the nest but lovely to see the chicks - there were two. -/ZZ99.) Verreaux´s Eagle-Owl (Bubo lacteus) / Milchuhu Southern Kafue, 7/10. We also saw Pearl-Spotted Owlet and (a first for me) African Grass Owl but both did not like to stick around for photos.
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    The first week of December was spent in the Mara Triangle. The recent rains in the night, very cool mornings, and a combination of lightning which would put a fourth of July fireworks display to shame, produced waist high grass in the triangle.....lush grass. Plenty of it. Enter the elephants. Many of them. We stopped counting after reaching 250. Yes, it was an unusual sight...like black rocks from far away, dotting the green grass. Go off the main road and it would be muddy. This was not the place for those white vans, and they were wise....not getting close to the mud. This was a place for the 4WD Toyotas and the Land Rovers.
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    445/ZZ93.) Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis) / Spornkuckuck Mana Pools Floodplains, 21/10. Very similar to Coppery but appreciably smaller and black does not extend that far down the mantle. -/ZZ94.) White-Browed Coucal (Centropus superciliousus) / Weißbrauenkuckuck Mana Pools Floodplains, 18/10 Not a Cuckoo trip, heard my nemesis Red-Chested a couple of times and saw Levaillant´s twice but no usable photos.
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    444/ZZ92.) Coppery-Tailed Coucal (Centropus cupreicaudus) / Kupferschwanzkuckuck Busanga Plains, 13/10. The only sighting of this one.
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    439/ZZ86.) Emerald-Spotted Wood Dove (Turtur chalcospilos) / Bronzeflecktaube Kanga Pan, 23/10. Probably the bird we saw the most. -/ZZ87.) Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis) / Kaptäubchen Mana Pools Floodplains, 20/10. Rarely seen, only in certain dryer spots of Mana.
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    438/ZZ85.) African Green Pigeon (Treron calvus) / Rotnasen-Grüntaube Mana Pools Floodplains, 21/10. Only one sighting of this shy bird - they could not resist a very ripe fig tree.
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    434/ZZ72.) Long-Toed Lapwing (Vanellus crassirostris) / Langzehenkiebitz Busanga Plains, 13/10. Not uncommon in the wetter areas of Kafue and certain parts of the Zambezi but not very approachable.
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    428/ZZ61.) Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus) / Klunkerkranich Busanga Plains, 15/10. A vulnerable species but you can´t miss them in Kafue.
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    426/ZZ59.) African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis) / Binsenralle Kafue River, 11/10. A rarely seen species and therefore a birding highlight of this trip. We saw a couple of them on the river. The adults were very shy and fled immediately on the banks, the juvenile was much more relaxed about us.
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    324)Dusky Crag Martin Flying round the hotel nr Delhi Airport. Dusky Crag Martin. Ptyonoprogne concolor. Delhi by Dave Williams, on Flickr
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    Continuation of the sixth day Now back at the camp waterhole. In the meanwhile, a lot of buffaloes arrived. And a few zebras also. Leaving the waterhole, we came across this big bull that did not want to give us the passage.

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