104 posts in this topic

Day 5: Evening drive, Satara, 21/1/17

 

Wild dogs had been spotted again and given our bad luck with the S100 during this trip, we thought we might as well check it out. Another wild dog chase, as it turns out, along the S126, which is a nice road which we had only used on this trip. It was still very grey when we left camp and quite cool. It rained a bit during our drive.

 

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We found a new bird though, a Senegal lapwing

 

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All from the OH and the 7D

 

We then had a lovely close sighting of ground hornbill. There were two, but one went off to the left of the road.

 

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This one seemed especially pleased with catching a frog and carried it around for ages, even putting it on the floor whilst foraging for other things - a gift for its' partner perhaps?

 

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And a couple from the other side of the car, with the longer reach of the 7D

 

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And only our second sighting of a double-banded sandgrouse in the Kruger

 

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a couple of mammals

 

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rest courtesy of the OH

 

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and a couple more birds

 

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And that was the end. No dogs. Again.

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very nice heffalump and ground hornbill pictures @@Tdgraves can I ask, please, which camera do you prefer using, (out of the 5 mk 111 and the 7 mk 11) and do you notice a difference in quality-I can't tell from the posted pictures! is the real difference at low light levels?

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@@Tdgraves

 

Like the close up shots of the ground hornbill, really good opportunity to see their features in detail.

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very nice heffalump and ground hornbill pictures @@Tdgraves can I ask, please, which camera do you prefer using, (out of the 5 mk 111 and the 7 mk 11) and do you notice a difference in quality-I can't tell from the posted pictures! is the real difference at low light levels?

@@Towlersonsafari what a tricky question! When we got the 5d it was an obvious step up from the old 7d. But now we have the new 7d, I think there is little difference most of the time. The main thing is the extra reach of the 7d, especially for the birds and coupled with the new lens, the focussing is much faster. I think the off centre focussing points on the 5d are more reliable than the 7d, but I don't often use this feature. Probably doing extreme crops might show the differences up more. We haven't really had a chance to test the 7dii in low light yet, but I suspect that is where it will be seen. Perhaps if we used the new lens on the 5d there may be a more obvious difference....this may be happening, as the OHs old 100-400 is broken and I am currently trying to persuade him to upgrade, rather than fix it (again...)!

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Thank you @@Tdgraves for your comprehensive reply

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Day 6: Morning drive, Satara, 22/1/17

 

It was cloudy and cool when we set off and only got to 22 degrees later. I had the 7D again. Gluttons for punishment as we are, we decided to try the S100 again and then went north on the S41 to link to the S90 and then back on to the tar road to camp.

 

First sighting of the day was this lappet faced vulture, but it was roosting, rather than waiting for a kill to be vacated....

 

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Barn swallows

 

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and an ant army

 

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Ahead of us, on top of a slight rise, we could see a huge bull elephant and a little blue car, which seemed to be far too close to the bull. We stayed back as we could tell it was not happy and waited and waited. The car kept trying to past and the elephant was getting more and more grumpy, we were worried that there was going to be an accident. Eventually they stupidly pushed past it and when they got to us, still stationery where we had been sat, they said "he was a bit grumpy!". I don't think they realised the danger they were putting themselves and others in. There is a section in the visitors guide about how to behave around elephants, but I suspect lots of people file this away without reading it. The elephant looked as if he was going to block our route, but finally moved off away from the road, so we crawled forwards. Then our suspicions were confirmed, as we could see and smell the urine trail on the road. A musth elephant. Idiots.

 

Next up, some chestnut-backed sparrowlarks - male

 

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female

 

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And we edged up closer to this raptor as we had seen it swoop into the road and presumably catch something, only for the idiot behind to zoom up and overtake us, so this is all I managed :angry: I think it was a little sparrowhawk

 

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This steenbok was so happy eating, that it didn't mind our presence

 

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These zebra were on the other side of the car (I was driving) so from the OH

 

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Some very far away saddle-billed storks

 

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Next up was the sighting of the morning, some hyaena cubs

 

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I'm not sure that we have seen a black-shouldered kite in the Kruger before

 

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Time for breakfast!

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A lot of amazing shots, @@Tdgraves! The close-ups of the Cheetah are brilliant with all the detail they show and also the Ground Hornbill sequence and the Hyaenas stand out for me. Excellent photography!

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Day 6: Transfer from Satara to Biyamiti, 22/1/17

 

As we were changing camps, we had planned to have breakfast in the restaurant before leaving, but we weren't that hungry and as we were on our longest transfer drive of the trip, we thought it may be better to break the journey with lunch. So, we got take away coffee and muffins from Mugg & Bean and we were only stopping for good sightings - the first one being in the car park!

 

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The temperature was steadily climbing, but there was also intermittent clouds and rain. Our first pit stop was at the newly refurbished Tshokwane picnic site, which is a big improvement and seemed popular. The sun slowly came out and we could take some photos. I did a detour off of the tar road, but it was not really worth it, however, we did get a close up of a buffalo and some swallows.

 

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and a brown snake-eagle in flight

 

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We then stopped at Lower Sabie for lunch, which, as usual was very busy. We saw a new bird, a spectacled weaver, in the car park, but no photo as the other tourists did not understand photography :(

 

It was now getting very hot (28 degrees) and there were few sightings until we got close to water - first from the Lower Sabie bridge....

 

Malachite kingfisher

 

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Egyptian geese

 

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Grey heron

 

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African pied wagtail

 

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And then later closer to camp

 

Greenshank

 

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Green-backed heron

 

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Black stork

 

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Brown-crowned tchagra

 

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Wahlberg's eagle

 

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On the last part of the journey, which is a private access road to the camp, we got stuck behind a really cautious driver, who was going excessively slowly, which was highly frustrating given the time we had spent in the car, we just wanted to get out and stretch our legs!!

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A lot of amazing shots, @@Tdgraves! The close-ups of the Cheetah are brilliant with all the detail they show and also the Ground Hornbill sequence and the Hyaenas stand out for me. Excellent photography!

 

Thanks @@PeterHG our best ever Kruger cheetah sighting :D . We always seem to get good GHB and hyaena sightings there too!!

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Day 6: Evening drive, Biyamiti, 22/1/17

 

It was much hotter today, reaching 30 degrees. We speedily unpacked and then set off for another drive. We had planned to go north up the private road to the Biyamiti weir, but the game had other ideas. The first sighting was a duiker, but it did not pose.

 

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However, we did see out first rhino of the trip. In the past we have seen them in the central areas of the park. I don't know if they have been actively relocated from there or if that is where the poaching has hit, but we only saw them or signs of them, in the extreme south of the park this time.

 

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Not much further up the road and we found this family on the march.

 

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Initially I pulled into a side road, but we figured that would leave us trapped, so we ended up going back the way we came, as there was little room for manoeuvre, if they were unfriendly!

 

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They walked towards us for a bit longer, before turning off of the road. However, we now had no time to get to the weir and back, so we just slowly drove towards camp

 

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We got to camp and there was a pair of red-chested cuckoos calling, but far too dark to see. Time for a braai.

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Night sky, 22/1/17

 

Given that this was our first night in a wilderness camp, it was obligatory to try and get some night sky photos without the light pollution from main camps. Unfortunately the camp has quite a lot of trees, so there wasn't a good clear view, especially for the star trails, but I quite like the effect I got....

 

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Day 7: Biyamiti morning drive, 23/1/17

 

And now the flat tyre came back to bite us :angry: . The very bumpy entrance road last night must have done it. So our early start for the morning drive was not to be. There was no-one in the office yet to see if they had a tyre pump, so we changed the wheel. Amazingly this was the first time that we had ever needed to in all of our thousands of kms. It was only when the wheel was off that we could see the issue, a screw was in the inner surface of the tyre, where the wall meets the flat surface. Frankly it was amazing that it had stayed pumped up so long!

 

The weather was cloudy, but it eventually burnt off. We thought we would aim for the weir again having not made it the night before and I had the 5D today.

 

A couple from the OH who was driving and therefore was on the correct side of the car...

 

Wahlberg's eagle

 

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Long-tailed paradise whydah

 

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First up at the weir was a common sandpiper, a new one for us

 

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and a three banded plover having a bath

 

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Just on the other side I spotted a Jacobin cuckoo

 

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We carried on north and began to encounter safari vehicles from outside of the park. I'm not sure why, but we saw a lot more of these this year, whether they are more popular or we have just had good luck in the past, who knows? What is clear though, is that they seem to have a set route, so if you meet one, you meet many and they are in contact with each other, reporting good sightings. We were eventually rewarded by this, as one driver actually had the courtesy to stop and talk to us. He had assumed that one of the others must have told us about the cheetah sighting, but of course, they had not! Precise directions and there they were....

 

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Quite far away in the shade. In fact, when we got there, another vehicle was on site and it still took me ages to spot them!! We stayed for a while, hoping that they would activate, but it was not to be. This loop road had lead us to the main tar road, so we decided to continue north to the Afsaal picnic spot for a break (where the coffee is much nicer than Mugg & Bean) and then turn back south. I spotted our first ever Kruger dark-chanting goshawk.

 

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We then cut back into the gravel roads, to return to camp via the weir again......

 

Egyptian goose

 

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Wood sandpiper

 

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Giant kingfisher - unfortunately scared off by an oncoming car, who I was very disappointed to see, after he turned around and took the spot that we had been in, was also a keen photographer :(

 

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Hamerkop

 

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We has seen some rhino, but no photo opportunities. Back to camp for breakfast.

 

This will be the last installment for a while as I am away for the next fortnight.

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Reading through this made for an enjoyable morning! Particularly enjoyed the widowbirds, hoopoes, black-bellied bustard, and cheetah. And of course the series of hyena amongst flowers was a treat!

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Page 1 is chock full of great stuff--mating cuckoos, flying widowbird, gorgeous water birds, big stripes, and so many pink flowers along with the animals, plus double hoopoe. You seem to always be in South Africa!

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Thanks @@Atravelynn I have @@Peter Connan to thank for page 1

 

We have spent a lot of time in RSA over the past three years, but now that we have recovered financially from moving house and the Rand has rallied, we'll be back to once a year instead of twice from now on - September is booked for Zim (although we will have one night in joburg)!!

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Day 7: Biyamiti around camp, 23/1/17

 

I decided to do a bit of birding around camp and not long into it and I was overheating!!! Just next to our room I found a new species, a collared sunbird

 

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And a spotted flycatcher feeding its' young

 

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While I was in the undergrowth trying to get these as they flew from branch to branch, something huge flew past my ear. Obviously I had the camera up to my face, but was convinced it was a bat, in the daytime?? The mystery was solved as the cleaner, intrigued by my antics, pointed out where they were roosting - under next doors eaves!

 

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Black-backed puffback

 

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Sombre greenbul

 

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I went back to the room for a cold drink and the local eles had the same idea, herd after herd appeared at the river bed for water and a bath......

 

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Time for another cold drink

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Posted (edited)

Your korhans and bustards are belting out the tunes. Those young impala must have leapt right over you at their speed. You caught their gangliness. The ground hornbill in the tree made a nice quartet.

Edited by Atravelynn
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The buffalo appear dwarfed by the elephants! Great series.

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The buffalo appear dwarfed by the elephants! Great series.

 

@@Marks I forgot to mention this. Buffalo are not exactly small, but it makes you realise how huge a bull elephant is!!

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Posted (edited)

Day 7: Biyamiti, evening drive, 23/1/17

 

I thought it was hot when I was walking around camp and this was confirmed when we got into the car - 35 degrees. The drive was on a slight curve and I had parked a bit nearer to the trees at the side of the drive at lunchtime in a vague attempt to shade the car more, it failed. It also meant we had our first hire car accident for years. Despite the reversing camera and sensors, the OH backed straight into a tree :( He was going really slowly, but the bumpers on these cars are plastic, so it completely buckled and annoying also slightly dented the rear wing. Not a good start to a game drive and definitely not a good day for the rental car. Oh well, nothing to be done except see how much of the excess Avis charges to the credit card.

 

We decided to go up to the weir and saw many rhino. Including these two right in the middle of the road

 

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By this stage another car from camp was stuck behind us and looked exceedingly underwhelmed, so I asked the OH to move to let them past. This act of kindness would be rewarded later.

 

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We soon caught up with the other car, watching, you guessed it, rhino! These ones must have been more interesting though :wacko:

 

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After the other car pulled away, it became apparent why this one was wallowing....

 

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Someone else was also admiring his huge horn....

 

We got to the weir and managed a front end shot of the giant kingfisher we had seen in the morning

 

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And some other water birds - hammerkop

 

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Water thick-knee

 

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We had decided to venture a bit further across the other side of the river and went straight on instead of the road next to the river, this was a mistake as there was nothing around. We got back to the weir and were turning around for camp, when the other car from camp who we had let past, flashed us to stop. They told us that there was a mating pair of lions on the other road and we could just make it before gate closing time. We don't usually do this sort of thing, but given that we hadn't seen many lions and they were quite close, we thought we'd give it a go.

 

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A couple of shots of flat cats and then 180 back to camp.

 

Nearer to camp yet more rhino (16 in total for the drive)

 

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A Wahlberg's eagle

 

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And then back for a braai and to check the Avis documents...

 

Again the red-chested cuckoos were calling next to our house, but it was too dark.

Edited by Tdgraves
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Posted (edited)

Great closeups of the predators. The pastel flowers really enhance the animal photos. The first shots of the cheetah show the same expression as the Martial Eagle right above it. I started feeling sorry for the frog in the mouth of the Ground Hornbill, but maybe it was dead. I like the thought of it being a gift. So many wonderful birds in your report!

Edited by Atravelynn

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Day 8: Biyamtiti morning drive 24/1/7

 

We decided to travel south today and avoid the long and bumpy camp road, so we connected to the S25 and across to crocodile bridge and then up the s28 to lower sabie and back via the tar road. This was a very long drive, but we needed to go as far as lower sabie so that we could have a rest stop. It was a lovely day with blue sky and sunshine, 23 degrees when we left camp, up to 36 by the time we returned. I had the 7D.

 

There were a couple of hyaena sitting on the road, but by the time we approached (hilly road), they left so no photos

 

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Joining the s25 in the middle, meant little traffic. We did meet a couple of cars ahead and had just missed a leopard crossing the road :(

 

Then a fleeting glimpse of an African cuckoo

 

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Around the bend, we met a pride of lions! We were the only car from our direction, so we could get close

 

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Although a lot of my shots were ruined by a strange reflected glare from the car (which was a pale metallic colour)

 

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Then one of the vehicles from the other direction left, so a self driver decided to drive right at the cub, which of course, then left the road and hid in the long grass with the others, grrr!

 

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We were looking at this guy sat in the shade, when a day trip OSV pulled up and we were chatting to the guide. As he crossed, you could see that he was in poor condition....

 

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After only a few minutes, all that was visible was the occasional tail flick under the bushes. We carried on to Crocodile Bridge for a comfort break and then went north up the tar road. Along the drive we saw 8 rhino, but none close enough for photos

 

Southern white-crowned shrike

 

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Burchell's coucal

 

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We then turned off onto the S28, which seemed to be the set route of the OSVs. A few minutes later, we saw the guide we were chatting to at the lion sighting parked and searching with bins. We could see nothing, so asked what they were looking for "apparently there are some cheetah here" he said. No sooner had he said it, than the mother got up and started walking, we let the OSV pass and followed her, but the terrain was very difficult to see far...

 

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And then a little guy appeared (there were 2 cubs)

 

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And then they vanished again....

 

Not much further up the road was a traffic jam - two more cheetah!! They were sat under a bush and you could only see them when they changed positions. We waited a while to see if they would give us a better sighting and then moved on. However, when we were waiting I found another new bird, a fan-tailed widowbird (very far away)

 

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Comfort break in lower sabie and then back south down the tar road, but first a stop on the low level bridge...

 

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Squacco heron

 

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Grey heron

 

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And further south, red-faced mousebirds

 

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On the road back into camp, this martial eagle kept giving us a go at take off and landing shots, although I think I still need practice!

 

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We were very hot and tired when we got back to camp to cook breakfast, but what a drive!!

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what a drive indeed @@Tdgraves

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Great bats!! @@Tdgraves

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Day 8: Biyamiti - evening drive, 24/1/7

 

It was a scorcher so I did not doing any birding around camp, apart from this guy who took my eye - a black-collared barbet

 

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I also saw a purple-crested turaco, but was unable to get a shot.

 

It was 37 degrees when we left and we decided again to go south to the S25 and then east before turning around to get back to camp

 

The first sighting was a new bird for us, a Western osprey perched overlooking the Crocodile river

 

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As you can see, it was already becoming hazy and overcast

 

A crested barbet

 

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And a few rhino

 

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and some piglets

 

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We had seen no other vehicles and gone quite a long way along the S25, so we decided it was time to turn back. Not long after, we saw some vultures drop down from their perches and we rushed to see why....

 

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Time for a drink!

 

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Now you can see why they are called white-backed cultures!

 

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Some more rhino

 

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and a dusky lark

 

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This pair of bateleurs were just outside of camp

 

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We were a little earlier back into camp and so I was able to catch my nemesis new bird of the trip, the red-chested cuckoo on camera! :D

 

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