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Friday, September 14, 2012

Kruger Park, Second Time Around

A lot of beautiful creatures revealed themselves on a sunny winter August day in Kruger National Park (South Africa).

I somehow didn't publish this post back in September!  So here it is now.....

The South African "Watch For Wildlife" signs are much like ours in the U.S., but instead of deer they feature springing spiral-horned antelopes, which I found quite charming.  And watch for wildlife, I DID.

A game drive vehicle
We went in a game drive vehicle like this one, and glory of glories, there were only four of us that morning, and I claimed the entire rear seat to myself ~ which meant that I could slide from side to side to see whatever was to be seen. The hardest part was to NOT spend my entire time behind the camera snapping photos. It is so easy to get so involved taking photos that you have to look at your photo albums later to be able to see your vacation....

Mom baboon and her kidlet
So here are some of my prizes, snapped between actually LOOKING at them: 
I saw baboon families, with the mothers carrying or escorting their exploring babies ~ this youngster had dismounted to look around, but finding itself in the tall grass it leaped back up on its mom's back for a free ride and a much better view.

kudu buck on point
The kudu buck is the antelope pictured on the Watch For Wildlife sign: I noticed several kudu bucks like this, posed motionless for minutes at a time. Our guide said that the biggest bucks do this to show that they are dominant, that they don't HAVE to assume ordinary poses like the young bucks.  Maybe so.  They stand so still they seem to be carved from stone.

It was hard to NOT get great photos of many of the animals, as they allowed us to pull up rather close to them without wandering off. The vehicles in the park must remain on the road (or on the shoulder) so there was no roaring off across the plains to find a good picture site. And because they aren't chased by cars, the wildlife tends to ignore them entirely.
Zebras are picturescue
Most of the animals, like this zebra, were quite blasé about being stared at. I love how the South African zebras are not "black and white," but "black, white, brown, white, black, white, brown...," the brown being a lovely cinnamon red on many of them.  It's amazing how they actually blend beautifully into the scenery. 
warthogs on parade
And of course, being a connoisseur of warthogs, I was very appreciative of this married couple which trotted across the veldt in front of us.  Aren't they charming? Don't they have a saucy air about them?  Aren't their tails jaunty? Love 'em!

A blasé Scops Owl
We stopped for lunch at a gift shop and restaurant in the center of the park where I noticed a sign touting "the most photographed Scops Owl in the world" next to the ladies room. Searching about, I finally found this tiny owl, barely six inches tall, perched in a bush only inches away (maybe 20") from the passing crowds. As I watched, it opened one eye to check out a yowling child, then closed it again. It apparently lives there, and was completely unconcerned about its safety. Of course, I took its picture, adding to its tally.  
Lizard on poker plant
 And I also discovered this little lizard perched on a flowering "red-hot poker" plant on the grounds of the restaurant.  There were all sorts of birds flying about in the chartreuse-barked fever trees, too, and I added several more to my list.
This is a starling!
(By the time I flew home, after 21 days of part-time birdwatching, I had checked off 101 South African birds in my bird book without much effort on my part.)  

There are many colorful birds in South Africa, but one of my favorites is the yellow-billed hornbill, about as common, and about the same size, as a crow in the U.S.  They are everywhere, and seem to be curious about human doings. 
Yellow-billed hornbill, my favorite
They approached to watch me sketch numerous times. I think they weren't used to seeing people sit in one spot clutching a stick (pen) and scratching at a piece of paper.
I mean, who DOES that?

There were so many things to draw, even in winter.  These gorgeous red-rimmed flowers were on the restaurant grounds, so I'm not sure they're native ~ but they're sure pretty, and a bright touch in the sere, dry winter environment on the veldt.
There were seven lions here, including half-grown kittens
Right after lunch, we were delighted to discover this pride of lions lying in the shade of some scrubby trees. Actually, we didn't find them ~ we found the clot of cars and game drive vehicles parked beside the road and looked the same direction everyone in the vehicles was looking. 
Giraffes are gorgeous.
A lying lion is very flat. Would we have driven right past if the others hadn't seen them and stopped to look?  Maybe that waving white foot would have caught our attention.....

I am particularly fond of giraffes. I could watch them all day. There is something amazing about that long neck topped by a delicate fuzzy-horned head. An 18-20" prehensile tongue definitely adds to the allure ~ and don't forget the long, beautiful eyelashes! What's not to like about a giraffe!
an elephant teenager - check ear size
But for sheer excitement, there is nothing to compare with being approached by a herd of elephants.  This teenager was romping with its friend just below the road in the river bottom.  You can tell it's young by comparing the size of its ears (large) to the size of its head. Also, it's only half the size of the adults.  The mom elephant in the other image had just finished pushing over a small tree, and was cruising our way looking for something else to eat.  
Mom elephants is still hungry
This was WAY different from watching elephants in a zoo or circus. They are incredibly graceful and majestic in the wild. 

Apparently not a "moveable feast"...
Our last sighting of the day, just as the sun was touching the horizon, was this pair of hyenas.  The one on the left was chewing happily on something while the one on the right was keeping an eye on the traffic. I got the impression, very strongly, that they KNEW when that sun went down we would have to leave, and they were going to wait it out. 
No WAY were they going to abandon that lovely bit of roadkill they had found at the edge of the road.  These two pictures are among my favorites ~ the sidelong glance of the one hunkered down on the road's edge is a real hoot.  

I thought you might enjoy seeing my sketch of the hyenas ~ of course, there was no chance to sketch in the game viewing vehicle so I drew it later that night from my camera screen. This is a combination of two photos I had, one with the left hyena looking back over its shoulder and the other standing as shown in the image above. I moved them closer together to make the image work a little better.  
More later ~ but I'm going to be traveling next week, so I can't guarantee how soon that might be. I have a lot to do to get ready (including briefing the house-sitter), then I'll be on the road awhile, visiting, going to a wedding, etc.  

So until......


Africa safari said...

It is always a treat if you see all of the big five at Kruger National Park. I also love doing some bird watching over there. Thank you for sharing!

Antuco el Otorongo said...

Wow Irene , you have been busy! It is so neat to run over your articles after so long!

Here's a grab-bag of other entries...

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