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Botswana Nov-Dec 2014: Dogs and more dogs!


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In the "better late than never" category, I thought it was about time I repaid the forum by presenting a trip report. I confess, I do not keep any kind of daily diary--any free time on a trip is taken

Shortly after parting with the lions, Alan spotted some movement in the grass ahead (what's that running there?) and now I'm screaming, dogs, dogs, dogs!!! Not in our wildest dreams did we expect to s

Now to our last camp. Xigera is considered a "wet" camp, in high season surrounded by water in the heart of the Delta; but at this time of year there was plenty of dry land to traverse. In fact, water

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Zim Girl

Fabulous dog and carmine pictures

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Tdgraves

excellent bee-eaters. I know how hard it is to follow them in flight :(

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janzin

Thanks for the comments on the Bee-eaters. It was a lot of fun--and frustration--to shoot them! Naturally there were probably 100+ shots discarded for every one you see here! And it was only when I was done that I realized I'd somehow inadvertently changed the shutter speed to somewhat slower than I would have liked (these were all shot at 1/1250 but I thought I'd set it to 1/2500) so I was lucky that any came out well :o

 

By the way, for those interested in this sort of thing, the camera equipment I used for this trip were a Nikon D810 with 200-400VR F4 lens, usually with a 1.4x teleconverter (for birds, mostly) and a Nikon D800 with 70-200VR F2.8. Both are full-frame cameras. Also for scenics and shots from the planes I used a Nikon 1 V2 interchangeable lens, mirrorless camera with a 11-27.5mm lens (about 30-75mm equivalent) which I just kept in my vest pocket. Awesome little camera.

 

The bee-eaters were shot with the teleconverter on; normally I'd take it off for flight shots, for faster focus, but these guys were just too small so I had to risk it.

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Marks

It's been said already, but the bee eaters in flight are superb!

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michael-ibk

Is has not been said enough - fabulous Bee-Eaters. :)

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SafariChick

one more comment for outstanding Bee Eater shots and I love the dogs too. The ones of the dog with the impala head in its mouth are creepy and wonderful and I too like the one of the dog looking at a fly, agree it's so much like my dog at home!

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janzin

Now to our last camp. Xigera is considered a "wet" camp, in high season surrounded by water in the heart of the Delta; but at this time of year there was plenty of dry land to traverse. In fact, water levels were quite low--causing some issues later. We had added Xigera specifically to get Pel's Fishing Owl and some other bird specialties like African Skimmer, Lesser Jacana, and other water-loving birds. Well, we got them all, and much more!

 

We got extremely lucky again at Xigera in that we had a private vehicle for our entire time, except for our first afternoon drive. When we arrived, there was a very large group of Australians touring together (about 16 women and one man--never quite figured that out!) so they had their own vehicles. They were only there the one night (fortunately, as they were nice, but rather rowdy.) The only other guests, who arrived the next morning, were a small group of American travel agents. (We'd had another group of agents at Duma Tau, as well.) It seems that at the end of the season the camps bring the agents on their junkets--so they were of course whisked away for special events like a helicopter ride, lunch in the bush, etc. etc. Leaving us with our own private guide (Des) and vehicle.

 

A word about our guide--Des was absolutely amazing, really serious about birds and our favorite guide of our trip.

 

We took our first mokoro ride that afternoon, and it was a bit disappointing, as the Australian tourists were also there, and quite loud, making birding rather impossible, and disturbing the tranquility of the setting. We tried hard to find some reed frogs, but struck out on that as well. It was a nice intro to mokoro riding, but a better excursion was to come later.

 

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The next morning we went looking for Pel's Fishing Owl. At a nearby spot we got out of the vehicle to scan the treetops. It didn't take long to find a pair but they were not in a great position for photographs and I didn't have my tripod with me at that moment, since I usually did not bring it into the game vehicle. Still we were excited as it was a target, and a life bird!

 

But our best sighting came later that day. Right after lunch, we took a short 5 minute boat ride across the channel to a nearby "island" where we were able to get out and walk (after the poler walked the island checking for any lurking dangers, like leopards ;) Des said he'd heard the owls calling from this island the evening before. Sure enough, Des found them easily.

 

Here is when I was really happy I'd brought my tripod. The pair was high up overhead and with my tripod low and pointed almost directly up I was able to get some excellent photos.

 

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Not far from this tree we found a fledgling!

 

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Also, being on foot I was able to get some decent shots of a Meyer's Parrot, which we'd seen previously but never anywhere I could get a good photo.

 

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And all of this was just an "extra", before the afternoon game drive!

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Treepol

@@janzin wonderful shots of the Pel's Fishing Owl and thats one of the clearest photos of a Meyer's parrot I've ever seen.

 

Really enjoying this report.

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that owl almost looks like the shape of the Baby common Patoo I saw in Ecuador

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madaboutcheetah

That's one of the best Meyer's images I've ever seen!!! Great job! They are very difficult to photograph - almost never stay still for even a second

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janzin

That's one of the best Meyer's images I've ever seen!!! Great job! They are very difficult to photograph - almost never stay still for even a second

 

Thanks! Yes, previously we'd seen a few groups of them but always flying or in a tree quite far away from the vehicle. Here I was really lucky to be able to be on foot with my tripod--he was high up on a snag and I just walked towards him, shooting a few frames and getting closer. I do remember being a little nervous about a lion or leopard sneaking up behind me, as I think the guide and my husband were busy looking at plants or some such and not paying attention :o

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janzin

We didn't really expect to see many predators around Xigera, so imagine our happy surprise when we spotted this coming 'round the bend on our first morning drive, literally minutes after pulling out from the camp:

 

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and then this!

 

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We followed them for a bit...

 

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They stopped for a drink.

 

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Crossed the water...

 

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and then it was nap time.

 

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It was after this that we went and found the first Pel's...sorry things are a bit out of order, I told you I don't keep a trip diary!

 

By the way, I was told these were two brothers. And it wasn't the last we'd see of them, but more on that later.

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michael-ibk

Love the lion series, especially the 4th and 5th pic, just so quintessential "Delta". And + 1 for the Meyer´s parrots, they really are so very difficult to get shots of. Bravo! :)

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Africalover

Absolutely fantastic photo skills. My eyes are happy.

Thanks.

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janzin

One of the things on our agenda for Xigera was a visit to the African Skimmer nesting colony. This is a very endangered bird with a restricted range in Africa. Normally, we were told, you could take a motorized boat most of the way there; but the water was very low now, and we'd need to go most of the way by mokoro. This turned out to be an incredible experience. We started out by jeep to a landing where we picked up a motorboat, taking that as far as we could go, to another landing where we then boarding two morkoros . (Somehow, the boatmen had brought the mokoros to this point earlier and left them for us.) Our guide Des was in the lead boat, along with our morning coffee and snacks; and hubby and I were with our poler in the second.

 

The ride to the colony took nearly an hour, maybe more as we stopped often for photographs. One bird I'd always wanted to photograph well was Malachite Kingfisher. They are usually very difficult, being small and skittish, but in the mokoro you could really get close.

 

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Lesser Jacana was another high priority target. We'd seen them on our ride to the rookery at Kwara, but I couldn't get close enough for a decent shot in the motorized boat. In the mokoro, it was still difficult, but I got something...

 

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We came upon two Yellow-billed Storks...

 

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Then in the distance we spotted two antelope by the shore. Wow, more sitatunga! We approached as quietly as possible, shooting as we went...unfortunately, the buck ran off into the tall grass before we got too close, so my only photos of him are distant and blurry, but the doe remained, allowing us to get fairly close. Even Des and the poler were excited!

 

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As we approached the area of the skimmer colony, we passed a Collared Pranticole and fledgling on a sandbar. They nest in this area too.

 

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Finally, we arrived at the Skimmer colony, where we disembarked on a sandbar. At this time most of the birds were in the air; most of the birds on the ground were Collared Pranticoles. While Des and the poler set up our breakfast, we spent some time attempting flight shots, but it was tough--tougher than the Carmine Bee-eaters; if you think those are fast, try terns! (Skimmers are in the tern family.) But it was fun, and the spot was beautiful and remote, we hadn't seen any other humans the entire morning.

 

Some flight shots.

 

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Quite a fantastic morning. Xigera was fast becoming our favorite camp of the trip. But it still had more surprises in store!

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Wild Dogger

I love your photography. Great shots!

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janzin

On our final evening drive at Xigera we decided to check out the other side of the channel where we'd left the lions earlier. Technically, we were told, this wasn't on the Wilderness Safari concession (I forget who it belonged to) but Des said that since there were so few camps and vehicles in the area, they often traversed there and vice versa.

 

It wasn't long before we re-found our lion friends, and now the golden light was just spectacular. I think this was our favorite lion encounter on the tripood, the light was beautiful, the setting serene, and there were no other vehicles anywhere in sight.

 

 

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We eventually left them as they walked off into the sinking sun.

 

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But that wasn't the best sighting of the evening!

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janzin

Absolutely wonderful images @@janzin - can I direct you to the African Birding subforum where if you can, update some of the id topics? Thanks, Matt.

 

I'll try Matt, it took me months to find the time to do this report, maybe once I've finished it I'll have some time. As it is, I start reading the other sections of the forum and run out of time to do anything else, LOL!

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janzin

Shortly after parting with the lions, Alan spotted some movement in the grass ahead (what's that running there?) and now I'm screaming, dogs, dogs, dogs!!! Not in our wildest dreams did we expect to see dogs at Xigera but it was just one of those serendipitous moments on safari, and even more special because Alan, and not the guide, saw them first!

 

For a few minutes they settled down and I got a few shots..

 

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Sometimes they are not so cute...

 

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There were seven; four pups and three adults. Des did say the group had been around earlier in the season but hadn't been seen recently. Soon they were on the move and we followed. Impossible to get pics with the vehicle bouncing around. We entered a clearing where there was a small group of zebra and one of the crazy pups tried to corner an adult, with predictable results (zebra won, with rest of pack watching like "are you out of your mind, pup?" and dust flying everywhere!) Photography was tough because the light was already low and things were happening really fast! But it was a thrilling scene!

 

Because the light was so flat (no more golden) I did some experimenting with toning, I rather like the results. I used a program called DXO FilmPak which enables you to mimic some old film tonal ranges.

 

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These were processed to look like the slide film Provia.

 

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After the zebra encounter the dogs started heading for the channel, deep into thickets where we couldn't follow.

 

And sadly it was nearly dark and time to head back, anyway. We never even got our sundowners, lol. But whew what an amazing, thrilling drive it was! The beautiful light for the lions and then the unexpected dogs! Of all our dog sightings, this was perhaps the most rewarding, partly because we didn't expect it, and partly because we actually got to see them having some interaction with another species. And on the very last night of our trip!

 

Back at camp, one more special animal was waiting for us right outside the cabins.

 

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What a night! Just one morning left. Would Xigera continue to excite?

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@@janzin...unbelievably beautiful!

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SafariChick

Fabulous, just stunning photos! What a great drive at Xigera!

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michael-ibk

Fantastic, the interaction shots with the Zebras are uber-super!

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Kitsafari

what a fantastic trip you had @@janzin! beautiful photos

 

Loved the northern flutterer dragonfly whose shining wings looked like stained glass, the bat eared fox babies, the stunning red crested korhaan, the fascinating meat-eating hippo sequence, the warmhearted pic of the two dogs leaning on each other in post 41, the beautiful pel owl , the malachite kingfisher and that of the yawning lion showing such clear details of his mouth including the curling tongue.

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