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A Summer of Swifts and Swallows – Kruger, Kgalagadi & Augrabies Falls (Jan. 2020)


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adamt123

Day 11 – Game Drive One

 

Today was our first Kgalagadi day. First, though, we said our goodbyes at Kalahari Trails and paid a visit to some of their rescued meerkats, including one which had been run over and had to have a leg amputated. Hopefully wild meerkats would be on the cards too in Kgalagadi. We arrived at Twee Rivieren Gate at about 8am, and we greeted by our first two animals of the park – Leopard Tortoise and Marico Flycatcher. Other signature species observed early on were a Ostrich family and many Springbok including a recently born calf.

 

 

Meerkats at Kalahari Trails

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Leopard Tortoise

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Marico Flycatcher

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Ostrich Family

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Springbok

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On this game drive up to Nossob (about five hours) wildlife sightings were especially promising close to Twee Rivieren, between Samevloeiing and Melkvlei. Between these two waterholes we had lots of Leopard Tortoises (we would in fact see loads of them), Black Backed Jackal, the ever-regal Kori Bustard, Yellow Canary, Sabota Lark, Common Swift, Scaly Feathered Finch, Bateluer, dozens of Lanner Falcons, Tawny Eagle, Black Kite and Pale Chanting Goshawk (the raptors were particularly strong around Melkvlei),

 

Kori Bustard

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Black Backed Jackal

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Sabota Lark

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Yellow Canary

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Common Swift

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Scaly Feathered Finch

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Leopard Tortoise (this is the largest specimen I have ever seen – wonder how old it was?)

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Lanner Falcon (juv.)

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Tawny Eagle

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Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Black Kite

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Bateluer

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The highlights of this section, however, were two. Firstly, we saw the only Burchell’s Sandgrouse of the whole trip (and the only ones I have ever seen) at the Leeuwdril waterhole. Though we saw lots of Namaqua sandgrouse, I was really hoping to get Burchell’s too; the female was a little obscured, it was still a good sighting of one of the (apparently) common birds I was hoping for. The second highlight were our first Lions of the trip. We saw them between Rooiputs and Kij Kij – two males and a female who dozing just off the road. Over the course of the next week, we would in fact have many sightings of this Twee Rivieren pride – the two males are brothers who run the pride, and by the time we left Kgalagadi, we had become quite familiar with them.

 

Burchell’s Sandgrouse

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Lions

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For now, however, I was glad to tick lions off the list. Continuing north, from Melkvlei to Dikbaardskolk, we saw our first Gemsbok as well as Namaqua Dove, Cape Sparrow, Marico Flycatcher and dozens more Common Swifts. We also had many more raptors – Tawny Eagle, Lanner Falcon, Pale Chanting Goshawk and soaring Lappet-faced Vulture. There were also many Eland carcasses littered along the riverbed – this would unfortunately be a constant image throughout Kgalagadi on this trip.

 

Gemsbok

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Green Kalahari

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Namaqua Dove

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Common Swifts

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Tawny Eagle

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Lanner Falcon

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Lappet Faced Vulture

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What was left of the Elands

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An interesting (though unfortunately very distant) sighting near Kransbrak waterhole was a congregation of raptors – there were at least 7 Tawny Eagles, 3 Lappet-faced Vultures, 2 Bateleurs, a White Backed Vulture, a Black Kite  and a Secretary Bird. The final leg of the journey, from Dikbaardskolk to Nossob, was the quietest, though we did get a lone Red Hartebeest which was nice. It was also at this point that storm clouds were gathering in the horizon which it was actually quite awesome. Fortunately, the rain didn’t interfere with our game drives and only occurred in the interlude between our outings.

 

Congregation of Raptors

(here 1 white backed vulture, two lappet-faced, 2 bateleur and 5 tawny eagles)

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(here 1 secretary bird and 2 tawny eagles)

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Red Hartebeest.

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Approaching Nossob

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Edited by adamt123
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adamt123

Nossob Rest Camp

 

This was my first time at Nossob camp, and I liked it very much. Our riverfront chalet (No. 19) was well appointed and very spacious. The camp shop was also well stocked. Since my last visit to Kgalagadi in 2018, all three shops (Twee Rivieren, Nossob, Mata Mata) are much better stocked; the only item they didn’t have at Nossob and Mata Mata was ice cream (unfortunately all the freezer space is taken up by meat). In fact, the only real issue with Nossob camp was the air conditioning. The AC unit is located inside the bedroom, but there is no door to the bedroom to trap the cool air (fortunately, this was only a problem here and the riverside chalets at Mata Mata don’t have this problem). Nossob was, nonetheless, a great place to stay overall. 

 

Nossob Chalet

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Wasp attending to larvae in our terrace area

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Karasburg Tree Skink

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adamt123

Day 11 (part 2) and Day 12 Introduction

 

Now what can I tell you about wildlife sightings at Nossob? To put it bluntly, there were no significant sightings here over our 2-night stay. This time period refers to the evening game drive on day 11 and the two half day game drives on day 12, all conducted around Nossob camp.

 

This was very different to our experiences to come at Twee Rivieren and Mata Mata. Closer to Twee there was consistently abundant wildlife on the Nossob riverbed between Samevloeiing and Melkvlei. Mata Mata was extremely dry, and we spent our stay there tracking cheetah for the most part (though there was also a super special additional sighting there too). In this way, all the camps had very different ambiences – our time at Nossob wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as good as the other two camps.

 

I would note a final factor against Nossob was the road quality. I had read that the quality of the Nossob riverbed-road deteriorates after Melkvlei – we found that this was not the case and the quality was good up to Nossob camp. But in all honesty and even after taking all precautions, the driving north of Nossob camp was a bit of nightmare. And another very minor point is that the Nossob riverbed in this section is extremely wide and the road is a small slither on there western edge of the riverbed, which I found to be less immersive and enjoyable than the narrower Auob riverbed at Mata Mata and the southern sections of Nossob at Twee. 

 

On day 13, the day of our departure from Nossob, we decided against a morning drive and instead drove straight down to Twee Rivieren – this game drive was one the best I have taken and made the relative absence of wildlife on the previous three game drives 100% worth it, but more on that later. I suppose this is a classic safariing scenario – a few slow days before the match is lit. Owing to the reasons detailed above, I am going to cover all three of these slower games drives today in three short posts. Finally, I note that by ‘slow’ I mean that there were no landmark sightings, though we always appreciated the company of the raptors and jackals.

 

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Day 11 – Game Drive Two

 

The second game drive of the day, a short 1h 30m trip to Cubitje Quap and back, was mostly quiet. We had our first Cape Crow and at the watering hole itself there were abundant Cape Turtle Doves and Namaqua Sandgrouse as well as the odd Cape Sparrow and Kalahari Scrub Robin. We waited there for some time before heading back towards Nossob. On the way back, we found a Gabar Goshawk and a pair of Spotted Eagle Owls. The owls were the undisputed highlight of the drive; they were sitting in a tree about 3km north of camp. I made a mental note of the tree and on the next day we made a point of stopping at the owl tree and they were again present. This owl sighting marked the first of series of excellent eagle-owl sightings – seeing more owls was a top aim of mine on this trip and Kgalagadi certainly did not disappoint! 

 

Cape Crow

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Cubitje Quap

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Familiar Chat

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Cape Sparrow

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Gabar Goshawk

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Spotted Eagle Owl Pair

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Wide Nossob Riverbed

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Sunset

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adamt123

Day 12 – Game Drive One

 

We woke up early, leaving Nossob as the gates opened and tried the Cubitje Quap watering hole again. This time, the jackals did show but they didn’t put on their signature hunting performance – after about 15 minutes they just left. So, we too continued north towards Kwang. Here, there was a little bit of raptor action with a Bateluer pair and a Tawny Eagle, but otherwise all was quiet. This trend continued all the way up to Polentswa; we saw Black Backed Jackals, White Backed Vulture, Southern Fiscal and Kalahari Scrub Robin. On the way back to camp, we did stop to appreciate the Spotted Eagle Owl pair again, which was nice.

 

Cubitjie Quap

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Bateluer Female

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Bateluer Male

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Tawny Eagle

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Black Backed Jackals

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Kalahari Scrub Robin

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Southern Fiscal

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Familiar Spotted Eagle Owls

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adamt123

Day 12 – Game Drive Two

 

As our two previous game drives had taken us north of Nossob, we decided to try going south this time. The game drive was about 2h and took us around two watering holes – Rooikop and Marie se Gat.  Rooikop produced a healthy number of Namaqua Sandgrouse which are always a delight to photograph. We spent more time at Marie se Gat, a waterhole set within its own loop; at the waterhole itself we had Black Backed Jackals, Gemsbok and the odd Lanner Falcon. We spent about 30m here, before heading back to camp. Along the way we had a lone Red Hartebeest as well as a noteworthy sighting of Grey Headed Sparrow, White Browed Sparrow Weaver, Southern Masked Weaver and Kalahari Scrub Robin all next to each other in the same tree.

 

Namaqua Sandgrouse

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Marie se Gat

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Red Hartebeest

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Kalahari Scrub Robin, Southern Masked Weaver, White Browed Sparrow Weaver and Grey Headed Sparrow

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Closer to Rooikop we had a solid sighting of Cape Hare. The lagomorph was sitting in the undergrowth and when we stopped for it, it chose to freeze rather than flee, so we got some good shots. Back at Rooikop, the sandgrouse were now replaced by Cape Turtle Doves, Namaqua Dove and Lark-like Bunting; a Fork Tailed Drongo also perched itself right above our car. We spent some time with the birds before arriving back into Nossob just as the gate closed. 

 

Cape Hare

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Birds at Rooikop

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Fork Tailed Drongo

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Hads

Wow @adamt123 what a fantastic report thanks.

Flamingo in Kruger - what a rare sighting.

I cant wait to get back.

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adamt123

Many thanks @Hads 

 

The flamingo was indeed a very unexpected and welcome sighting. As for getting back there, hopefully we will all be returning soon :rolleyes:

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adamt123

Day 13 – Introduction

 

The previous night there had been a major thunderstorm over Nossob and the riverbed was well dampened in the morning. The first two images were taken by my friend at 6am; I was asleep at the time and he took the images on the Canon. I’ve left these images as straight from camera jpegs – they are not RAW and there is no editing applied whatsoever. By the time I had woken up about an hour later, the ochre hues were replaced by rather ominous grey. I suppose it still made for quite a dramatic background for an early morning Common Swift shoot. This was a good opening to a superb day; both game drives (the first from Nossob to Twee Rivieren and the second around Twee Rivieren) produced some interesting and one-off sightings.

 

Dawn Jpeg

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Common Swift

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Day 13 – Game Drive One

 

We left Nossob at around 8am, heading south back towards Twee Rivieren. It is clear that I have been building up this game drive to be an exceptional one. For me, it achieved this through five sightings, one of which was mammalian and four of which were avian. To begin with, we drove south past Rooikop and Marie se Gat and this initial area produced Common Ostrich, Kalahari Scrub Robin and Southern Grey Headed Sparrow. Continuing south, we had the 1st highlight at Kaspersdraai, a juvenile Black Stork. I believe these are very uncommon in Kgalagadi, so to see one was an exceptional surprise. I was hoping to get Abdim’s stork, a more common migrant to the area, but in the end, we got its considerably more desirable cousin. The bird was totally cooperative and though Kaspersdraai waterhole is set slightly away from the road, I was well pleased with this fantastic start to the day.

 

Wetted Nossob Riverbed

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Common Ostrich

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Black Stork

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It was 9.30 by the time we left the stork and continued towards Cheleka, where the 2nd highlight was waiting – a pride of 7 lions including a mating pair. This was in fact the joint largest group of lions we saw on the trip and it was one of only two sightings which wasn’t from the Twee Rivieren pride. Here, we had a single male and six females, mostly relaxing in the shade. However, we did catch some mating action between the male and one of the females which was a first for me. After having a couple of goes, they couple retried with a larger group of females, most of whom were dozing off. We spent about half an hour with them (we could have stayed for longer – they had just taken over Cheleka as a napping spot for the day) before driving further south.  

 

Lions

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The drive between Cheleka and Gunong was generally productive; from the bird we had the only Red Headed Finches of the trip as well as Pale Chanting Goshawk, Ostrich, Black Chested Snake Eagles and many Lanner Falcons. From the mammals, this area was particularly strong for Gemsbok, though we also saw Red Hartebeest.

 

 

Gemsbok

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Ostriches

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Lanner Falcon

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Green Kalahari

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The final highlights were all in the vicinity of Melkvlei. It was just before that waterhole, between Gunong and Melkvlei, that the 3rd highlight was observed, a female Pallid Harrier. For me, this was the best birding moment of the whole eighteen days. We had actually driven a head of the tree right next to the road on which the raptor was perched. I had a very brief view of it as we drove past and was half sure it was a lanner falcon, but just in case we reversed – and thankfully we did. The harrier was standing unobstructed and I was able to get a lovely shot before she flew off. As a ringtail, I wasn’t 100% in that moment whether it was Pallid or Montagu’s but can now confirm that it is indeed a stunning specimen of the former.

 

Pallid Harrier

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The 4th highlight came just after Melkvlei and was a little different to others in that it wasn’t a particular species, rather a collection of Raptors. There were plenty of Bateluer and Tawny eagles and too many Lanner Falcons to even begin to count. This assembly of raptors, though it consisted of common species, was a real highlight in being so close to them all at once. The gathering was also punctuated by the odd Secretary Bird and Black Chested Snake Eagle. So, while this may not have been a sighting of the rarest or most unusual animals, it was still a superb sighting which left a lasting impression.

 

Melkvlei Raptors

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(5 Lanner falcons in the shot below alone)

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The 5th and final highlight of this mammoth game drive was a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl observed a few kilometres south of Melkvlei. The owl was sitting on the floor hugging a camelthorn. So, why was this a highlight? Well, as I wrote at the very start of this report “prior to this trip, I have had absolutely abysmal luck with owls in Africa”, so seeing any owl species would be great, but Verreaux’s Eagle Owl was at the very top of my list*. This brought the total trip tally, together with the African Barred Owlet from Kruger and Nossob’s Spotted Eagle Owls, to three. I can gladly report there were many more owl sightings still on the cards for us in Kgalagadi (we would in fact see this same owl again!), but for now I was elated that one my personal top avian targets had been hit.

 

*Though Kruger is home to rarer owls like wood owl, marsh owl and Pel’s fishing owl, as the realistic chance of seeing one of those  was so low, I didn’t include them in my mental list of species I was hoping for.

 

Verreaux’s Eagle Owl

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Though the five highlights had now been observed, we were still some 40km from Twee Rivieren and the sightings were by no means over. Close to Kij Kij we had a nice encounter with a lone Lioness; we stayed with her for time before she wondered off into the dunes, so that was a nice little extra sighting. Another rather wholesome sighting was of an Ostrich family closer to Twee Rivieren; it was quite lovely to observe the chicks of various sizes at close range together with their impressive parents. At around 3pm we arrived into Twee Rivieren – as this has already been a lengthy post, I’ll cover my thoughts on the camp later, but for now suffice to say the mood was good.

 

Lioness

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Ostrich Family

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Edit: Just realised this is my 100th post - hurrah! :D

 

Edited by adamt123
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Towlersonsafari

lovely photos-I do like the lanner and then the 5 lanners in the tree as well as your last ostrich chick-the KTP is such an atmospheric place @adamt123

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adamt123

Thanks @Towlersonsafari. Yes you are unquestionably correct about Kgalagadi being so atmospheric, its one of the things that makes it special I guess.

 

I also especially like the final picture of the ostrich chicks - this was the first time I had seen them and they were so cute :)

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adamt123

Twee Rivieren Camp

 

Twee Rivieren Camp had much improved since my last stay here in 2018. The chalets have all had new bat-proof thatching installed; in 2018 I had an incident with one of the bats when it flew out the thatch and into the room in the middle of the night. It was quite a fun experience retrospectively, though I definitely appreciated that the rank odour of bats was now gone – for those who aren't familiar, I would describe it as a cross between mouse and unneutered male cat. Moving on from bats, we stayed these two nights in the 4-person chalet and the final night in the 3-person chalet which I actually preferred.

 

Four Person Chalet

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Three Person Chalet

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The general wildlife viewing in camp was good. Over the course of the two nights we had very cooperative Rock Martins as well as Scaly Feathered Finches, Groundscrapper Thrushes and Yellow Mongoose. We also had both the sole Ashy Tit and sole Chestnut Vented Tit Babbler of the trip here. The Kalahari summer is well known for scorpions and managed two sightings both in Twee Rivieren, one of the dangerous Buthidae and one of the less venomous Scorpionidae. Both sightings were in the night though so I have attached a picture of a dead Scorpionidae which we found just outside the chalet. There was one other significant animal which we saw within the boundaries of Twee Rivieren camp, but as that was quite a special sighting, I will omit from this general section and mention it when it comes chronologically (which isn’t until day 17).   

 

Scorpionidae Scorpion

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Rock Martin

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Scaly Feathered Finch

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Groundscrapper Thrush

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Yellow Mongoose

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 Chestnut Vented Tit Babbler

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Ashy Tit

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adamt123

Day 13 – Game Drive Two

 

The second, shorter game drive of the day would take us along the Nossob riverbed, visiting the now familiar waterholes of Samevloeiing, Leeuwdril and Rooiputs. This game drive was really all about the birds. Things started off well with a great sighting of a pair of Secretary Birds bathed perfectly in the dusk light; they had come to drink water at a pool just off the road and made for fantastic models. Further towards Rooiputs we had another solid sighting of Spotted Eagle Owl; there were again two birds but one of them was well hidden, while the other marvelous specimen gave excellent views.

 


Secretary Birds

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Spotted Eagle Owl

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Now from the non-raptors, my no.1 bird to try to see was Ludwig’s Bustard. I believe these are nomadic birds which tend to arrive in Kgalagadi (usually Nossob riverbed only) in summer following good rains. I can say that we saw the bird (between Rooiputs and Leeuwdril) but unfortunately it wasn’t the best sighting. It was in truth just a quick glimpse of it as it flew off over the dunes and into Botswana. These sorts of sightings always stir up mixed emotions, but at the very least I was pleased we had a picture. The mood did pick up, however, when we came across a Red Necked Falcon pair at Leeuwdril; this was the only sighting we had of this handsome and somewhat less common raptor and that was lovely.

 

Ludwig's Bustard

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Nossob Riverbed-Road

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Red Necked Falcon

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We rounded of the game drive with yet more Spotted Eagle Owls near Samevloeiing; there were at least three of them in close proximity, but one gave exceptional views and was a joy to photograph. And so concluded another action packed day in the Kalahari, with many interesting and longed-for species ticked off.

 

Spotted Eagle Owl

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Peter Connan

Wow, that sunrise after the rain was spectacular, as were your sightings thereafter!

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adamt123

Thanks @Peter Connan. I guess its just a bit of a shame that I wasn't awake to see that stunning sunrise!

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JayRon

A collection of great photos and sigthings :) When we were in Kgalagadi in december/january 2018/2019 (19 days) our best sightings were around Mata Mata, followed by Nossob. We didn´t see much south of the Rooiputs waterhole. But Kgalagadi is just amazing and it is definitely one of my favorite parks. I also wrote a trip report if you are interested. We camped which gives you the opportunity to camp at Rooiputs and Polentswa, they are unfenced .https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/20371-kgalagadi-and-mabuasehube-selfdrive-the-adventure-of-a-lifetime/ I am a bit obessed about predators, but I really like your pictures of owls and the other raptors. ( And I am sorry to say, that I got a better picture of a Ludwigs Bustard  :mellow:I think you would have appreciated it more^_^  ) 

 

So thank your so far for a great report, looking forward to some more...

 

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adamt123

Day 14 – Game Drive One

 

This was our fourth day in Kgalagadi and so far, every game drive we had taken had been on the Nossob riverbed, so we were enthusiastic to get out onto the Auob. So the plan for the game drive was to take the Auob riverbed to Auchterlonie then turn on to the Short Dune Road and finally returning back to camp via the Nossob riverbed south of Kij Kij. The Auob side of the drive was quiet – very quiet in fact, with not a single mammal spotted between the Auob turn-off and Auchterlonie.

 

The area was very dry. It was a little sad to see this area so apparently desolate, especially because this was where my very first game drive in Kgalagadi was conducted. Back then, the area was filled to the brim with black shouldered kites, yet on this trip not a single bird showed (I believe they are nomadic, travelling wherever food is plentiful). Having said that, the area wasn’t totally dead, and we still had some nice bird sightings. This included the first Spotted Thick-Knee of the trip as well as a handsome Pygmy Falcon and the sole Greater Kestrel we saw. We also had a pair of Gabar Goshawks, a Pale Chanting Goshawk and a Black Chested Snake Eagle.

 

Black Chested Snake Eagle

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Spotted Thick-Knee

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Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Greater Kestrel

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Pygmy Falcon

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It was about 7.30 by the time we had left eh Auob and got onto the Short Dune Road. Though this road doesn’t have a huge reputation, it actually proved to be quite productive. To start, we had the only Northern Black Korhaan of the trip and this was shortly followed by a handsome Steenbok for which the dunes are well known. At the Tierkop waterhole we were greeted a by strange sight. The perimeter of the watering hole was surrounded by eland carcasses and there was a Gemsbok sitting right among them. A cute Black Backed Jackal was also hovering around the site, which together with the stunning yellow flowers in blossom, made for a rather peculiar sighting.

 

Steenbok

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Northern Black Korhaan

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Tierkop Waterhole

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We also had a great encounter with a pair of hunting Secretary Birds on the Short Dune Road – it was nice to have seen them yesterday drinking, and today gobbling up lizards. A giant Millipede and a Lanner Falcon rounded off the Short Dune Road. Arriving onto the Nossob riverbed again we had good views of Kori Bustard and Black Headed Heron at Kij Kij. Another interesting note, we only saw Kori Bustards on the Nossob side this time around, whereas last time I was here, it was the reverse, with the Auob riverbed filled with this giant of a bird. 

 

Secretary Birds

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Millipede

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Lanner Falcon

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Kij Kij

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Kori Bustard

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Black Headed Heron

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Rather than turn back towards Twee Rivieren from Kij Kij, we decided to go up to Melkvlei and then turn back, after all it had produced some excellent sightings so far. Interestingly, the raptors had mostly dispersed though they were still some Black Kites around. We also had a large herd of Blue Wildebeest which came to drink water from a temporary pool right on the road. We also had our first sighting in Kgalagadi of Cape Ground Squirrels around here. 

 

Blue Wildebeest

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Black Kite

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Cape Ground Squirrels

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A great sighting on this game drive was of a group of lions. There were four of them, two females and both of the males we had seen on our first Kgalagadi day. We first came across the junior of the two brothers together with a female. They provided some 'interesting shots'  to say the least - I don’t personally think lions are the prettiest of cats (IMO they are probably the least attractive) but these two gave some very unflattering shots. The second female was more active - unfortunately she was quite mite-ridden. The senior male, who was sitting at some distance, was more photogenic and gave some lovely shots before going back to sleep. 

 

Lions

Male and Female  - are these the least flattering photos of any animal I have taken? Probably.

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Female

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Senior Male

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Leaving the lions to their sleep, we observed most of animals, including a Kori Bustard and an Ostrich family, now seeking shade (it was about 10.30). In the trees, we did catch sight of a few Sociable Weavers though, as well as the a Common Scimitarbill and three Pale Chanting Goshawks sitting photogenically in a row. On the final approach back to camp, we caught sight of a Slender Mongoose! I absolutely love this animal and it put on quite a performance. It was playing around, jumping erratically and acting rather strangely all round - it was like a cat when they go into a "possessed" mood, though I had never observed such behaviour in a Herpestidae member before. I know meerkats are the most famous representatives of that family in the Kalahari, but for me, the ruddy slender mongoose was a true jewel. 

 

Sociable Weaver

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Kori Bustard seeking shade

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Ostrich Family in the shade

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Common Scimitarbill

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Pale Chanting Goshawks

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Slender Mongoose

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Edited by adamt123
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adamt123
9 minutes ago, JayRon said:

A collection of great photos and sigthings :) When we were in Kgalagadi in december/january 2018/2019 (19 days) our best sightings were around Mata Mata, followed by Nossob. We didn´t see much south of the Rooiputs waterhole. But Kgalagadi is just amazing and it is definitely one of my favorite parks. I also wrote a trip report if you are interested. We camped which gives you the opportunity to camp at Rooiputs and Polentswa, they are unfenced .https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/20371-kgalagadi-and-mabuasehube-selfdrive-the-adventure-of-a-lifetime/ I am a bit obessed about predators, but I really like your pictures of owls and the other raptors. ( And I am sorry to say, that I got a better picture of a Ludwigs Bustard  :mellow:I think you would have appreciated it more^_^  ) 

 

So thank your so far for a great report, looking forward to some more...

 

 

Many thanks @JayRon:) 

 

It is interesting how different places produce different sightings - I have heard nothing but good things about Nossob, but for us it was the least impressive of the three camps. 

 

Unfortunately, I'm not quite up to your level yet and am a bit reluctant to camp - this obviously means that the Botswana section is off limits to me for now, but maybe one day...

 

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adamt123

Day 14 – Game Drive Two

 

As we had generally enjoyed success on the Nossob side, we decided to take the same route as the evening game drive of day 13 – Samevloeiing, Leeuwdril and Rooiputs. The weather on this game drive was a little strange, with periods of blazing sun and patches of heavy cloud. While this was a quieter game drive, it still produced some sightings, beginning with Springbok, Kori Bustard and the only Agama we saw in Kgalagadi. It being summer,  I was hoping to see a few more of these lizards, but at least we had good views of this one female/immature. From the raptors, the Pale Chanting Goshawks were out again, and we also had juv. Bateluer.

 

Springbok

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Kori Bustard

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Agama

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Bateluer

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Pale Chanting Goshawk

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It was also on this game drive that we had our only sighting of Swallow Tailed Bee Eaters. There were about 4-5 of them, including a younger bird and a juv. Marico Flycatcher. Last time I was here, the bee eaters were around every corner, but this time that was clearly not the case. Other birds spotted were Laughing Dove, Lark-like Bunting, Spotted Thick Knee, Crimson Breasted Shrike and more Marico Flycatchers.

 

Swallow Tailed Bee Eater

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Laughing Dove

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Lark-like Bunting

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 Spotted Thick Knee

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Crimson Breasted Shrike

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Marico Flycatcher

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Heading back towards Twee Rivieren, we had more Leopard Tortoises – I would say that despite their reputation of being slow animals, I did find them to be reasonable fast. Then, one of the key sightings of this drive was a pair of Meerkats. They were quite distant, and this is where the large zoom really came in useful, but it was still a welcome sighting. I have had fleeting glimpses of wild meerkats before, so to be able to observe them at some length was appreciated. This would in fact be our only sighting of this famous little mammal of the trip. 

 

Leopard Tortoises

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Meerkats

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Rounding of the game drive was yet another Spotted Eagle Owl; it was in about the same location as yesterday's, so may well have been one of the same birds. Finally, we had our first Martial Eagle of the trip! Though this magnificent bird was an immature specimen, it was still very large (and therefore a female maybe?) and its talons (not too clear in the picture) were particularly awesome.

 

Spotted Eagle Owl

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Martial Eagle

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michael-ibk

More great sightings and photos. The Jackal with the Gemsbok in the background is hilarious, and I absolutely love the sequence of the drinking Secretary. Very much enjoyed the Augrabies sections as well, that park was a suprise hit when we visited. Your report is bringing back very fond memories. Also did the "easy" Twin Falls walk. We were lucky enough to get Verreaux´s Eagle in Augrabies btw.

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Towlersonsafari

continuing to enjoy your report @adamt123 was there any clue or talk of why so many dead elands?    We also had an "entertaining"  bat visit our last trip but ii just buried my head under the covers!

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adamt123

Thank you for your kind words @michael-ibk :)

 

The secretary birds really were a joy to photograph. As for the Verreaux’s eagle, I guess it was just our bad luck (a bit like Ludwig’s bustard...)

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adamt123

@Towlersonsafari Many thanks :)

 

The question of the elands is an interesting one. I’m not 100% sure, but from the info that I was able to gather on the ground, I believe the Kgalagadi was suffering from a drought before we arrived (parts of the Auob riverbed especially the Craig Lockhart-Sitzas-Mata Mata area were still bone dry during our visit).

 

When such difficult conditions hit, elands are the first animals to die as they are the least hardy of the large mammals which inhabit Kgalagadi. I have also read that elands are more commonly on the Botswana side, but we saw carcasses across the lower dune road and the Nossob riverbed – I can only assume the elands moved into the South Africa section in search of food, before dying there. Quite sad really.

 

However, without revealing too much, I can say that we were fortunate enough to see a live eland in Kgalagadi towards the end of the trip.

 

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adamt123

Day 15 – Introduction

 

This was a long day with some very interesting sightings. Unusually, the day had three game drives: (1) guided AM drive with SANParks at Twee Rivieren, (2) the drive up to Mata Mata – we took the long way via Nossob riverbed and Short Dune Road and (3) short game drive around Mata Mata camp. If that wasn’t enough, we had one of the best sightings of the trip, and probably my life, when we got back to Mata Mata in the evening. So all in all, it would turn out be an intense yet exciting day.  

 

Day 15 – Game Drive One

 

This was our only guided game drive in Kgalagadi. Initially, I thought we might take a night safari, but I can say only intuition led me towards the morning safari instead. My companion wasn’t too bothered either way, but the morning drive did give him a break from the driving.  It was just the two of us and the guide and the primary hope was of seeing some of the more unusual creatures of the night for which Kgalagadi is famous.

 

I have a somewhat strange relationship with Samevloeiing, the very first waterhole in Kgalagadi, because for inexplicable reason I always have unusually high hopes of it, but it has never produced a notable sighting except on this game drive. The animal I’m referring to was the cutest and most adorable bundle of fluff of the trip, a Southern White Faced Owl. It was hoping around at Samevloeiing and then suddenly flew off into a tree as we arrived, and I was able to get a nice shot. In fact, I liked this sighting so much that I have adopted it as my new profile picture.

 

Southern White Faced Owl

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In total, this brought the owl tally to four (African Barred, Spotted Eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle and Southern White Faced) and I was extremely pleased with this result. The next animal we saw was another owl, this time a rather majestic Spotted Eagle Owl, which appeared exceptionally forceful against the black sky. The final animal which we had the pleasure of seeing under the cover of darkness was a Cape Fox; I had seen one before in Kgalagadi, but it was a very poor sighting, so I was well pleased to get a better view this time around.

 

Spotted Eagle Owl

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Cape Fox

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If you ask many avid safari goers what the most uncommon and desirable animals to see are, I’m sure many would answer pangolin, aardwolf, caracal, serval etc. but one consistent name is aardvark. About half-way between Samevloeiing and Leeuwdril,  we had a curious sighting of a dead aardvark. Our guide noted that it was a fresh kill recently made by a leopard (we were in its territory) maybe a couple of hours ago. We searched for the leopard, but it had gone, abandoning the aardvark right next to the road. Being a fresh kill, the aardvark was in good shape to observe and the leopard had been quite selective in eating only a little bit then leaving the rest. It was a bizarre sight, and I find the below photos a little disturbing.   

 

Aardvark Kill

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Moving further north, the game drive reached its climax with our two male lions. This was the best lion sighting of the trip.The sighting was on the approach to the Tashebube Rooiputs Lodge; our guide left the main road towards the Botswana lodge and we were very close to the two males. These were same two brothers we had seen twice before, and this was in fact our final sighting of them. The senior of the two was closer and gave majestic views before greeting his brother and setting down nearer to him. That the lions were bathed in the gorgeous dawn hues only made the sighting more perfect. 

 

Lions

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(shot below taken at 60mm)

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As we headed back towards camp, more cars were coming out for their AM game drives. I haven’t mentioned traffic much in Kgalagadi, and that’s because there wasn’t any for the most part and the camps (especially Twee Rivieren) were pretty empty too. Back to the game drive and we had a nice sighting of Kori Bustard on the dunes and a pair of Jackals. A Lioness was bustling about in the sand too. According to our guide, she was probably the lioness with cubs, but more on that later. As we approached the aardvark, there was again no sign of the leopard nor of any scavenger (yet). All in all, what an fantastic game drive this had turned out be!

 

Kori Bustard

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Black Backed Jackal

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Lioness

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Nossob Riverbed-Road

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mtanenbaum

Thanks for posting! I am enjoying following along with your trip. I especially liked your male lion portraits. Interesting that there are no flies buzzing around them! (or did you remove them from the photo?) These guys look so pristine, like models. I have Kgalagadi on my list for my next trip to South Africa, along with Zimanga, which I have been itching to visit for their incredible looking photo hides. Of course these two locations are located on opposite ends of the country, but still close compared to where I come from in California!

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Athene

@adamt123

You had wonderful sightings and I envy you. In August we didn't see half the animals you have seen. Nevertheless I liked the park. It is special and very different from other safari destinations. I am sure we will go again in the African summer.

I am enjoying your report very much and I like your photos. My favourites from the last 2 posts are the secretary bird sequence and the lion portraits.

 

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