Here is a Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus caama) sitting comfortably next to the road in the Addo Elephant National Park. Judging from the droppings surrounding it, it had been there for some time and showed no intention to move.
You can tell it has been sitting very still by looking at the flies on its eye and nose. It did not appear to be bothered by them when I parked next to it to take photographs. As you can see, these antelope have long narrow faces.
The rather soulful look of the adult can be seen in this youngster too.
Here is a mother with its calf.
NOTE: Please click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.
I have mentioned before that the Addo Flightless Dung Beetle (Circellium bacchus) are among the largest in the world and that they play an important role in the ecosystem, helping to decompose the piles of dung deposited both by wild animals and stock animals. As there has been a little rain, this is a good time of the year to see them in the Addo Elephant National Park.
They criss-cross the roads in search of dung, causing some motorists to swerve to avoid them. One can also see them on the verges, as is the one in the photograph above. It is always interesting, however, to see them at work on freshly deposited elephant dung – this one really looks as if it is biting off more than it can chew, or that its eyes are bigger than its belly! Actually, these beetles can roll balls of dung fifty times heavier than they are.
Dung beetles are reliant on dung both for their own nutrition and that of their larvae. Quite understandably, they prefer fresh dung from which to form their brood balls. It has been interesting to read that studies have shown that these dung beetles use the Milky Way to navigate their way at night.
Not all visitors seem to be aware that these beetles are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN list and so do not heed the many signs warning them to give way to the dung beetles on the road. Factors such as agriculture and human interference have led to the vulnerability of these beetles – we need to watch out for them!
NOTE: Click on a photograph iif you wish to see a larger version.
Easter is a reflective time of the year and so I offer the following reflections that have all been photographed in the Addo Elephant National Park:
This Blackbacked Jackal was approaching the water at Hapoor in a very contemplative mood – it stood there very quietly for some time, possibly aware of the many elephants splashing just the other side of the reeds – before it made its way down the the water in a slow and cautious manner. It displayed patience such as few of us have when we are thirsty.
These Blacksmith Plovers (now called Blacksmith Lapwing) are standing on a barely submerged sandbank in front of the reeds at Hapoor – doubtless enjoying a respite from all the elephant activity that this waterhole is well known for.
An Egyptian Goose enjoying a drink at the Carol’s Rest waterhole.
Another thirsty visitor at Carol’s Rest is this warthog.
I will leave you with these zebra walking along the edge of the Domkrag waterhole in search of a suitable drinking place.
NOTE: Please click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger image.
The Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) is South Africa’s National Bird as it is endemic to this country, barring a very small population in Namibia. Despite its name, it is actually a grey crane. Because its status is vulnerable, I become very excited when I see Blue Cranes in the wild, as I did on a recent trip to the Addo Elephant National Park where a pair of them were scouring the veld for food.
In this photograph you can get a good view of its bulbous head with the conspicuously paler grey patch on the crown and forehead. The long, darker tail feathers (actually the inner secondaries and tertials) show up well too.
From a photographic point of view, I missed the action every time, for it was interesting to watch how these birds would systematically turn over every elephant dropping in their path and eat whatever they found underneath – I presume insects.
This one paused for a scratch. Click on the photograph in order to get a clear look at its claws in the larger view.
Life is not always calm and peaceful for these dazzling photogenic animals. These two Cape Mountain Zebras are gracing the skyline in the Mountain Zebra National Park.
Sometimes there is more to the rough and tumble than meets the eye. These Burchell’s Zebra in the Addo Elephant National Park were pushing, shoving, biting and kicking each other until one gave up the fight and walked away.
One or both managed to nip the other.
More than once.
These rivalry fights were nothing to compare, however, with what this zebra must have experienced in the Mountain Zebra National Park. A closer look at the puncture marks on its buttocks and flank already suggest that it had a close encounter with a lion – and the large bite out of its neck tells us it had a fortunate escape.
If zebras could talk, this one would have an enthralling tale to tell!
NOTE: Click on the photographs if you wish to view a larger image.
It is almost a year since I came across a lone Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis) in the road close to our house. Despite listening out for its distinctive rising and falling call, especially at night, and looking out for it at dusk, I have had no sign of its presence again. The Addo Elephant National Park has proved to be a good place for seeing these birds, where it is best to look out for them in the late afternoon, or in the early morning. This one was photographed at Ghwarrie Dam shortly after sunrise last year.
Of course you may see one during the middle of the day, such as this one at the Spekboom Hide the year before.
They can stand so still that they aren’t always easy to see as their cryptic colouring helps them to blend into the background very well. I have read that their nests are simply a shallow scrape in the ground and so I have always imagined this would be well out of the way of foot traffic – never mind vehicular traffic. Imagine my surprise then at finding a Dikkop (I love its old name!) sitting right next to the edge of the gravel road called Harvey’s Loop.
It couldn’t have been closer to the edge of the road if it tried. I reversed to get a better look and was astounded to realise that it was sitting on eggs. As both parents sit on the nest alternately and the sexes look alike, I cannot tell whether this is Mr or Mrs!
You can clearly see the scrape in the ground containing two cryptically coloured eggs – with only the parent for protection. The incubation period for the eggs is about 24 days, with both males and females involved in the rearing of the chicks.
I felt I had disturbed it enough and drove away slowly, still marvelling at this wonderful sighting.
NOTE: Click on the photographs if you wish to get a larger image.
Despite its name, one cannot be guaranteed to see a lot of elephants – or even any elephants – whilst driving around the Addo Elephant National Park. Sometimes one feels fortunate to see a lone elephant, such as this one, wading through the shallow water in the Ghwarrie Dam or drinking quietly with only water birds for company at first.
Note the thick, dark mud sticking to its tusk. It was later joined by a lone Cape buffalo that wasted no time in wallowing in the mud.
The situation at Rooidam was different, for here a small herd had gathered, waiting patiently while a young one found a deeper hole in which to wallow. It sometimes submerged itself so completely that only the tip of its trunk showed above the water. You can see, from the elephant on the right, how shallow the water is for some distance from the edge.
You will notice that most of the other elephants have already covered themselves with mud or sand, which helps to protect their skin from the harsh rays of the sun (as we would use sunscreen) as well as from parasites.
At Domkrag another elephant cut a lone figure as it drank thirstily from the dam. You can tell from the shadow beneath that the sun was high. A strong hot breeze was blowing too which added to the discomfort of the thirty plus degrees heat.
No single photograph can capture the hundreds of elephants gathered at the popular Hapoor waterhole. Far too many vehicles were parked cheek-by-jowl along the edge of the main watering place for another to get in, so these two photographs show a small section of the hundreds of elephants gathered on the other side of that waterhole where, presumably, there must also be access to watering points.
Note: you can double-click on these images for a larger view.