BAT-EARED FOXES

I made my first acquaintance with Bat-eared Foxes (Otocyon megalotis) during the long drive up to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park decades ago – they were all dead, having been hit by vehicles speeding along those long straight roads with nary a curve in them. Even the warning signs couldn’t prevent that. This is very sad for Bat-eared Foxes pair-bond for life and both the male and female look after their cubs.

Fortunately I have seen many live ones since, mostly in the more arid regions around the Augrabies National Park and in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as they prefer to live in areas with short grass and open ground. We have been visiting the Addo Elephant National Park on a regular basis for about three decades and never seen Bat-eared Foxes there – until a few weeks ago. We had stopped to watch a herd of zebra and, when we moved on, the sound of the engine starting flushed a pair of Bat-eared Foxes from the grass right next to where we had been parked! This accounts for the rear view.

These foxes have unusually large ears in proportion to their head, reminiscent of many bats, which gives rise to their name. You can clearly see this one’s large ears. As we assumed it was the only one, we were happily surprised to see two of them bounding away through the short grass.

Of course it would have been fun to have seen a front view of them, but beggars cannot be choosers – and the bushy tail is very evident in the photograph below. I consider myself fortunate to have seen them at all for, although they tend to be diurnal during winter and nocturnal in summer, they are not often seen during the day unless they happen to be foraging in the late afternoon.

These interesting little foxes follow a varied diet of insects – such as termites and grasshoppers, small rodents, lizards, small snakes and wild fruit. I find it particularly sad that, apart from those living in protected areas and on many game ranches and farms, their survival is threatened by a loss of their natural habitat as well as trophy hunting and the trade in their skins.

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SOUTH AFRICAN SHELDUCK

When is a goose-like bird not a goose? When it is a South African Shelduck (Tadorna cana), which looks remarkably like a goose at first glance – particularly when in flight where they could easily be confused with Egyptian Geese. The ‘shel’ of shelduck originates from the Middle-English sheld meaning ‘pied’ – a reference to their plumage. Tadorna is the French word for ‘shelduck’ while cana refers to the greyness of the head. It is the males who sport the grey head and females the white. Both sexes have chestnut bodies marked with black, white and green.

They are fairly commonly found at inland dams and rivers. These ones were photographed at the Hapoor waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park. They eat algae and crustaceans in the water and can also be seen in farmlands where grain crops are grown.

These birds form long-term pair-bond and tend to gather in large flocks to moult after breeding.

South African Shelduck

 

LIONS

It was while I was listening to the sound track of Born Free this morning that it struck me how fortunate I have been to have seen lions so often in the wild. It is the one animal that tourists – and not only the ones from abroad – have at the top of their wish lists when they enter game areas such as the Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We have enjoyed some of the best sightings at the latter place and yet have also spent ten days there without seeing a single one!

We had been waiting patiently at a water hole shortly after sunrise. Our attention was focused on birds and the activity of a couple of jackals nearby when this pair of lions came padding across the dry river bed. Notice the dust being thrown up by their large padded paws.

They drank deeply and for a long time.

Early on another morning our attention was drawn to definite sounds of distress not far from the camp we were staying at. The gates had opened not long before and we were met by this scene of two lionesses doing battle with a wildebeest, kicking up a lot of dust in the process!

Within minutes Black-backed jackals had come to investigate within a safe distance as the two lionesses settled down to rip open the carcass – only to be usurped by an enormous male that appeared from nowhere! While on the subject of males, tourists would give their eye teeth for a sight such as this one strolling across the road in front of us in the Kruger National Park. This photograph gives you a good idea of how large their paws are.

Much closer to home, here is a lion seen in the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape.

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.

A REFLECTIVE BLACKHEADED HERON

Herons possess the patience of Job: the ability to stand still and look out for prey without drawing undue attention to themselves. That is what this one had been doing for several minutes on the edge of Rooidam in the Addo Elephant National Park.

A very slight adjustment of its head is the only indication of a shift in focus.

There might be something worth a closer investigation down there.

Now that looks interesting!

Let me see …

Nah, it’s not really worth my while.

NOTE: Please click on a photograph if you want a larger view.

BLACK-BACKED JACKAL 2

I have written about the Black-backed Jackal (Canus mesomelus) before and am happy to mention them again because seeing them in the wild gives me great joy. They usually mate for life, so when you see one you know the other one cannot be too far away. I watched this pair trotting across the veld a little distance from each other, their heads held low, stopping to sniff at something now and then. Here they are moving close together as they inspect the ground. Note the one on the left appears to have a deep scar on its flank.

The bitch moved away from her mate in a purposeful manner to investigate the vegetation a little distance from him.

She had personal business to attend to.

Here a different pair of jackals have found some leftovers from a kill to share.

They are mainly nocturnal animals and so the best time to look out for them is early in the morning or late in the afternoons. These photographs were taken in the Addo Elephant National Park.

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.

RED HARTEBEEST 2

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.