DUNG BEETLES

An iconic sign along roads in the Addo Elephant National Park is this one:

It depicts a dung beetle rolling a ball of dung and warns motorists to watch out for dung beetles in the road – very few are actually rolling dung at this time of the year, but the strong implication is that drivers should also avoid driving over mounds of dung as there may be dung beetles harbouring within.

Dung beetles remain in a torpid state during winter and are generally more visible during the warmer weather, especially after the first rains.

This is a typical view of a dung beetle on the road:

They can also be seen in the veld, such as this one:

It would be too much to expect it to actually face me for a portrait shot! I hope to get one later during the summer when there are more of them rolling balls of dung.

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LEOPARD TORTOISES IN ADDO

The Leopard Tortoise is also called a Mountain Tortoise in direct translation of its Afrikaans name, Bergskilpad. According to the SANBI, the genus name Stigmochelys is a combination of the Greek words stigma meaning ‘marked’ and chelone meaning ‘tortoise’. The specific epithet pardalis is derived from the Greek word pardos meaning ‘spotted’ after the spotted shell.

These are the largest tortoises in South Africa and are always a joy to see in the wild. The Addo Elephant National Park is an excellent place to come across them – a visit there hardly seems complete without seeing at least one Leopard Tortoise. We have been fortunate to see several on our recent visits.

A light sprinkling of rain, gives this Leopard Tortoise a newly washed look as it crossed the tar road. Because of the absence of a nucal shield, these are the only tortoises able to raise their heads – and the only ones that can swim!

Here a Leopard Tortoise was making the most of the new green shoots of grass to emerge after the recent rain in the Addo Elephant National Park.

While they are mostly herbivorous, Leopard Tortoises have also been known to gnaw bones, and to eat carnivore faeces to obtain calcium for shell growth and the development of eggshells. This one appears to have damaged its horny beak, giving it a gap-toothed look – although they are actually toothless.

Even though they derive some liquid from their diet, Leopard Tortoises drink water readily when it is available. This one was making for the waterhole at Carol’s Rest at considerable speed!

BLOOMING IN ADDO

We were too early to witness the full flush of spring flowers in the Addo Elephant National Park. The first rains have wrought a beautiful change nonetheless. See what a section of the park looked like in March 2015:

This is what it looks like now:

The Erythrina lysistemon at the Main Rest Camp provides a bright introduction to spring blooms:

Banks of the Common Gazania (Gazania krebsiana) line the roads:

Very beautiful splashes of yellow are also provided by Rhigozum obovatum:

Then there are Felicia aethiopica, also known as Bloublommetjie:

Along with Felicia filifolia, known as Draaibos:

Pretty (as yet unidentified) flowers include the following:

If any of my readers is able to put a name to them I would be grateful.

PORCUPINES LEAVE THEIR MARK

It is always fun coming across the odd porcupine quill whilst walking in the veld. These nocturnal animals are seldom seen during the day as they mostly feed at night. Many campers in the Addo Elephant National Park can probably attest to the fact that a porcupine that used to be resident near the campsite would wander through the tents at night – woe betide any potato salad or apples one might inadvertently have left uncovered, for porcupines are largely vegetarian.

The natural diet of the porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis) consists of tubers, bulbs, roots and even bark. Below is an example of the damage to a tree caused by porcupines in the Mountain Zebra National Park. The tree now has a fence around it for protection.

The white and black crest of spines and quills can be erected at will to increase the apparent size of the porcupine in a threatening manner. Some spines on the tail are hollow and make a rattling sound when shaken. These very sharp spines and quills of the porcupine come off when touched by a predator or can be shaken off, but grow back rapidly. Here are two examples of porcupine quills becoming embedded in animals that have come too close. The first is a leopard in the Kruger National Park.

The second example is a Cape buffalo in the Addo Elephant National Park.

SOME ADDO BIRDS

Given that the temperature was only 6°C when we entered the Addo Elephant National Park, it is not surprising that these Speckled Mousebirds were fluffed up against the cold and sitting on the top of a bush where they could catch the early rays of the sun.

This Rednecked Spurfowl was happy to have its portrait taken.

We saw a number of Crowned Plovers.

A pair of Secretary Birds scoured the veld for food.

While this isn’t the best of pictures, I was excited to spot an Orangethroated Longclaw in the grass.

Fiscal Shrikes abound in the park and are most often seen perched on a bush such as this.

Here is a fine looking Cattle Egret.

I was rather pleased with my bird list:

Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black sunbird
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blacksmith Plover
Bokmakierie
Boubou
Brimstone Canary
Cape Glossy Starling
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Weaver
Cape White-eye
Cattle Egret
Crowned Plover
Egyptian Goose
Emeraldspotted Wood Dove
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greyheaded Heron
Hadeda Ibis
Jackal Buzzard
Karoo Robin-chat
Little Grebe
Neddicky
Orangethroated Longclaw
Ostrich
Pied Crow
Redknobbed Coot
Rednecked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Rufousnaped Lark
Secretary Bird
Sombre Bulbul
South African Shellduck
Speckled Mousebird
Yellowbilled Duck

BIRDS AND ANIMALS

I have mentioned before how Cattle Egrets are frequently seen in the proximity of the Urban Herd, quick to catch any insects disturbed whilst the cattle are grazing.

We saw several examples of a similar relationship in the Addo Elephant National Park. The first was a pair of Fiscal Shrikes hovering around these Warthogs as they scuffled around in the dry grass for food.

Next up was a pair of Cape Glossy Starlings keeping a close watch for whatever the Zebra may have disturbed while grazing.

A Cattle Egret found several insects to eat next to this Zebra.

This one hitched a ride on the back of a Cape Buffalo!

While this Cape Wagtail had a feast in the company of a Warthog next to the Hapoor Waterhole.