SCENES FROM NATIONAL PARKS

South Africa is blessed with several national parks. It takes time and travelling long distances to visit even some of them, yet none disappoint. Today I will feature scenes from a few of them. The Addo Elephant National Park is not very far from where we live and so, every now and then, we go there for a day visit. Given its name, visitors naturally expect to see elephants there:

It is also a good place for birding, where one might be fortunate to see raptors such as this Jackal Buzzard:

The Mountain Zebra National Park is also easily accessible to us and is the perfect place to spend a few days. Visitors here would obviously expect to see mountain zebras:

However, one might also be fortunate to spot a cheetah lying in the yellow grass:

There are red hartebeest in the Karoo National Park – which makes a good stopping point between where we live and Cape Town:

One can also enjoy seeing ostriches striding along the open veld:

The world famous Kruger National Park is several day’s journey from here and hosts an enormous variety of plants, birds, insects and animals. When we consider the alarming rate at which rhinos are killed in this country, we cannot help but feel privileged to see them from close quarters here:

The name on every visitor’s lips is ‘lion’. Mention the word and people speed up and jostle for space to see even the tip of the tail of one. Equally exciting to see though are leopards:

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is the furthest away from us and – despite its remote location – is such a popular destination that one has to book accommodation about a year ahead. This is an incredible place for seeing lions:

It is also a marvellous place for seeing the very beautiful crimson-breasted shrike:

WATER IS LIFE

South Africans are no strangers to drought and so we can empathise with the extremely dry conditions being experienced in parts of Europe. Some spring rains have arrived here – the hope is always for more! We all need water to survive and so I share some pictures of various creatures taking a much needed drink in the Addo Elephant National Park. The first are vervet monkeys enjoying a drink from puddles in the road:

This elephant was slaking its thirst at the Marion Baree water hole:

The Woodlands water hole is where these zebra gathered for their drink:

On a different occasion a single warthog visited the same water hole:

Ring-necked doves took deep draughts of water at Carol’s Rest water hole:

This was before they were ousted by a red hartebeest:

FIVE ADDO BIRDS

The Addo Elephant National Park is a delightful place for watching birds. This Bokmakierie was perched close to the road.

I often hear them, yet rarely see them in my garden so am always pleased to find them here.

Red-necked spurfowl have been visiting my garden regularly over the past few weeks to peck at the seed spilled on the ground below the feeders. Jack’s Picnic Site in the Addo Elephant National Park provides wonderful opportunities to see them really close up.

Given the various groups of donkeys and the Urban Herd of cattle that roam around our town, cattle egrets are a common sight as they keep these animals company. It is refreshing to see a flock of them gathered at the edge of a waterhole.

This lone Egyptian goose was actually on its way to join a few others grazing nearby. I occasionally see these birds on the edge of town too.

The sound of Cape turtle doves – called Ring-necked dove (Streptopelia capicola) – filter through our suburb daily. Strangely enough, I seldom see them in my front garden as they seem to prefer the area behind our home. This one is looking for seeds in the veld in the Addo Elephant National Park.

BIRDS IN ADDO

I have featured the antics of this Cape Wagtail before. Here it is perched on a vehicle roof before fighting with its reflection. These birds are commonly seen both at the picnic site and in the rest camp area:

One of the birds that make me feel satisfied after driving through the Addo Elephant National Park is the Pale Chanting Goshawk – usually seen perched atop a bush as this one is:

Evidence that spring is on its way is this (possibly – I am not good about identifying fleeting glimpses of canaries) Brimstone Canary collecting soft items with which to line its nest:

It is always pleasing to see an Ant-eating Chat too:

Helmeted Guineafowl can be surprisingly difficult to photograph for, despite their size, they move quickly through the grass near the edge of the road:

A bird that gives one plenty of time to focus on is the Grey Heron. This one is patiently waiting at the edge of a waterhole – and I mean patiently: it was there for a long time before it moved a muscle:

FICUS LUTEA

The common name for Ficus lutea is Giant-leaved Fig. Some specimens have been measured growing up to 25 m in height with a spreading crown spanning 30 to 45 m in width. This tree was photographed near the reception of the Addo Elephant National Park.

The bark is relatively smooth-textured and dark grey to brown in colour and the tree has large sculptured buttress roots.

The large leaves held towards the ends of the branches exhibit clear yellow veining, while the fleshy yellow fruit is enjoyed by birds, insects, bats and monkeys.

Although the Giant-leaved Fig grows from seed, some seeds may germinate on another tree in which case the roots grow down into the ground. In this manner the tree grows around the host tree, eventually killing it. This has led to it also being called a strangler fig. This specimen is in the camping area of the Addo Elephant National Park.