AN UNINVITED GUEST

Jack’s picnic site in the heart of the Addo Elephant National Park is a good place to stop for lunch and enjoy a break from driving. Each picnic site is separated from the next by a thick hedge of Spekboom and other indigenous plants, so one does not have to wait long to get close-up views of a variety of shrub-loving birds. We were able to admire a Bar-throated Apalis – a bird heard all over the park, but which is not easily seen whilst one is driving.

It wasn’t long before a Southern Boubou made an appearance.

A pair of Cape Robin-chats came to investigate the pickings.

We are always pleased to see a Sombre Greenbul (I still think of it is a Bulbul!), which is another bird more easily heard than seen when one drives through the park.

These birds have become accustomed to the regular arrival and departure of humans, for they appeared in quick succession to comb the gravel for anything edible the previous party might have left in their wake. Within minutes of our arrival they had retreated to the dense cover of the surrounding shrubbery as we settled down to enjoy our food and conversation.

Shortly afterwards I became aware of the Cape Robin-chats calling loudly behind me – I recognised the alarm call from the many times I have heard it in our garden. One of the pair spread its tail feathers out widely, while the other ruffled its feathers as if to increase its size.

The Southern Boubou emerged from the undergrowth, making a harsh grating alarm call, while the Bar-throated Apalis danced frantically along the top of the Spekboom hedge, snapping its bill and wings – it too was clearly agitated. Something untoward was happening.

I looked up in time to see a Boomslang launching itself from the shrubbery onto the roof shading our picnic table – far too fast for me to focus my camera! We could see no sign of it on the roof, so we continued our picnic until I looked up again and saw its sinuous length squeezed into the space between the roof and the wooden slats below it.

Some of our party felt it was too close for comfort

We decided then than it was time to pack up and continue our game viewing drive.

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THE LIGHTER SIDE OF JACK’S

We were at Jack’s Picnic Site in the Addo Elephant National Park in the company of some little people. What an interesting place it was for them to explore while the rest of us got a delicious picnic ready: a large dung beetle obligingly made its way across the gravel; two songololos (millipedes) explored the logs and crossed in front of several pairs of fascinated feet.

Other delights included a quick witted Boubou that stole a strip of ham from the picnic table in a flash before anyone else had even had a chance to partake of their own salad buns.

We were serenaded by several Cape Bulbuls – you can tell from the background that this was a dull day weather-wise.

A Sombre Bulbul came to see what could be scrounged from both the ground and the table – it was at this point that one of the little ones pointed out a sign warning visitors not to feed the animals [SO low down and completely overgrown that it was rendered invisible to adult eyes].

The visit from a Cape Robin was a fleeting one.

Perhaps because it had not seen one of these before!

GOOD INTENTIONS GO AWRY

Since it was opened in about 2011, Jack’s Picnic Site in the Addo Elephant National Park has proved to be a popular spot for picnics at any time of the day – and especially over lunch time, which could be anytime between eleven in the morning and three in the afternoon. It is situated inside a 500 hectare Botanical Reserve which is a protected area put aside to monitor the impact of mega-herbivores, particularly elephants, on the subtropical ticket vegetation.

As you can see from the image below, the site is named after a black rhino called Jack:

It is a fenced off area with beautifully constructed picnic sites surrounded by natural vegetation to ensure one’s privacy.

What has always been striking about this site is the deliberate absence of rubbish bins – working on the principle that what visitors bring in they should be prepared to take out. Over the past year in particular I have been struck by the number of visitors asking the caretaker where the bins are – despite the signs explaining why there are no bins.

Of even more concern is that on more than one occasion I have seen the caretaker actually producing a large black bin bag for visitors to deposit their rubbish in. Why couldn’t they take it home? Yesterday I saw the disturbing sight of a black bin bag tied to the Spekboom hedge outside the ablution block.

Not only was it filled with rubbish, but there was another one filled with rubbish behind the hedge.

The caretaker told me that this is done because tourists keep asking for rubbish bins/bags or – and this is the really shocking part – they dispose of their picnic rubbish by hiding it in the bushes and shrubs surrounding their picnic site “and this makes it difficult for us to clean”, he said.

This is a fine example of how good intentions on the part of the National Parks Board go awry because of the self-centredness and laziness of the public. It is a shame that tourists should flout what is a good idea simply because they do not wish to deal with the rubbish of their own making.