WATERHOLES IN THE ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK

The Addo Elephant National Park is hot during December. When we entered the gates at eight o’clock yesterday morning the temperature was a pleasant 22°C and three hours later the mercury had climbed to 34°C and well above that by the middle of the day. There has not been much rain of late so the veld is looking dry in most places.

Addo Elephant Park in December

Our first port of call was to Domkrag Dam which is named after an enormous mountain tortoise that used to live in the area. Domkrag is the Afrikaans word for motorcar jack. Apart from Red Bishops flitting in and out of the bank of reeds, a number of water birds were present. I was interested to observe this Spoonbill perched on a dry log in the middle of the dam with only a terrapin for company. Notice how the water has become thick with a growth of algae that clearly shows the trails of swimming birds.

spoonbill

This algae was being collected into a nest by a Red-knobbed Coot.

redknobbedcoot

A group of three warthogs found a clear spot to drink from.

warthogs

As did a family group of Red hartebeest.

redhartebeest

Ghwarrie Pan was clear and calm. A Cape Buffalo had found a peaceful way to keep cool.

buffalo

Hapoor was, however, the place for observing elephants at close quarters. This waterhole is named after a dominant bull that lived in the area for many years and had a recognisable nick (hap/bite) in one of his ears. It teemed with elephants as they sought refuge from the heat to slake their thirst, spray water and or mud over themselves, and to indulge in social interactions. Some youngsters took special delight in immersing themselves completely in the water and playing with each other while in the dam.

hapoor1

hapoor2

hapoor3

One adult decided to rest his trunk.

elephant trunk

All of this activity was kept an eye on by a Blacksmith Plover and an Egyptian Goose.

hapoor

It was while driving past Janwal Pan Lookout that we came across this magnificent kudu bull sensibly resting in the shade.

kudu

More elephants were spraying themselves at the Marion Baree waterhole.

marionbaree1

marionbaree

While another was drinking it fill from a small waterhole in the southern section of the park.

elephantdrinking

My bird list is as follows:
Barthroated apalis
Black crow
Blackheaded heron
Blacksmith plover
Blackwinged stilt
Cape robin
Cape sparrow
Cape Wagtail
Crowned plover
Denham’s bustard
Fiscal flycatcher
Fiscal shrike
Greyheaded heron
Hadeda ibis
Jackal buzzard
Lesserstriped swallow
Levaillant’s cisticola
Moorhen
Ostrich
Pale chanting goshawk
Pearlbreasted swallow
Red bishop
Redcollared widowbird
Redknobbed coot
Redwinged starling
Sombre bulbul
South African Shelduck
Southern black korhaan
Spoonbill
Whitenecked raven
Whiterumped swift

ZEBRAS WIN THE DAY

ZEBRAS WIN THE DAY

The Addo Elephant National Park is dry: not just brown and dry – in places it looks desiccated dry.

dryAddo

Some Schotia brachypetala, plumbago, verbena and pelargoniums make a brave show of their blooms in the swirling dust.

schotia
From a distance too some of the grassland areas look potentially attractive for grazers until one sees the bare patches from close up.

zebradust

The only vestiges of green show where there has been some water run-off from the road. Even some of the waterholes, such as Rooidam, are virtually dry.

Rooidam

A small herd of zebras were the first animals we encountered. Photogenic creatures that they are, they formed the subject of several photographs before we moved on. Little did we realise then that we would see hundreds more before the day was over!

zebraherd

Zebras are so beautiful to look at and they turned out in full splendour, giving us the opportunity to observe – from close quarters – the variations in the patterns of their stripes. Some are broad and bold, while others are paler and thinner. Some stripes are well defined all over the zebras’ bodies, while on other animals the stripes peter out to almost nothing.

stripes

It seemed to be ‘necking’ season for all over we came across zebras resting their heads on each other as if in a show of affection.

affection

A number of foals were evident too. Their furry appearance a stark contrast to the sleekness of their elders. Zebras won the day for their dominance in the veld.

zebrafoal

Warthogs came a close second. Family groups could be seen from far away, close to the road, in the sun, or resting from the 28°C heat in the shade.

warthogs

Although we were told of a large herd of elephants at Hapoor waterhole, we saw only single ones. One elephant walked resolutely towards our car, almost brushing past it within touching distance.

ele1

ele2

ele3

ele4

Another interrupted a buffalo enjoying a mudbath. The latter got to its feet and moved away very smartly then stood and watched from a discreet distance as if to say, “What did you do that for?”

elephantandbuffalo

eleandbuffalo

A few kudu were visible in the bush. The bulls appeared to be skittish, however, and moved into cover upon the arrival of any passing traffic.

kudubush

It was a treat being able to watch a black-backed jackal drink her fill from a waterhole, taking her time before trotting off purposefully as if she had a mission to fulfil.Other animals we saw were a suricate, eland and hartebeest.

bbjackal

suricate

Ghwarrie dam is always a favourite place to visit and, although there were no animals other than warthogs this time, there were terrapins galore as well as South African Shelducks and Blacksmith Plovers.

terrapins

Both Grey- and Blackheaded Herons showed their willingness to be photographed by standing close to the road, their eyes intent on a possible meal.

ghheron

bhheron

A gusty wind sprang up in the afternoon, showering us with dust and fine grit. Clouds were starting to gather and it was, sadly, time to leave. The last animals to be spotted at Domkrag? Zebras, of course!

Domkragzebras

The arid conditions together with the wind and dust are not ideal for birding. I nonetheless saw the following:

Barthroated Apalis
Black Crow
Black Harrier
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Heron
Blacksmith Plover
Blackwinged Stilt
Bokmakierie
Cape Turtle Dove
Crowned Plover
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Doublecollared Sunbird
Grey Heron
Hadeda Ibis
Helmeted Guineafowl
Karoo Robim
Lesserstriped Swallow
Moorhen
Ostrich
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Pied Crow
Pied Starling
Red Bishop
Redwinged Starling
Sombre Bulbul
South African Shelduck
Speckled Mousebird
Spurwing Goose
Steppe Buzzard
Yellowbilled Duck

WIDE-EYED IN ADDO

WIDE-EYED IN ADDO

Last weekend the family gathered at the Addo Elephant National Park for a combination of celebrations. With two vehicles and plenty of drivers available, there were ample opportunities for game drives. Three of our party also went horse-riding, an experience they all recommend is worth repeating.

Instead of our usual style of camping, we ensconced ourselves in the Forest Cabins this time. These are very comfortable wooden structures discreetly hidden from their neighbours by thick hedges of Spekboom and other indigenous bush.

Driving out as soon as the gates open at half past six in the morning was the order of the day. While it is still too dark then to take photographs, there is a sense of wonder in seeing a herd of dawn-coloured Eland walk across the road to disappear into the veld despite their size.

As the sky lightens, it becomes easier to see the herds of Zebra, Kudu and Hartebeest dotted all over the Park. In our quest to see somethign ‘different’ we found that Warthogs have an uncanny ability to ‘disguise’ themselves as all sorts of creatures from a distance – even in broad daylight!

We enjoyed seeing Buffalo breathing out clouds of steam as the sun rose; Black-backed Jackals walking purposefully across the veld; Yellow Mongooses scurrying across the road; and – of course – the majestic Elephants this Park was created to protect.

Everyone returned from their drives with tales and pictures of what they had seen. Two of our party photographed a Caracal right next to the road. The rest of us were briefly envious until, on our last morning, we saw an enormous Lion making its way down a slope, crossing the road in front of us and striding along the valley below. We watched until it disappeared from sight then drove on towards Rooidam in the hope it would emerge there.

It didn’t, but another did (we later learned these two are brothers): walking with a slight limp, this Lion walked intently towards the edge of the dam and then dipped out of sight. By reversing slightly, we were able to watch it lap the water thirstily and then disappear over the dam wall. There was great excitement all round and a shared feeling that this was a satisfying ending to what had been a wonderful weekend.

The aloes are in bloom at this time of the year and brighten up the wintery landscape. Other blooms include the vygies and pelargoniums. I noticed that the canary creepers there are still creating splashes of yellow, whereas the flowers in our garden have been reduced to puff balls that scatter in the wind.

Aloe

An outing such as this is not necessarily ideal for bird watching, although I was able to spot a surprising number of birds while the attention of others was focused on something else.A highlight was seeing a Secretary Bird preening itself on top of a low bush. Even the animal watchers enjoyed this. It was good to spot a Southern Black Korhaan in the grass and several Pied Avocets on the edges of the waterholes we stopped at.

secretary bird

I opted out of some drives to observe birds from the comfort of the Forest Cabin balcony. My patience was rewarded with close-up views of Cape Robin, Sombre Bulbul, Boubou Shrike, Cape Weaver and even a Bar-throated Apalis that made its way through the hedge at eye-level.

Birds I noted over the weekend were:

Anteating Chat
Barthroated Apalis
Blackeyed Bulbul
Blackheaded Heron
Blacksmith Plover
Bokmakierie
Boubou Shrike
Cape Robin
Cape Sparrow
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Wagtail
Egyptian Goose
Fiscal Flycatcher
Fiscal Shrike
Forktailed Drongo
Greater Double-collared Sunbird
Grey Heron
Hadeda Ibis
Hoopoe
Karoo Scrub Robin
Laughing Dove
Little Grebe
Moorhen
Olive Thrush
Ostrich
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Pied Avocet
Pied Crow
Pied Starling
Redeyed Dove
Rednecked Spurfowl
Redwinged Starling
Rock Kestrel
Secretary Bird
Sombre Bulbul
South African Shelduck
Southern Black Korhaan
Speckled Mousebird
Streakyheaded Canary
Threebanded Plover
Village Weaver

REFLECTIONS

REFLECTIONS

Reflections can reveal more than the eye sees initially and can change the shape of things – see the picture of a spider in our swimming pool!

I was reminded of this during a recent visit to the Addo Elephant National Park. There we were able to appreciate the tranquillity of the reflections of the warthogs and herons in the waterhole at Carol’s Rest.

warthog reflectionheron reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a previous trip I discovered, much to my surprise, that my car was reflected in the eye of a kudu I had photographed browsing next to the road!

Kudu

JOCK OF THE BUSHVELD TEA POT

JOCK OF THE BUSHVELD TEA POT

I haven’t mentioned that I collect tea pots. This was never a deliberate intention – the collection ‘just grew’. They live on the windowsills of the windows on the short passage leading from our dining room to the kitchen and look lovely when they’ve been cleaned. It was while dusting off the cobwebs the other day that I was realised each tea pot has a story of its own that makes it special.

Jock of the Bushveld tea potThe tea pot I coveted since childhood and was delighted when my mother gave it to me is a Royal Doulton Jock of the Bushveld Westcott shape tea pot, the design of which is based on E. Caldwell’s illustrations for Sir Percy Fitzpatrick’s Jock of the Bushveld. Such tea pots were manufactured between 1911 and 1942.

I have been familiar with that story since I was very young: it was my school reader in Standard Five! My father was once asked to make a metal gate for the fence surrounding the acacia tree that used to be known as ‘Jock’s Tree’ outside Barberton and relied on me to draw the pictures, which he later cut from metal and affixed to the gate.

We used to have an enormous wooden wagon, complete with wooden spokes, similar to those used by the transport riders of ‘Jock’s day’. This was housed in our farm shed and in season would be piled high with bales of cotton picked from the lands – a very long time ago!

To return to the teapot, however, it first belonged to my Granny. My Mother remembered using it as a young girl to take tea out for the tennis parties hosted at their home in Johannesburg. For years it graced the welsh dresser in our farm house and has probably lasted for as long as it has because the spout is chipped – my Mother told me that she had tripped while carrying the tea tray.

I have used it only once or twice for special occasions and find it still pours well. I love that tea pot most, however, for the memories it unlocks of my Granny, my Mother, my Father, the Eastern Transvaal where I grew up, Dunduff Farm (sadly now barely recognisable) and the many camping trips I have enjoyed in my life.

It is truly a tea pot to treasure!

back of tea pot

One Misty Moisty Morning

One Misty Moisty Morning

Even familiar landscapes can seem unfamiliar when shrouded in mist. Familiar landmarks are hidden and one’s world shrinks to the limits of one’s vision.

Waking up to drizzle or thick mist in a game reserve could put a dampener on ideas of going for a game drive. Mist does make it more difficult to see animals from a distance and yet, if one drives slowly, it is amazing what one can see: a kudu appearing seemingly out of nowhere right next to the road and a zebra looming out of the mist, more clearly visible because of its stripes. Both creatures bearing an air of mystery in the mist as one cannot make out if there are many other animals nearby, where they are going or where they have come from.

Once the sun rises higher and the layer of mist dissipates, the world looks different as hitherto hidden vistas open up to stretch as far as the eye can see and animals appear to stand out more clearly than ever before. These pictures of kudu and zebra were taken on the same day in the Addo Elephant National Park, showing how worth it a drive through the mist can be and how different they look in the sunshine that follows.

Zebra in mist

Zebra in sunshine

kudu in mistKudu closeup

   zebra in sunshine