FRIEND OR FOE?

Farmers do not regard these wily creatures as friends, yet they are a delight to observe in their natural habitat.

Black-backed Jackals tend to mate for life and so, should you see one in the veld, you can virtually be certain there is another in the vicinity. A pair of them trotted purposefully along the edge of Ghwarrie Pan shortly after sunrise one morning. It was at Carol’s Rest though that we observed an interesting altercation between a Black-backed Jackal and a Pied Crow.

The latter had already experienced an unsuccessful attempt to share the small waterhole with an Egyptian Goose that had arrived out of the blue – with no intention of sharing the water with anyone!

Once the Egyptian Goose had drunk its fill and flown off, the Pied Crow was in no mood to be ousted from its drinking spot again and made sure the approaching Black-backed Jackal was aware of this. Doubtless, the jackal was thirsty too and so it kept trotting purposefully towards the water. The crow opted to make a pre-emptive strike.

It continued to harass the jackal until it gave up and moved away to drink from the overflow a little further down the slope.

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ADDO ELEPHANTS

Elephants tend to move around in family groups led by a matriarch. These elephants in such a group were quenching their thirst at Ghwarrie Pan in the Addo Elephant National Park.

Male offspring are ousted from these closely-knit family groups once they reach the age of about twelve and they start to show a more than brotherly interest in the females. This must be a difficult period for these young bulls until they team up with other bulls or attach themselves to an older bull. This young bull had followed the family group pictured above from a discreet distance. It refrained from joining them, but constantly smelled the ground they had covered.

It waited patiently until the family group had crossed to the other side of the water before moving to where they had been drinking. It was only once his former family group began walking towards the lip of the hill that he finally began to drink from their last position at the dam.

Of course it is always exciting to get close to elephants in this park, where you often don’t really need a fancy camera to get pictures such as this:

Or this one:

Hapoor waterhole is a marvellous place to spend time watching groups of elephants greeting each other, young ones playing with each other, or simply to observe the actions of these majestic animals.

One shouldn’t become too complacent about the apparent gentleness or the tolerance the Addo elephants seem to have for tourists and their vehicles. It is best to maintain a healthy respect for them, to give way to them, and to allow them the space the need to move.

 

THREE ADDO BIRDS

A visit to the Addo Elephant National Park is incomplete without observing some of the many birds in the area. Here are three we encountered recently:

A Grey Heron contemplating the prospects of food in the Ghwarrie Waterhole.

This Rednecked Spurfowl eyed us curiously as we drove past along one of the many dirt roads.

One of three Cape Wagtails bobbing across the lawn at Jack’s Picnic Site while searching for insects.

TEN BIRDS IN THE ADDO ELEPHANT NATIONAL PARK

This Southern Masked Weaver met us at Domkrag:

Other residents there included a Cape Weaver:

A Cape Sparrow:

Fiscal Shrike:

Several terrapins on the bank of Rooidam watched this Spoonbill working its way through the shallow water:

Could this be an African Pipit seen along the Woodlands road?

A flock of Cattle Egrets cooled off at Carol’s Rest:

One of several Ostriches inspecting the veld in search of food:

This Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk posed obligingly:

A Hamerkop kept a close watch out for food at Hapoor.

EARTH DAY IN ADDO

What better place to celebrate Earth Day than to spend time away from a built-up environment: we chose to visit the nearby Addo Elephant National Park. Some visitors had close-up views of lions, spotted hyenas and even a black rhino. We didn’t draw that card, but observed a number of interesting things nonetheless.

It is the rutting season for kudu. Large herds of kudu does accompanied by one or two males appeared in several sections of the park we drove through, especially around Rooidam. Our attention was drawn to a loud hollow-sounding ‘thunking’ noise close to the road: two kudu bulls were sparring; kicking up dust as they locked horns and pushed each other this way and that.

What magnificent horns they sported. This is the victor of that encounter.

The heat drew herds of elephant to the bigger waterholes. We watched a group of four adults and two youngsters approach the small Marion Baree waterhole. They sprayed themselves with water on arrival.

They then moved to the mud hole next door, where the elephants scooped up balls of thick mud to throw over their backs.

By then the water in the concrete-lined dam had settled so a few drank before watching patiently as a youngster claimed the shallow dam for its own fun.

One has to watch out for dung beetles crossing the road at this time of the year.

Zebras with their painted faces did not disappoint.

Several came to quench their thirst at Domkrag.

A large flock of Pied Starlings came to join them.

A Karoo Scrub Robin came to investigate.

An inquisitive Egyptian Goose approached our vehicle at Hapoor.

Several Fork-tailed Drongos kept an eye on us at the Rest Camp water hole.

As did some Cape Glossy Starlings, looking magnificent in the late afternoon sunlight.

My bird list for the day:

Redwinged Starling
Barthroated Apalis
Fiscal Shrike
Speckled Mousebird
Southern Boubou
Common Moorhen
Redbilled Teal
Backsmith Plover
Redknobbed Coot
Spurwing Goose
Karoo Scrub Robin
Pied Crow
Common Ringed Plover
Egyptian Goose
South African Shelduck
Bokmakierie
Black Crow
Cape Sparrow
Greater Doublecollared Sunbird
Cape Turtle Dove
Cape Robin
Sombre Bulbul
Southern Black Korhaan
Helmeted Guineafowl
Crowned Plover
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Cape Wagtail
Grey heron
Forktailed Drongo
Cape Glossy Starling
Laughing Dove

CAPE BUFFALO AT ADDO

We considered ourselves fortunate to see a youngish Cape buffalo bull (Syncerus caffer) on the fringes of the large family group of elephants gathered at the Lismore Waterhole as we haven’t seen them at all on our previous few visits to the Addo Elephant National Park.

Cape buffalo

We later saw another lone bull knee-deep in a lush growth of grass and herby-looking plants. Co-operation was not his first name: he was so engrossed in his meal that he didn’t bother looking up even though we were parked fairly close to him for some time – hence my close-up views of the thick boss from which the horns grow.

Cape buffalo

Cape buffalo

Five buffalo had spread themselves on the hillside above the Ngulube Waterhole, three of which can be seen in the image below:

Ngulube Waterhole

This has been a good day for buffalo, we thought – until we drove out towards Arizona Dam. It was unbelievable at first … we gasped … and then we counted … and continued to count, for in the broad grassy plain close to three hundred buffalo were grazing, creating a most magnificent spectacle!

Cape buffalo