I was reminded of the pleasure of seeing smaller creatures when the first animal we spotted during our recent visit to the Addo Elephant National Park proved to be a pair of yellow mongooses (Cynictis penicillata) sunning themselves on a sandy ridge with their noses close to the ground as if they were smelling something. They are primarily diurnal creatures that spend most of the day foraging for food.  Yellow mongooses usually occur singly or as pairs, except during the breeding season when the young produced that year stay within a group. They live in burrows that provide them with both shelter from extreme weather conditions and refuge from predators. I enjoy looking at their intelligent triangular-shaped faces with a pointed snout. As you can see, the tip of their bushy tails is white – which gives rise to witkwasmuishond as one of their common names in Afrikaans.

Not long after that we came across a sentinel suricate (Suricata suricatta) – better known as a meerkats in South Africa. Suricates are often seen balanced on their rear legs and tail, while surveying its surroundings – as this one is. Note the rows of reddish-brown spots along its back. Their eyes are characteristically dark-ringed, while the head is broad and rounded, with a sharp-pointed muzzle.

In a flash it was joined by four others. The average size of a group is ten, comprising of equal numbers of males and females.  They are diurnal, and take refuge in burrows at night or when threatened.



As we are experiencing the heat of summer, it seems fitting to draw attention to the attraction of water for birds and animals. I start in my garden then travel through my archives to a wonderful time spent – oh so long ago – in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

An Olive Thrush chooses a quiet moment to step into the shallow bird bath tucked into a shady section of the garden, where there is plenty of cover nearby to duck into should the need arise. It glances around whilst standing stock-still, as if it is assessing what dangers might be lurking around before it takes a few sips of water then splashes itself liberally in the bird bath.

Five Cape White-eyes gather for a communal drink and bathe at a different bird bath in a sunnier spot – still with plenty of cover to dive into if necessary.

This Speckled Pigeon casts a wary eye upwards before settling into the same bird bath for a drink.

Further afield, a lioness slakes her thirst at a water trough in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

So does a Gemsbok, accompanied by a trio of Cape Turtle Doves.

Lastly, a Yellow Mongoose ignores a swarm of thirsty bees to drink at a bird bath set underneath a communal tap in one of the rest camps in the Kgalagadi.