Love is in the air, in the rising of the sun
Love is in the air, when the day is nearly done
- John Paul Young
Cape Turtle Doves catching the sun on a branch.
Warthogs getting to know each other
The urban lifestyle is so far removed from the natural order of things: eat and be eaten. While some may have fruit and vegetables growing in their gardens or on their balconies, the majority of urbanites rely on supermarkets, butchers, bakeries and the like for their daily food. Meat comes wrapped in styrofoam and plastic, bread is pre-sliced in plastic bags, vegetables are ready picked and washed on the shelves – perhaps even pre-chopped / sliced / mixed all ready for roasting or stir-frying …
That is not the case in nature, where the eat and be eaten order applies.
This is what remains of a Mountain Tortoise:
A Zebra munches the dry winter grass:
What is left of a Kudu:
The grisly end of a Cape Buffalo that had been a meal for many:
This is a Warthog grazing – note the way it rests on its front knees:
They also rest on their knees when drinking:
An elephant tucks into a nutritious meal:
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:
Karoo Scrub Robin
Common Ringed Plover
South African Shelduck
Greater Doublecollared Sunbird
Cape Turtle Dove
Southern Black Korhaan
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Cape Glossy Starling
We decided to break with tradition this year and spent Christmas Day in the Addo Elephant National Park – as did hundreds of others! A long queue of vehicles developed outside the Matyholweni (meaning ‘in the bush’ in Xhosa) Gate at the southern entrance to the Park. Some people donned Christmas hats and there was an atmosphere of cheer as visitors in a festive mood greeted each other in passing. Jack’s Picnic Site was so chockful of people at noon that several families simply enjoyed a picnic lunch in the scant shade of their vehicles. Vehicles were parked as far back as the turnoff to the chalets when we reached the Main Rest Camp. The picnic site there too was filled to the brim with people braaiing or having a picnic in whatever shade they could find. Fortunately, we had booked for the 2 p.m. Christmas dinner at the Cattle Baron.
The weather was gloriously clear and a pleasantly warm 23°C when we arrived mid-morning. By three o’clock in the afternoon though the temperature had soared to 40°C and a strong wind had begun to whip up the dust, so thick in places that it was often difficult to see very far.
This is a good time of the year to see the Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) in bloom and we were not disappointed. The clusters of small, star-shaped, dusky pink flowers created a wonderful display from close to the ground to the trees that had somehow managed to grow tall without being eaten by elephants.
There was an abundance of the latter: we were spoiled with magnificent sightings of hundreds of elephants, mostly near the waterholes of Hapoor and at the Main Rest Camp. In the image below you can see a fraction of one herd moving away from the water. Note the paths that have been made through the bush.
Other elephants were at smaller waterholes and allowed us very close-up views of them.
Zebras are such photogenic creatures that it is very difficult to pick out one image from the many photographs I took of them.
Given the heat and the prolonged drought, it was very sad to see this mangy black-backed jackal making its way through the dry grass. This disease is caused by mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) burrowing into the skin to complete their lifecycle. The condition may become chronic and eventually leads to the death of the animal in the wild.
On a much more cheerful note, we saw this very attractive mountain tortoise next to the road as we were heading home at the end of an interesting Christmas Day.
My bird list is:
Cape Glossy Starling
South African Shelduck