Oct. 13

Our rooms in the shed were quite lovely.

3-room-shed

This shed had 3 rooms in it.

our-dining-area

dining area

our-bedroom

Bedroom area. In front of this are twin beds on one side and a couch and living area on the other.  There is also a kitchen in the back.

bath

and of course, a bathroom.

We started our day in the main reception area with a lovely breakfast.

breakfast

our-breakfast-table

Everything was done in such a lovely way with a lot of attention to detail like this dragonfly napkin ring and beaded hot pad for holding your warmed plate.

After breakfast we were birding around the farm and found this beautiful birdbokmakierie

Bokmakierie

Today we had a local guide, Lucky, join us. It was a cold, windy and foggy day.  Our first stop was the wetlands just down the road.

yellow-billed-duck

Yellow-billed Duck

white-throated-swallow-2

White-throated Swallow

wooly-necked-stork

Wooly-necked Stork

From there we went up to some mountainous areas and some open fields.

dirkiesdorp

one-of-our-birding-areas

We were looking for endemics and found all but 1 of our target birds.  One special bird was the Dark-capped Yellow Warbler which we heard up the side of a hill but he was so far away some of us couldn’t really see him well. Greg was playing call back to get him closer and we were about to give up when Denny turned around and said “what is that bird in the road behind us?  It was the Warbler!

dark-capped-yellow-warbler

Dark-capped Yellow Warbler

firelily-2

This Fire Lily was nearby.

 

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Oct. 12

This morning we left Pretoriuskop and Kruger National Park for Wakkerstroom.  Before we left we birded around the camp and found lots of beautiful birds.

yellow-fronted-canary

Yellow-fronted Canaries

violet-backed-starling

Violet backed Starling

guinea-fowl

Helmeted Guineafowl

laughing-d

Laughing Dove

purple-crested-turaco

Purple-crested Turaco

scarlet-chested-sunbird

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

red-headed-weaver

Red-headed Weaver

forked-tail-drongo

Forked-tailed Drongo

blue-waxbill

Blue Waxbill

black-headed-oriole

Black-headed Oriole

african-whoopoe

African Hoopoe

After our walk and breakfast we headed towards Wakkerstroom.  We passed wheat fields

rural-wakkerstroom many of which were not even planting wheat because of the drought but there were areas further on that actually had gotten some rain such as this orchard.

from-kruger-to-wakkerstroom

Poverty is quite apparent in these small rural towns.  Although Apartheid ended 20 years ago segregation is evident with blacks being the majority in the small poor communities.  Unemployment can be up to 40% in some areas and there are supposed to be programs to help those in poverty but according to Greg the corruption in government means most of the money for these programs never gets to them.  The larger cities exhibit some integration of the blacks and whites but there are some very wealthy areas there that are mostly white.  The Rand is somewhere between 12.5 and 14.5 cents to our dollar.  You can see how this plays out on this gas pump:

gas-pump

It takes some getting used to paying hundreds of rands and realizing that you only really paid $20 or $30.

We stopped for lunch in Ermelo at this really funky restaurant.  Sorry but we have no pictures as it was kind of like a bordello.  There were lots of mirrors and red upholstery and  artwork all over the walls.  Fancy chandeliers, silver serving pieces and fancy stemware.  The meal was pretty good, too.

We moved on to Wakkerstroom where we are to stay for 2 nights at the Wetlands Farm and Sheds, the sheds being individual stone buildings on the property that were quite luxurious.  There is a wetland nearby where we stopped for a while on the way in.  We even saw a Spotted-necked Otter.  There were lots of ducks and Flamingos, too.

We ended the day with one of the best meals we’ve had so far at The Bistro, a lovely restaurant in town.jacaranda-trees

Jacaranda trees were blooming everywhere we went.

 

 

Oct. 11

This morning we packed up the truck and left Satara Camp and drove around some more of the park before stopping for breakfast at an outdoor restaurant.  We got out of our vehicle and went into the shop to order our meal and when we came out our vehicle was filled with Vervet Monkeys.

vervet-with-mars-bars

Vervet with Mars bars

vervet-with-baby

Vervet with babies

One of them got away with someone’s bag of Mars bars before we could get them away. We saw some lions up on some rocks—a female and about 9 cubs.

lion-and-cubs

Mother Lion with cubs

Just past this on the road Dirk pointed out a very small sleeping Lesser Galago or Bushbaby.

sleeping-lesser-galago-bushbaby

You have to look close to see his furry head.

After lunch at a restaurant along a river we found a Giant Kingfisher.

giant-kingfisher

Giant Kingfisher

In the afternoon we stopped to see another lion who was lying under a tree trying to get out of the heat next to a waterhole.

hot-and-tired-lion

Hot and tired lion

Along came 2 very large elephants and we thought we might see something really dramatic but instead the Elephants, having noticed the Lion,  walked by and showed off their machismo!  It was quite entertaining.

lion-and-elephant

Here comes the first elephant

macho-elephant

You have to look closely to see how he was “showing off”.

Here are some of the things we saw along the drive:

cape-buffalo

Cape Buffalo

nyala

Nyala

coqui-francolin

Coqui Francolin

black-collared-barbet

Black collared Barbet

wahlbergs-eagle

Wahlberg’s Eagle

There are 61 different species of raptors (not including vultures) in South Africa.  We had 33 on our list of possibles of which we found all but 9.

hippo-with-oxpeckers

Hippo with Red-billed Oxpeckers

iris

Iris along the road

We ended the day at Pretoriuskop Camp on the other side of Kruger.  This is the oldest camp in the park.  The bungalows were about the same as at Satara—sufficient, but not elegant, but did have a fridge in the room and air-conditioning.

african-sunset

Oct.10

We are staying at Satara camp in Kruger.

satara-camp-kruger

Our bungalow

satara-camp

Satara camp area

We have a little bungalow in the camp that is completely fenced in. This does not keep everything out. There are Vervet Monkeys roaming around and seeing what food they can grab from people. There are also other critters such as Mongoose and even some Warthogs find a way in but mostly we are safe to walk around within the camp.

warthog

Warthog

There is a store and a restaurant as well. When we are out of camp we are not allowed out of our vehicles except at designated sites such as picnic areas and a few restaurants that are part of the park. We left this morning at 5:30 when we could get out of the gate and drove along the roads stopping at N’Wanetsi Hide where we could get out and view a waterhole. At first it looked like there wasn’t much there until we saw the 6 Crocodiles and 5 Hippos come up.

dcrocodiles

Crocodiles

hippos

Hippos

Then some Giraffes came but didn’t come down to drink as the Crocs were along the bank.

another-giraffe

Giraffe

monitor-liz

Monitor Lizard

water-thick-knee

Water Thick-knee

Lots of new birds arrived as well. Along the road we saw lots of different Antelope species, Elephants, a White Rhino, African Buffalo, Wildebeast, Warthogs, and lots more.

elephants

Elephants

white-rhinoceros

White Rhino

gnu

Common Wildebeest

zebra

Zebra

There were several species of Hornbill, lots of different Eagles and lots of smaller birds.

bateleur

Bateleur

kori-bustard

Kori Bustard

There is a slight problem with finding birds and animals and that is that this country is suffering one of its severest droughts in history. This has had a great impact on Kruger Park in particular. Greg says that he has never had so few animal sightings even though we are thrilled with what we are seeing. The birds aren’t as abundant either. One can see that the animals are suffering. Many of the usual waterholes have dried up and Hippos and Cape Buffalo are dying off as are some of the other species. They are even considering having to make the difficult decision to actually kill some of the elephants as they take most of the available vegetation. In the part of Kruger Satara Camp is in everything is brown, not a lot of grass where there once was green grass and you can see many animal carcasses as we drive the roads. The weather is scorching hot in the daytime.

hooded-vurture

Hooded Vulture

hooded-vultures-with-carcass

Hooded Vultures with Carcass

white-backed-vulture

White-backed Vulture

When we got into Kruger we changed vehicles from our air-conditioned van to an open Landrover type vehicle and added a local guide, Dirk. It’s nice to have the better viewing and we do have a roof over our heads so the sun doesn’t beat down on us but it is quite hot.

After starting out at 5:30 we stopped for breakfast at about 8:00 at a small picnic area overlooking a river. There was a short walk up a path with a lookout where we could see more animals and birds. There were dwarf Mongoose running around the trash area, lots of Hornbills and great looks at White-bellied and Marico Sunbirds which are exquisite.

mongoose

Mongoose

Then we visited Sweni Dam after which we came back to camp for lunch and a break from the heat. Then went for an afternoon walk in the campground. There is a small Scops Owl next to the reception area who seems to be there all the time. He is about the size of our Screech Owl and blends in just as well.

scops-owl

Scops Owl

Slender Mongoose are around, too. We walked around where there is a swimming pool and 3 Warthogs were happily eating the grass. People were in the pool and they didn’t seem to bother them but when we were walking through our path was a little too close and they sort of snorted at us so we backed away and went in the other direction. Some of our favorite bird sightings for the day were the Lilac-breasted Roller and the Purple Roller, Brown-headed and Pied Kingfisher and Orange-breasted Bushshrike.

lilac-breasted-roller

Lilac-breasted Roller (our favorite)

After dinner we went on a night ride in a large open vehicle. The highlights of that were a Wildcat, a Civet and a White-faced Owl. There was also a mother Hyena who has an infant and looked like she wasn’t done giving birth. The ride was from 8 to 10 and we were ready to sack out after that was over.

hyena

Hyena

Oct. 9th

We left Sunrock after breakfast at about 7:30 to head to Kruger National Park which is quite a long drive, especially with all the birding stops we make along the way.

along-the-road

Flowers along the road

But, before we could do any serious birding we had to make it through the traffic of greater Joburg. By the time we got on a road we could bird from it was time for lunch so we stopped at Dulllstroon at Harry’s Pancakes. Dullstroom is a big fly fishing area so there were a lot of smoked trout options on the menu.

crested-eagle-2

Crested Eagle along the road(sorry the light was bad)

Before I go on let me tell you about our group. Our guide is Greg. He has worked at Kruger National Park for 14 years as a guide and then training new guides. He is very knowlegable about not only the birds but animals and reptiles and all the creatures we encounter. He also is very nice and pays attention to how we are all doing. Melani and Simon are from Manchester, England. They are probably in their early 50’s and Simon is an ornithologist who is quite helpful in finding birds. They both brought their scopes so we have 3 for 6 people which is very useful. Warren is a retired private school English teacher from Indiana who actually taught at Northfield Mt. Hermon from ’61 to ’71. He has traveled extensively internationally and has quite a list of birds that he has seen—6600. Pao is from Taiwan and has also traveled a lot and does photography. His English isn’t great and we’re all trying very hard to get him to see things and know what’s going on. He is small and wears complete camoflague outfits including a floppy hat and carries a tripod and very large camera, which also has a camo protective cover. He’s quite a sight and as we walked around the botanical gardens kids were pointing at him and exclaiming to others about that guy in the camo. But he is a sweet soul and really fun to have around.

After sating ourselves we started to do some birding. Our first stop was Abel Erasmus Pass which was quite beautiful. The first thing we saw of note was a Mocking Cliff Chat. As we were watching it and trying to get a good picture Greg and Simon went across the street and down a path to a river to see what they could find.

greg-trying-for-mountain-wagtail

Greg trying to call in the Mountain Wagtail

mountain-stream

Other side of the stream

Then we saw another little bird we couldn’t identify that Pao took a great picture of. Then Greg came running up the hill to get us to see another bird. So we followed him back down to try to see a Mountain Wagtail that is a rare sighting but when we got there Simon said he had flown. Then we asked Greg about the the bird we had seen and showed him Pao’s picture and you should have seen his face. He said it was a Striped Pipit and he had never seen one and had been trying to find it for years. So we climbed back up that steep trail to find it again but didn’t succeed. We did find a few other birds but I think Greg was a bit crestfallen.

baboon

Baboon at the pass

From there we moved on to Orpen Gate of Kruger National Park where we are to stay for the next 3 nights. Greg was really stressed because they close the gate at 5:00 and we just made it to the security gate by 4:30 and we still had a ways to go to the actual gate of the park then we had to make it to our camp before they closed that gate at 6:00. We made it by about 5:58. We do tend to want to stop a lot and of course being our first experience in the park we had to stop for every animal we saw —Hyena, Impala,Waterbuck, Greater Kudu, Giraffe, Hippo,Warthog and Vervet Monkey — and that was just an hour! We were all ready to crash that night. It was a very long day.

1st-elephant

Our first Elephant

giraffe

First Giraffe

impala-buck

Impala buck

greater-kudu-with-oxpeckers

Greater Kudu with Red-billed Oxpeckers

Oct. 8

Our first full day on the tour started out with a bang. We met at 5:15 am to travel to Zaagkuildrift which is an area of arid scrub. Of the 5 target birds for the day we found all but one but we also ended the day with 95 species, most of them new to us! We birded along the road getting out and walking at different points and at about 7:30 we broke out the breakfast food and ate as we birded. African birds have the most interesting names. Some of the ones we saw this day were Blacksmith Lapwing, Grey Go-away Bird, Red-faced Mousebird, Lesser Honeyguide, Red-throated Wryneck, Southern Boubou, Fork-tailed Drongo, Rattling Cisticola, Northern Black Korhaan and Black-chested Prinea.

yellow-billed-hornbill

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill

red-billed-hornbill

Southern Red-billed Hornbill

speckled-mousebird

Speckled Mousebird

southern-pied-babbler

Southern Pied Babbler

crowned-lapwing

Crowned Lapwing

crimson-breasted-shrike

Crimson-breasted Shrike

capped-wheatear

Capped Wheatear

crested-barbet

Crested Barbet

After a full morning of birding we moved on to the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens where we started off with a picnic lunch then birded throughout the gardens. This is an incredibly beautiful place. There was at least one wedding that had just happened and the outfits the guests were wearing were wonderful to see. At the end of the path was a lovely waterfall.

at-the-waterfall

We found an interesting adder—Rhombic Night Adder crawling along the edge of the path. Fortunately we saw him first and were able to observe him at a safe distance.

rhombic-night-adder

tortoise

Tortoise

Lots of great bird sighting and beautiful plants and flowers.

hadadah-ibis

Hadada Ibis

cape-robin-chat

Cape Robin Chat

First Day in Joburg

On the way to Johannesburg we had a layover in Amsterdam.  It was quite a nice airport, fortunately, since we were there for 4 hours.  They have this very cool clock that we sat and watched for a while with what looked like a man inside it painting, erasing, and repainting the time every minute.

amsterdam-clock

After another 11 hours from Amsterdam we finally arrived in Joburg where we were met by our driver to take us to the Sunrock Lodge just outside of town where we will stay for 3 nights.  It was about 10:30 pm so we pretty much just crashed.

We awoke to find a lovely garden and pool and lots of singing birds which we have never seen before.  It’s almost overwhelming to take it all in.  Our tour doesn’t officially start until this evening but another couple from Great Britain who are on the tour with us had also arrived early and we decided to visit the Apartheid Museum.

apartheid-museum

 

Apartheid Museum 2.JPG

This was a very inspiring museum despite being a bit depressing– Lots of pictures and movies and even the car that BMW gave to Mandela when he was released from prison.  We also discovered some interesting birds on the grounds like this Wattled Lapwing:

Wattled Lapwing 2.JPG

We came back from the museum and just relaxed around the lodge and watched the many birds there.  Here are a couple:

Village Weaver at nest.JPG

Village Weaver on his nest

Bishops and whyda.JPG

Southern Red Bishops and Pintailed Whyda

 

cape wagtail.JPG

Cape Wagtail

pintailed Whyda.JPG

Pintailed Whyda

Weaver nests.JPG

Weaver nests

That’s all for tonight.  More later

Travels with Nancy & Denny

thumbnail_phyllisdillerreddishegret-9x6

Phyllis Diller as a Reddish Egret (watercolor/collage)

This is my first blog.  I’m trying this out so that I can put the pictures directly in the text instead of having to go somewhere else.   We are leaving for a 3 week birding trip to So. Africa tomorrow and hope we will have some time to send out periodic blog posts with lots of cool pictures.  Fingers crossed I can actually figure this out enough to do that.  This is my first test.