Kruger after the floods

Helen and I have just spent a week up in White River, based at Pine Lake Resort. This is a perfect base  from which to access the southern part of  Kruger Park. The Pine Lake-Longmere dam area is noticeably cooler than  the Kruger Park, which at this time of the year is sweet relief. One day when driving around the park the car’s  outside temperature reading was 37 degrees centigrade-warmish!!. We spent four days in the park and each was above 32 degrees centigrade.

This first shot was taken at sunrise at Pine Lake as the sun was shining through the mist above the dam.

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The colours were warm and soft, just inviting a shot.

There are timber plantations on the other side of the dam with some very tall gum trees. A few had their tops standing above the mist. The golden glow of sunrise made a warm backdrop.

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The Kruger Park is never the same at this time of the year. In January and February there had been plenty of rain, with serious floods in the northern part of the park. Flood damage was also evident in the southern part of the park. Many roads were closed and bridges were damaged . There was lots of sand across the tarred roads. With good rains, the game was scattered and we saw surprisingly little in our four days in the park.

On the first day in Kruger Park, down near the Crocodile river, we saw a young waterbuck  being taught how to fight by  an older  male. It was clear it was a teaching exercise and was fascinating to watch.

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The older male was very gentle with the youngster but did not let the youngster push him around.

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There was clear connection between these two waterbuck males.

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Waterbuck are never far from the river. These two were about 500 metres north of the Crocodile river opposite Leopard Creek.

You always have to make one of two decisions in the bush – go looking for the wildlife or wait at a chosen site for the passing parade. If you sit quietly for a while watching wildlife you are likely to see surprising things. We stopped and watched a small herd of zebra on the side of a sand road in the park. Very little was happening. Out of the blue, these two zebra foals walked onto the road and started to play. The young zebra male was very taken with his female companion, nuzzling her and caressing  her with his neck. Very cute but a salutory lesson that nature reveals itself in in its own time – not ours.

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Sometimes your patience does not pay off as expected. We saw two Waterbuck bulls on the Shitlhave (yes that is its name) dam wall.

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We waited as the Waterbuck bulls started to approach each other and it looked like they were going to fight.

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The bull on the left hand side seemed poised to fight but the dominant bull on the right hand side won the psychological battle and the younger bull eventually backed away.

The heavy rains in Kruger had dispersed the animals and birds, so we saw very little. If we had been only looking for mammals, we would have been very disappointed. This was made up for by the park looking beautifully lush and some good bird sightings.

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On the way up to Berg-en-Dal camp, we saw this Walhbergs Eagle. The background was sufficiently far away to give an attractive blur.

On the Waterhole road  between the Phabeni and Skukuza roads, we sat and watched a Carmine Bee-eater hunting insects. Not only are these Bee-eaters stunning colours, though lighter in colour than their Chobe counterparts, but they are very efficient hunters who keep themselves well fed.

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We were also fortunate to get a good sighting of a White-fronted Bee-eater near Berg-en-dal camp. The weather was overcast but bright which reduced the late morning  contrast.

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From a bird of prey perspective, we saw very little but you can always rely on the ubiquitous Brown Snake-eagle.

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Birds of prey are always watching for competition from above.

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Eventually, this Brown Snake-eagle decided it did not like us around, so flew off and quickly circled into a thermal and was hundreds of feet up in no time at all.

This trip was special because of all the Cuckoos we saw. I only managed to get decent shots of the Stripped Cuckoo but we saw Jacobins and Diedricks.

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Seeing and shooting are two quite different things.

On the one day we chose not to go into the park, I wandered down to a hedge formed by Golden Shower creepers along the White River golf course to try and get some shots of Sunbirds.

With patience and careful positioning, I managed to get some interesting shots of the male and female Amethyst Sunbird.

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The male Amethyst Sunbird has an iridescent amethyst throat and an iridescent emerald green cap. The rest of the bird is black. It is exquisitely beautiful.

The female is as colourful but in a less dramatic way.

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The female also has an iridescent amethyst throat but is speckled white and brown rather than black and hardly has a coloured cap to speak of.

These Sunbirds move non stop and very quickly. Patience is the order of the day and waiting for the cleanest shot possible. They don’t like you getting too close, so a long lens is required.

I hope you liked this selection of shots taken in and around Kruger Park. I will update some the categories with my latest shots – Waterbuck, Zebra, Bee-eaters, Cuckoos, Rollers, Birds of Prey, Shrikes , Francolin and Sunbirds.

Have fun planning for your next trip into the bush –  amazing wonders await you.

Mike

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