Etosha’s Chudob Waterhole

Hi bushlovers!!

I and a group of five other photographers were fortunate enough to spend six days in Etosha with Lou Coetzer and Neal Cooper of CoetzerNaturePhotography (CNP) in mid-June. We stayed around the Namutoni area frequenting three main public waterholes – Klein Namutoni, Chudob and Kalkheuwel.

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We also visited an area off the main pan called Fisher’s pan and Andoni flats. Each place offered quite different scenes, backgrounds and most of the time different sightings.

One of the unique aspects of the trip with CNP is their game vehicles which have been custom fitted with specialized rotating photographic chairs with fully adjustable camera supports. The vehicles are brilliant with wide goose-winged windows which are lifted out of the way when we arrive at our photographic site.

In this post I will give you a selection of images from Etosha’s Chudob waterhole.

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This Martial Eagle seems to have become a CNP favourite with some photographers on CNP’s trips having got brilliant images of him having caught Guineafowl – Les Penfold’s image was particularly good.

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A tell-tale sign that the raptor is about to take off is when it first defecates (lightens the load), looks around and often, but not always, ruffles its feathers, probably to realign them. Sure enough this Martial did just that. Seconds after his ruffling he took off.

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This Martial was a massive specimen and his outstretched wings show how big he was. The size of his legs and talons must make any Guineafowl shiver.

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This Martial attacked the flocks of Guineafowl on several occasions but was never successful while we were watching. On one sortie he did hit a Guineafowl as it was taking off but he dropped it in his steep banked turn. The Black-backed Jackals must have seen this all before and quickly rushed in to grab the pickings.

It is quite something to see up to a hundred, or so, Guineafowl come down to Chudob waterhole to drink. They had to cross an open patch of ground probably 50 metres wide which was perfect for the Martial who on a few occasions came on a high-speed, low pass  across the open patch  to  attack the Guineafowl. The Guineafowl flock was skittish for obvious reasons and at times would scatter, either all running together or flying in mass panic.

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Another impressive and unusual sight at Chudob waterhole was a melanistic Gabar Goshawk.

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This little Gabar was aggressive and a successful hunter attacking the Village Weavers and Red-billed Quelea when they left the refuge of the reeds in the centre of the waterhole and flew to the water’s edge to drink and bathe.

There were also numerous mammal species which came down to drink from Springbok to Gemsbok, Eland, Kudu, Impala, Warthog, Elephant and plenty of Giraffe. We also saw Hyaenas and Jackal around the waterhole, but no cats.

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The Gemsbok were skittish but once they were are the water’s edge one or two would walk right into the water to drink.

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We were visited by two big bull Elephants one afternoon just as things were getting very quiet around the waterhole. The one bull was particularly large. Etosha is known to have some of the largest Elephants in the world.

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The bigger bull of the two decided to get into the water to cool off properly. The water was deep enough for him to fully submerge himself, which he clearly enjoyed.

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In the Elephant world there seems to be nothing better than drinking your bath water, especially if you live in a desert. Needless to say everything moved away from the waterhole when the big boys arrived.

Each day we would see a pair of Jackals hanging around the periphery of the waterhole’s open area hoping to get lucky.

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We did not see them feeding but they looked healthy enough. The Jackals did not try to attack the Kori Bustards when they came down to the water’s edge to drink. Sometimes the Koris stand and drink. Other times they kneel down to drink with their legs out in front of them, much like a stork when resting. I was amazed to see how camouflaged the Kori’s were when they lie down among the rocks near the waterhole. Their wing and back feathers blend in perfectly with their surroundings.

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We were also visited ,every time we stopped at Chudob, by a very inquisitive Groundscrapper Thrush.

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On many occasions the Giraffe came out of the trees in groups from behind the waterhole and always made an impressive entrance.

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There were times when the wind died down offering perfect reflections of the animals in the water. The wind had just started to blow when I shot this reflection of Giraffe who were milling around the water’s edge.

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We saw many Impala around the waterhole and they would often line up along the water’s edge to drink making an interesting shot. Needless to say they are wide-eyed and fully on alert while drinking. The males were in full rutting mode so did not give the females much peace and their rutting bark was heard often.

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We are very privileged in southern Africa to have vast spaces where wildlife can thrive, even if they are protected places. These images  are testament to that privilege.

I hope your enjoyed the first of four posts on my trip to Etosha in Namibia.

“The variety of life in nature can be compared to a vast library of unread books, and the plundering of nature is comparable to the random discarding of whole volumes without having opened them, and learned from them. Our critical dependence on the great variety of nature for the progress we have already made has been amply documented. Indifference to the loss of species is, in effect, indifference to the future, and therefore a shameful carelessness about our children.”

Peter Matthiessen

Have fun

Mike

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