Etosha’s Klein Namutoni waterhole

This is the second post from my trip with CNP in late June 2013. The last post showed images of wildlife around the Chudob waterhole some 11 kms from Fort Namutoni. This post shows images from wildlife around the Klein Namutoni waterhole. This waterhole is much closer to Fort Namutoni than Chudob and was the first waterhole we stopped at in the morning and last stop in the evening because it was the closest waterhole to the Von Lindequist Gate.

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Lou said the water level in Klein Namutoni was the highest he had ever seen it. For obvious reasons, the game drank from the opposite side of the waterhole to us. So the photography comprised mammals on the far side and birds on the near side of the waterhole. The backgrounds were tricky as there was thick  bush quite close to the far side of the waterhole and the surrounds were littered with weathered broken white calcrete rocks. Early one afternoon we arrived at the waterhole to find a large flock of White-backed and a few Cape Vultures sitting along the edge of the waterhole. Some of the birds had already had a bath and some were lying and resting. All of the vultures had full crops indicating they had all fed well that day. The next shot is of a Cape Vulture resting – its crop full. Even when resting, the birds remain alert and this Cape Vulture was watching its kin thermalling above.

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The White-backed and Cape Vultures intermingled, though the White-backed out numbered the Cape Vultures. In the next shot the White back is clearly visible. This bird was drying its wings after having recently bathed. It is only when these Vultures are on the ground do you realise how big they are.

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There were plenty of Giraffe around the waterhole. This young male was clearly impressed with his ‘gal’.

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One morning, when at Klein Namutoni, we got a message that a Lioness had been seen wandering  toward the Kalkheuwel waterhole so we went down to have a look and saw this lone Lioness walking, with purpose, down to the waterhole where a small herd of Zebra was drinking. The wind must have changed direction giving her presence away because the Zebra moved away from the far side of the waterhole before she got anywhere near them. Being compromised, this Lioness came down to drink but carried on watching the Zebra intently. She was clearly hunting, so the stop for a drink was short. Having sated her thirst she moved off in the direction of the Zebra. That was the last we saw of her.

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The one thing which struck me about this Lioness was how big her paws were.

When it was quiet around the waterhole it was always fun to get practice on Turtle and Emerald-Spotted Wood Doves flying to and from the water’s edge for a drink. They are quick so I invariably missed them on the first day but by day three – success!

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We all learnt a statutory lesson one afternoon at Klein Namutoni. It was very quiet and I just happened to be watching a small flock of Guineafowl which had come down to the water’s edge to drink – nothing special going on. Out of nowhere two Guineafowl started to fight – but really aggressively. Out of nothing came some fantastic photographic opportunities. It was all over in a couple of seconds – as you all know that is all it takes. The lesson learnt was that you have got to stay alert at all times – no one rings the bell!!!!

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Neither Guineafowl seemed the worst for wear after the fight but superiority was re-established.

After Lou’s superb shot of a male South African Shellduck chasing a Guineafowl in flight, we were watching two pairs of Shellduck at the waterhole intently as there were plenty of Guineafowl coming out of the bush to drink. No luck probably because the Shellduck did not have young to protect.

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There were other waterfowl at the waterhole. The most active of which were Cape Teal and the Little Grebes (Dabchicks). The light was good on the Teal in the afternoon but we could not get really close. Our duck species in southern Africa are simply beautiful.

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The Little Grebes seemed to hang around the Teal in some type of mutually co-operative feeding arrangement.

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The ubiquitous Giraffe – the next shot is of a youngster walking around the back of the waterhole. These Giraffe calves are highly energetic, can run really fast and are still nimble at this age.

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We also saw plenty of Kudu come down to drink. You can see the backgrounds were tricky but the setting was full of character and mood.

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Each morning we would go to Klein Namutoni waterhole first thing just to have a look. One morning at first light, we saw a small pack of Hyaenas at the far side of the waterhole. They seemed to have driven one individual into the water.

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There was unease in the group and the matriarch seemed to have the hell in about something. The backlighting created the mood – we were facing east.

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One Hyaena which had been standing in the water with its tail between its legs saw a gap and ran to escape. You can see how much bigger the matriarch was as she was off after the errant member of the group.

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Klein Namutoni had plenty of water which attracted may birds and there was a continuous stream of game coming out of the bush from all directions to drink. We did not see any kills close to or around the waterhole but there was one bout of aggression between the Hyaenas and another between the Guineafowl. Different actors, same plot and same stage.

As Duncan Blackburn often said -“A quiet photographic day around the waterhole always beats a good day at the office.”

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.  When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” 

                                                                 Ansel Adams

Have fun

Mike

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