Tembe and Kosi Bay *

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Dewi
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Tembe and Kosi Bay *

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:30 pm

In late July and early August 2011, I visited Tembe Elephant Park and Kozi Bay in Kwa-zulu Natal with my Saffie friends and their two year old daughter. J had worked in Tembe and the surrounding area in the late 90's early 2000's and was keen to show me the sights and it's wildlife.

The excitement was such when I arrived in Pretoria that we set off a day earlier than planned, without anywhere booked to stay, in fact, although we had part of the trip booked, we still had gaps in between two of our planned accomodation to fill, but soon found a great place to spend a few nights. We also stayed on an extra day as we did not want to leave.

We left Pretoria at silly o'clock in the morning and headed Eastwards on the highway with the little one cosily asleep in the back. The sun rose slowly over the horizon to greet the new day and I started birding from the passenger seat.

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We stopped off in Piet Retief to have a quick at the church there where my friend A was raised and to have a bite to eat. It was cold and snow was forecast for later in the day, so we bade farewell and carried on Eastwards, eventually arriving in Jozini and crossing the Pongolapoort Dam.

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And stopped off a bit further to photograph this colourful rondavel.

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Eventually, 614km and 39 Black-shouldered Kites later, we arrived in Manguzi where I had my first taste of rural Africa. The locals in the market store remembered J from his time there and we shook hands and chatted with them for some time while A stocked up on last minute necessities in the Spar across the parking lot.

It seems that although the big global corporations have set up here, the locals are not to be outdone and have their own version of things.

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The main street was fairly busy and I was amazed at all the friendly waves and broad smiles we were greeted with wherever we went.

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In the UK, we have Kwik-fit, so do the locals here it would seem.

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Having worked in construction most of my life, I had to smile at the scaffolding used here. Compared to our rigid health & safety regulations, this was a breath of fresh air.

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The roadsigns were a bit different to what I'm used to as well.

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But we were here to see the wildlife, and to experience the view that I'd only seen by virtue of a webcam in the past.

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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:30 pm

After a very relaxing first evening in our very comfortable accomodation, J and I opted to pop into Tembe for a couple of hours whilst A wanted to have some run around time for the little one after being cooped up in the car all day the day before.

We drove straight to Mahlasela hide (the one on the webcam) and were immediately rewarded with a sighting of Isilo, the biggest living tusker in Africa at the present time. He was a bit shy, and stayed partly hidden behind a bush.

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Eventually he moved out a little more and took a drink from the waterhole.
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His askari had a damaged trunk and we wondered at the cause of the wound, but it does look like a snare had caused the damage?
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Other, younger bulls were sparring at the water's edge.
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While this one came sauntering over like a prizefighter ready for action.
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The named tusker Mabhudu was also on show as he made his way down for a good scratch on one of the trees.
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A drive up to the East swamps produced some good bird sightings which I'll post later in this TR, but this sighting of another tusker impressed me, even though we did not get a clear view of him, but because of the way the tall grasses hid most of his bulk.
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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:31 pm

Returning to camp, we had a wonderful lunch before packing and moving to Tembe Masizwane Lodge for a few nights. On the drive along the lakeshore to the "main" dirt road, two raptors were perched in trees ahead of us. Bins up.... Long-crested Eagle, great stuff, wow! Look at that crest! Scan left...... where's that other rapt........*%!8$%^£$ (insert Welsh exclamation)...... it's a Palm-nut Vulture.

Long-crested Eagle.
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Palm-nut Vulture.
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The old familiar shivers up and down my spine and my day was just made. We carried on with mounting excitement at what else we would see. Somewhere in the maze of dual sand tracks, we missed our turn and ended up close to a piece of rough wetland where an African Marsh Harrier was coursing along on it's hunting flight. We disembarked and watched as it quartered the marsh methodicaly looking for prey. It was too distant for photos, but beautiful to watch.

On an open piece of grassland, an African Cuckoo-hawk sat perched on an anthill looking for food.
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A quick stop at the shops in town and we were on our way again to our new camp. Vultures drifted high overhead and we stopped to check them out. Both White-backed and Lappet-faced were present, but they were a bit on the high side for decent photos.

White-backed Vulture.
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Lappet-faced Vulture.
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Checking in was a breeze and before long I was wandering the trails looking for birds. A monotonous calling had me zeroing in on a Yellow-bellied Greenbul as it "sang" it's nasal repertoire.

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While a Brown-hooded Kingfisher whistled her call from a nearby tree.
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A drive into Tembe produced a mixed variety of species, but stars of the show were a gorgeous Little Bee-eater and a stunning Lilac-breasted Roller.

Little Bee-eater.
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Lilac-breasted Roller.
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Further along the track we saw a pair of Black-chested Snake-eagles flying around looking slightly agitated. A scan of the skies failed to find the source of their distress, but a look along the treetops across the grassland I found an African Crowned Eagle cruising through the treetops. Wow, what a sight. This huge Eagle was far too distant for photos, but we marked the spot so we could return to look for it again later. Meanwhile, the Snake-eagles continued to soar overhead.

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Enthralled by a good day's birding, we returned to camp for our evening meal and went to bed in great anticipation for the following day's sightings.

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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:33 pm

The view from Mahlesela hide on the webcam looks like an open expanse next to the waterhole, but looking out of the left hand side of the hide, the vegetation is completely different and comprises thick thornbush. A lot of Tembe is like this, but there are also open areas where the vistas are less confined.

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I think I'd better explain that all bar the moon photo in this post were taken with my little mik en druk camera.

We popped into the hide and saw this bull Elephant feeding below us and a couple of Zebra making their way down to the waterhole for a drink.

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I had to pop back to the bakkie, so made my way to the parking area and got distracted with something and stood in the open fiddling with the settings on the camera. I was out in the open, halfway between the safety of the gate to the hide and the car when I looked up and saw a huge bull ellie wandering towards me. I did not know wether to stay still or make a dash for it. The ellie angled off to one side, and by the time I'd gathered my wits again and lifted my camera, he had ambled by me and off towards the waterhole.

This pic was taken at 25mm wide angle, so does not really show how close he was. He knew I was there, but simply ignored my presence and made the effort to avoid me and walk around. What a gentle giant this one was.

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Another drive down the East swamp found this bull busy feeding. We stopped next to him and watched as he picked out choice leaves to eat.

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Driving towards Ponweni hide, we found the Crowned Eagle again, calling loudly above the treetops, but again no photos. :cry:

The view from this hide is more open than at Mahlesela and looks out over the swamp to the wooded ridge beyond. Some Cape Buffalo were hidden in the tall vegetation and Thick-billed Weavers were busy in the reeds below the hide. Various Antelope were also seen, along with the usual Doves and Starlings.

The view from Ponweni Hide.
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We waited until the dusk set in before making our way back to camp.
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Stopping to take a last pic of the sunset with a sliver of a moon barely visible.
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So the Dslr came out to try to get a better photo.
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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:33 pm

New species of Antelope were great to see in Tembe. Common Duiker were common, if a little camera shy, but I managed to get a few pics of one out in the open. It's difficult to get the animals to stay put when the little one is shouting "Bokkie, bokkie." when she saw them, but it was great to see that she was enjoying seeing them and was getting almost as excited as I was whenever she saw one.

Common Duiker.
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The dainty little Red Duikers were more difficult to photograph. We saw plenty of them, but usually only as they crossed the road ahead in a blur, then a branch obscured bum view as we pulled up alongside where it had entered the bush.

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At Mahlasela hide, one came down to drink, but was very skittish and did not stay for long.

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But the best sighting had to be a stunning little Suni ram who was out in the open and browsed on grass stems as we sat watching in amazement.

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I even had time to fit my new Nikon tongue pulling filter onto the lens and take a shot. :twisted:

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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:35 pm

When we checked in at Tembe and were taken to our tents, I was amazed to see a troop of Samango Monkeys moving through the bushes in front of my stoep. The poor girl who tried to show me my tent and where everything was must have thought I was mad as I dropped everything to grab my camera and run out to take some photos, muttering wildly to myself. I told her I'd not seen these before and the look on her face was priceless and I'm sure she said something like "uhlanya umLungu." :lol: She went back to her duties, shaking her head in amusement while I ran around the paths trying to get a better view of the simian ghosts as they moved effortlessly through the branches.

One stopped briefly to check me out.
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Before moving on quickly.
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Another did the same, making sure that the "threat" was in view at all times.
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Before this one let me get a better pic.
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Elated, I rushed to tell J & A, but little K saw me first and pointed up saying "aapie, aapie." So the two of us walked along the path to watch the troop as they fed in the trees above.

Later in our stay, we were waiting at the bakkie for A & K to join us for a drive when a troop of Samango crossed the path high above our heads by leaping from tree to tree. They were very agile and some of the leaps were quite wide, but it was great to see them behaving like this.

One would start it's leap by using it's legs to spring off a branch.
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The tail was used as a balance as it dropped in the air.
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Before landing on the opposite side and moving quickly along the branches to keep up with the rest of the troop.
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Another monkey crossed in the same manner, but I'm not sure if this is a Vervet? I'd read that the two species do not mix, so was unsure if this one was following at a distance, or wether it's a juvenile Samango? Anyone like to confirm if this is Vervet or not? As I'm still unsure.

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This one I had no doubts about as it sat on a branch. Little K loved watching the "aapies" and got very excited watching it. I think the aapie also enjoyed watching her by the expression on it's face.
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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:35 pm

When we checked in at Tembe and were taken to our tents, I was amazed to see a troop of Samango Monkeys moving through the bushes in front of my stoep. The poor girl who tried to show me my tent and where everything was must have thought I was mad as I dropped everything to grab my camera and run out to take some photos, muttering wildly to myself. I told her I'd not seen these before and the look on her face was priceless and I'm sure she said something like "uhlanya umLungu." :lol: She went back to her duties, shaking her head in amusement while I ran around the paths trying to get a better view of the simian ghosts as they moved effortlessly through the branches.

One stopped briefly to check me out.
Image

Before moving on quickly.
Image

Another did the same, making sure that the "threat" was in view at all times.
Image

Before this one let me get a better pic.
Image

Elated, I rushed to tell J & A, but little K saw me first and pointed up saying "aapie, aapie." So the two of us walked along the path to watch the troop as they fed in the trees above.

Later in our stay, we were waiting at the bakkie for A & K to join us for a drive when a troop of Samango crossed the path high above our heads by leaping from tree to tree. They were very agile and some of the leaps were quite wide, but it was great to see them behaving like this.

One would start it's leap by using it's legs to spring off a branch.
Image

The tail was used as a balance as it dropped in the air.
Image

Image

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Before landing on the opposite side and moving quickly along the branches to keep up with the rest of the troop.
Image

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Another monkey crossed in the same manner, but I'm not sure if this is a Vervet? I'd read that the two species do not mix, so was unsure if this one was following at a distance, or wether it's a juvenile Samango? Anyone like to confirm if this is Vervet or not? As I'm still unsure.

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This one I had no doubts about as it sat on a branch. Little K loved watching the "aapies" and got very excited watching it. I think the aapie also enjoyed watching her by the expression on it's face.
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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:36 pm

On one of our excursions down to the East Swamp, we saw a small group of Reedbuck. The light was from the side, so I tried to make the best out of taking a photo of a ram as it peered at us from behind thick grass.

East Swamp panoramic.
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Reedbuck Ram.
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Little K shouted excitedley everytime we came upon Impala. "Pala, pala." She would cry, before squeezing her nose against the window to get a better view. Her excitement was infectious, and we often spent some time with these often overlooked antelope.

Impala Ram.
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Back at Mahlasela hide, a Bushbuck ram came down to the water for a drink. I tried desperately to get a clear reflection of it in the water, but a slight breeze put paid to that idea.

Bushbuck.
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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:37 pm

Tembe's Zebras were great to watch. They were regular at the waterhole and often irritated the local big guy's who chased them off "their patch."

You get so mesmerized by their stripes, that you often had to blink in case you were seeing double or treble (or was that due to overindulgence the night before :lol: ).

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I enjoyed watching them come down to drink, but they were skittish and often ran off without reason.

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But mostly there was a good reason for their nervousness.

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Not long after the Reedbuck sighting, we came upon this stallion in nice light, so I spent some time taking his pic.

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Dewi
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Re: Tembe and Kosi Bay

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 9:39 pm

Birding around camp was excellent, with lots of species to watch and marvel at. I often walked along the paths with Little K who would point up into the trees above saying "Tweeties, tweeties." Which always ended up with me seeing something good. I was amazed at how sharp a 2 year old's eyesight can be compared to my old, well worn ones.

Crested Guineafowl were always scratching around in the undergrowth between the tents and I had a good laugh when the camp staff called them "Bob Marley Bush Chickens." :lol:

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A flock of Retz's Helmet-shrikes fluttered along from bush to bush searching for insects. These were marvellous birds to watch and were extremely tame. I was fortunate to catch this one on a lichen covered branch.

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Orange-breasted Bush-shrikes were simply glowing in the undergrowth.

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and an Acacia Pied Barbet put in an appearance at the edge of the parking area.

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At the waterhole, the Wooly-necked Storks were around most days and I noticed the red stripes on the underwing for the first time, despite seeing these birds on all my previous visits to SA.

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Crowned Hornbills were very common here and would often give their location away with their loud calls.

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Brown-hooded Kingfishers were also seen daily. Their large-headed sillouetts gave them away from quite a distance.

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