Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

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Dewi
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Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:32 pm

My first visit to the Kgalagadi was highly anticipated and expectations were very high after reading through several trip reports by others who have been before me.

I wasn't sure if I would be able to cope with the heat as I have previously only been to SA during the austral Winter months and in the past, have preferred colder parts of the world to work in. There was no need to worry though, as I managed reasonaby well with the conditions as long as I kept in the shade for most parts.

So, where to start?

I think with probably the best sighting of the trip (for me at least). So with a nod and a wink, let's get on with it.....

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On one of our drives, we pulled in at Polentewa to view some Bateleur Eagles at the waterhole. There were 6 of them in the area at the time, some on the ground and others soaring overhead. I noticed a small raptor perched on a branch and focussed my bins on a Juvenile Greater Kestrel.

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This stunning little raptor then proceeded to hunt the area around the waterhole, inspecting every nook and cranny for something to eat. It flew from perch to perch, intent on finding prey.

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I'll warn you all now, I have a lot of photos of this sighting, so make no apologies for the number of pics I'm going to post :lol: So please bear with me on this one.......

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The Kestrel hunted high and low, often checking the nearbt trees and fallen logs for something tasty.

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Sometimes, it would land on a prominent perch to scout the area, checking out every little movement in the surrounding area.

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To be continued......

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Dewi
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:32 pm

......So we carried on watching in great anticipation as this little gem resumed hunting.

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The intricate markings of it's plumage were striking to see and varied from delicate striations to bold barring.

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These markings contrasted with the background of a knarled old tree.

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Eventually the bird landed close by and soon became very interested in something that was scurrying around the base of a nearby tree.

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The interest it was showing became intense, with the distinctive head bobbing movements which is common in all Falcons and helps them to focus on their intended quarry.

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The Kestrel took up a launch posture, ready to initiate it's attack at the very moment that it's intended victim would be most vulnerable.

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Lisbeth
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Lisbeth » Mon May 21, 2012 3:33 pm

Why did you not ring the bell? :twisted:

Is the owl a Cape eagle-owl? It is gorgeous whatever it is ;-)

You saw quite a lot of juvenile greater kestrels and they were all beautiful. Did the poor bird finally get something to eat, after all the showing off? ;-)

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Dewi
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:33 pm

Thanks for the comments everyone!

Lis, it's a Spotted Eagle Owl - best told by the barred underparts and yellow eye. Cape E-Owl has blotched underparts and orange eye (but eye colour is variable sometimes).

More on this and closely related spesies and their little ones later on in the TR.

In the meantime, the Kestrel continued to perform beautifully in front of us........

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Dewi
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:34 pm

..........The Kestrel locked onto it's target and launched itself into the air in hot pursuit.

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It shot over to the base of the tree where it was hidden from view temporarily.

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It emerged a few seconds later with a lizard in it's talons.

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This gave me the opportunity for a close up head shot.

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It then proceeded to rip the unfortunate reptile to manageable pieces and gulped them down hungrily.

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Only stopping briefly to gasp for air!

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More gratuitous violence to come next.........

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Dewi
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:34 pm

......The Kestrel continued to feed, occasionally looking up to check that the coast was clear and that there was no danger nearby. If something flew over, it would mantle over it's catch with wings spread in the classic pose of ll raptors feeding.

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It finally sinished off it's meal by swallowing what remained whole, then posed nicely for a photo or two hundred and sixty five :shock: before flying off, leaving us enthralled by what we had just seen.

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What a sighting this was! I still get shivers up and down my spine just going through the photos again :lol:

Hope you didn't mind lots of photos of this one, I've one or two more of the next kill we witnessed, so that will keep me going for a page or two more, but I'll keep that one until later as it involved something a bit larger and furrier :twisted:

So, what next? Any requests? (If I have them that is!).

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Dewi
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:36 pm

Thanks again for all the kind comments everyone!

It was a special sighting for me, and I think the other three in the car with me agreed too.

Sorry Mel, no Porcupines to show, I've yet to see one in the wild :-( .

Sprocky, the bird made it so much easier by performing right in front of us. it helps a lot when they behave like this one did.

If you guy's are going to hunt me down, can we do it in your country? It's too flaming cold up here. (Never thought I'd hear myself say that one :shock: ).

OK, some little furry ones coming up for you.........




I often wondered when I was told that KTP was raptor heaven as to why this was, being such an arid area. I soon had my answer, it's the abundance of prey items available to them that makes this area so special. Everywhere you looked there were Ground Squirrels, Mice, Gerbils, Hares and all manner of small reptiles. It was no wonder that so many trees held a raptor or two in them.

Tawny Eagle on the look out for food.
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Yellow Mongoose were fairly common and we saw them almost every day. This one was very tame and ran around our feet under a picnic table.

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Ground Squirrels were everywhere, along the riverbeds, in the roads, at the campsites and probably consist a large portion of many a raptors diet.

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Striped Mice seemed to be quite common, but the little devils rarely stayed still long enough for a portrait shot.

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This trio was taking a siesta in a roadside thorn bush.

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A Scrub Hare sat out obligingly in the open at dusk one evening. We thought it may have been a Cape Hare, but apparently the nape colour, face and eye ring match for Scrub hare. (If I'm wrong on this ID, please let me know).

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Suricates were also seen, but none came close enough to photograph. Next time maybe?

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Dewi
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:37 pm

Thanks Mel, some hooky beaks for you coming up.

Lis, Who told you I blew the whistle :lol:

Fluts, that tawny was a beaut and posed nicely by peeping around the tree for me :lol:

OK, not much chit-chat tonight (lack of beer maybe? :twisted: )

Enjoy the pics :D

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Dewi
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:38 pm

Baby snakes Ronnie :lol:

Worked late tonight Mel, so running later than usual - sorrrrrrrreeeeeeee.

We saw quite a few Owls in the park on this trip. The best for me was the White-faced Scops Owl - a lifer!

We were told about a nest low down in a roadside tree by two wildlife photographers (husband & wife team maybe?) who were parked nearby waiting for something to happen with a Springbok that was behaving nervously (thank you, whoever you were hope you got the pics you wanted, I did )

Mum (or Dad?)
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They were squeezed almost as tightly in the nest as we were in the bakkie!
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Further along the road, a trio of Barn Owls peeked out of their squatters hole in a Sociable Weaver nest.
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Meanwhile, a Verreaux's Eagle Owl hid at a distance behind a tree.
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We saw the same bird or it's mate a bit closer the following day.
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Spotted Eagle Owls were seen on our early morning drive out of camp the second day of the 4x4 trip.
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Whilst this one posed nicely as we were driving back to TR after witnessing an amazing hunt and kill on our very last drive of the trip. We were only just in time to make it back as we had Lions in the road as well just after this!
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So I'll finish off tonight with two Spotted Eagle Owls at sunset.
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Dewi
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Re: Once Upon a Time in the Northwest

Post by Dewi » Mon May 21, 2012 3:39 pm

Thanks once again for the nice comments everyone!

A bit short of time this evening I'm afraid, so only one photo tonight, but promise to post more over the weekend.

Goodnight everyone.

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