KTP - The colour hunt is on again! *

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Mel
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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:05 am

Morning Highlights

As I said in my first installment after being back, the first days were characterized by special sightings either before 9 am or non at all. Well, we always got something before nine. Luckily.

The first morning on a drive from Kieliekrankie we found this at Batulama:

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On the very same morning at 13th Borehole we had a close encounter with a tortoise coming to drink at the waterhole. If you think I’m silly calling this one of my morning highlights you might be right, but so far I haven’t seen many of those critters and definitely not facing me at this close distance.

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Some nice fellow had told us about a cape fox den 16.9 km north from the junction at Auchterlonie. We didn’t even have to travel that far because on our second morning we got these just 6.5 km north from the same junction.

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There were 3 pups around but I never managed to get them in one frame… I did however manage a lot of cape blurs because they just wouldn’t sit still. Awww, what a treat to watch them. I had never seen cape foxes in KTP before, so this was a real treat and we enjoyed it tremendously!

On our way from KK to Nossob we stopped close to Gunong and checked the area for any sign of Dyrbil. Well, nothing was moving really, so we just sat there for a bit longer and looked around and enjoyed the surroundings. All of a sudden Spots ask what it was that he was seeing through his binocs far off in the dunes behind Nossob riverbed. I grabbed my pair of binocs, looked to the indicated direction and saw… a honey badger!!! :mrgreen: First one ever, and first one ever being very much alive!!! Nevertheless, I would have wanted to bring back something better than this

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When we had arrived at Nossob and started planning our drives, we decided to stick to only one route for all drives – down south. This was for several reasons: Firstly, we would be staying at Grootkolk after Nossob and therefore had enough opportunities to explore the stretch between these two camps if desired. Secondly, I firmly believe in doing the same route again several times in a row, because I think that it heightens your chances with what you get to see.

So, just after the waterhole on the Marie se Gat loop, 4 kudus crossed the road right in front of us and the morning light hadn’t been switched off yet. I just adore this sighting and shot:

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However, kudus in KTP are rather skittish and they moved off towards the dunes rather quickly, so we left them to it and went on.

Before Kaspersdraai we found very fresh lion tracks in the road. Hoping to catch the critter at the waterhole, we pressed on only to find the waterhole completely deserted. For a while we just sat there waiting for something to happened, but it did not. A bit antsy because of having been in the park for 4 days by then without having seen a single lion, we turned around to have a look at the tracks again and see if we could make out where exactly they vanished into the dunes. To cut a long story short: We found the lion’s ‘entrance’ towards the riverbed. We never found the lion though. Right, back to Kaspersdraai then and just sit there and enjoy the view. Something WILL come up. And it had… we were just a minute late to avoid this picture :roll:

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Oh well, at least we had seen a lion… We watched her walking into the dunes and disappearing before we got back on our way towards Nossob again.

The next day we left for Grootkolk and on our way we got some bat-eared fox foraging. A bit far off, but better than nothing.

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The cape cobra came on the second day of our Grootkolk stay, but contrary to most of the other stuff above, it was not the only highlight of the day and certainly not only the morning. But more about that later...

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The same goes for this hyena that visited us in the wee morning hours at Urikaruus. It was about 5.40 am and a dull and overcast day. So forgive me the quality of the pics, it merely serves as a photographic proof.

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:06 am

Leopard at Batulama (17/10/2011)

Now that lion queen got onto my track about that leopard, I’ll proceed with that sighting. It was on our first morning anyway and would have been dealt with if I had done my TR in chronological order.

It was around 7 am and the light was just beautiful, so I made Spots stop at Batulama, where two oryxs stood close to the waterhole. Kind of. They behaved a bit antsy, but I didn’t notice that at first. All I wanted was a photo in the golden light. So, I aimed my camera at one of them – couldn’t get both in, as they were standing too far apart from each other – when Spots suddenly said There is a leopard at the waterhole. You what??? And indeed, half way hidden like in the photo with the oryx there was a leopard behind the rocks of the waterhole eyeing the oryxs. See, that is what you get when you stop for the ‘smaller’ stuff as well.

She kept moving around, trying to decide whether to go after the doves that occupied the waterhole as well by now or to have a go at one of the oryxs. She never did the latter though.

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We stayed with her for one and a half hours before she finally made her way into the dunes. And never another car in sight!

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:07 am

Leopard at Batulama (18/10/2011)

Seeing that leopards are the current category, I’ll carry on with our second sighting of the very same leopardess on our second morning in the park. This time two fellow visitors who were our neighbours at Kieliekrankie pointed her out to us just south of Batulama. Thank you, Martha and Peter!

I’m still not sure what we saw at first – whether it was two leopards having a go at each other, like the female trying to get a pushy male off her back or the female unsuccessfully hunting a springbok. People had seen her mating in the late afternoon the previous day. Maybe that explains why I thought, I had seen two leopard tails through my binocs, but the action was so swift and we never found a sign of the second leopard.

Anyway, the leopardess kept moving north just at the bottom of the dunes behind the Auob riverbed. Obviously, we trailed her, always keeping an eye on her. But the trees and shrubs made it difficult, so we lost her several times, before finding her again. It was like spotting a leopard again and again and again. At some point the leopardess stopped and looked intensely to the other side of the road. She kept coming closer and we just couldn’t believe our luck when she actually appeared almost right next to our car!

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She then proceeded to the other side, crossing the road just in front of our car. Behind a bush she crept and all of a sudden broke into a run.

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I still fail to understand how she was able to spot the cape fox she went after! If it hadn’t been for the leopard, we would never have noticed the fox, so well camouflaged it was between all the rocks and against the sand. Sorry, no pix of the fox – the action was too swift for my slow brain and trigger finger…

Having been unsuccessful with the cape fox, the leopardess headed for the dunes and disappeared behind the ridge. But not for long. There she was again…

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… making her way to a spotted owls’ nest that was situated in the rocks of the ridge.

The owls’ parents fought bravely to prevent the leopardess taking away their chick…

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… but she took it away and then eventually vanished over the ridge.

The whole thing lasted about half an hour. And it was only one of several splendid sightings we had that morning. Another one were the cute cape foxes I have already posted and the other one will come up at some point as well.

To conclude the leopard sightings of this trip, I’ll have to add that these were just two occasions when we saw one. But the only two with photos. We had another leopard coming to drink at Grootkolk waterhole at around 5.30 am on our second morning there, as well as probably the same leopard twice at Urikaruus. One was during our first night at Uri, when I was awoken by a huge racket outside at around 11.30 pm and the second time on our second last morning when the leopard appeared at the camp’s waterhole at 5.10 am. Seeing 3 leopards on 5 different occasions certainly is a very special treat! This is only one of the many reasons why we felt so blessed on this trip.

With that the leopards are done and dusted for this TR.

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:07 am

General Game

Time for some photos of the general game we saw.

My favourite springbok shots from this trip:

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Looking so content.

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Christmas came early again.

My favourite oryx pictures:
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On the southern dune road.

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On one of our morning drives from Grootkolk.

My favourite jackals photos:

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On a mission.

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Stretching off the night’s ordeals.

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At Nossob waterhole.

Always a treat – steenbok:

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On the access road to KK camp.

One of the not too many hartebeest we saw:

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At Marie se Gat.

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At Grootkolk waterhole, very restless and seemingly confused with the wildebeest’s presence.

And finally the ubiquitous wildebeests:
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Invading the Grootkolk waterhole.

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Walking side by side in unison.

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:09 am

Dewi wrote:I've read several theories as to why antelope thrash the vegetation and often sport decorated horns like the one in the photo.

One is that the males in rut are full of testosterone and like to take their frustration out on nearby vegetation.

Another is that the males are scent marking their territories.

A possible side effect of this behaviour is that predators may get confused when they see animals such as the one in Mel's photo, but I'm unsure if there is any evidence to prove this theory.

In deer, this behaviour happens when the antlers are being shed and the velvet growth that covered the antlers gets very irritating, hence the urge to get rid of it. This obviously does not apply to antelope, and stags also carry on this behaviour during the rut when all velvet has been lost.

I've also read that the animals like to get covered in the scent of whichever vegetation they chose to thrash, but again I'm not too sure if this is accurate or not.

I have a new book on order which will hopefully answer some of these question. I'll post them here if I learn anything when it arrives.
That's very interesting, Dewi, thanks! This time we were able to watch a male rubbing his head against some plant on the ground. It didn't look like he had to tone down his aggression, but more like he had an itchy spot. So my conclusion was and still is that this one seem to have marked his territory.

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Dewi » Sun May 20, 2012 10:09 am

After doing some reading up on the behaviour of Springbok, it appears that this is a territorial display. Territorial rams regularly thrash the vegetation with their horns which then often gets entangled with foliage, grass etc.

As a matter of interest, Impala, on the other hand, use this method to scent mark shrubs etc with their foreheads.

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:10 am

Birds at Grootkolk

Apart from the raptor party I also fell in love with Grootkolk because of the variety of birds I was able to observe there. At least at unit 1 and 2 had the bottoms of old water bottles functioning as bird baths set up on the fences. There were two for each unit and the comings and goings were just amazing.

Here is a selection of birds that visited us:

Violet-eared Waxbill (A new tick for me!)
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Red-billed Quelea
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Black-chested Prinia
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Kalahari Scrub-Robin
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Yellow Canary
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Sociable Weaver and Cape Sparrow
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Grey-headed Sparrow
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Red-eyed Bulbul (Another new tick!) and Scaly-feathered Finch
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Red-headed Finch
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Black-faced Waxbill (Yet another tick!)
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On our last day we had an exceptional amount of sociable weavers fighting for the best positions at their local pub. New guests had arrived in unit 2 and they hadn’t filled their bird baths, so the birdies were drawn to ours which was absolutely fascinating to watch. We did a rough calculation and there must have been around 80 sitting at and in the bird bath, on top of each other or next to each other on the fence.

There was a huge racket going on with the weavers landing on top of each other, pushing each other away from the water and so on with lots of noise involved.
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And one more with those well-behaved ones who were queueing up and patiently awaiting their turn.
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If you’re already bored from all the birds, you might want to skip the next episode or two.
There are more to come.

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:12 am

Birds

As I already said in my introductory post, we did see loads of birds this time around compared to April. The bad news is that whenever you see one close enough to the road for a decent photography and you stop for them, they’ll take off before you can even wind down the window. And we’re talking about those electrical windows…

So lots of birds went unphotographed and I don’t even want to fathom how many of them would have made a new tick on my list. Eish!

Anyway – a choice of my favourite shots:

A juvenile black-headed heron at Valpaan:
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Burchell’s starling (Tick!)
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Glossy starling
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They were all over us at Nossob camp, begging for food. You should have seen their stunned expressions when I had set up a bird bath for them. Absolutely hilarious! I’m sure they loved me for it and were sad when we left. :twisted:

Lilac-breasted roller – one of my favourite birds:
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Namaqua sandgrouse in the golden afternoon light:
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Spotted thick-knee in the golden morning light:
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Inquisitive female northern black korhaan:
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Groundscraper thrush at Nossob (Tick!)
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Purple roller (Tick!)
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Wattled starlings (non-breeding) having a pool party at 13th borehole:
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Cape sparrow, female shaft-tailed whyday and a skink at Nossob waterhole:
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White-faced scops owl at Mata-Mata:
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Yellow hornbill:
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And another tick, if I just knew what to tick… Sabota lark maybe? (*edit* It's a fawn-coloured lark)
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Next episode will feature some bigger critters again.

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:13 am

Lions of the Kgalagadi

Until the 5th day being in the park we hadn’t seen a single lion and our first sighting was that of the back of a lone lioness at Kaspersdraai. Our two nights at Nossob had revealed nothing else. The Nossob pride around Mr. Handsome had left just the morning of the day we arrived and were not available for further comments. I was not amused, to put it mildly…

Our next lion encounter was at Grootkolk. Yes, Grootkolk again! This camp has been very good to us, making sure we would return. It was our first night when Spots and I awoke pretty much simultaneously by an ear shattering noise. Who the heck set the alarm so loud??? Hang on, since when did Spots or I sport a lion’s roar as an alarm sound on our respective mobiles??? Nope, don’t think either of us got that. What is then? … Lion!!! We both raced out of bed and to the door. After Katy’s and Francolin’s adventure with the close lions at GK, I told Spots not to open the door, we needed to check where the lions were exactly. It turned out to be the majestic male on his own calling is family at this unseemly hour. He was standing right underneath the tree next to the waterhole and continued calling. Then he moved on towards unit 3 where our friends Brian and Beth were staying for that night. We communicated our joy with flashing our torches at each other. Well, the Grootkolk Majesty laid down for a bid, hardly to be seen in the spotlight anymore. At some point he got back up, went for a drink, returned to his old spot to laze around some more. Then he got up again and gazed at me. Spots had gone back to bed by then, because he was shivering. Ever heard of the invention of longsleeved shirts and trousers, Spots? Anyway, the torch in my hand was shaking as His Majesty moved closer and closer towards our unit. I for my part moved further and further back until I had reached the door of the unit and slipped in. It does feel a bit, uhm, funny when such a big cat comes walking straight towards you! Well, he stopped short of our fence and sat down to look at me some more. Spots was standing next to me by then and we were trying the You hold the torch, I’ll take a photo thing. But it came out in one big blurd, you can’t even see it’s lion in there. Shortly after that His Majesty got up, walked around our unit and up into the dunes behind the camp manager’s unit where they obviously have their favourite resting spot. You can’t see them from the camp access road though. Shame.

It was past 4 by now and I was wide awake. No point in trying to get back to sleep for the remaining few minutes until the alarm would go off. So I made some coffee and waited for the day to unfold. I just love sitting in the dark with hardly any noise. Grootkolk is very quiet compared to for example Kieliekrankie where the barking geckos holding concerts every night and early morning.

We left the camp at around 6.30 am and got on our way in Nossob direction. It was the day when we were supposed to meet Sharifa and Duke for breakfast at Lijiers. Just south of Kannaguass we saw a distinctive shape on the road in the distance. We pulled up and I started with a series of bumshots. Here is one of them:
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We had to trail him for about 5 km as every time Spots would try to pass him, he would break into a run, well what you call a run with a lion not hunting… and switched to the other side of the road. No chance to overtake whatsoever. At least he turned half way around occasionally.

Marking his territory for the first time:
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Then the second time:
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And finally we got his piece of mind about us:
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Seems to have some digestive problems… :twisted:

Sorry, for the quality – had to take the shots through the windscreen.

At some point he went off into the dunes to look for a place to snooze off the day. After that the day went quiet except for one other special sighting, but it was not a lion, so won’t appear here.

The next day was the day when we had one of our 5 leopard sightings. He / she came at 5.30 am and we thought it safe to leave the camp and go on a drive. Bad choice… The lions – the whole family this time - were back at 7.30 am while we were looking at some passed out and far off male at Polentswa. We had seen fresh lion tracks on the access stretch to the waterhole and had scanned the area for lions.

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Appearantly, there are two black-maned proper Kalahari males around Polentswa and they were pretty stationary at the time of our trip as one of them was limping. I guess it was the one we saw there because he didn’t move an inch throughout the morning. No, we didn’t sit with him all the time. :lol: We went further south and checked back again on him again on our way back.

Having heard that we had missed the lions in the camp we didn’t go out anymore that day, but the lions didn’t show that day or evening either. We did get to see an African wild cat at the waterhole during the dark hours of the evening though!

The next morning we meant to get out of the camp at 6 am sharp as it was the day of the Nossob webcam event and we had agreed to meet Duke and Sharifa at 9 am. So we wanted to leave early to make sure we had a bit of spare time in case something crossed our way during our drive. Spots was in the bathroom and I started to load bits and pieces into the car already. He then came to help me. With some stuff in his hands he made his way to the car, only to re-appear again seconds later - his hands still full. He was not going to pack the car while the lions were in the camp, Spots announced. Say what?!?!?! Lions??? And yes, there they were walking towards the waterhole area from between unit 2 and the communal kitchen tent. Great! - the car boot was still open as was the passenger side at the back and the inquisitive lions were not even 10 metres away from it! Always wanted to have a pet lion… :twisted:

The two adult mums were leading the way, followed by the two larger cubs and finally the youngster. It was too dark then for photos, but we were watching in awe. The ladies proceeded towards the dunes on the half right, while the cubs went for a drink at the waterhole. They stayed on for quite some time despite their mums having moved off. I’ll post some photos later on in a different category. At some point His Majesty graced us with his presence as well. But he only moved through the camp towards where his ladies we’re lying, without looking once. Far off, but I just adore this photo:

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So we had the adult lions 100 metres away and the youngsters still at the waterhole. It was almost 6.30 am by now and we had finished packing yet, let alone gotten anywhere nearer to Nossob. The little ones then moved back through the camp, using the same route out as they had walked in. It was 6.45 am now. Let’s get moving! Spots packed the stuff again he had meant to take to the car before and went off. Again he returned with everything still in his hands. Can’t do it, he said, they are lying at the fence to Oliver’s unit and the large male cub was looking at me straight. I sneaked out to see that myself, using the car as a shield and eyed around it. Indeed, they were there and very much alert. Back to the unit, closing the gate and more waiting. At least we had the adults to watch in the distance… About half an hour later Oliver appeared at out gate and that’s when we knew that the little ones had moved off. We quickly finished loading the car, including some GK laundry to be taken to Nossob and got on our way one and a half an hour after gate opening. We would never make it to Nossob on time.

A bit more than an hour later we had made it almost to Polentswa when we saw two cars parking. Spots and I cried out in unison: Oh no, no more cats, please. We got to get to Nossob.

And there they were – the Polentswa pride with the two females and one of the big daddies lying right at the verge of the road:

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Needless to say we couldn’t let that pass. Being late or not. The lionesses were intently watching some springboks in the riverbed – who knows what we might miss if we carried on now!

Luckily, they decided to give the hunt a pass and rather got up and moved towards the dunes where their six half-grown cubs were resting in the shade. Never got a decent photo of them – too much grass, too little lion… But at least the mums were willing to pose:

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Daddy followed suit:

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Another photo that had to be taken through the windscreen.

And this one when he walked by our car:
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It was not even 9 am yet and we had seen a total of 15 different lions!

With that we left the lions to it and got to Nossob without further disruption. It was almost 10.15 am by now and not only Duke and Sharifa were already waiting, but also Jacliz and her SO and Charlize, the ranger who was meant to accompany us to the waterhole. Sorry again for being so late!

After the event was done and dusted we left Nossob around 11 am and still had some 100 something kilometres to go to get to Uri. On the northern dune road a car stopped us telling us that there were 5 lions resting underneath a tree right next to the road just short of Valpaan. Lions? Again? Yawn! :twisted:

The lions hadn’t moved a bit and we found them easily:

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It was nearing 2 pm by now, it was hot, we were bothered and the lions wouldn’t bat an eyelid anyway till later in the day, so we moved on rather quickly. With 20 different lions in one day we were really spoilt and not too crazy about lions anymore. Our mind was firmly set on finding cheetahs on the Aoub side during the rest of our stay.

But the next day we did have to ‘endure’ more lions – two females still smeared with blood from their previous meal passed out underneath a tree just a bit further from the southern entrance / exit of the Dalkeith loop. This is the most I was able to get from the two ladies:

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On our evening drive we found the lionesses up and walking albeit a bit grumpy looking:

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But maybe that’s not too surprising when no less than 4 cars are trailing you and even more approaching from all directions. We didn’t bother to turn around to follow them as well. We wanted cheetah! :lol:
In hindsight it might have been a bit of a dumb thing to do as I probably missed the opportunity to get at least one up front photo of a typical Kalahari male. The next day we were told that he had come to join the ladies at the waterhole and that he had tried to mate one, but got a good slap in the face by the lioness whose tummy was filled to the brims with some antelope meat. We saw the male the next morning, albeit far off in the dunes. Apparently he had been drinking at Dalkeith waterhole, having chased off a cheetah with her cub in the process. The guy who told us went on about what an exceptionally beautiful species he was with his black mane almost reaching the ground... I couldn’t care less – we had just missed our cheetah. :cry:

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Re: KTP - The colour hunt is on again!

Post by Mel » Sun May 20, 2012 10:15 am

Young ones and smaller critters – Part One

As you already know that there are some lion cubs to come, I’ll proceed with that chapter right away.

They are not the bestest quality, but the light was low and Lionspoon… I hardly dare saying that, it’s so embarrassing… hadn’t cleaned her lens from the dust of the previous day yet. :oops: There. I said it…

First one is of the larger male cub:
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Then a group photo of all three
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Again the male sticking to some games with a dead branch
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And again being fascinated by some plate.
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The sighting book in unit 1 told that they had nicked that one some days before. Obviously someone had used it as a bird bath. What an invitation for the Image youngsters!

Another group photo:
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Resting at the waterhole:
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And finally the little one got his turn with the plate. He had been watching his elder brother and sister fooling around with it all the time. But whenever he tried to get to the plate one of the older ones would return and chase him off. It was such a cute sighting Image – watching the plate walk away with the cub…
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On a more serious note – I had another look at Katydownunder’s and Francolin’s amazing lion encounter in November last year. I reckon the two older cubs Spots and I saw where the young cubs from back then. It seems that only 2 out of 4 made it. I know that it is not that uncommon, but I still feel a bit sad about that.

On the smaller critter side, but not less appealing :mrgreen: we had a completely different sighting on a completely different day in a completely different area – a brownie at 4.30 pm at Gemsbokplein. Goes to show that the critters just don’t behave according to the books.

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Unfortunately this one had a badly mangled neck – probably from a fight. But it was alert and didn’t seem to suffer too much. The only odd thing about it was, that after drinking, it rested its head on the hot stones. Maybe it felt a bit of relief with the aching wound.

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It had come down from the dunes behind the riverbed and crossed the road in front of us to vanish in the dunes on the other side.

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BTW, this is the same brownie lion queen got to see as well.

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