Whos keeping an eye on me....

Saturday, 20 August 2016

South Africa 2016 - Satara Kruger Park

We (Liz & myself), flew into Jo`burg then immediately into Heodspruit. We very quickly picked up our car and enjoyed a leisurely 60 minute drive and entered Kruger Park at the Orpen gate. We booked in and then travelled across central Kruger to Satara rest camp. From there we would over the course of 7 days move between Satara, Olifants, Mopani, Letaba and exit via Phalaborwa gate.

We had a great spot in the rest camp with our accommodation backing onto the outer fence. This would enable us to spotlight at night. On the second night we had 6 Spotted Hyena come very close to the fence, one even came down the fence line to check us out. A while later and we had more superb views, this time of 2 Civet  also very close to the fence (one drink too many on my part and touched the electric fence with my torch..... I wont be doing that again!).

The biggest miss this time around that we saw well in 2013 were Cheetah, and I am still waiting to see a Secretary bird....... it must be good for another visit in a few years then.

What we did score well with were great views of numerous Lions, a Leopard in a tree, although a little distant we had prolonged views and watched it climb down and eventually disappear.

We booked onto a night drive and had great views of 3 Porcupines around the dam, stunning views of Genet and Civet. The night drive also gave us good views of Verreauxs Eagle-owl, a Tawny Eagle sat low down in a tree guarding what seemed to be a Bee`s nest and 3 very vocal Water Thicknee around a waterhole.

We desperately wanted to catch up with either of the Rhino species but disappointingly only had a single view of a White Rhino, and unfortunately it kept its back to us all the time before wandering off.

No Nyala sightings all trip, but enjoyed numerous Kudu sightings. We also picked up our first ever sighting of a foraging Honey Badger and also a few Steenbok. All other mammals showed well and in good numbers, the Elephants giving especially close wildlife watching experiences.

 Bird wise one of the highlights were the pair of Bateleur which gave stunning views while preening each other. This was closely followed by a great view of a perched Martial Eagle (lifer for me) and then watched it fly off low to a more distant tree. I picked up a few more lifers around the area with Little Bee-eater, Grey headed Kingfisher, Black Crake and a single Collared Pratincol.


Martial Eagle

Having visited Satara for the second time now, and even though I think the rest camp and general areas were a little quieter than our last visit three years ago, I think I would give it a miss next time as the area is easily covered on day trips from other rest camps such as Olifants.

Enjoy the images of the Wildlife around Satara.

Blue Waxbill 

Brown Headed Parrot


Crested Francolin

Dark Capped Bulbul

African Elephant

 Grey Backed Camaroptera
Grey Go-away bird
Impala (one looks albino)


Lilac Breasted Roller

Lesser Stripped Swallow 
Magpie Shrike

Pearl Spotted Owlet
Burchells Zebra

Red Billed Oxpeckers enjoying the free meal and ride
Water Buffalo
Next stop Olifants

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Cape Town Pelagic

Its been 3 years since my last attempt to sail with Cape Town Pelagic, my 2013 trip was cancelled due to the winter weather. I booked the 2016 trip many many months before and eagerly counted down the months, weeks and eventually days.

After a week in Kruger park Liz and myself travelled down to Cape Town, I was booked to sail out of Simons Town on Saturday but again it was cancelled, It didn't give me much hope that the reserve day of Sunday would fare any better. I was wrong....... when I rang up for an update the message said WE SAIL.

An hours early morning drive to the harbour and I met up with the other 5 passengers (an American, 2 Dutch, a Belgium and an Italian), as well as our Guide, Cliff and Skipper, Alan.

We passed cape point half an hour later steeped in sea mist and on a rather choppy sea.

After about 5 miles we started to pick up our first "real ocean" birds with a few Shy Albatross. A
new family of birds for me, so the excitement had started. I would have been happy if that was the last we saw of them. Birds were around but only in small numbers. White Chinned Petrels, Cape Gannet and Sooty Shearwaters kept us company for the next hour or so. Large pods of Common Dolphins followed us (estimated at 100s by the skipper).

Shy Albatross

The idea was to find fishing trawlers, these could be 20+ miles out past the Cape point, and there would be no guarantee that we locate any. Cliff our guide eventually picked something up way out on the horizon and confirmed large flocks of sea birds, possibly following a trawler. Full speed ahead picking up some fine looking Black Browed Albatross, and greater numbers of White Chinned Petrels. Great news! 3 trawlers in the area and amazing numbers of sea birds. The trawlers weren't processing at the minute and the birds were pretty well spread out over a vast area. It gave us time to scan the flocks for rarities. The first to appear were a few Subantarctic Skuas, we saw possibly 12+ over the course of the day, a few Wilsons Storm Petrels and the lovely Antarctic Prions.

Sub Antarctic Skua
Wilsons Storm Petrel
Antartcic Prion

We continued to scan to see where the biggest flocks were and Cliff was on the look out for any of the Larger White backed Albatross species. One of the trawlers had started to process the catch which attracted enormous flocks. The images don't really express the overwhelming sensory overload and shear scale of the seabird bonanza. Cliff confirmed that this was the biggest number of birds on any of this years tours......  

somewhere in there is a .......

 Then someone spotted a Fulmar, Cliff was as pleased about this Southern Fulmar as this was the major highlight for Cliff on this trip, this is a National Rarity.. it gave stunning views as we navigated the boat around it giving everyone great close ups.
Southern Fulmar

Things got equally as interesting. Cliff had been desperately searching in hope rather than expectation for the large Albatrosses and he pulled it off. Two large birds were following a distant trawler, so we changed course and eventually got near enough to confirm a Pair of  Northern Royal Albatross. I never got the crystal clear images I would have hoped for..... I was going through a bit of Sea sickness at the time! These birds are huge, 3.3mtr wingspan, and certainly held a presence even amongst the 1000s of other birds.

Northern Royal Albatross
Shy Albatross

Just to complete a brilliant set, Alan the Skipper found a single Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross. 4 species during the trip was a good return especially as two of them are rare, especially in the winter months.
Indian yellow-nosed Albatross


It wasn't all about the Albatross, Cliff picked out a single Great Shearwater amongst 100s of other birds that were sat on the water, it took flight just as I pointed the lens..... 

White Chinned Petrel were the default bird, 1000s were in the area 

Pintado Petrel, a small species but certainly a striking bird

Pintado, White-Chinned, while a few Sooty Shearwaters sneak into the bottom of the image

large southern ocean swell

We had good views of a  single Southern Giant Skua, but I never got the shot, however I managed to see and photograph some of the 4 Northern Giant Petrels that we saw. This Shy Albatross just about makes the Northern Giant Petrel look small by comparison

Sea bird bonanza

Shy Albatross

Shy and Black Browed

we finished the trip off with a colony of the critically endangered Bank Cormorants, while we had two sightings of Humpback Whale.
The trip......simply unbelievable!