South Africa Travel Diary - p 7 African Paradise-flycatcher (82524 bytes)

15 September 2006
Yesterday we flew from Capetown to Nelspruit, and drove our rental car to Thulamela B&B, 12 km from Kruger National Park's Numbi gate.   Today we birded around Thulamela, set on a range of hills that preserves some of the little remaining native vegetation in the area.  Our reward was lots of new birds, including Red-capped Robin-chat, Gorgeous Bush-shrike, and both White-bellied and Collared Sunbirds, among many others.
    The rest of the day was spent at the excellent Lowveld Botanical Garden in Nelspruit.  The top birds here were Purple-crested Turacos.  These colorful noisy crow-sized birds are endemic to Africa.  But alas, they stayed in thick vegetation, high in the trees.  More cooperative were the delightful African Paradise-flycatchers.   Both the female and male sallied out to catch insects in the air, the male's ridiculously long tail providing a wonderful show.  But they always perched in the dark low branches of a potato tree.  So I hauled out the flash unit, and used a bit of fill flash to get an acceptable photo.








Giraffe & young (89540 bytes)17 September 2006
Kruger extends 220 miles along the Mozambique border, and is huge - almost as big as West Virginia.  The late winter landscape is an uninspiring mix of bare trees and dead grass, with a few evergreens thrown in for good measure.  The thick grass and shrubby vegetation make photography difficult.   Getting a clear shot of nyala or bushbuck is about as likely as filling an inside straight. 
    But we persevered.  Giraffe were common everywhere.  I took sharper photos than the one shown, but couldn't resist this youngster nuzzling its mother's flank.  We read that baby giraffes will take refuge between their parents' legs when threats like hungry lions are close by.





Two Elephants (92154 bytes)18 September 2006
Even more common are elephants, some 12,000 strong.  They tear up vegetation and litter the roads with it, along with their poop.  We have many elephant stories.  Two bulls, for example, were trying to cross the main road.  The first one saw the steep slope on the other side, and balked at going down it.  The one behind began to flap his ears and move his trunk impatiently, and finally gave his companion a good firm shove onto the slope to get him started.  And then there was the herd browsing just at the road's edge.  We stopped to take a look; however, there were quite a few youngsters in the group, and the matriarch began to trumpet and march toward our car.  At this point we suddenly felt the urge to drive somewhere else.  They love the riverbeds of course; the two in this picture were horsing around before taking a late evening bath.



18 September 2006Hippo & young (82710 bytes)
But the unexpected stars of Kruger for us are the hippos.  There're in every lake and river.  Although they spend most of their time more or less completely submerged, they're quite entertaining:  they grunt and wheeze a lot, exhale explosively, and occasionally engage in yawning which is usually part of aggression displays.  I guess you have to be there to appreciate hippos.   





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