Saturday, 4 September 2010

Pilanesberg, Johannesburg, JNB, South Africa

I had company with me this morning in the shape of my colleague, HG. We had come to Pilanesberg NP and arrived just before 07.00.
Immediately inside the gate we came across a small herd of Brindled Wildebeest, closely followed by our first B5 animals of the day.
A group of White Rhinoceros, made up with a mature female, two immatures and a small calf, were grazing right beside the road. The smallest calf was jealously guarding his mother and his milk supply. We surmised that the two immatures may have been his big sisters and that sibling rivalry was the cause of the calf’s boisterous behaviour. He was butting his big sister, who was being very indulgent and gently playing along.
Just beyond them, a lark took off from a raodside snag as we passed. The clapping sound it made as it flew left me with only one choice, an Eastern Clapper Lark. I would have loved to get a better look at a red crayon bird, but I am happy with the ID.
We followed the main road through the park, heading north from Bakubung Gate and soon found two young male giraffe vying for dominance over each other. They were swiping at each other, swinging their necks and trying to hit their opponent with their head. This was not a full-blooded fight for mating rights; these males were still fairly young. They were trying to establish their place in the pecking order for the future.
The expected animals were plentiful today. There were herds of Impala and Wildebeest with an occasional Hartebeest added in for good measure.
Birds were well represented (this is supposed to be a bird blog after all). Lesser Striped Swallows were slow to move from their roost this morning, which gave me a good opportunity. Actually, this picture may have been taken by H, who had a better angle from the passenger seat.
We headed for the hide at Mankwe Dam and spent a while there enjoying the Pied Kingfishers and a herd of Wildebeest that came down to drink.
The birds on the approach and around the car park were very confiding with a White-browed Scrub-Robin posing beautifully on a post and Natal Francolin calmly walking round the car.
We had noticed a few cars that had stopped on the other side of the dam and went to investigate. They were watching some Hippo that had hauled up and were huddled together in a big brown blob on the bank.
Another cluster of cars gave away the presence of six more White Rhino, while just a little further up the road towards Manyane, a waterhole held good numbers of Wildebeest and some Zebra. 
I wanted to try to find a different approach to taking Zebra pictures, but when three lined up at the water, I was willing a fourth to fill in the gap, which it obligingly did.
As we headed towards the Pilanesberg Centre for breakfast, we noticed a few Safari tour vehicles all heading in the same direction. This is usually a good sign that something interesting is going on. Thus we postponed breakfast and followed. Sure enough a herd of elephant were feeding at the roadside on the way to Mankorwe Dam. The matriarch seemed very calm and patient with the other vehicles, so we were able to make a very close approach. She had a small calf with her which seemed quite at home with the attention it was getting.
The Pilanesberg Centre was quiet for our late breakfast, but the view from the deck was as busy as I have ever seen it.
Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala and Giraffe were joined by Springbok and Black-faced Vervet Monkeys as we ate.The birds here were perfect models as they posed on a post in front of the veranda.
A Fork-tailed Drongo was keen to show off his elegant black plumage set off by his dramatic red eye, but was closely challenged by a Southern Masked Weaver, which preferred to complement his eye with a yellow outfit.  
Unable to compete with such stylish competition, the Common Bulbul resorted to a coquettish posture to attract attention.
Breakfast was good and we were reluctant to leave, but grapevine reports held news of lions along Dithabaneng.
As we neared Maletse Dam, a fine male Common Waterbuck showed on the rocky slopes to the south. H had dozed off in the back of the car and could not get enthused until we came across the lion hunkered down amongst the rocks, watching a group of Zebra. He stalked slowly towards them, but any action was likely to take place over the rise in front of him. We pulled forward to a point where we could see the Zebra, but not the lion. Here we waited for about 40 minutes before realising that the lion had lost interest and gone for a snooze in the shade. There were rumours of a kill closeby and the lions looked well fed. This may explain why Black-backed Jackals were hanging about.
I pulled back to the dam where some hippos were sunbathing on the far bank. About 30 meters to the left was an elephant carcass, on top of which sat an African White Ibis. We returned to this spot a short while later to watch 2 bull elephants as they came across the body.
Their reactions and behaviour was very touching and it is easy to see how they can be credited with emotions such as sadness and loss, that we humans usually use as a yardstick to separate ourselves from the animals.
As other vehicles arrived we pulled away to avoid the crush. We returned to the lion 200meters along the road. It was buried deep in the bushes and was hard to find. Once we had found it, I noticed a second lion alongside it.
H put forward a thought that when lions yawn, it is a sign that they are about to move. This was not something that I was aware of, but as we watched, one of the lions yawned, then stood up and began making his way towards us. I hoped that it was headed for the water, so I reversed the car to give it the opportunity to cross in front of us. Instead, it continued along the road and must have caused a few heart-stopping moments as it passed between the cars that had stopped to look at the elephants.
It skirted around the western end of the dam. After a brief confrontation with one of the elephants, it began feeding on the elephant carcass.
Unbeknown to most of the other cars in the watching scrum, a second young male lion was approaching from behind them and went to join his brother but did not feed. I did some searching on the internet and found that the carcass had been there since at least 29th June, nearly 2 months before.
A more detailed description of the above incident is written up on the previous post. Follow the link; http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/08/do-elephants-grieve.html
The journey out of the park could not live up to the excitement that we had already experienced through the day, but H managed to get this picture of a Warthog doing his "Best in Show" pose.

Bird species 61;

Little Grebe 6, White-breasted Cormorant 6,Long-tailed Cormorants 15, African Darter 3, Grey heron 2, Great Egret 1, Little Egret 1, Striated Heron 2, Sacred Ibis 1, Hadada Ibis 1, African Spoonbill 12, Egyptian Goose 5, Black-shouldered Kite 3, African Fish Eagle 1, Black-breasted Snake Eagle 1, Crested Francolin 5, Natal Francolin 15, Swainson’s Francolin 8, Helmeted Guineafowl 40, Blacksmith Lapwing 5, Crowned Lapwing 6, Caspian Tern 1, Speckled Pigeon 6, Red-eyed Dove 5, Ring-necked Dove 12, Laughing Dove 10, Grey Lourie 4, Burchell’s Coucal 1, African Palm Swift 10, Red-faced Mousebird 4, Brown-headed Kingfisher 2, Malachite Kingfisher 2, Pied Kingfisher 15, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill 1, Crested Barbet 1, Black-collared Barbet 2,Rufous-naped Lark 1, Namaqua Clapper Lark 1, Pearl-breasted Swallow 1, Lesser-striped Swallow 25, Cape Wagtail 3, Common Bulbul 35, Olive Thrush 1, Groundscraper Thrush 1, Mocking Cliff-chat 1, White-throated Robin-chat 1, White-browed Scrub-robin 4, Familiar Chat 4, Capped Wheatear 5, Tawny-flanked Prinia 2, Mariqua Flycatcher 15, Chinspot Batis 1, Arrow-marked Babbler 4, Southern Boubou 1, Crimson-breasted Gonolek 3, Fork-tailed Drongo 20,Pied Crow 20, Cape Glossy Starling 10, Red-billed Ox-pecker 3, Southern Masked Weaver 6, Yellow-fronted Canary.

Mammal species; 19

Vervet Monkey 6, Baboon 35, Scrub Hare 1, Black-backed Jackal 3, Lion 2, Elephant 11, Zebra 100, White Rhinoceros 13, Warthog 12, Hippopotamus 18, Giraffe 30, Bushbuck 2, Greater Kudu 15, Waterbuck 20, Red Hartebeest 6, Gnu 800, Impala 250, Steenbuck 6, Springbuck 100.

Pilanesberg, Johannesberg, JNB, South Africa


For other Pilanesberg posts on Redgannet try the following;
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/08/do-elephants-grieve.html
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2009/06/delicious-dilemma.html (Marievale, Pilanesberg NP and Rietvlei Nature Reserve)

For more posts from Johannesburg,try these links;
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/08/moreletakloof-johannesburg-jnb.html (Moraletakloof)
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/08/tswaing-crater-johannesburg-jnb-south.html (Tswaing Crater)
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/03/zaagkuildrift-road-jnb-south-africa.html (Zaggkuildrift Road)
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2009/10/more-time-i-have-faster-it-goes.html ( Marievale, Dulstroom, Mount Sheba and Kruger NP)

There are other posts from South Africa here;
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/01/cape-town-specials.html (Cape Town, Heldeberg, Paarl, Sir Lowry's Pass and Betty's Bay)

Other posts from the great continent of Africa;
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/04/to-pish-or-not-to-pish-dire-warnings.html (Lekki Conservation centre, Lagos, Nigeria)
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/05/sheraton-hotel-lagos.html (Lagos, Nigeria)
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/05/millenium-park-abuja-nigeria.html (Millenium Park, Abuja, Nigeria)
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2009/03/my-trip-this-weekend-is-scheduled-to-be.html (Nigeria)
http://redgannet.blogspot.com/2010/01/even-bad-days-are-good.html (Achimota Forest, Labadi Beach, and Aburi Botanical Gardens, Accra, Ghana)

Dragonfly posts are available at;
http://redgannetsdragonflies.blogspot.com/2010/01/cape-town-south-africa.html (Cape Town)
http://redgannetsdragonflies.blogspot.com/2010/01/i-have-been-languishing-in-temperate.html (Accra, Ghana)
Bird species 61;

Little Grebe 6, White-breasted Cormorant 6,Long-tailed Cormorants 15, African Darter 3, Grey heron 2, Great Egret 1, Little Egret 1, Striated Heron 2, Sacred Ibis 1, Hadada Ibis 1, African Spoonbill 12, Egyptian Goose 5, Black-shouldered Kite 3, African Fish Eagle 1, Black-breasted Snake Eagle 1, Crested Francolin 5, Natal Francolin 15, Swainson’s Francolin 8, Helmeted Guineafowl 40, Blacksmith Lapwing 5, Crowned Lapwing 6, Caspian Tern 1, Speckled Pigeon 6, Red-eyed Dove 5, Ring-necked Dove 12, Laughing Dove 10, Grey Lourie 4, Burchell’s Coucal 1, African Palm Swift 10, Red-faced Mousebird 4, Brown-headed Kingfisher 2, Malachite Kingfisher 2, Pied Kingfisher 15, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill 1, Crested Barbet 1, Black-collared Barbet 2,Rufous-naped Lark 1, Namaqua Clapper Lark 1, Pearl-breasted Swallow 1, Lesser-striped Swallow 25, Cape Wagtail 3, Common Bulbul 35, Olive Thrush 1, Groundscraper Thrush 1, Mocking Cliff-chat 1, White-throated Robin-chat 1, White-browed Scrub-robin 4, Familiar Chat 4, Capped Wheatear 5, Tawny-flanked Prinia 2, Mariqua Flycatcher 15, Chinspot Batis 1, Arrow-marked Babbler 4, Southern Boubou 1, Crimson-breasted Gonolek 3, Fork-tailed Drongo 20,Pied Crow 20, Cape Glossy Starling 10, Red-billed Ox-pecker 3, Southern Masked Weaver 6, Yellow-fronted Canary.

Mammal species; 19

Vervet Monkey 6, Baboon 35, Scrub Hare 1, Black-backed Jackal 3, Lion 2, Elephant 11, Zebra 100, White Rhinoceros 13, Warthog 12, Hippopotamus 18, Giraffe 30, Bushbuck 2, Greater Kudu 15, Waterbuck 20, Red Hartebeest 6, Gnu 800, Impala 250, Steenbuck 6, Springbuck 100.

Pilanesberg, Johannesberg, JNB, South Africa