Sunday 7 July 2013

Pilanesberg NP Part 1, Johannesberg, South Africa, June 2013

I am having trouble with Blogger and wonder if the original Pilanesberg post is too big. Is anyone else having trouble editing their posts so that the published post resembles the draft version? Anyway, I have cut it into two parts hoping that the text and photos can live together in harmony rather than trying to push each other off the page.

This is Part One.
Part Two can be found here and includes the bit about the Leopard and the baby Elephant.

“I adore Pilanesberg National Park”. There, I’ve said it.

This visit gave me even more to wax lyrical about. As if more than 500 square kilometres of acacia scrub, rocky, rolling hillsides, kopjes, dams and grassland, aren’t enough, today I broke my Leopard jinx and found my first Pilanesberg Panther. It was not the greatest leopard sighting ever, but I let out an involuntary whoop and perhaps just a bit of wee.

It was a great day all round with 6 separate Elephant sightings including a tiny week-old calf, very close encounters with White Rhinos and a glorious morning spent at the hide at Mankwe Dam.

I arrived at the park’s southern Bakubung Gate (Google Earth ref; 525 20 22.36S 27 3 48.50E), completed the formalities by 06.45 and headed straight up the main tarmac road that passes through the park and exits at the Bakgatla Gate in the northeast.

The light was still very low, but the sun just began to light the tops of the mountains as I stopped to look at the first dam on the left. Many Sacred Ibis had roosted here over night and were just beginning to stir. Yellow-billed Ducks and African Black Ducks made a quick circuit before skimming back onto the water. My first mammal of the day was a young Kudu.

I was surprised by how common the Grey Lourie (or Go-away-bird) was this visit. They seemed to be a constant presence and this one set the standard for a morning of very close approaches.

As I stopped to check my favourite kopje for leopards, a Glossy Starling dropped into the bush beside me and began gorging itself on the berries.

No leopards yet, but just around the corner were a pair of White Rhinos that taxed the minimum focus range of my camera. They were accompanied by a couple of Red-billed Oxpeckers and a Fork-tailed Drongo which will make a separate post for in the near future.

It was breath-taking to hear them chomping on the dry grass and snorting when a stiff stalk poked the sensitive membranes up a nostril.

I had turned off the main road and was headed down towards the hide on Mankwe Dam. A tiny Cardinal Woodpecker flushed from a roadside snag as a Steenbok watched from close by.

The hide was alive this morning. Three species of Kingfishers, African Snipe, Jacana and Three-banded Plover were seen before I even reached the entrance.

From inside the hide I was able to watch the African Spoonbill as it scythed through the water, the shallows allowed me to watch the African Darter going about its business underwater and the African Snipe had come closer in to make a better subject.

Where to put all the photos?

Did I mention the Kingfishers yet?

Malachite Kingfishers ambushed their prey from low perches amongst the reeds.

Pied Kingfishers hovered above their target, but rested on open snags until they spotted a potential meal.

There was so much going on that I was very reluctant to leave and barely made it to the car park before the Arrow-marked Babblers caught my attention.

Part Two can be found here and includes the bit about the Leopard and the baby Elephant. 

Birds seen; 78

Ostrich 1, White-faced Whistling Duck 4, Egyptian Goose 8, Spur-winged Goose 3, African Black Duck 5, Yellow-billed Duck 2, Helmeted Guineafowl 12, Crested Francolin 20, Natal Francolin 8, Little Grebe 25, White-breasted Cormorant 20, Long-tailed Cormorant 10, African Darter 4, Hamerkop 1, Grey Heron 3, Great Egret 1, Little Egret 1, Sacred Ibis 200, African Spoonbill 1, Osprey 1, African Fish-Eagle 3, Brown Snake-Eagle 1, Verreaux’s Eagle 3, Black Crake 2, Blacksmith Plover 10, Three-banded Plover 7, Black-winged Stilt 3, African Jacana 1, African Snipe 2, Red-eyed Dove 15, Ring-necked Dove 6, Laughing Dove 4, Grey Go-away-bird 35, African Palm-swift 2, Red-faced Mousebird 20, Malachite Kingfisher 2, Giant Kingfisher 1, Pied Kingfisher 7, Lilac-breasted Roller 2, Eurasian Hoopoe 1, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill 2, Black-collared Hornbill 1, Cardinal Woodpecker 1, Crimson-breasted Gonolek 2, Fork-tailed Drongo 6, Pied Crow 5, Sabota Lark 5, Pearl-breasted Swallow 5, Common Bulbul 40, Rock-loving Cisticola 2, Tawny-flanked Prinia 2, Rufous-vented Warbler 4, Arrow-marked Babbler 7, Marico Flycatcher 7, Kalahari Scrub-robin 3, Red-backed Scrub-robin 3, White-throated Robin-chat 5, White-browed Robin-chat 3, Stonechat 2, Familiar Chat 2, Capped Wheatear 1, Groundscraper Thrush 1, Kurrichane Thrush 3, Common Myna 2, Cape Glossy Starling 15, Red-billed Oxpecker 8, Cape Wagtail 6, African Pied Wagtail 1, African Pipit 1, Golden-breasted Bunting 5, Yellow-fronted Canary 25, Cape Sparrow 15, African Petronia 1,  Southern Grey-headed Sparrow 4, Village Weaver 5, Common Waxbill 20, Blue-breasted Cordonbleu 6, Green-winged Pytilia 1.

Mammals seen;

African Elephant, White Rhinoceros, Leopard, Brindled Wildebeeste, Impala, Zebra, Steenbok, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Springbok, Black-tipped Mongoose, Baboon, Warthog, Ground Squirrel, Dassie, Reedbuck, Waterbuck, Eland, Kudu, Mountain Reedbuck.

For previous posts from Pilanesberg, follow the links below;

Visit the dedicated Africa Page for more from South Africa, Including; Mount Sheba and Kruger NP.

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