July 18: The Super-Jackals are Making Shoes Now…

Before the night drive, the camp was buzzing with news of four cheetahs who’d just tried to bring down a wildebeest at the hide.  Later when I went down to see if they were still around, the hide was packed, but no cheetahs. I decided to walk along the perimeter fence to see if I could find them elsewhere. And it worked! Their presence given away by a Tawny Eagle rudely staring directly at them. The four cheetahs were perched on a dune crest.  It’s always so fun to have great sightings right in camp!

Tonight there was a night drive and it started with one guest getting a glimpse of one of the  four cheetahs just outside the camp’s gate. The tracks in the road confirmed what she saw. But of ten people on the drive, just one can add ‘cheetah’ to their list.

Tonight we were tracking lions all over the place. Over the course of the night we followed six different sets of tracks- all of which were extra crispy and fresh.  I love the feeling of following fresh tracks!

Have I ever mentioned how smart Jackals are? They’re smart. They’ve even been coined ‘Super-Jackals’ by the farming community because of their ability to avoid traps and problem solve. And I think that the jackals have started walking around wearing little ‘lion shoes’ to throw us all off. Despite all of the tracks, there were no lions anywhere. But lots of jackals.

Sightings:

Cheetah (for one of us)
Brown Hyena
Eland
African Wild Cat
Gemsbok
Springbok
Wildbeest
Springhare
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Cape Fox
Spotted Eagle Owl
Barn Owl

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July 16: Glowy Golden Cheetahs at First Light

I was sent out to my favourite camp again, so it was up early today for the long drive north. Before the sun rose, we found a lovely Brown Hyena in the road. I absolutely love those few hours in the Kalahari before the sun comes up.

Once the sun was up, we had an incredible sighting of two cheetahs by the roadside. I quickly reached for my camera, because the scene was a photographers dream. Perhaps for the first time i’d snap something that didn’t have to be tampered with to make it look acceptable!

The cheetahs sat like statues, with the glowly golden sun shimmering goldenly on their golden coats of gold, in the golden morning light.  Description has never been my strongpoint. The cheetahs looked all shiny. When we approached, they quietly  lowered themselves and stalked off into the grass and I slipped my camera away before I had the chance to use it. I couldn’t bring myself to spoil the moment.

And after all those incredible sightings, what did I bring out the camera for? This terrible photo of some Springbokkies. Love.

Sightings:

Eland
Brown Hyena
Cheetah
African Wild Cat
Jackal
Ostrich
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Kori Bustard
Spotted Eagle Owl

June 19: Cheetahs, Kills and Ethics

Photobucket

A Kalahari Cheetah. Not tonight’s Kalahari Cheetah. Some other Kalahari Cheetah.

And the trend for ‘strange’ continues in the Kalahari. Tonight’s sunset drive left me in awe again.

The much anticipated snow never came, but it rained in its place. And it rained on the sunset drive tonight. Quite a lot. And there was thunder. And in these conditions, there were things we’d never expect to see…

On our way home we stopped to watch a jackal. By this time it was completely dark. No moon, no stars, just dark and rain and thunder.  Good weather for jackals. Not good weather for much else. And yet moving the spotlight a few meters to the right of the jackal as we were about to leave, revealed a cheetah. A cheetah panting over a freshly killed springbok.

And while this is one of the very coolest spectacles in nature, it’s here you have to shout ‘lights off!

Cheetahs are active by day. They hunt during the day too. And there’s a good reason for this. In the light, there aren’t so many other predators walking about. Kalahari cheetahs   can lose as many as half of their kills to other predators. Brown Hyenas are one of their biggest bullies. And the night is when the Brown Hyena is on the prowl for a free meal. There’s no freer meal than a dead springbok guarded by lone cheetah struggling for breath in the darkness.

Tonight’s cheetah took countless risks and did what few cheetahs are ever prepared to do.  The least we could do was turn off the light and give it some dark. Any predator anywhere nearby wouldn’t hesitate to take the kill away- or worse. In a situation like this, ethics must always come first, even if it means missing out on a big cat sighting. We couldn’t give away the cheetah’s vulnerable position. After i’d taken ten minutes to explain all of this and more to my guests (and they all agreed about the ethical bit- hooray), we had a quick scan with a dimmed light to see if the cat was still there. Fortunately, it had dragged the springbok into a dip and long disappeared. I hope more than anything that it got the meal it deserved.

The last few days have been full of so many unexpected surprises from animals that haven’t bothered to read the mammal behaviour books. So what’s next….?

Sightings:

Cheetah
Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Springbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Scaly Feathered Finch
Spotted Eagle Owl
Dikkop

May 17 to May 19: The sightings

May 17th Today I drove north to work up at another camp for the weekend.  I always love the drive up there and today, as usual, it was stunning! In 170 kms there were some lovely moments. Among them… Four cheetahs who happened to cross a road right in front of me. A good reminder that I live in one of the most privileged places on the planet. My ‘traffic’ on the way to work was a cheetah who didn’t want to leave the road. Three separate Slender Mongoose sightings today! The Slender Mongoose is one of those special little sightings – you do see them, but it won’t be often. They’re seriously shy. And they’re the colour of milk chocolate when it melts in the sun. Love. A group of 33 Ostriches too! Most were young ones, but nearly full grown. It was quite the sight and I got to see all of their footprints in the sand. There’s no weirder footprint out here than an ostrich. But if you want to talk about weird, forget their footprint and start talking about the sound they make. I also saw the first Double Banded Coursers i’ve seen during the day. This weekend i’ll be on the lookout for the Emerald Spotted Wood Doves that have been spotted up here in the last week. I love it when birds show up in places they aren’t supposed to be. Wood Doves tend to give themselves away with their very distinctive call (sounds a little like doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo….), so fingers crossed! May 18thMy favourite thing to do when i’m up here is sit at the hide. And my favourite thing to watch at the hide are Wildebeest. You haven’t lived until you’ve watched them try to drink. I say ‘try to drink’ because rather than treat the waterhole like the small, safe concrete trough that it is, they treat it like a crocodile infested swamp down a dark, dodgy alley.  You just want to shout ‘It’s OKAY!’ at them as they edge closer and closer to the waterhole.  They try approaching from every possible angle over the course of an hour, only to be scattered by the slightest grasshopper or butterfly.  It’s frustrating for me so I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for them.  You can actually see their thirst. In the end, there are always a few who haven’t got their drink and need to wait for the next episode. And in a few hours, it happens all over again…

Trying to drink…

May 18 Night Drive I couldn’t describe how eager I was to get out tonight! It’s been a whole week since I last took a drive. Holidays are nice, but i’m ever so thankful to be back at ‘work’… The night is absolutely beautiful. It’s not too cold yet and there’s no moon, so the stars are shocking. This must be one of the best places in the world to stare up and gawk at the sky. Using the star program on my computer, I learned that there’s a whole section of sky where all the stars are abbreviated to ‘Boo’. There’s ‘G Boo’, ‘k Boo’, ‘BY Boo’, ‘v2 Boo’ and countless others. Whatever symbol you can put before ‘Boo’, they’ve thought of it. I like that. ‘Boo’ in this case is short for ‘Bootes’ which is a constellation, but I wish I didn’t know that. The wildlife was great tonight too. Three good sightings of African Wild Cat but the big event of the night was meeting two gigantic porcupines in the road. What I love most about porcupine sightings is that once they’ve left the road and disappeared into the grass, you can still hear them for a very long time. Porcupines just cannot move silently through the bush. That can’t be healthy for them. Tonight’s sightings: Bat Eared Fox Jackal Cape Fox Porcupine African Wild Cat Kori Bustard Springhare Scrubhare Springbok Gemsbok Spotted Eagle Owl Verreaux’s Eagle Owl Southern White Faced Scops Owl May 19th Sunset Drive Tonight was a little on the quiet side, but again, it was a seriously beautiful night and I was so happy to be a part of it. The sighting of the day was when a Gemsbok and Wildebeest decided they didn’t like each other anymore and had a head-bashing session with one another! There didn’t seem to be any hard feelings, because afterwards they wandered off into the sunset together. Tonight’s sightings Bat Eared Fox Jackal Springhare Wildebeest Gemsbok Springbok Red Hartebeest Spotted Eagle Owl Ostrich Kori Bustard Secretary Bird