July 6: Some Cute Little People Meet Some Cute Little Animals

This week i’ve found myself doing a few new and different things in the Kalahari! With school holidays on, i’ve been running a series of ‘Movie Nights’. They’ve been really fun and have been pretty popular too. Interesting to see some of the things that have been filmed here…

But this morning I took a very special drive… I got to take some local school children on a mini-safari! Love. Fortunately for them, I only did the driving while some highly talented others did the speaking. Although a truck full of kids might have really enjoyed me trying to pronounce things like ‘Bleeksingvalk’ or ‘Kameeldoring’.

In preparation for their safari, the kids had watched the Lion King and had each made some extremely snazzy binoculars. I particularly loved this girl’s binoculars because they had pink-polka dots on them. Swarovski would be good to take note of this. I would be first in line to buy pink polka-dot binoculars.  The other kids had equally fabulous binoculars in all sorts of colours and patterns. It made me want to buy crayons.

Watching wildebeest with Pink Polka-Dot Binoculars

The drive was lovely, and as if nature knew that there were tiny people on the truck, it gave us some tiny animals too, starting with this young Steenbokkie:

Young Steenbok

You can tell this one is a young male, because of his short little horns. A grown-up Steenbok’s horns can be as long as 20cm! Not bad for the Kalahari’s smallest antelope. The Steenbok is also one of the only antelopes here where the girls don’t have to have horns. Because they spend so much time close to cover, and they’re small enough to duck under a Three Thorn bush, there’s less need to defend themselves. Most of the other antelopes here (exception: Kudu) need both the males and the females to have horns because of the open, arid landscape.  Girls have to stand up for themselves in the Kalahari…

We also found a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl sitting on its nest, which in turn was on top of a Sociable Weaver’s nest! These owls will often nest on top of a Sociable Weaver nest. It’s a ready-made and secure platform, and because the Weaver’s nest is usually pretty warm in winter, it’s like having underfloor heating. It sounds like an ideal place to set up home, but Sociable Weavers never shut up. Ever. No thanks.

One of the kids with astonishing eyesight pointed out this little Pale Chanting Goshawk, camouflaged up in a tree. This young bird throws a lot of visitors to the Kalahari because it looks absolutely nothing like the adult form. I get asked about it a lot! Not helping matters, most bird books don’t show the juvenile. The real giveaway is the bright orange ‘spray tan’ legs.

Juvenile Pale Chanting Goshawk

Another surprise… a baby Gemsbok! Okay, not the youngest, but a special sight anyway. You’re very unlikely to ever find a newborn Gemsbok, because mom hides it in a secret place for the first 6 weeks. To help, it’s a lovely brown colour which lets it blend in to the Kalahari’s red sand. The one we saw still had a ridiculously cute covering of brown fuzz.

Fuzzy baby on the left…

At the waterhole, we saw a small ostrich family- Mom, Dad and just one baby. Only one left. Small ostriches are relatively easy meals in the Kalahari, if you can get it past mom and dad, who’ll usually try to lead predators away by doing a really silly (but apparently irresistible) ‘broken wing’ dance. And then there’s the ostriches kicking ability, which has killed grown men. But whatever happened, this sweet little family was down to one.

A brilliant drive and it was such a privilege to be a part of it…

When I got out to circle some Hyena tracks…

Sightings:

Springbok
Gemsbok
Wildebeest
Steenbok
Lined Mouse
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Ostrich
Sociable Weaver
Violet-Eared Waxbill
Kori Bustard

Advertisements