August 10: Happy Lions of the Kalahari

Tonight’s sunset drive guests wanted to see lions. Only lions. In fact, they even told us to drive by absolutely everything else. They were only here to see lions.

So it was settled. We’d travel far and we’d travel fast to reach a place where lions have been spotted this past week. The guests buzzed (loudly) with excitement (and vodka), telling each other that their guides were taking them to the ‘lion camp’. Not so much. If only the Kalahari really had a ‘lion camp’. But it doesn’t. And the truth is I actually see lions very, very rarely on my game drives. I wasn’t hopeful.

Speeding past some of the Kalahari’s most delightful animals wasn’t easy. I usually make a tremendous effort to ‘convert’ guests (especially the lion fans) to the small and exciting little animals that give this place its charm. But part of a guide’s job is to recognize when people can’t be converted. Tonight we were driving for lions and nothing but lions.

That’s why I was shocked to find lions tonight. It never works out that way.

The first lion started out as an odd looking clump of grass on the ridge to the right of us. It’s a miracle we even stopped to investigate! We watched him slowly make his way down the ridge towards us and the waterhole.

Big lion. Bigger yawn.

Kalahari lions are better than cookies. Fact.

As we moved forward to stay with him, we caught sight of a second, blonder lion much closer on our left! The two big males had noticed each other too and set their courses to intercept.

On his way to see his brother…

What followed was undoubtedly the most fabulous lion encounter i’ve ever witnessed! Even cookies couldn’t have made it better. Upon seeing his brother, the ridge lion broke into an excited gallop and the two eventually crashed into each other. They proceeded to rub and nuzzle one another, before dropping to the ground and doing little dances of happiness. Both looked completely overjoyed and I don’t think i’ve ever seen glee so evident in any animal.

Love.

I don’t know if they last saw each other a year ago or a minute ago, but they were absolutely thrilled to see each other now. They reminded me of my little Jack Russell, Matilda. Every time she sees us, it’s like we’ve been away for years (in my case it’s usually because i’ve actually been away for years). That’s love. And these lions had it too. The whole world should be like that. Love. Love and cookies and lions.

It was an incredibly special sighting and a sweet memory i’ll get to take away from the Kalahari.

Does it get much better than this?

Made sweeter by how short-lived it was. As the brothers were still getting stuck into their super-cute greeting ceremony, the voices behind us demanded to move on. “We want to go now. Take us to see the cheetahs”.

*sigh*

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Lion

And the ones we didn’t stop for…

Cape Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
African Wild Cat
Springhare
Scrubhare
Eland
Gemsbok
Ostrich
Wildebeest
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Kori Bustard
Spotted Eagle Owl
Steenbok

August 5: Can You Top an Aardwolf Sighting? The Kalahari certainly tried…

Yesterday I saw an Aardwolf. How do you top that? Tonight the Kalahari tried its hardest and sent in some of its biggest players. Did they beat the Aardwolf? Not quite…

…But tonight I had the best leopard sighting of my life. We watched as a huge male leopard (called ‘Oscar’, apparently) drank at a waterhole and sniffed around looking for girls. Unlike most leopards, he was totally relaxed and stayed close to us as he tried his hardest to pick up any traces of girl-leopards nearby.

Boldly ignoring the ‘no-entry’ sign…


Drinking…


Sniffing around…


This funny face is called the Flehmen Response. Only done when looking for girls…

My favourite part of the encounter was when a tiny Cape Fox noticed it was just feet away from the Kalahari’s biggest leopard. At first it froze. Then it started looking to the leopard and then looking over its shoulder, as if trying to see if there was any backup around. After much consideration, the little fox began to alarm call. Watching such a teeny little animal trying to intimidate such a big one is pretty priceless and seriously cute. Clearly noting the the leopard was looking for girls and not snacks, it eventually trotted away.

And around the next corner… mating Brown Hyenas. If you know anything about these ridiculously secretive animals, you’ll understand how impossibly cool this sighting was.

And we also saw an Eland. And lots of other Elands.

Love Kalahari!

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Leopard
Brown Hyena
Eland
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Springbok
Gemsbok
Spotted Eagle Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Tawny Eagle
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Ant-Eating Chat
Fawn Coloured Lark
Fiscal Shrike
Sociable Weaver
Kalahari Scrub Robin
Black Chested Prinia

August 7-9: The Camera-Less Days…

I haven’t actually taken any photos for days now…

…So here’s a random photo I took months and months ago when everything was still warm and the plants were all green and alive. Good times.

Rainbow Buggie

August 7: How to be Really Warm on a Really Cold Game Drive

While the rest of South Africa advertised to the rest of South Africa that they’d had some degree of snowfall today, the Kalahari froze. We didn’t get snow. It just froze. Earlier in the day I said goodbye to my special little Kalahari house and moved to a whole new one. I was delighted to find a cozy corner of the new garden shielded from the icy wind and bathed in hot hot sunlight.  So proud was I of my little patch of summer that I sat there and allowed myself to cook for very many hours.

The resulting sunburn on my face meant that while my poor guests froze tonight, I was very hot. So hot that I spent much of the drive fantasizing about putting my face into a bowl of snow. If only we had snow. But we didn’t.

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Eland
African Wild Cat
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Giant Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Kori Bustard
Dikkop
Gabar Goshawk
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Red Necked Falcon
Tawny Eagle

August 8: Welcome to LOGFAAN

So much positive energy flowing tonight! Guiding people on safari is a two-way thing. A game drive can only be as good as a guests attitude. The people I took out on this evening’s sunset drive would have made it magical if we’d seen nothing more than 23 specks of dust and a Camel Thorn pod.

But good things often come to good people and our sightings tonight were wonderful. We managed to see ‘Oscar’ the leopard again, but he was far far away. This didn’t matter to my guests, who’d seen their very first leopard. And with that, they joined the exclusive ‘LOGFAAN’ society reserved only for those who’ve see a leopard-on-ground-far-away-at-night.

While pulled over watching the stars, we got talking about Men in Black (the movie, not some people wearing black) and there’s a cat in the movie with a entire universe contained in its collar. But it’s entirely plausible. We and everything we know could be stuck in a cat’s collar. Love.

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Porcupine
Leopard
Eland
Jackal
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
African Wild Cat
Scrub Hare
Springhare
Wildebeest
Springbok
Gemsbok
Spotted Eagle Owl
Giant Eagle Owl

August 9: Springhares Might be Robots

It was a night for the little things… and there were so many of them… including two separate Polecat sightings!

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Polecat
Small Spotted Genet
Eland
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Steenbok
Springbok
Springhare
Scrubhare
Wildebeest
Ostrich
Gemsbok
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Giant Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl

The night drive was considerably colder and after the first half and hour, we saw nothing but Springhares. Springhares don’t seem to be affected by the cold. I have many theories for this, but i’m leaning towards the one where all springhares are actually little robots. Have you ever noticed how there’s never anything going on behind a Springhare’s eyes? Robots. Must be. I’ll look into it.

Night Drive Sightings:

Spotted Hyena
Cape Fox
Springhare
Springbok
Spotted Eagle Owl
Gemsbok

August 4: “AAAAAAAAARDWOOOOOOOLF!” *deep breath* “AAAAAAAARDWOOOOOLF!”

I try as often as possible to tell people on my drives that aardwolf’s eat 300,000 termites each night. Because I never see aardwolfs, I have to find other ways to sneak in the little fact I love so dearly…

…“Bat Eared Foxes eat termites, but not as many as an Aarwolf does! An aardwolf eats 300,000 in one night”…

… “See this Brown Hyena? It’s kind of like a big Aardwolf, except it’s not at all and Brown Hyenas don’t eat termites, but Aardwolfs will eat 300,000 in one night!”

…“The African Wild Cat has distinctive stripes on it’s legs. You know what else is stripey? An Aardwolf. And Aardwolfs will eat 300,000 termites in one night!”…

Tonight, I got to tell my guests that “Aardwolfs will eat 300,000 termites in one night!”, except this time, an actual Aardwolf heard me say it. Cool? Very.

The drive hadn’t gone tremendously well to that point. While we’d seen a huge variety of nocturnal goodies (see epic list below), we’d also driven far afield in search of lions who weren’t there and my guests had disagreed with me at a Wild Cat sighting, insisting it was rather a leopard. They’re still convinced.

As I was starting to let my mind wander to the peanut butter cookies in my kitchen, I casually glanced to my right. And there was an aardwolf. Right there. Just meters from the truck, and staring back at me with a face i’ve only ever seen in mammal books.

I won’t go into my exact reaction. It involved a lot of gasping and squeaking. I told my guests that this was my first ever Aarwolf sighting and that they were lucky enough to see one of Africa’s lesser-seen safari stars. And of course I told them about the 300,000 termites. There were smiles all around, but I suspect they were more in response to my reaction, which progressed from gasping and squeaking to hand clapping and jumping up and down in my seat as the reality of the situation sunk in.

Seeing something new is always such a rush. Technically speaking, i’ve had two aardwolf sightings before this one. My most recent was by the side of the road as the truck I was in sped by at 140km/h, leaving me thinking, “goodness me, was that an aardwolf?”. My first sighting was on my field guiding course. I remember feeling like my life was complete, that I could die now that i’d seen an aardwolf. Perhaps a tad dramatic, but the feeling was indescribable. Only when we got back to camp did our photos prove the ‘aardwolf’ was in fact a Bat Eared Fox. But never mind, i’d still had the experience of seeing an aardwolf.

So tonight was extra special. You never even hear about aardwolf sightings in this part of the Kalahari. Everyone knows they’re here, but they’re a little like pangolins and black-footed cats– kind of mythical.

An unforgettable night.

Did I photograph tonight’s aardwolf? Noooo… but I do have a grainy 3 second video of a blurry blob moving up a sand dune. I did photograph this Spotted Hyena half an hour later, another animal I hardly ever get to see in the Kalahari.

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Aardwolf
Spotted Hyena
Eland
Small Spotted Genet
African WIld Cat
Cape Fox
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Springbok
Wildbeest
Gemsbok
Ostrich
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Tawny Eagle
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Kori Bustard

The night drive was rather more sedate with less squeaking and hand clapping. The highlight of the drive was a Spotted Hyena just as we came in through the gate. Love that feeling of hopping back into the truck after locking the gate behind me, only to find that a large predator had been watching all along.

Night Drive Sightings:

Spotted Hyena
Eland
African Wild Cat
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Springhare
Scrubhare
Steenbok
Gemsbok
Spotted Eagle Owl

August 2: My ‘Welcome Home’ was a tree full of Hornbills….

After two weeks away from the Kalahari i’m home! And the best sighting on tonight’s sunset drive, happened before I pulled out of the parking area. A tree full of Yellow-Billed Hornbills! Joy. Love. Cookies. It felt a little like a Kalahari welcoming party, even if they were just there to scope out all the hottest food joints.

A Whole Tree Full of Hornbills. Love.

Hornbills don’t have a brood-patch. Most birds have got a special fluffy bit of feathers on their chests to help them to incubate their children when they’re still eggs. It’s called a ‘brood-patch’. Hornbills don’t have one. I already said that.

Instead of a brood patch, a mother Hornbill will pluck nearly every feather from her body to make a warm soft duvet for her eggies. But you can’t just sit down in the middle of the street and pull out all your feathers. It would be both freezing and embarrassing. So mom and dad Hornbill first choose a suitable hole in a tree. Then mom goes inside. Then dad rushes away to find mud so he can totally wall her into her little hole. She’s allowed a tiny hole somewhere in the mud-wall where dad can drop off an occasional snack. But it’s only big enough to deliver little things like worms and seeds, nothing awesome like cheeseburgers or quiche, which dad secretly gorges on while he’s away.

Photographic evidence obtained from Tshokwane Picnic Spot: what dads do when their family is locked away in a dark dark tree.

Eventually, the kids are born and kept warm by feather-less mom’s discarded feathers. It takes weeks and weeks for her feathers to grow back. When dad is finally satisfied that his wife and children are presentable enough to leave their tree-hole, he comes and breaks the wall down. It’s amazing Hornbills survive at all, given all the opportunities for serious error in their breeding plan.

Then there was the rest of the sunset drive. We saw a lot of Eland trying to dream their way over the camp fence and 932 Bat Eared Foxes.

Oooh there’s too much Amarula in my hot chocolate tonight…

Sightings:

Kudu
Eland
African Wild Cat
Black Backed Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Springhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildbeest
Gemsbok
Spotted Eagle Owl
Giant Eagle Owl
Dikkop
Tawny Eagle
Yellow Hornbill
Fiscal Shrike
Kori Bustard
Striped Mouse

July 17: Grass-Eating Vampires

 For some reason, everything seemed to be afraid of the dark tonight. Almost all of our sunset drive sightings happened before the sun went down, with the exception of our only Springhare. A Springhare wouldn’t be caught dead in sunlight. They’re like the vampires of the rodent world. Except they eat grass. Not like those vampires who call themselves ‘vegetarians’ because they only eat bears and wolves and not people. And Springhares don’t sparkle in the sun. At least I think they don’t, but then i’ve never seen one in the day, because they don’t come out in the day. Hence the point i’m trying to make. (I may have spent the day watching those ‘Twilight’ films for the first time. I’m not proud of it. They weren’t good and they’ve affected my thought processes.)

It’s so hard these days to find new birds to add to my terribly dorkish Kalahari bird list. But today I got two new birds, and both in the same tree! While i’ve seen plenty of Gymnogenes elsewhere, i’d not seen one here before. My other new bird was the Grey Hornbill.They’ve been taunting me for months with their call, but tonight I finally got to see one. Love.

Not even slightly a Gymnogene…

Note: A few days later and upon closer Inspection, I find my Gymnogene to be rather a Brown Snake Eagle. In my defense, it was far away. So no Gynogenes for me.

Sightings:

Gymnogene (except it was a Brown Snake Eagle)
African Grey Hornbill
Eland
African Wild Cat
Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Steenbok
Striped Mouse
Springhare
Springbok
Gemsbok
Wildebeest
Spotted Eagle Owl
Tawny Eagle
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Black Harrier
Black Chested Prinia

July 16: Yummy Chunks of Wildebeest

A really fun sunset drive tonight with wonderful guests. It was exciting to see both Kudu and Eland! 

Kudus at sunset

We were also lucky to find a huge female lion with a rather large chunk of wildebeest. She paid no attention to the circling jackals who periodically dove in and stole smaller chunks of the bigger chunk. This particular female lion (did I mention I can’t stand the word ‘lioness’?) seems to have been on her own for a while now, and we don’t know why. Lions have complicated families, just like we do. They disagree and fight and break up and make up, just like we do. I like this girl because she’s strong and making it on her own. And she had a great big chunk of Wildebeest to prove it.

Incredibly, not a single Springhare to be seen tonight! The sky is falling.

Sightings:

Lion
Kudu
Eland
African Wild Cat
Gemsbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Bat Eared Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Bateleur
Secretary Bird
Kori Bustard
Lanner Falcon
Red Necked Falcon
Barn Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl

July 15: Arguments With Owlists

A Sunset drive tonight with more high quality sightings. The kind where the animals are up close and doing things. Tonight was all about the owls. Oddly, the only big Kalahari owl we missed out on was the Spotted Eagle Owl, which is by far the most common!

In the Kalahari, a lot of our Spotted Eagle Owls have orange eyes. This is a problem because Spotted Eagle Owls are supposed to have yellow eyes. It’s the easiest way to tell the difference between the Cape Eagle Owl (with it’s orange eyes) and the nearly identical Spotted Eagle Owl (with it’s yellow eyes). This had lead to more than a few arguments with serious birders on my drives, who insist we’re seeing Cape Eagle Owls. But actually, we’re seeing a rare ‘rufous morph’ of Spotted Eagle Owl– with orange eyes. But try telling the birders that.

Sightings:

Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Black Backed Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Steenbok
Springbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Springhare
Scrub Hare
Southern White Faced Scops Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Barn Owl

July 12: There’s No Shame in Calling Things ‘Cute’

 A delightful sunset drive tonight, with some high quality sightings and a wide variety of cool animals to look at. Just look at how long tonight’s sightings list is!

And I do hate to be such a girl about this, but the Kalahari is home to more impossibly ‘cute’ animals than anywhere else. Take tonight, when a cute Cape Fox started digging frantically in the sand, to create a cozy new bed for itself. You could actually see the bliss on it’s face when it snuggled down into its little bed. There’s nothing wrong with calling something ‘cute’, if it’s really very cute.

Also snapped a quick and blurry photo of a Black Backed Jackal trying to catch a scent. It was also rather cute.

A cute Jackal

And finally, this Spotted Eagle Owl. Not tremendously cute, but it was eating a mouse. The mouse would have been very cute once.

Not a cute owl, eating a once cute mouse

Did you know that Owls can lift their food up into their mouths with their feet? It’s very dignified and it beats just ripping it up with their faces, like raptors do. The only other birds who can do this are parrots.

Sightings (i’m still really into gestation periods):

Brown Hyena (Gestation 90 days)
Meerkat (65 days)
Slender Mongoose (63 days)
African Wild Cat (65 days)
Black Backed Jackal (60 days)
Cape Fox (56 days)
Bat Eared Fox (60 days)
Springhare (77 days)
Scrub Hare (42 days)
Steenbok (7 months)
Springbok (5.5 months)
Gemsbok (9 months)
Wildebeest (9 months)
Spotted Eagle Owl
Giant Eagle Owl
Gabar Goshawk
Tawny Eagle
Pale Chanting Goshawk

July 11: Can it Be? Did I Finally See a Lion?

I was really excited before tonight’s sunset drive. Like really, really excited. Word spread that there were lions back in our area, and i’d seen the camera trap images to proved it. Today they’d been roaring throughout the early hours of the morning. I slept through it, naturally. Fail. And while i’ve seen lions on my trips to other parts of the Kalahari, it’s been many months seen i’ve seen one at home. Tonight, I was going to find a lion.

We we lucky enough to find a herd of thirty Eland at a waterhole and while watching them in silence, we hear a lion roar. It wasn’t close, but it was enough to prompt me to turn the truck around and head out over the dunes in the direction we’d hear it calling from.

No luck with the lion. The road i’d hoped to find it on was quiet and trackless. Every so often i’d turn off the truck and listen, but we never heard it again.

Eventually we arrived back at the same waterhole where we’d seen our Eland and this time…. there were fresh lion tracks! It didn’t take long to spot the BIG blonde-maned lion on the road below. When we pulled up next to it, it languidly stood up and walked away, without a glance back.

Finally, I see a lion…

I moved to intercept him on the main road and when we did, we got to watch him scent marking and rubbing some Blue Bush by the roadside. Eventually he flopped down in the grass just feet from us.

It was fabulous. I think people think that as a guide, I see lions every day. I don’t. It’s a rare and special treat and not something that i’ll ever take for granted.

I left that gorgeous lion in his cozy patch of grass by the road. We were all pretty touched by the experience. I thought I might catch up with him again on the night drive later that night, but he had moved on. Love.

(So, I had spent the day studying my spiffy hand-made mammal gestation periods chart. I’m going to be the crazy girl who randomly knows everything’s gestation periods. It’ll be my party trick. If I ever get invited to a party again. Which I won’t. Because i’ll know everything’s gestation period.)

Sightings:

Lion (gestation 110 days)
Eland (9 months)
Cape Fox (56 days)
African WIild Cat (65 days)
Spring Hare (77 days)
Scrub Hare (42 days)
Steenbok (7 months)
Springbok (5.5 months)
Gemsbok (9 months)
Wildbeest (9 months)
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Kori Bustard
Dikkop

July 2: Bruised, Battered and Pronked

When guests are on a sunset drive and they see something of interest, there are a number of tactics they employ to get my attention. Most commonly used is the traditional ‘Stop!’, yelled just loud enough to get my attention, but not loud enough to alarm any animals. This is good. Then there’s the hushed ‘stop’, which by the time it’s reached the front of the truck has left an animal several hundred meters behind thinking it’s got away with it. This is not as good. Towards the more irritating end of the scale are the whistles and the hands banging on the side of the truck, but even that’s okay. Once, someone even yanked on my ponytail to draw my attention to a Jackal.

But tonight I came across two entirely new ways to alert a guide to a sighting! On the left side of the truck was a small boy who upon seeing anything, would begin a series of full-voiced violent screams. Eventually, with some gentle persuasion to be just a ‘little quieter to not scare the animals away’, he calmed. But much more interesting was the woman seated directly behind me. Instead of using her voice to get my attention, she used her hands… to hit me… anywhere she could reach… and not always lightly.

I soon learned to watch her spotlight closely and lunge forward out of reach whenever I saw something. And while i’m feeling a little battered tonight, i’m just happy that she was so darn excited to see animals. I’ve just never thought to add, ‘Oh and please don’t hit me’, to my pre-drive briefing.

insert default springbok image

But anyway, even with random violent outbursts, tonight was a great drive with a truck-load of great guests. Tonight’s gold star goes to the Springbok.  We watched as about 60 of them launched into a pronking session. I’ve never seen it on that scale before and it was mind-blowing. Pronking is when they pop up into the air with their legs straight out beneath them. It’s something unique and special to Springbok. Other antelopes can ‘stot’, but that isn’t as cool.

There are some good theories about Pronking and why they bother to do it. The most plausible is that it’s used as a big show of fitness, both to other Springbok and to predators who may be watching. Kind of like saying, ‘dude, look what I can do, it’s awesome and i’m awesome so don’t even bother trying to catch me’. The word ‘pronk’ literally means to ‘show off’ and ‘strut’.  And surely they also pronk simply because it’s fun. Being able to pronk must be like having a trampoline built into your shoes. Kind of like those ‘Moon Boots’, but way better.

Love Kalahari. Love trampolines.

Sightings:

Springbok
Ostrich
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Steenbok
Springhare
Scrub Hare
Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Yellow Mongoose
Northern Black Korhaan
Tawny Eagle
Spotted Eagle Owl

June 30: One Cheetah, One Brown Hyena and One Very Muddy Wildebeest

Tonight’s sunset drive was taken by our fabulous new student guide. She did a great job and had some rather insanely good luck with sightings too!

First up was the Brown Hyena that ran across the road in front of us.  I may have mentioned this before, but Brown Hyenas will travel as far as 40km in just one night searching for food. The fact that we see them at all is incredible.

Not posing for photos….

On the way back we were surprised to find a huge cheetah by the road! Yet another cheetah sighting at night and in the dark, where cheetahs aren’t supposed to be. We didn’t stay with her for long as she looked like she may have been on the lookout for a snack. And as we know, Kalahari cheetahs don’t bother to read the mammal books and often seem to hunt at night.  Even more interesting, is that here they’ll hunt hares and springhares as well as little antelopes.

Before the sun went down, I snapped a few photos from the passenger seat. I do love this bad photo of Ostriches taken into direct sunlight….

Ostriches

And who doesn’t love a muddy Wildebeest?  Here’s a new fact I learned last night: The Wildebeest’s extra long face is an adaptation to eating very short grasses. So even if your face is right to the ground, you can still watch out for predators. Their long face is also adapted to making them look funny (not ‘ugly’, funny). Try looking a wildebeest in the eye without smiling and giggling. Can’t be done.

Muddy, muddy Wildebeest…

Sunset Drive Sightings:

Cheetah
Brown Hyena
Black Backed Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Scrub Hare
Springhaas
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildebeest
Ostrich
Gemsbok
Yellow Mongoose
Kori Bustard
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Scaly Feathered Finch
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl

June 29: Not-a-Fox Facts

Both a sunset and a night drive in the Kalahari tonight. I shall be economical with my word count, as my fingers are too cold to type. I really shouldn’t have written all of that if I was trying to be economical. Or this. I should stop now. Or while i’m on a roll, here are some Bat Eared Fox Facts along with a photo of tonight’s star- a Bat Eared Fox.

Photobucket

Not a Fox.

Did you know…

A Bat Eared Fox can hear insects crawling around as deep as 30 centimeters below the surface? That’s why they have crazy-big ears.  Also, they’re primarily insectivores, rarely eating other mammals like mice. That said, I once explained this to guests on a night drive and a moment later, a Bat Eared Fox appears in the road carrying a big fat rat. Guide fail.

Oh, and a Bat Eared Fox isn’t actually a fox.

Sunset Drive sightings:

Small Spotted Genet
African Wild Cat
Cape Fox
Black Backed Jackal
ScrubHare
SpringHare
Springbok
Gemsbok
Wildebeest
Ostrich
Steenbok
Striped Mouse
Northern Black Korhaan
Barn Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Kori Bustard

Night Drive sightings:

Small Spotted Genet
Bat Eared Fox
African Wild Cat
Black Backed Jackal
Cape Fox
ScrubHare
Springhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Gemsbok
Wildebeest
Spotted Eagle Owl
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl

June 24: Starry, Starry Owls

Just back from one of those really uplifting sunset drives. Drives are rarely made good solely on the basis of their sightings. Drives are made good by the people you share them with.

I had two separate lion ‘tip-offs’ before the drive and shared these with my two guests. Each sighting was farther than i’d usually drive, but not out of the question, and I haven’t seen lions at ‘home’ now for a long time, so I was more than happy to make the effort. Five minutes into the drive, I knew that these weren’t people to rush off to a lion sighting. They were so content and captivated with the things around them. As a result, we spent a lot of time just parked and absorbing Kalahari. Plenty of good, intelligent questions and wonderful conversation too. Tonight was the sort of drive I wish I could do every night. Love.

We didn’t need lions. The owls were the big stars tonight (not as big as the actual stars, which were also big stars tonight). The Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl and Southern White Faced Scops Owl all delivered sightings of the highest quality. The memory I take with me from tonight is that of the Scops Owl’s eyes. They were so ridiculously orange! The only time i’ve ever seen orange that intense was last week when I bought a small bottle of orange flavoured ‘Drink-o-Pop’ from the camp shop. I was so taken with the luminous, rather toxic-looking artificial orange liquid that I took a photo of it. It took great courage to drink it. But it’s the only colour I can use to describe the Scops Owl’s eyes. I shall write to Roberts and make sure that they refer to the Scops Owl’s eyes as ‘Drink-o-Pop Orange’ in the 8th edition.

No camera can capture the true orangeness of ‘Drink-o-Pop’ Orange.

Sightings:

African Wild Cat
Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Springhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Ostrich
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Southern White Faced Scops Owl
Black Headed Heron

June 23: Any excuse to say “Wild Green Hair Tree” out loud…

The sightings tonight were fairly similar to the sightings last night, but it was considerably colder and we didn’t have the total abundance we’ve become used to. But it was a rather good introduction to Kalahari life for the new student guides who have just arrived. Having students on the truck tonight gave me an excuse to point out the stand of Wild Green Hair Trees on the sunset drive route. Any excuse to say ‘Wild Green Hair Tree’ out loud. Could there be any better name for a tree than ‘Wild Green Hair Tree?’. Never. I’m completely in love with Wild Green Hair Trees. If Wild Green Hair Tree was a person, he’d be awesome and live in a VW microbus somewhere and smile and wave at passers-by.

Sightings:

African Wild Cat
Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Cape Fox
Scrubhare
Springhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Ostrich
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Barn Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl

June 22: Rather Distracted on the Sunset Drive

Just back from a great sunset drive. To be honest, I spent much of the drive having big ideas and doing some serious brainstorming for a book i’d like to write. I’ve never really liked the word ‘brainstorming’. To say I was distracted tonight was an understatement. But fortunately I wasn’t actually driving or guiding this evening. Here are the sightings below:

Oooh wait! I took a photo of those owls…

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Verreaux’s Eagle Owls

And this sunset…

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Tonight’s sunset (kind of….)

Sightings:

African Wild Cat
Jackal
Bat Eared Fox
Scrubhare
Springhare
Springbok
Steenbok
Wildebeest
Gemsbok
Ostrich
Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
Barn Owl
Spotted Eagle Owl
Yellow Canary
Marico Flycatcher
Pale Chanting Goshawk
Kori Bustard
Tawny Eagle