Lower Sabie 8-9th December

Lower Sabie 8-9th December

Tuesday, 8th

Maybe as a hangover from yesterday’s high drama, both of us are drowsy and dopey as we go up the H4-1 main road to Skukuza at 4.30am. The weather is lovely with a gentle wind from the south and dappled sunlight. But for successful spotting one has to have one’s senses on high alert and this morning we are both not on form (where are you David?).

Perhaps this can give the opportunity to talk about the beautiful impala antelope – so common that it is mostly overlooked.

Early morning at Sunset Dam (My Library)

Of course there have been a deluge of lambs over the past three weeks. Impala ewes can delay the birth for up to a month depending on the rain and food conditions.

Lambs are weaned from their mothers at about five months of age and (incredibly) are capable to begin breeding themselves at 12 months of age. Whatever, they are pretty successful at populating the Park which of course is much appreciated by the leopards and cheetahs.

However, I do photograph a few birds of interest as we head along the H4-1 river road.

Our first brood of chicks seen – Crested Francolins

Paradise Whydah

Paradise Whydah
The immature White-backed Vulture is so much more handsome than his ugly parents

Beyond the Nwatimhiri Causeway we turn and head back to camp at the early hour of 8am.

European Bee-eater just returned from his migration
Tawny Eagle
Rattling Cisticola

We return to the excellent Mugg & Bean restaurant at midday followed by an early afternoon swim. So acclimatised are we that we regard today’s 35℃ as being quite cool. I personally love the summer months in Kruger. If only the rains would come as so much of Lower Sabie’s enjoyment come from the rich grasslands that are at present barren wastes. Which is why we are keeping close to the Sabie River.

This afternoon we drift up to the Lubyelubye rocks and just beyond sit and watch a fish eagle devouring a large barbel on the river bank. His catch was just too big to carry away in flight.

Back at Sunset Dam the wind has picked up from the east and with clouds covering the sun, conditions are just not right. The dam is actually quite full but this is as a result of them continually pumping water into it.

Great White Heron alighting on a hippo

We are determined to do better tomorrow.

Wednesday, 9th

Sunset Dam is at its best at sunrise but it must to clear, sunny and still giving a glassy surface. Today is such a day and we abort our Salitjie plans and sit at the dam. I am particularly keen to photograph the Giant Kingfisher and Fish Eagle catching fish.

There are no eagles about but a Male Giant Kingfisher arrives and perches on the nearby old, dead leadwood tree. Often these kingfishers score misses or catch little fish and have to keep trying until they can fill their stomachs. But with his very first attempt our boy catches a large fish – sufficient for one meal which means the end of further action from him today. And my photograph of him is disappointing – too far away and not pin sharp.

Disappointed, I busy myself with the usual fare.

Yellow-billed Stork which typically sticks out a wing to create a shadow which attracts fish.
Black-winged Stilt.
A young impala lamb full of the joys of youth
Grey Heron

After an hour or so we trundle up to the Lubyelubye Rocks, so attractive in the morning light.

We stop along the loops beyond the rocks and watch a pair of Saddlebills in thhe river below.

Female Saddlebill

After a little breakfast we continue for another km or so and come across a Red-chested Cuckoo (Piet-my-Vrou) pearched conveniently on a branch.

Red-chested Cuckoo

Our resident lions are still in evidence today as across the river Renette spies a black mane.

The weather is warming as we go into a pre-frontal heatwave. Today the temperature reaches 37℃ and we take refuge in the swimming pool. It is so unusual not to hear northern hemisphere “swallows” who usually frequent the pool in droves. This Covid must be costing our tourist industry massively.

There is very little indication of rain around and despite the hot day today there are no thunderclouds to the west. I hate to think what the already parched veld will look by Sunday after a few more +40℃ days. My goodness but Lower Sabie is taking a beating and without the beautiful Sabie River it would be a disaster.

Renette has a dental appointment in Malalane tomorrow so we will take an early morning drive along the Crocodile river S25 road. I look forward to it.