Satara 22-23rd February

Satara 22-23rd February

Monday, 22nd It is blustery and raining as I join the gate queue at a gloomy 5.30am. The Satara faithful are undeterred by the weather and a long stream of car lights pass through the gates. But photography is my game and in such dismal conditions I return to camp and wait for things to brighten up.

Following on from my comments on Sunday about the “polyandrous” Painted Snipe, I thought that I would give you another example of a ‘hen-pecked’ male having to do the nest building, the incubation and the rearing of the chicks. This is the common African Jacana.

When danger threatens Dad scoops up the chicks and carries them under his wings.
African Jacana Chick (My Library)

At 7am I proceed down the S100 again, chosen because the riverine bush gives shelter from the unpleasant south wind. The deep, resonant drum like call of the Ground Hornbills drifts from across the river.

Southern Ground Hornbill (My Library)

Round a corner I come face to face with this gent who does not break stride as he drives me back… and back…. and back.

There are three options in this situation. Firstly, make a dart towards him and whilst he does a double take, reverse before he can attack. I have seen that work before as the confused ellie peeled off into the bush. Secondly, one can park on the road verge giving the ellie an open road to pass by. I saw a video clip of this tactic being employed at Pilansberg but where the ellie stopped and then rolled the car down the bank. Thirdly, take the cowardly option and just keep your distance and reverse until the ellie wanders off the road. I take this option and end up reversing a good 1 Km before I come across a little loop road that I could use to circle past him.

To readers it must sound most boring when I have nothing to report or no photos to show for my efforts. But I thoroughly enjoy my time drifting through this paradise. Yes, visibility is restricted by the long grass but how good it is to see the Park just bursting with growth. Again, I must mention the curious absence of Queleas and Quails. In February 2017 they were everywhere.

Red-billed Quelea 2017 (My Library)
Male Harlequin Quail (My Library)

Perhaps the rains over southern Africa have been so extensive that they have moved elsewhere.

At the S41 junction I turn right towards Nwanetsi and soon come across two Lappet-faced Vultures feeding off something in the grass. It must be quite substantial because the surrounding trees carry twenty or so other vultures.

Lappet-faced Vulture

Now that the flood waters have subsided, how good it is to see the streams and rivers all running with crystal clear water.

Carmine Bee-eater
Kori Bustard (My Library)

Back on the H6 Nwanetsi tar road I speed up and return to camp at midday.

After some exercise in the pool I leave camp again at 3.30pm. The south wind is still blowing and I reckon the S100 is the road of choice in these conditions. Again, there is much of interest along the road and with the cloud cover breaking, it is scenically beautiful.

Spotted Flycatcher

I end up on the first causeway of the Mavumbye Stream that feeds such clean water into Gudzani Dam.

Striated (Green-backed) Heron

Coming back up the S100 I come across a couple of cars watching a lioness and a little cub wandering through the grass. I am struck again by the poor shape of these Kruger lions compared to the magnificent Kgalagadi specimens.

Beautiful Kgalagadi lioness – Mountain Zebra NP in September 2020

So, no great sightings today but how enjoyable and peaceful. The weather has been against one of my favourite roads, the S126 Sweni, which I will be trying in the morning.

Tuesday, 23rd Sweni S126 it is as I leave the gates at 5.30am. I am behind a couple of cars as I take the gravel road. In the dappled sunlight, the veld is a real picture.

Crested Francolin

I am afraid that the game has dispersed taking the predators with them. But I keep reminding myself how privileged I am to be surrounded by this splendour – “Far from the Madding Crowd”.

Blue Wildebeest
Burchell’s Coucal

Beyond the Welverdiend water point I turn and retrace my steps. I pause on the Sweni River bridge.