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23rd January 2020 – Knysna

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We had planned a trip up the River Kromme at St Francis Bay as we made our way along the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town but the weather was so bad that it was cancelled (too wet and windy) and our first opportunity to get out and see some birds was on our second day in Knysna (yes it has stopped raining but it still isn’t very warm).

We walked along the edge of the Woodbourne Trust Nature Reserve and Bird Sanctuary near The Heads (which feature in nearly all the tourist photos of Knysna).

It was like home from home to start as the first bird we saw was a grey heron but it soon became a bit more exotic with African sacred ibis and Egyptian geese.

From the edge of the reserve we could easily see avocets, black winged stilts, Blacksmith lapwings and common greenshank but the real treat was an African spoonbill which flew out and then back over our heads. We rewarded ourselves with lunch.

DSC05583Reed cormorant (I think)

DSC05871Little egret

DSC05841African sacred ibis

DSC05821Egyptian geese

DSC05800Common greenshank and black-winged stilts

DSC05785Common greenshank

DSC05548Blacksmith lapwing

DSC05439Avocet

DSC05359African spoonbill on its way out

DSC05820and on its way back

 

 

 

 

 

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16th  – 19th January 2020 – Thornybush Private Game Reserve, South Africa

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Our trip to South Africa certainly got off to a fantastic start. We spent the first 3 nights at Chapungu, a luxury tented lodge, on the Thornybush Game Reserve in Greater Kruger.

We were quite apprehensive about the 28 hour journey from Bristol to Chapungu (via London Heathrow, Johannesburg and Hoedspruit) and quite concerned that we might not have the stamina for 6 game drives in three days with 5 am starts but either the adrenaline or the “sundowners”  with the beautiful backdrop of the Drakensburg Mountains) enabled us to cope quite well.

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However, I didn’t count on the logistics of taking so many photos, saving them, editing a few and backing them all up which has been very onerous. Ah well, I enjoy it really.

The cloudy weather on a couple of the drives and even rain on the last day probably also  helped us to cope but didn’t do much for my later photos.

Initially I thought that I would revisit this blog at a later stage and write about the narrative of each of the 6 game drives but, unless we have a really bad run of weather when we return to the UK, I am realistic enough to know that that is improbable and that I shall enjoy more editing additional photos, remembering what was what and adding captions. However, I couldn’t fail to mention the excitement of seeing the leopard family with their kill in the marula tree, the lions protecting their kill, the hyenas and the vultures waiting to scavenge for their shares, or the goshawk which we saw stoop, make off with its prey and devour it in a nearby tree.

DSC02932Another memorable moment when we got stuck in the river bed – just to let me see even more birds!

I have already prepared a very large number of photos in a slideshow but can’t imagine anyone sitting for long enough to watch all of them so will have to rethink how I am going to do that. I will probably post in a later blog when I have more band width.

For the moment I will settle for a more modest slideshow of some of my favourite photos (above – the slideshow can be pinched out to fit a tablet).

We would like to say a very big thank you to the interesting young tourists from around the world who were with us throughout the three days and who added a different dimension to our trip by sharing with us some of their “world”. Also I would like to mention the staff of Chapungu Lodge who were excellent in every way. Finally we can’t say enough about our guides, Jacques, Kilmore and Victor, who went to enormous trouble to take us to amazing places, got us so close to the animals and showed us with such enthusiasm and knowledge the variety of the incredible wildlife of South Africa.

A truly memorable trip.

The “Big Five:

In Africa, the Big Five game animals are the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. The term was coined by big-game hunters, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot, but is now also widely used by safari tour operators.

DSC09788Leopard

DSC04538Black rhino (the horns are removed to deter poachers)

 

DSC04046Elephant

DSC02965Buffalo

DSC02579Lion

 

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3rd January 2020 – WWT Slimbridge

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For our first bird watching sortie of the new year we had another visit to Slimbridge. However, with two young ones in tow we only had limited time for bird watching before their attention waned.

The highlight again was the water rails as normally they are quite elusive but today in one spot we saw three. There was a marsh harrier in the distance towards the estuary and pink footed geese (no photo).

DSC08947Marsh harrier in the distance

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DSC08974Water rails

I’m not too sure about my identification of Bewick’s/whooper swans but I think the first below is whooper and the second Bewick’s.

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DSC08890Wigeon

DSC08894Teal

DSC08847Robin

DSC08864Robin

DSC08892Chaffinch

DSC08900Blue tit

DSC08982Blue tit

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DSC09047Pheasant – such wonderful colours

DSC08940Redshank add a bit of colour on a muddy bank

DSC08957Shelduck in flight

DSC08934Shelduck

DSC08840Little egret in the distance