Bass Straits and Dire Straits

Early Sunday morning I roust the lil bastids. C’mon, Up! Let’s go. Off to Inanda Dam where they’re going to slay the bass. Tom, Jose & Ryan. 45yrs of trouble on six legs and, according to them, fishermen of note.

We hire two canoes from Msinsi and off they go. “See you in about two hours, Dad!” shouts Tom as they wobble off.

Inanda Dam fishing (12).jpg

I chill and watch the terrific birdlife. Wrynecks, woodpeckers, waxbills, prinias, canaries, sunbirds, geese, a fish eagle, herons, neddicky, bush shrikes, etc.

Six hours later a weary and sunburnt crew return. They had flattened the eats and drinks I packed and it’s lucky I did: No fish were harmed in the filming of this movie (none were even disturbed).

Lugging the boats back to the boathouse (with much help from Dad) they unanimously decide they would not be doing the Dusi anytime soon.

Inanda Dam fishing (16)

Dusi – The Dusi Canoe Marathon, 120km 3-day river race from Maritzburg to Durban passes by this point on the Umgeni river.

 

Mfolosi Aerial Dogfight

It looked like a standoff. At a small pool of water in the dry sandy riverbed of the Black Mfolosi river a male Bataleur and a Tawny Eagle contested the scarce resource. Both stood on the sand at the water’s edge and hunched their shoulders at each other.

I watched a while then scanned all around. Suddenly I heard a cry above me. Two birds circled each other in the air just above our vantage point on a bluff overlooking the river. I looked back at the waterhole. They were gone, this must be them. It was. The eagle was dive-bombing the Bataleur shouting a hoarse kraak kraak. The Bataleur screamed defiantly, dodging the move.

The eagle circled to gain height and folded its wings and took aim again, the agile Bataleur dodging with a sideways roll.

The Bataleur then landed in a tall dead tree while the eagle was climbing again. Soon the Tawny was on his way down again, zooming straight at him and knocking him off his perch. They banked and circled and strained to gain height again, the Bataleur’s wingflaps surprisingly noisy. Once again the Tawny won the climb and launched a dive.

The Bataleur folded his wings and flew away low over the tree tops away from the river.

The Tawny landed back at the pool where it all started, victorious.

High above a white-backed vulture and a Yellow-billed Kite, witnesses to the dogfight, still circled in the thermals.


Wow!! Who needs a lion kill?

Oh, Jessica. Yes, dear. I didn’t realise how long we’d been here. We’ll drive now and look for lions, honey.

pics from https://willemkruger.wordpress.com/ and birdguides.com – thank you!

The Photo Archives

I hardly ever carried a camera back when I was beautiful and had just the one chin. “I’m video’ing it in my head” I would say.

Of course now I’m really grateful other people carried cameras and I could get pics from them. Even in the days when you loaded a roll of film in the dark and wound it on by hand frame-by-frame some people carried cameras. I salute them!

And I admit I would grumble when they said “Stand closer together” “Smile” “Hang on! Just one more!”. Of course some people would think they had put in the roll of film when they hadn’t and all our posing (“poeseer!” remember SanMarie the game ranger’s joke?) was in vain. Yes, I’m thinking of you Taylor. He posed us in various ways on a buffalo carcase and when we eagerly asked for the photies weeks later (they had to go off “for development” of course) he had to sheepishly admit he hadn’t had a roll of film in his steam-driven camera.

Anyway, my memory of that moment was much better than his pic would have been: I remember a bloody carcase with glistening red meat still on the bone and lion prints around the sandy scene. We were posing looking over our shoulder, worried the lions might chase us off their prey at any minute. When later we did get a pic from someone better organised than Taylor the truth was far more mundane. The photo spoilt a good story.

Wilderness Walk.jpg
Intrepid non-photographer on the left with empty camera

So although I do have some slight regrets I still think I was generally more “in the moment” than many camera-occupied companions over the years – and I saw more birds. Anyway, my memories of what happened are usually far better than boring reality. Usually I play the starring role in them.

Once I met Aitch things changed of course and we had a fulltime photographer in the house. The years from 1986 are well documented. Then the kids arrived and the number of pics went through the roof. Thank goodness for digital! Even now when we drive through a game reserve Jess will say “Mom would have said ‘Stop! Go back!’ and you would have to reverse and she’d take a picture of a flower, remember?”

With cameras as ubiquitous as they now are all this smacks of days gone by. I was prompted to write this post when I read this yesterday: ‘If a millennial goes to a beautiful place but doesn’t get a photo, did they ever really go?’…

To end, some advice for Taylor:

Life like Camera.jpg

Here’s a graph showing camera sales in 1000’s since 1933:

Camera sales.jpg

Unfair Birding

Young David was a casual birder back then. Under the tutelage of his fine wife Goldie he has since come on in leaps and bounds. He was also a driller back then. He would drill boreholes for water in Malawi, Mocambique and other beautiful places, boring deep into the earth searching for the nectar of life.

His drilling company’s motto was “On The Hole Our Work Is Boring”.

One fine day in Mocambique he got caught short and had to pull over on the way to a drilling site for an emergency evacuation in a lovely patch of forest. He would have noisily scratched a nest (Dave is not a tiptoe-er) and got rid of his voluminous shorts so as not to cause any stains and settled himself comfortably for the job at hand, probably with some grunting and sighing.

Suddenly, this beauty hopped into view in a patch of sunlight in the gloomy forest interior and gazed in fascination at the amazing and unusual sight squatting in the clearing:

African Pitta

A bloody Pitta! Many serious birders search for these things for decades, spending time and money and only getting heartache. Hill saw one while having a ‘veldie”.

Talk about unfair. This is birding a la (com)mode. I’ve always said “Don’t chase them. Sit and they’ll come to you”. But this . . !!

Mkhuze in Winter

Jess and I spent two nights at Mkhuze. Looking very dry and animals were few and far between. Still, we saw lots of the usual dependables: giraffe, zebra, impala, hippo, nyala, wildebeest and – at last! – one elephant. A young bull right next to the road. Jess, who watches too much youtube of eles goring and flipping cars, did not want to hang around, so we drove past him.

Also Banded and Slender Mongooses. One band of Banded and two individual Slenders.

But lots of birds. I won’t give the boring – to me exciting – list (78 species) but I will tell this story. In Mantuma camp – here:

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I went looking for pinkspots (pink-throated twinspots). Like this:

Pink-throated_Twinspot_Mkhuze

I followed their high-pitched trilling cricket-like sound and found them and more:

There they were, in a bird party in the grass! Blue waxbills, green-winged pytilias, grey-headed sparrows, yellow-throated petronias, yellow-fronted canaries, red-billed firefinches pecked alongside the pinkspots on the sandy soil. And in the tree directly above them a small flock of red-billed woodhoopoes, a dark-backed weaver and a golden-tailed woodpecker. Just that one bird party made the whole trip worthwhile. I stood twenty metres from them and watched through my Zeiss’ for ages. ‘Saturation Views’!

On my way back to the chalet I watched a black cuckoo-shrike give a full, relaxed display all round me. I didn’t know his black was so BLUE! In the sunlight his ‘black’ shone a beautiful royal blue. A picture doesn’t fully capture that:

Black-Cuckoo-shrike

bird pics off the ‘net

Jess was our chief photographer:

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