Waking early, packing our back-packs and setting off for the first day of the Pel’s Fishing Owl survey was the beginning of a day, I’ll remember well…
Our morning had started just after mid-night when we woke to the sounds of jackal and hyena calls, we discussed the direction of where the sounds were coming from and then went back to sleep, waking a few hours later. Knowing there must be something in the vicinity, we kept our eyes open en route…
On the back of the open-game-drive vehicle, our jackets zipped up and hands in pockets we drove at a less-than-comfortable speed of 20km/hour – it was freezing (Well, not quite – our blood has been thinned from our Lower-Zambezi life) when we saw three spotted hyena and thankfully stopped to have a better look, then, a few hundred metres later, Pieter spotted a Lion who was tucking into his early morning breakfast – a wildebeest kill. Totally awesome and all before the survey began, which is why I got a picture – once the survey began – there was very little time to take photo’s between looking, ID-ing and making notes!
We started walking along the banks of the Olifants River just after sunrise, heading upstream. We marked all the locations of fish-eating birds that either flew past us (downstream) or those on branches, rocks and sandbanks we walked past, using a GPS. Let’s rephrase that – Pieter put in the way-points, whilst I was scribe – pencil and notebook in hand! Bird identification was the most important factor, armed with binoculars and having my personal field guide, made that possible!
Apart from the list species of birds we saw (See below), we also saw a baby hippo – and I mean, baby, this was a tiny little thing, staying very close to its mother, further upstream was a pod of 20+ hippo, crocs, waterbuck, elephant and plenty of bush buck!
All in all, we walked 15km under the warm African Sun, along a river – surrounded by nature, it’s a bush trail, I certainly enjoyed! We did not see any Pels that day, but the rest of the survey on day 2 and 3 produced 5 – so there is still hope…
African Hawk Eagle
Black breasted Snake eagle
Giant Eagle Owl
Green backed heron
White backed vulture
White breasted cormorant
About 20 vultures circled us – too high to identify, but still noted in the survey.