Posts Tagged ‘bush walk’

A walk along the Olifants River

August 16th, 2011, posted in Birds, Wildlife

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
BlackSmith Plover
Egyptian geese
Fish Eagle
Giant Eagle Owl
Giant Kingfisher
Green backed heron
Hawk eagle
Hooded Vulture
Pied Kingfisher
Pied wagtails
Reed cormorant
Water dikkop
White backed vulture
White breasted cormorant
White-crowned lapwing

About 20 vultures circled us – too high to identify, but still noted in the survey.

Protea, proteas

February 8th, 2010, posted in Flora

The King Protea is South Africa’s National Flower and I enjoy them. I only once saw a Protea Farm and was amazed at the way these flowers grew from week to week and then suddenly they would open, revealing the most amazing colour and patterns within the flower.

I believe a dried Protea flower is just as beautiful as when it was living, truthfully I speak only of the giant or king Protea (Protea cynaroides), even though there are a number of other Protea flowers in South Africa.

There is something to be said about flowers that don’t last too. It is as though they feast your eyes for a short season. Whilst on the plant, the Protea welwitchii is very pretty in its own way, however unlike the king Protea that will last for weeks in a vase and then make a beautiful dried arrangement, picking these flowers results in a brown wilted mess!

This is why, taking a Bush Trail can be very special, walking in the Waterberg during early summer allows you to get up close to these Proteas that only bloom for a limited time, we watch and wait for the flowers to appear and then we look, admiring the insects that take in its nectar and pollinate it. This season also allows us to reflect upon our life here on earth, we too are limited with the time we have and these flowers are a reminder to us to make an impact whilst we can

The Protea welwitschii is called the Cluster-head sugarbush or Troshofiesuikerbos and from the Book, Bushveld, Lee Gutteridge, has this to say about the flowers…

The Flower can be very messy, lacking the fine structure of many protea species. It also does not grow very tall. Root infusions are used for treating diarrhea in both humans and young cattle. The species is hybridizing with the Sugarbush protea in certain parts of the Waterberg and Magaliesberg regions.

take note

February 5th, 2010, posted in Educating You

I’m more of a wilderness lover than a birder, but being married to a game ranger means that you get to see and take note of every living creature that contributes to the complex ecosystems into which we venture on holiday, whilst taking a walk at home or out on a game, bird or bush walk with guests.

Taking note of tracks left on the path tells a tale of its own, looking into and through the bush when you hear a rustle can prove to become a valuable sighting of a leopard, bushbuck or scrub hare. Hearing a crack of branches and then waiting patiently can reward you with a sighting of elephant on foot!
So we live and learn from the bush taking in its secrets, admiring the intricate way all the organisms work together and add to our experience of being in the African Bush. Sometimes the tiniest creatures produce the greatest wildlife sightings, but it takes knowledge and understanding of the surroundings to see into this world.

My journey to gain knowledge about the bush means I need to become a birder and take interest in my sons’ arthropod studies. It has also has made me realize that visitors to Africa can have a safari that is more meaningful than just seeing the lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo, they can become a part of the habitat in which these wonderful animals live, even if it is only for a short time, what they will take back home will remain with them forever!

Bushtrail surprise sighting

February 2nd, 2010, posted in Creatures Great & Small

A bush trail is about spending time in the bush observing nature in every form from the large animals to the small, getting insight into how it all comes together, the trees, soil, rivers and flowers.  Think of it as a nature walk with your own personal guide, pointing out things you and I could easily miss.

Yesterday afternoon, we braved the elements and took a gamble on the weather, the thunder was rolling in but rolled down into the next valley, leaving us without rain and although the lighting was beautiful, I only had my phone camera with me as normally happens on impromptu walks! So the pictures are not of good quality, sorry.

Our bushtrail allowed us a close-up sighting of a Winged Predatory Katydid, that’s a Clonia wahlbergi for all those entomologists who read my posts!!! It was a female – laying her eggs in the sandy ground.

The Winged predatory katydid has a very slender but long body (40-65mm in length); it is an apple green colour with fine markings as though it were carefully painted making such a veracious predator look quite beautiful!

Since our sighting did not allow us to view its wings, we returned back to read more – the wings are fully developed and the anal area of the hind wings is whitish with brown bars. It is wide spread in bushveld, forest margins and grasslands, so taking a bush trail when next you can on a game reserve could result in you also sighting this fascinating insect!

Leaf Mantid – Africa’s Sci-fi character

November 23rd, 2009, posted in Creatures Great & Small

Today’s story is about a Leaf Mantid, Phyllocrania paradoxa, found on a bush walk on the game reserve in the northern parts of South Africa.

I personally believe the insect world inspires the science fiction movies of today, taking a closer look at their heads and eyes; they definitely resemble the general alien look!

Triangular head, leaf mantid

Triangular head, leaf mantid


This insect is large with a body length of about 44mm. Sexes differ in appearance. Males are slender and mottled brown with dark shoulders and have a darker cross on their hind wings. The photos below indicate a male leaf Mantid. These insects are a superb mimic of dead leaves, remaining motionless while waiting for prey to within grasp. These Phyllocrania paradoxa are found in sub-tropical vegetation and along forest margins which is where we found this odd creature!

looking like a leaf

looking like a leaf

keeping still

keeping still



Some people wonder if life out in the African Bush can become a bit boring, rather it is quite the opposite and a careful study of peculiar insects like the Hymenopodidae family or even the whole order Mantodea can produce hideous discussions as to why they have extraordinarily mobile heads, large compound eyes that are set high on their upper corners and heavily spined fore legs!

For an almost 6-year old boy the thought of such a small creature being predatory results in an unrelenting series of questions, how do they catch their prey? The Leaf Mantid uses its spiky legs to ambush and grasp live prey.




leaf-like legs

leaf-like legs

phyllocrania paradoxa

phyllocrania paradoxa



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