The Daily Dozen
Twelve carefully curated photos of Day 4 in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
First Thing in the Morning
As we roll out of the campground at 5:30 AM, the first question (of the daily zillion questions) is, “Well, who did what overnight?”
Today, we didn’t see any predators with their spoils, but we did see the ever-present, ever-hopeful predator mascot, pleased as punch with his plunder.
A springbok head! Yum! A nicely portable scrap.
Check out the crazy long ears on that disembodied head. They’re flat along the ground; the nose is pointing up. The jackal appears to be gnawing on the chin.
I wondered how far away the rest of the body was. Not too far, I’d guess, but nowhere we could see.
How much meat can there be on a springbok head? Enough to please the jackal, apparently. The tongue should be good, tasty soft tissue. Eyeballs? Brains? Something eats brains, or the ground would be littered with them, right? Can a jackal break through the skull to get at the brains, or are they left for little lizards and crawly things that can get through eye, ear, and nose holes? (The beginning of the day’s zillion questions.)
A second jackal trotted and hunted in the background behind the principal jackal. If a jackal is moving, it’s trotting, making good time, always looking about, ready to dart away from danger or pounce on unsuspecting prey.
Next up was breakfast at the Melkvlei Rest Area, where we can legally exit our vehicle to retrieve the yogurt and juice from the fridge in the back of the truck.
As we ate, Mike spotted several more jackals—three, to be precise. Wow. It was a jackally kind of morning.
Between bites, I peered at the latest jackals through binoculars. “Hey, those aren’t jackals.”
They were cape foxes: one adult and two kits. Holy canines, a couple of foxes chose a den site just outside the bathrooms at the rest area. That’s crazy!
Or maybe that’s smart. Maybe they’re thinking like the moose do at home: It’s safer to have babies around people than around other predators.
Any way you slice it, lucky us! No need to GPS this den site.
The adult trotted off—where’s it going during the day?—and one kit disappeared into the den leaving this brave fellow, who disappeared soon after. But not before we got a good look and some photos!
Isn’t that a cool looking bird? The crest, the long bill, and striped wings elevate this bird above the merely brown set. Several of them stabbed their bills into the ground over and over. One eventually came up with a round, gray beetle, tossed it back, and gulp!
We saw several of these birds, too.
In fact, we see several Kori bustards every day. Our Official Information Guide says they are common only in protected areas. Elsewhere, I’ve read that their numbers are declining. They don’t tolerate humans or the development humans bring to natural areas.
Kori Bustards are said to be the heaviest flying birds in the world, with a big one weighing in over 40 pounds (19kg). They prefer walking to flying, but are quite capable of flying, and we saw several doing just that. Pretty impressive. During the heat of the day, they’re standing still under trees, and more than once I’ve mistaken one for a small antelope. Barb says they’re worshipping the great tree god because we usually see them standing close to the tree, facing the trunk in an attitude of supplication.
After crossing over the dunes from the Nossob River valley to the Auob River, we happened upon five bull giraffes.
Really, there are five. Two are so pale as to look almost yellow.
In the past, giraffes have seemed tolerant and unconcerned about people, but the giraffes here seem wary, not as habituated to people as pretty much every other animal in the park. I don’t know what it is, but so far we are not seeing giraffes close up.
Meerkats (or Suricates)
I have not embraced the name change from “meerkat” to “suricate.” If you think you can persuade me to adopt the new name, give it a shot.
We popped in on the meerkat colony at the tail end of Dig Time. They were all out dig-dig-digging. Every one of them. I didn’t see anyone catch anything while digging; they just scratched little depressions in the sand.
And then, apparently, it was naptime. They all disappeared. Poof!
These guys are members of the mongoose family, but they look different. They look human somehow. Initially, I thought it was the ears, but upon closer inspection, meerkat ears are not all that different from other mongoose ears. Maybe they stand erect more than the other species. Maybe it’s the eye mask or larger size of the eyes. Maybe mannerisms make them seem human. None of us can pinpoint the reason.
And isn’t Mike clever, sneaking four photos into one? Well, not sneaky, really, since he made me do it.
Amongst the meerkats in their warren of burrow holes was a whistling rat and this rather striking lizard:
We couldn’t ID the lizard, but I don’t think we tried very hard. Anyone?
So Many Ostriches!
In addition to seeing a good many kori bustards, we see lots of ostriches. They are similarly wary, usually walking away as soon as we express interest in them.
Ostrich Family #1
First, we saw a family of ostriches taking rigorous dust baths: mom, dad, and what looked to me like three teenage chicks.
They stir up little dust storms as their giant wings scoop and throw sand over their backs. Their long, rubber necks snake across the ground, sweeping up ridges of sand that filter down through sparse feathers.
Mom was nervous about us, and the chicks took their cue from her, abandoning their baths to put some distance between us. But they followed the road and so we followed them, sloooooowly.
Dad, on the other hand, enjoyed his bath so much he was reluctant to leave and had to be coaxed by his wife.
After being followed for a while, without harm or incident, Dad called a halt to the retreat and plopped back down in the sand. Mom actually turned around, went back, and joined him. The youngsters weren’t sure what to do.
We rewarded Dad’s bravery and his obvious joy of bathing by moving slowly on.
Ostrich Family #2
What you get to see in the above picture is one adult female, two adult males, and two broods of chicks, different sizes, sheltered under a lovely shade tree. Is that one wife with two husbands? Two families, one with a missing mother? Beats me.
What you don’t get to see is the whole kit and kaboodle out pecking in the sunny sand when an eagle circles overhead.
The chicks ran to the dads and took shelter under their wide tutus. All together, as a single unit, they beat feet under the canopy of the tree where the chicks remained huddled around the dads’ skinny legs.
While the dads ushered the chicks to safety, Mom charged in a circle beneath the eagle, flapping her wings, daring the eagle to come closer or look at her chicks in that way again.
The eagle gave up.
Mom rejoined the family.
The Final Word
The previous post had cheetahs on a springbok kill.
This post begins with a jackal enjoying the fruit (or head) of a springbok kill.
I give the final word and photo of the day to a springbok. Well, it’s more of a gesture than a word, but you get the meaning.