An unlikely urban sighting

Finding predators lurking in the garden is not that usual in our neighbourhood, but for a while a female rooikat (Caracal caracal)  comfortably took up residence alongside the urban edge rearing her young over a couple of years.  Sightings of her and the kits were always thrilling, whether hunting or just passing through.

WPC: Unlikely

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WPC: Favourite

This scene was an easy choice as my favourite shot of the year!   It lacks in photographic technique and neither is it a good composition, but rather it speaks in an existential sense – a wild untrammelled spirit ; flying along, unfettered, free.  It’s also unusual in that the Cape Mountain zebra are a species associated with mountains, and to have recorded this scene on the beach is (i think) a personal shot of a lifetime.   I posted it after the devastating storm in June and wrote about it here.

 

 

 

Walvis Bay salt pans: jackal and pup

Walvis is situated on a lagoon and is a designated Ramsar wetlands site.  It teems with coastal shorebirds and waders and is regarded as the most important coastal wetland in the Southern African sub-region in terms of bird numbers and is one of the three most important coastal wetlands in Africa.

Mornings are agreeably foggy, due to the cold Benguela current lacing the Atantic Ocean, until the land mass warms up and the fog lifts.  Included in the wetland area are the saltpans where many bird species congregate including greater and lesser flamingoes.  Among the common Paleartic migrants are curlew sandpipers, sanderlings and little stints.  It supports nearly two-thirds of the southern African population of chestnut plovers – the smallest of the true waders and as the name suggests it has a chestnut coloured breast band.

The birds come in to feed at low tide and there is an air of social comradeship as the various species band together to feed.  The flamingoes wade through in an elegant style, the pelicans are solid and squawk in gutteral tones, the small waders dash here and there.  Set to this background we photographers lurk trying hard not to be too intrusive, invisible.

I notice the spoor along the saltpan tidal edge before spotting the jackal.  It surprises me to see it in such an inhospitable environment.  I guess though that it would be an ideal place for hunting birds.

It turns out to be a young female and her behaviour appears furtive.  I notice her anxious looks peering back to an area where there are pipes and a pumping station.  She in beautiful condition.

Panning carefully with the binoculars i spot movement and there near one of the pipes is a small pup in front of an open cut pipe.   “Hey mum, wait for me …. ”   The little pup appears to be signalling.   So well camouflaged it’s difficult to spot the pup – for the reader, look just to the right of the road sign.

Mum is not responding, so pup opts for security and dives back into the pipe ‘den’.

Isn’t it fascinating how animals find an ‘eco-niche’ in transformed environments?   On the edge of the saltpans there is a thriving bird population and an obvious steady source of food – but fresh water is scarce.

Judging from the spoor tracks in the area there are a number of other animals, yet they blend so well into the back ground and on the beach side sandy hummocks stretch towards Pelican Point.

What a wonderful sighting, although we’d come to observe birds, what a bonus to spot a carnivore ‘seeing the gap’ and adapting to this rich area.

The Greeting

The cool air and golden light of dawn envelopes the landscape as we drive to Sesriem, gateway to Sossusvlei and those famous majestic orange sand dunes.   The hour’s road trip was a precursor to the adventure which lay ahead.  Deep sandy valleys opened up and the sight of colourful hot-air balloons floating through the soft pastels of the early morning added to the hue.  Animals rouse and our first sightings are of these elegant desert antelope, the gemsbok (Oryx gazella).  A family group pad down a dune while one lone animal waits ahead for the last to catch up and we witness their gentle greeting.  A touching of noses, deep eye contact – they slip into step and side by side they carry on.   To capture this fleeting moment adds to the memorable events of the day.

For more information on the  oryx, a superbly desert adapted antelope species, i’ve added a link here.

 

 

Fish River Canyon: where time is written in the rocks

The landscape, immediately after crossing the Orange River at the Noodoewer border post, takes on a desolate appearance.

The route through to Grünau, in the Karas Region goes over gravel plains and then as we head to Hobas – the viewpoint for the Fish River Canyon.  Clumps of milkbush and granite outcrops form a backdrop to this arid Eden.  As we travel we wonder which animal will be our first viewing of local wildlife?  Take a guess?!

Yes!! Baboons!  How remarkable that they have adapted and can find enough to sustain life in this tough environment.  They are far leaner than the coastal cousins and their fur much finer.  I worried about their feet pads burning on the scalding stones, but they appeared to walk quite comfortably but nimbly over the rocky terrain. Their diet would include mainly insects – scorpions, beetles and tuberous plants.

How to describe the spectacular Fish River Canyon? It draws the viewer’s eye into a terrain of riverting and rugged convolutions, twisting and turning.  The information boards tell of ancient geological history, but i’m also fired by the local mythology and the story of Koutein Kooru, a giant snake frantically scrambling to get away from San hunters.

Impressively the oldest rocks here existed long before today’s continents were formed by the break up of the super continent Gondwana.  The basement rocks are believed to be 2,000 million years old!  At some point tectonic plate movement caused a huge block of the Earth’s crust to subside along deep-reaching faults and formed a deep trench.  The geology was further shaped through the eons by dramatic forces – erosion, volcanic and climate action.  The river has melded its way over millions of years and cut through the Namaqualand Metamorphic Complex exposing horizontal layers of quartzite, gneiss and sedimentary layers.