I had the real pleasure of guiding some return guests for a photographic safari. The Mann’s had returned! Knowing their love for anything that moves, we made our way out on the first drive. We took it really easy, and took in the green season. The plains game was out for show, as well as a Goliath Heron at Tshukudu dam. After all the rains, Tshukudu dam was attracting a lot Water birds because the African Bull Frogs were mating, so there was plenty of food available. We stopped for drinks and had a Dung Beetle couple with their brood ball. We got on our bellies, and snapped him trying to push it all along.
On the first morning, we made our way to the south of the reserve. Again taking it slow. The focus moved on to birds as we found a beautiful Lanner Falcon in a dead Leadwood tree. He watched us for a while, and after several minutes of holding heavy lenses in anticipation of the moment of flight, the Falcon took off and we snapped a few good images.
We were then highly surprised with an incredibly special sighting of a Long-tailed Paradise Whydah doing a courtship display. We watched him sing his dance to the females heart!
We finished the morning off by watching the largest butterfly migration in Southern Africa moving through the reserve. A large number of Brown-veined White Butterflies had taken a break and were feeding on the flowering Devils thorns. Again we got low, and were forced back onto the vehicle by an approaching Elephant bull.
The next morning, we made our way back to Tshukudu dam. We were hoping to see some drama with the birds and the Bullfrogs. Instead, we found a Whiskered Tern flying over the Dam. The rest of the morning was spent with some general game and even more birds.
In the afternoon, we made our way to the far north. We had heard that a large male Lion had a Zebra foal kill. The drive to the north was interesting, with a young Zebra stallion acting up and even more birds. The weather was starting to turn though, and a clear storm build up was occurring. The south was turning black! We reached the Lion, and found him chomping down on the unfortunate foal. The light was perfect, but soon dipped as the sun was being eclipsed by the approaching storm, as the large cell was stretching all across the southern sky, from east to west.
On our way back to the lodge, we stopped to admire the beautiful skies that the storm was creating. The lightning approached, the wind began to howl and we rushed back to the lodge, beating the storm by about a minute or so.
The next morning was a quiet affair, but again we concentrated on birds. A Swainsons Spurfowl on a termite mound kept us entertained for a while. It was all about Flowers, Birds and Insects.
That afternoon, we went south. Our first sighting of the afternoon was a Martial Eagle being harassed by a rather aggressive Fork-tailed Drongo. It took a few minutes for the little nuisance to dislodge the massive bird of Prey.
The rest of the afternoon, we visited the popular pans in the south east. We picked up some Wildebeest, with their calves, Elephant and a lone Buffalo bull, who gave us the steely eye on a few occasions.
In the morning, we headed out nice and early. The sun was tucked away behind some persistent cloud. Soon after leaving camp, we came across 2 Impala rams in a full blown disagreement. Because the light wasn’t great, we documented the behavior with a slow shutter speed. A creative alternative to dealing with low light.
We continued north west, where we’d heard that the Mahiwa male Lions were on a Giraffe carcass. We were hoping to see some Brown Hyena en route. We arrived at the Lion sighting, with one of the males feeding and the other two sleeping. No Hyena’s but plenty of Vultures around. After about ten minutes, one of the male got up and took a short walk.
From the Lions we made our way to Madikwe plains, to see some good plains game and hopefully photograph some game with all the wild flowers on display.
In the afternoon, we went north east to Croc drift. On our way, we found some Zebra stallions having a disagreement. The light wasn’t good, a harsh back lighting, but we had a dark background. So I suggested trying to underexpose, and get some rim lighting with the dark background for contrast. It worked well!
We continued up north and got some Yellow-billed Hornbills carrying nesting material, so we stopped to try and get that shot. We again found the migrating Brown-veined White Butterflies, with a large Impala herd running through the migration.
At Croc drift, we photographed a flock of Pied Kingfishers, until we were disrupted by a herd of Elephants crossing the river in a rush (pun intended).
We started off the next morning with clear skies! Our first stop was some Giraffe just to the north of the camp. Our first real opportunity for a silhouette.
On we went and got a playful herd of Elephants. The youngsters were entertaining themselves, some trailing bulls were making a nuisance of themselves, and eventually one the cows redirected her frustration at the bulls in our direction. And we made a speedy exit!
We made our way far north, hearing that the African Wild dogs had been found. On the way we found a Pale Chanting Goshawk. The Wild dogs were on the move and in a playful mood. So all in all a very good few sightings.
In the afternoon we decided to head south again. I wanted to get to Phakalane pan and Ophir plains. We moved quickly to start with, just to get into the area. We arrived at Phakalane pan, with a nice mixed herd of Impala, Zebra and Gemsbok. We managed to snap a few nice pics of a Zebra drinking in an unusual position and of the Gemsbok just to the south of the pan.
At Ophir plains, i wanted to try and get the shot of animals in a wide open plains with a wide open aperture to blur the foreground. So a very shallow depth of field! We got an Elephant bull and some Zebra who posed for some nice shots.
On the last morning, we made our way past a Rhino carcass just to the north of the lodge. We encountered Lion, and fairly quick Leopard sighting and some Spotted Hyena at the carcass.