Thursday, 23 March 2017

Namibia 2017 Part 19. Etosha N.P. One last chance!

The previous evening had been warm and sunny, would Claire get to spend the last day at Emanya@Etosha enjoying the sunbeds by the pool !
Not a chance it seemed.
It was lashing down.
As there seemed little point in hanging around we might as well head off in to the NP again so with Claire once more at the wheel it was up the tar road for one last time.
The road to Etosha East Gate
Through the gate and into the park, today's objective was to try and find Elephants. So far I had managed a couple but Claire hadn't seen any so I had it my mind it would be a good way to finish. I had read that they tend to move to the north east of the park during the summer so that was the direction we took, taking the road over the causeway yet again and heading north to the King Nehale Gate.
A quick stop for the Black-necked Grebes
Black-necked Grebe  Podiceps  Nigricollis
Then on to where we'd seen the Rhino the previous day. Our luck was in.
Black Rhinoceros
A long way off but out in the open and giving reasonable views.The good news was it was probably getting a bit closer too.
Black Rhinoceros
I swopped my 7D and stuck the 1DX on the lens.The light was poor and the 1D is far better able to deal with it although I was down to a slow shutter speed for the slow moving Rhino.
Black Rhinoceros
I reduced the f number by substituting my 2x with the 1.4x teleconverter and I had the ISO down to 200. Despite the big crop the final result is pleasing enough.
A great way to start the day, I was really pleased as Claire enjoyed watching too. I can always tell because she had picked up the binoculars which she doesn't often do !
Moving on we had a Jackal right in the middle of the road.
Black-backed Jackal
It seemed reluctant to move as we approached
Black-backed Jackal
I got some nice shots and some movement in them too.
Black-backed Jackal
The Jackal walked across the front of the car
Black-backed Jackal
but seemed it didn't want to walk in to the grass as it was long and wet following the rains so for quite some distance it trotted on ahead of us before deciding we weren't going to give up following and headed off in to the undergrowth.
It seemed the wet grass was to our advantage, the Jackal wasn't the only one who preferred the road.
Red-billed Spurfowl  Pternistis Adspersus
These Red-billed Spurfowl sitting so close was a real bonus.
Red-billed Spurfowl  Pternistis Adspersus
Maybe they considered a hasty exit but they stayed put unlike the ones I had seen around the grounds of Emanya which were very flighty.
Red-billed Spurfowl  Pternistis Adspersus
Once they had decided we were not a threat they continued grooming until we had seen enough and moved on.
Sandgrouse next!
Double-banded Sandgrouse  Pterocles Bicinctus
They too were avoiding the wet grass and you couldn't blame them.
Double-banded Sandgrouse  Pterocles Bicinctus
The morning was going really well and it was about to get better still!
Red-crested Korhaan   Lophotis Ruficrista
This Red-crested Kohraan was my first of the trip and I spied it heading towards the road. We stopped and reversed but so did the bird. It was very suspicious of us and headed back in to the long wet grass. Suddenly I heard a light tap, tap, tapping noise and thought there may be a woodpecker nearby but no, it was the Kohraan. What an amazing call. What followed the tapping was incredibly loud.
I just had to video this and share the sound. Switching from still to video mode the bird duly obliged and let out another ear piercing cry before disappearing in to the grass.
I couldn't wait to hear my recording.
I'd only set the recording in mute mode. Can't share that then!
Black Kite   Milvus Migrans
By now it had stopped raining and all the creatures in the park were no doubt drying off.
Black Kite   Milvus Migrans
By lunch time the sun had come out and we were a long way north not far from the gate.
Blue Wildebeest
I offered to take Claire back to the lodge but she decided that it wasn't worth it as the weather looked much cloudier further south and we were probably at least 80 kms away.
So once again poor Claire ended up driving me around whilst the sun beat down outside.
Ironically the afternoon session didn't come up with much either. We took the diversion route towards Onkoshi Camp heading to Stinkwater waterhole. I think the only thing of note we saw was probably a Red-backed Shrike.
Red-backed Shrike   Lanius Collurio
The one and only for the trip.
A final shot of a Crowned Lapwing was probably one of the last shots recorded inside the park. I'd taken lots a week or so earlier but thought I had better take advantage, who know it might be my last ever opportunity.
Crowned Lapwing   Vanellus Melanopterus
So that was it , we exited the park and headed to our lodge to enjoy another excellent meal.
We had spent a total of 11 days in and around Etosha , well I had, Claire had salvaged a day here and a few hours there. I was really disappointed for her although she said she enjoyed it I know how monotonous it can be waiting while someone else is snapping away. That is the danger of the rainy season I suppose, particularly this year as they had some decent much needed rain at last.
My plans to give Claire a nice alternative to driving around all day had all but failed as a result and I am grateful to her for never once complaining because she, like me, was happy for Namibia. 
Did the rain effect my enjoyment ? Not really. The Camp waterholes were an obvious disappointment but looking at the photographs I have seen they are all very similar. I think capturing the action at the other waterholes offers more of an interesting challenge so the decision where to stay doesn't come in to play quite so much.
In 11 days we had seen most of what you expect to see I guess, no Leopard,Cheetah,Hyena, Honey Badger immediately spring to mind but we'd seen lots of other things, particularly bird species, to compensate. Of course they don't appeal to everyone.
Night drives and flash photography I'm not really bothered about. Been there, done that and I don't find looking at a couple of reflective eyes picked up by search light worth skipping my evening's entertainment for, but that's just my opinion. 
Would I go on an organised game drive within the park? Most certainly no. If you have your own transport you can decide just how long you stay and where you go. I saw so many tour groups depart a minute after arriving at a waterhole. Yes, the guides might be able to share information about sightings but that is the only positive to me.
We drove 2000 kms in 11 days so it's surprising how it adds up but I can honestly say I was as happy as the proverbial pig for virtually all of them. 
It was time to go though. Would I come back? I am sure given the chance I will.
For now though we had some thing different to look forward to, first stop back to Erongo though.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Namibia 2017 Part 18. Etosha N.P. After the highs.

It would be near impossible to top the excitement of the previous day's sightings but Etosha NP had already demonstrated that it can serve up something new every day. Today would be no different hopefully.
Unfortunately it started with the weather, exactly the same as the previous day to begin with. Pretty miserable in as much as it was dull and miserable but at least it was warm. Once again Claire decided the better option was to come back in to the park with me.
First stop had to be the waterhole but to our disappointment the Lions had gone. Oh well, we could check again later.
We headed back towards the causeway that splits Etosha and Fisher's Pan.
Some new species!
Black-necked Grebe 
Black-necked Grebe  Podiceps  Nigricollis
There were quite a few.
Black-necked Grebe  Podiceps  Nigricollis
Couldn't fit them all in one image there were that many!
Black-necked Grebe  Podiceps  Nigricollis
You know the feeling when you turn up at a lakeside though?
Little Grebe
Generally no mad panic but everything tends to paddle slowly away giving you the best of rear views!
Cape Teal  Anas  Capensis
That was the closest I had been to Cape Teal though, and the Little Grebe.
Over in the corner of the lake we found some more species, another first in Cape Shoveler
Cape Shoveler  Anas Smithii
and I don't recall seeing Red-billed Teal earlier in the trip either.
Red-billed Teal  Anas Erythrorhyncha
Before heading around Fisher's Pan we had a look along the road that heads north.
A Rhino!
Black Rhino
Not exactly a good view but we'd caught a glimpse through the undergrowth.
Driving around the edge of the pan we had one or two interesting views.
The only Warthogs in the east!
A seated Giraffe made a change and an opportunity for some more dove shots.
Cape Turtle Dove    Steptopelia Capicola
Both Cape Turtle and Laughing Dove were sat in the same bush.
Laughing Dove Streptopelia Senegalensis
Very considerate, saved moving the car.
We also had this new one too, not 100% but I'm thinking White-browed Scrub Robin
White-browed Scrub Robin Cercotrichas Leucophrys
It wasn't very exciting though despite seeing several new species. Maybe the weather was at fault. Still flat and grey.
Etosha Pan
We returned to the edge of Fisher's Pan but this time took the road to the far end.
Along the way there were the usual suspects.
Lilac-breasted Roller    Coracias Caudatus
Maybe the chance of a better shot
Scaly-feathered Finch    Sporopipes Squamifrons
Maybe not
Red-headed Finch     Sporopipes Squamifrons
Photography can be so frustrating.
How do you get a small bird like the Shaft-tailed Whydah fully in the frame without it being very light on detail?
A bit of wind helps!
It was lovely to see a Cattle Egret in full breeding plumage and in full view too.
Cattle Egret    Bubulcus Ibis
But others like these Maribou Stork were exasperating .
Maribou Stork  Leptoptilos Crumeniferus
Mind you they are so ugly I appreciate why they are camera shy too.
Whiskered Tern
Whiskered Tern   Chlidonias Hybrida
and Glossy Ibis just didn't want to co-operate at all
Glossy Ibis    Plegadis Falcinellus
and African Spoonbill not much better.
African Spoonbill Platalea Alba
Still not too frustrating as I have seen them all before.
This one got me briefly grabbing for a shot until I realised it's a juvenile Pale-Chanting Goshawk.
Pale Chanting Goshawk    Melierax Canorus
I have to admit I was actually getting a bit bored.
Sometimes you see something ordinary that appeals though
Common Ostrich   Struthio Camelus
Synchronised Ostrich team or was it the head of the Gorgon?
Common Ostrich   Struthio Camelus
Time to take a look at the Lion waterhole again methinks!
Blue Wildebeest
Driving alongside a Wildebeest it decided to give us an action shot of sorts.
Golden-breatsed Bunting  Embieriza Flaviventris
and a Golden-breasted Bunting, the second we'd seen was worth stopping for.
The waterhole was empty though.
Shame, but we passed some Bee-eaters that looked nice in the improving weather.
European Bee-eater  Merops Apiaster
Time to investigate Klein Nanutomi waterhole, one we hadn't as yet seen.
Lovely flowers.
More Springbok fighting.
Terrapins seem to live in most of the waterholes and I have to say, this one , the waterhole that is, gave great views.
White-backed Vulture   Gyps Africanus
The White-backed Vulture didn't! It stayed too far to get a clean image in the increasingly hot conditions.
We had a drive around DikDik Drive and yes we saw a diminutive Antelope but I didn't take any pictures because I assumed I already had some. 
Mistake, they later turned out to be Steenbok. I should have made better use of my animal guide book. Never mind, something for next time I guess.
Back for a last look at the waterhole, nothing had turned up save a Starling on a tree that looked very appealing.
Cape Glossy Starling   Lamprotornis Nitens
"Come on Claire, lets call it a day" I said.
She was only too happy to agree.
We left them to it.
Some late afternoon sunshine back at the lodge, a cold beer or three and a delicious dinner. All was not lost.