Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

May 31, 2014

The Battle of the Cuckoos

Filed under: 2014,May — Hennie van Heerden @ 8:19 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

(I thought it was about time to update the wildlife diary again :-))

I was out very early in the morning a couple of days ago. Already within the first five minutes it turned out to become a good day for photography as the Roe Deer posed perfectly, and Spotted and Pied Flycatchers and a beautiful Bullfinch showed themselves.

For a couple of days already I heard a Cuckoo calling around the house and because of that it wasn’t hard to spot. He was flying up and down between the neighbour’s and our place. Unfortunately it always perched high up a tree but nonetheless I kept on shooting take-offs and landings.
I still had theImageImage calling bird in focus, waiting for yet another take-off, when all of a sudden a second Cuckoo appeared out of nowhere, practically bomb-diving my poor little friend. A fight developed, with the two birds tumbling through the air. Everything happened só fast, the only thing I could do is keep my finger on that shutter and blast away. Within 5 or 6 seconds it was all over leaving me with pounding heart and trembling hands. (apparently the Cuckoo also had a good scare because he didn’t call anymore for another hour or so, only to get back at it with new enthusiasm afterwards 🙂

I couldn’t wait to get back at the house to see if any of them would be sharp and low and behold; they were!! Of course they needed to be cropped but still I’m more then thrilled to have witnessed, ànd captured this unique event!!

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

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September 11, 2011

Surprise Party

Yesterday afternoon I was working when I all of a sudden heard a bird calling outside. It sounded all too familiar: Kingfisher! Although we have visiting Kingfishers every now and again it still is a rare guests as we live in a forest area and there are not that many nesting possibilities around. Two years ago, we’ve had a Kingfisher emptying our pond for a week, but since then it still is an exception when I hear or see one.

But this time she had landed on a branch over the pond and started scanning the water for fish. As there are a lot of fish in the pond I knew that it would mean that she was probably going to stay around for a while. The next 10 minutes were frantic. The moment she flew off for a moment I sprinted to the shed, got out my hide, threw it on the terrace that is next to the pond, got a little chair, my tripod, camera. Sprinted off to the neares patch of forest where I knew Hans had been busy cutting off branches. Dragged a huge one to the pond and just hung it just over the water surface. Took a dive in the hide, zipped it up and exhaled again 🙂

It only took a few minutes and there was the familiar sound again. To my great thrill it flew straight at the new branch, right in front of my camera. It took her only a minute before she took a dive into the pond and fished out her first little fish. It was a shame that it was cloudy and already quite late, so the possible shutterspeeds weren’t fast enough to capture her smashing the fish on the branch, but still got some really nice shots.

She kept on fishing and in the first hour she caught herself 5 fish before she landed on a tiny little branch just above the water and started to clean her feathers. By that time I thought I heared the call again but dismissed it as imagination as I didn’t see her call. When I looked back at the pictures I took later on, the surprise was complete when it turned out there were two different ones! Talk about a surprise party!! Both juvenile females. I really hope they’ll return but I haven’t seen them again ever since.

December 1, 2010

Band of Brothers

After 3 weeks of travelling alone today was the day that Hans would arrive!!!! I could hardly wait for the plane to arrive. Of course it had been fantastic so far but especially on safari it’s so nice to share all of the wonderful sightings with each other. He would be arriving in the early afternoon, so of course I went out on game drive first in the morning. But I had to be back in Main Camp fairly early as I still had to pack everything as I would move to Rattray’s Camp to spend another 2 weeks there together with Hans. And in my case, it’s not so much the luggage that takes a lot of time to pack; It’s more fitting all the photographical gear back into it’s carry-on case 🙂

The day started brilliantly by finding the Matshipiri Female leopard high up in a tree. She is the mother of Pretty Boy or “The Italian” as I call him. So far we saw him a couple of times, but she had been invisible up till now. What a glorious sighting to start a day with!!
All kinds of Eagles were pretty active too and the Lilac Breasted Roller sure made a nice graphic picture on his branch.

I just couldn’t waint until it was time for Hans to arrive so I was ready on the deck way too soon. The transfer to Rattray’s went smoothly as was the ‘handing over’ to ranger Dean whom we got to know last year.  And it was a very big thrill to meet all my friends again. Alan the Barman, galant as ever, was waiting for me with the nicely chilled Chardonnay I like so much…. How’s that for a welcome!
A little before 2 we went to the airstrip and like clockwork the plane came in….
The man sure knows how to make an entrance.. 🙂

Of course we went on gamedrive that afternoon! And what a treat we had! I’ve mentioned before that Cheetah are a rare species in Mala Mala. The beautiful cats are more at home in the vast plains of the Serengeti than in the more densely populated South African parks and there had been years that I hadn’t seen one at all during my visits. We had been looking for them on the northern boundary for days already but other than a glimpse of only one, we hadn’t been lucky.

Until today…
When we arrived at the boundary there were 2 vehicles standing in the middle of the plain there….. And then we saw them.
The four brothers were together, watching a tiny newborn Wildebeest baby some 500 meters further on. They never lost sight of it while they crept closer and closer. Step by step, with endless patience. We came in on the right of them but the light of the setting sun was not in our favour. Dean quickly turned the wheel and got us to the left of them. Perfect Light!! And on top of that, the brothers chose that moment to line up absolutely perfect!!!! I’ve never in my life seen a more beautiful sighting of Cheetah than this. I didn’t know what to shoot first of last and ended up by just letting the camera rattle 🙂 I am SO happy with these shots!! The magnificent cats got up, crept closer to the Wildebeest baby and went down again. Surely a sighting I’ll never forget!

We stayed with them until it was completely dark, but not without getting treated to a most beautiful sunset. What a fantastic day!!



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