Category Archives: Memorable sightings

Red-billed Quelea

Quelea quelea

Some of the most impressive sights of our recent visit to the Satara area of the Kruger National Park was the enormous flocks of Red-billed Quelea occupying the grasslands of the central plains. Following the good rains that bought respite from an awful drought, the savannas are heavy with a rich harvest of seeding grasses, and literally millions of the little birds are making the most of the abundant foodsource. When their population reaches a peak, as it currently has, there could be as many as 33-million Red-billed Queleas swirling in cloudy swarms over the Park!

The Red-billed Quelea is a small (20g) seed-eating sparrow-like nomad inhabiting grasslands and grainfields (causing enormous losses to farming communities). Swarms that could number in the millions descend on watering holes at least twice daily. While feeding they “roll” over the grasslands in a wave-like motion, most impressive to witness! While seeds make up the vast majority of their diet they do catch small insects as well, especially when raising chicks.

Nesting occurs communally in the rainy months and hundreds, even thousands, of nests are woven per tree (prefers thorn trees) by the males. Breeding colonies could consist of more than 2 million monogamous pairs, and is a magnet for every imaginable predatory bird, reptile and mammal that is large enough to take adults and chicks. Clutches normally number three eggs and the female incubates them for only 12 days, whereafter the chicks fledge within another two weeks!

The Red-billed Quelea may well be the most abundant bird on the planet, with an estimated population as large as ten billion, and as such is considered as being of least concern by the IUCN. It occurs widely in the savannas of Sub-Saharan Africa and can be found in every one of South Africa’s provinces, where it must number in the hundreds of millions.

(The photos in the following gallery were taken on previous visits to the Kruger Park and elsewhere)

Baboon antics at Kumasinga

Joubert and I had great fun with the jolly baboons at uMkhuze Game Reserve‘s Kumasinga Hide – their fun and games kept us entertained for hours! Just confirmation again of why Kumasinga is one of the best and most popular photographic hides in the country.

Stork Buffet at uMkhuze

While driving around the uMkhuze Game Reserve one afternoon in March, we happened upon a seemingly insatiable Woolly-Necked Stork catching juvenile catfish in a drying mudpool. We watched the stork gorge itself on one fish after another, amazed at the ease with which it could grab its slippery, squirming quarry from the “all you can eat buffet table”, until there was no more splashing from the pool at his approach…

Edible Bullfrogs

Pyxicephalus edulis

While I doubt it reached proportions that would convince the Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, the “eruption” of little froglets we saw at uMkhuze Game Reserve during our recent visit was quite fascinating. Rain or shine, literally hundreds (if not more) of tiny frogs could be seen jumping around on the roads all over the reserve, making driving quite tricky if you didn’t want to squash them under the vehicle’s wheels.

Thanks to the help of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park the little ones were identified as juvenile Edible Bullfrogs (or Lesser Bullfrogs), a species that occurs over wide areas of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, and indeed is eaten by humans in many countries where they occur. Though these newly metamorphosed juveniles were only about the size of a thumbnail, the Edible Bullfrog can grow to 12cm in length.

They can be found in seasonally flooded savannas and grassy woodlands, remaining dormant underground for most of the year (up to 10 months) and emerging only when sufficient rain has fallen for breeding to commence. During the breeding season males act very aggressively towards one another and will even kill each other. Eggs are laid in well vegetated, shallow, seasonal bodies of water where the males guard the eggs and tadpoles against other males and predators. Interestingly, when the tadpoles’ pools start drying up the males will dig channels to deeper pools. Edible Bullfrogs feed on a variety of invertebrates and small vertebrates, including other frogs, and feature in turn in the diets of various species of birds, reptiles and mammals (humans included).


Playing hide-and-seek with a leopard

Believe it or not, but in the middle of this picture there’s a leopard hidden in the grass. Don’t worry; If I didn’t see her walk in there I wouldn’t have known it either.

Luckily she grew tired of her hiding spot, got up and walked into even denser vegetation, allowing just one quickly fired shot as proof…

This leopard was lying not two meters from our car and was totally invisible – what wonderful camouflage these cats have!

(Seen along the H3-road just south of Skukuza on Friday last week as we were departing from the Kruger National Park)

Alone time with the King of Beasts

A week ago, on an early morning drive along the Sand River near Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, this magnificent male lion popped out of the thickets to patrol and mark his territory along the road.

After spending quite a bit of time with him as he walked at pace along the river road, mostly within arm’s length of the vehicle, another car arrived on the scene, and I drove off in order to allow them the thrill of some alone time with The King as well.

Rhino Social Media

White rhino bulls use dung middens to communicate their presence and demarcate their territories. They’ll also kick around in the middens to transfer the scent onto their feet and then spread it throughout their stomping grounds, communicating their ownership to interlopers.