The start of a New Year

It has been almost two months since the last update was published. Our apologies for that but we have been busy with a variety of activities, not that we should use that as an excuse.

Christmas has come and gone, as too did the New Year. The camp was full over the New Year which was great for business. Sightings over those 10 days were in between really, with a bit of rain falling and creating the summer waterholes that drew away the smaller birds and some of the general game species. A little bit of bad luck on behalf of the guests also, in that every time we went out on game drive, the animals came to visit the waterhole. There are just some occasions when you cannot win- you cannot be in two places at the same time, as much as we may want to!

During January, our eldest child left home to start studying in Stellenbosch. A long road trip down to the Cape to get him settled into his new home meant we were away from the camp for over 2 weeks. During this time, our hornbill chicks also chose to leave the nest and so there was a similar story unfolding back at camp. More on that later.

On returning home with Cary safely settled in his new home, it was time for the rest of us to move home as well, and we packed up and moved our Hoedspruit house just a few streets further down. Another week away from camp! With all that behind us it was time to get back to the camp and get ready to start welcoming our guests back. A little bit of maintenance work required but all that is now done and we are ready to hit the road running for 2024.

The rains have been good on the reserve and the vegetation is looking great, although trying to find animals in the dense bush can be a battle. The waterhole has produced some great sightings in the past few weeks despite this.

Not one but two hippos

Early in January our guests were privileged to be the first people to have seen the hippo come down to the waterhole. Not only did they see one but there were in fact two of them. They were just approaching the waters edge to go in for a swim when a dove flew over the top of them and spooked them and that sadly was the end of their sighting. At least Christophe managed to get some photos first.

A narrow escape for a female kudu

A lone wild dog chased a female kudu into the water one morning but realising that the task of retrieving it from the water on its own was too much, it gave up and lay down to have a long drink instead.

Watch the video of this amazing sequence here.

Wild dogs are often recorded chasing their prey into water, or maybe that should read the prey species often choose to enter the water to escape. When there is a pack of dogs involved, they can surround the water and eventually tire the unfortunate animal. One of the dogs may even venture into the water to retrieve the victim. In this case with only one dog involved that opportunity did not materialise.

A pride of lions visits Umgede Hide

Over the month we had no less than 4 visits from a pride of lions, sometimes counting up to eleven individuals at any one time. A few young ones, some adult females, and the occasional adult male with them. Its always rewarding to see these magnificent predators stopping off for a drink. On one occasion they visited on consecutive nights which was surprising as they did not appear to have had a kill anywhere close by.

As often happens they were closely followed by a couple of hyenas, maybe hoping to take advantage of some scraps should the opportunity arise.

The camp gardens are aflutter with avian antics!

The hornbills are forever busy at the nest. With multiple mouths to feed the parents have a tough time sourcing and supplying enough food to keep everyone satisfied. At some stage towards the end of December the female left the nest to help her mate.

When she went into the nest to start incubating her eggs about 6-7 weeks earlier, she would have moulted out many of her feathers, especially the long tail and wing feathers that would prove to be cumbersome in a confined space. By the time she is ready to break free these would have regrown, and she would emerge in a brand-new set of feathers. During late January, while we were away in Cape Town getting our eldest settled into his new home, the first of the chicks appeared to have also left the nest. Two weeks later though the adults are still busy feeding chicks inside the nest on a daily basis. We found this interesting as under normal conditions the 3-4 chicks would usually all vacate the nest within about 10-12 days. It could be that the eldest was just that much more ahead of the others.

Watch the video to see her emerge from the nest.

The guineafowl have been roosting in the trees around the gardens daily and they are regular visitors to the waterhole first thing in the morning and just before the sun sets. The woodland kingfishers have claimed the waterhole as their own as they continually dive into the water to catch mainly insects, but also the odd small fish. They are fiercely territorial and often chase off the lilac breasted rollers and even the much bigger hornbills.

The grey headed sparrows too have been busy nesting in one of the two trees that we planted last year. They seem to have found themselves a suitable cavity. It is nice to know that the trees are being used for more than just a perch. The masked weavers are using the tree just to the left of that perch for their nesting site. These beautiful birds offer superb photographic opportunities as they hang under their nests displaying to the females and showing of their building skills and their contrasting black and yellow colours.

Early morning, once the lights go off, the strip of earth between the shutters and the water’s edge is a hive of activity with several different species coming in for an easy “drive-thru” meal of insects that accumulated during the night. Glossy starlings, crested barbets, the kingfishers, and hornbills are all regulars along with various francolins and doves as well.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @Antaresbushcamp to keep up to date with daily posts and reels from camera sightings.