Monday, 6 October 2014

A New Day, A new National Park

Here are a few snaps taken on my first day in Pilansberg National Park, three hours drive north west of Johannesburg. Never been here before but wanted to experience a different animal habitat after the deserts of Namibia.  Pilansberg was a natural choice because it is so easy to get to from J'Berg.  I mis-judged the time thanks to daylight savings so was up and ready by 4am wondering why no one else was in the reception. An hour later they all turned up and off we went. I had a private tour as the other guests booked for the safari were obviously also struggling with daylight saving. Here are a few of my best shots from day one.

Moonshot - as I got up one hour sooner than needed I had a bit of spare time on  my hands!
Mr Kranky-pants in action.
I suddenly felt I was going to end up as one of those YouTube videos featuring a game truck tipped over by a rampaging elephant. If we had not reversed quick enough, would have been.
Years ago all the old bulls died so the young elephants had no role models. In short, they all went a bit rogue, trying to mate with rhino and pulling fences down and generally misbehaving. 
Park authorities shipped five old bulls in from Kruger and within a week the bad behaviour stopped. We thought this might be one of those (now quite ancient) bulls.
Bull elephant 'in must' - meaning he is loaded with testosterone, ready to mate and very aggressive.  He walked out in front of the cruiser and mock charged us as we quickly reversed out of his 'personal' zone.
Quite a moment - at one moment he got so close my 24mm lens wasn't wide enough (above).
Southern giraffe - these species are so much lighter than those seen in Tanzania.
Older giraffe get darker.  The patterning is not for camouflage, but cooling.
The dark/light combination sets up a heat/cool circulation on the skin strong enough to provide a slight cooling effect on the body surface.
At the weekend this park is busy with self-drivers from Joberg. Someone sighted a dead impala up a tree next to the road and then the leopard appeared.
Unfortunately it was a dense tree so even seeing it was tough, let alone getting a good shot.  This was the only clear glimpse I had in about 50 tries. 450mmm focal length, 1/400s @ f4
Actually there were two leopards up a tree, but not at the same time, that would be too much to expect.
This was a smaller male,  seen the next time we drove past the traffic jam which was now being monitored by a park ranger ( to dissuade anyone from getting out of their cars). To get a more usable image, I bracketed the scene (3 shots) and produced this HDR of the tree leopard with better results.
An hour of cloning got rid of the worst leaves/twigs over the face.
Third time we drove past in the late afternoon, the small male was lying in full view on the roadside among some tree stumps.
The traffic jam was even worse but I eventually got this shot with my EF300mm lens (1/25s @ f2.8, ISO 1600) manual focussing.
Three minutes later the light had all but gone - and then the leopard sat up! Luckily one of the guides used the spotlight and I got this nice shot. 1/40s @ f2.8, ISO 3200, MF.
In the centre of Pilansberg there's a lake - the flooded part of the original caldera.
At one end there's an excellent bird hide providing good voews of the birds, including a whole bunch of pied kingfishers
Reed Cormorant
Southern Masked Weaver weaving.
Sunrise and a white rhino by the roadside
Two Red Hartebeeste keeping their usual distance from the roadside.  This is the second-fastest antelope in Africa. Fastest is the Tsessebe (which I have never seen).
Lesser striped swallows are everywhere in the park.

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