Down Mankwe Way

Where the Pilanesberg Na­tional Park shows us the wow fac­tor

South African Country Life - - In This Issue - WWW.PETERCHADWICK.CO.ZA

The old African ele­phant bull, stand­ing un­der the shade of a gnarled marula tree, gen­tly À the side of his neck to cre­ate

À a sign per­haps of his con­tent­ment.

Then he bent his hind legs, rolled onto his side and, obliv­i­ous to my ve­hi­cle parked a few me­tres away, and that he was block­ing my ac­cess to the camp­site in the Pilanesberg Na­tional Park, promptly fell into a deep sleep.

I had ar­rived a lit­tle ear­lier to carry out some con­ser­va­tion work with the North West Parks Board, and had been on my way to set up tent in the small re­search camp when this en­counter hap­pened.

For me, it’s al­ways a priv­i­lege to have such a large and highly in­tel­li­gent an­i­mal trust­ingly lie down nearby and go to sleep, par­tic­u­larly when we live in a world where hu­mans are cre­at­ing such dev­as­ta­tion among our wildlife and wild ar­eas. About 40 min­utes later the bull awoke, raised him­self up, shook him­self off, gave me a beady eye and wan­dered away.

Dusk had fallen by now, leav­ing me to pitch my tent un­der a star-stud­ded sky. Soon I was asleep, but was awo­ken in­ter­mit­tently through­out the chilly night by the cough­ing of a nearby leop­ard, the hoots of Spot­ted Ea­gleOwls and the liq­uid sound­ing calls of Fiery­neckedand Ru­fous-cheeked Night­jars.

In what seemed to be the blink of an eye,

the dark­ness of the night was bro­ken by the ten­ta­tive chirrups of an ea­ger bird, and within min­utes the dawn cho­rus erupted.

Co­qui Fran­colin (3 on check­list), Natal Spur­fowl (8) and Cape Tur­tle Doves were the most recog­nis­able of the birds. Around camp, Marico Fly­catch­ers (6), Masked Weavers, Grey Go-away-birds, Fa­mil­iar Chats, Dark-capped Bul­buls and South­ern Boubous were quick to in­ves­ti­gate my pres­ence. A troop of vervet mon­keys were also watch­ing and I made sure ev­ery­thing was packed away and zipped up, out of sight.

work took me across the re­serve from Manyane to the Bakubung en­trance gate, al­low­ing me to pass through di­verse habi­tats that in­cluded rolling, boul­der-laden hills in­ter­spersed with open grass­land and dense woody ar­eas. At each of the cause­ways, Lesser-striped- (5), Red­breasted(10) and White-throated Swal­lows were busy car­ry­ing small mud pel­lets to build their nests.

In some patches that had been re­cently burnt, Kala­hari Scrub-Robins, Crim­son

!" #

Ground­scraper Thrushes (9), African Wat­tled Lap­wings, Rock Bunt­ings, Sab­ota Larks and Capped Wheatears scoured the ground in search of ex­posed in­sects.

But a few mil­lime­tres of rain had fallen the pre­vi­ous day, and grass shoots were al­ready

push­ing through the black­ened earth. Even a scrub hare was ea­gerly tak­ing ad­van­tage of the earth’s re­vival.

Down onto Mankwe Way, I passed through open grass­land, be­tween herds of im­pala, blue wilde­beest and Burchell’s ze­bra. Ru­fous-naped Larks (1) dis­play­ing from the top of small boul­ders or ter­mite mounds made re­peated, loud calls be­fore do­ing a small hop into the air

À

$ À of African Quail-Finches, and sprinted away when ag­gres­sively mobbed by a pair of Crowned Lap­wings. Swain­son’s Spur­fowl, Ned­dicky, African Stonechat and Rat­tling Cis­ti­cola were also sighted in the grass­lands.

At the end of Mankwe Way there is a range of hills and I had to slow right down to ne­go­ti­ate the sharp bends. There ahead, perched in a tree, was a pair of Short-toed Rock Thrushes (2). Even bet­ter, while watch­ing them, was to see a pair of klip­springers scam­per­ing out of sight over the crown of the hill.

Off to one side, a Brown Snake Ea­gle

Lesser-striped Swal­low

RIGHT: About 40 min­utes after doz­ing off in the road in front of Peter Chad­wick’s ve­hi­cle, this African bull awakes, raises him­self up, shakes him­self off, gives the beady eye and wan­ders away. BELOW: There might be a good sight­ing of the small pop­u­la­tion of tsessebe at Pilanesberg Na­tional Park. BELOW RIGHT:The re­serve of­fers a wide di­ver­sity of habi­tat – open grass­land, dense wood­land and rolling hills.

ABOVE: A yel­low mon­goose suns it­self in the late af­ter­noon, keep­ing close to its bur­row for an es­cape, should any dan­ger ap­pear. ABOVE RIGHT: A light mist hangs over the Pilanesberg val­leys as the sun rises be­tween its hills. RIGHT: Com­bre­tum seeds wait on their branch for the wind.

ABOVE: Li­ons are plen­ti­ful at Pilanesberg and there are a num­ber of large prides that are reg­u­larly seen. BELOW: In the rel­a­tively small park (580km²), gi­raffes are a com­mon sight, par­tic­u­larly around Mankwe Dam.

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