Trip report: Kgalagadi Sept 2013 (The Family affair)

I am calling this trip “The Family affair” because I took my youngest sister (older than me) for the first time to the Kgalagadi joined by my other sister and her husband. Unfortunately my wife did not have enough leave credits – so she stayed in Bloemfontein. We planned the trip almost one year ago and the made the bookings accordingly – a necessity lately in order to get the accommodation you want). We stayed at Kalahari Tented Camp, Mata Mata, Kieliekrankie,  Nossob and Twee Rivieren – a total of 9 days. I told my sister (a non-photographer) to take a few books along because sometimes it could  be very frustrating and boring sitting next to the waterholes waiting for the animals/birds as well as the actions. However, I wonder if she read 10 pages while waiting. Not that boring after all. I gave her my bridge camera and she took a few very lovely photos herself.

 

Once again  – in this trip report, I’ll let the photos tell the stories theme by theme and not day by day.

 

As with my previous trip report on the Kgalagadi, let us start with the Bateleur – As usual Cubitje Quap water hole near Nossob did not disappoint. There were a few of them around and they provided us with the must needed entertainment. The Bateleur breeds in December–March. It constructs a well-concealed nest in trees, laying a single egg which is incubated by the female for 42 to 43 days, with a further 90 to 125 days until fledging. Bateleurs pair for life, and will use the same nest for a number of years. Unpaired birds, presumably from a previous clutch, will sometimes help at the nest (Wikipedia). Here are a few images:

Bataleur prancing 1Bateleur prancing 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1010, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Bataleur taking off puffedBateleur taking off puffed 2

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1000, 1/2500 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

This female Bateleur did not have time to compose herself – her partner decided to take off while she was still prancing – so she had to take off with her feathers in all directions

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Sometimes the Bateleur is too close for a 600mm lens and/or the action is just too quick. Therefore, if you want a full frame image you need to sacrifice to some degree. Here I was too close but I still like the image and so did an international salon as it already received one salon acceptance. In hind sight – should have used my 200mm-400mm lens.

Bataleur taking off water 1Bateleur taking off water 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/2500 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Next is a not-so-common bird in the Kgalagadi. Very common in the Kruger National park but nowadays I do see a lot of them in the Kgalagadi – the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill. Like this flock foraging on termites near the northern entry to the 14th borehole. Unfortunately we were on our way to Kalahari Tented camp and we could not spend enough time with them. This one was very close to the road and provided me with some very nice close-up shots. I had to increase my shutter speed to 1/5000 (almost too slow) to capture the procedure from picking up a termite, throwing the termite in the air and then catch it before it was swallowed. I had to use an f4 aperture in order to blur a very busy background. With the f4 aperture and the closeness of the bird, only a few shots resulted in an entire sharp bird feeding on the termites.

Hornbill foraging 3Hornbill foraging 3

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/5000 sec, f4, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Hornbill foraging 2Hornbill foraging 2

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/3200 sec, f4, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Hornbill foraging 1Hornbill foraging 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/5000 sec, f4, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Some information on the Hornbill (Wiki): The birds “feed mainly on the ground, where they forage for seeds, small insects, spiders and scorpions. Termites and ants are a preferred food source in the dry season.” And it was very dry in the Kgalagadi in Sept 2013.

 

Then it is back to Cubitje Quap waterhole near Nossob and this time it was the BB jackals and the honey badger providing all the entertainment. For 2-3 days the honey badger visited the waterhole at regular intervals to drink water. And boy-o-boy can this badger drink water!!! Even the BB jackals got upset and tried to chase him away. He was just lying next to the waterhole and no dove or sand grouse came down to drink. To our and the BB jackals frustration. On the first day, the BB jackals was already around the water hole when the badger appeared. The BB jackal tried to protect its territory  but without any success.  Here is the badger retaliated after the BB jackal tried to chase the badger away.

Jackal and honey badger 1Jackal and honey badger 1

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @380mm, ISO2000, 1/5000 sec, f8, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun

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And afterwards the honey badger was enjoying the water and the sun:

Honey badger drinking water 1Honey badger drinking water 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1000, 1/1000 sec, f11, exposure comp = -0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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But the BB jackal became very curious or was it frustration:

My bodyguardMy body guard

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO200, 1/500 sec, f22, exposure comp = -1.0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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But the body guard was not so protective – in fact…. This was after the honey badger was lying in the sun for almost 30minutes with no doves and sand grouse coming in to land for water. The Jackal decided to encourage the badger to move along. But it did not work and the badger stayed for another 30 or so minutes.

 

Jackal and honey badger attack 1Jackal and honey badger attack

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO1000, 1/4000 sec, f5.6, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And then the highlight of my trip – my first leopard sighting in the Kgalagadi since my first visit 3 years ago (already visited the Kgalagadi thirteen times before). Tshidi, son of Barolong, was lying underneath a tree next to the road about 1 km south of Rooibrak water hole. Several cars passed him but I was very lucky to spot him. If you look at him and his surrounding enviroment, you can see why many people overlooked him completely. I’ve spend about 10minutes with him alone before a second car arrived.  Here are some shots of him:

 

Leopard yawn 1Leopard yawn 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO800, 1/1600 sec, f7.1, exposure comp = -1.0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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After a few cars arrived, he seemed not to be so comfortable with all the cars around – got up and starting patrolling the river bank.

 

Leopard 1Leopard 1

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @330mm, ISO500, 1/5000 sec, f5, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun

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Leopard 2Leopard 2

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @400mm, ISO500, 1/5000 sec, f5, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun

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The Kwang pride of lions killed a wildebeest between Bedinkt and Kwang water hole in the middle of the river bed – unfortunately too far away and it caused a traffic jam of cars. So I managed to catch a quick moment between one of the male lion and the cub before moving on.

 

My dad c1My dad

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens with Nikon 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO800, 1/400 sec, f5.6, exposure comp = -0.33, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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The next day the pride of lions reached Bedinkt water hole and the male provided me with an opportunity to do a landscape shot with him dreaming of some springbok steak in the early morning light.

 

Lion landscape 1Lion landscape

Nikon D800 camera with 200mm-400mmf4 lens @300mm, ISO400, 1/80 sec, f22, exposure comp = -0.33, Aperture priority, WB = sun

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These two springboks did not worry about the lions and they were doing their own thing:

 

Springbuck fight 1Springbok fight 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO1250, 1/4000 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And then lastly, as I’ve mentioned in my previous Kgalagadi trip report, the pygmy falcon and the sociable weavers’ nest. The social weavers’ building their nest – this time the well-known nest between Samevloei and Leeudril water holes:

 

Sociable veawer bulding nest 1Social weaver 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO800, 1/3200 sec, f8, exposure comp = -0.67, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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And the sociable weavers’ nest between Kampfersboom and Monro water holes – the famous (or is it the favourite) nest for the Pygmy falcon kills. I was fortunate enough to capture yet another kill by the Pygmy falcon – the previous one was during my Aug 2013 visit. This time I parked my vehicle in a more favourable spot because now I know where the falcon is likely to land with its kill. And we waited but luckily not for long. I was able to capture how the falcon entered and exited the next but the shots are not great. Afterwards the falcon emerged from the nest with its dinner. Luckily this time around death was almost instantaneously as the falcon’s razor sharp claw was around the head of the chick and penetrated it.

 

Pygmy falcon with kill 1Pygmy falcon with kill 1

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO2000, 1/2500 sec, f9, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Pygmy falcon with kill 2Pygmy falcon with kill 2

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO2000, 1/2500 sec, f9, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Pygmy falcon with kill 4Pygmy falcon with kill 4

Nikon D3S camera with 600mmf4 lens, ISO2000, 1/3200 sec, f9, exposure comp = -0.3, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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I’ll be back in the Kgalagadi for the last three weeks of November 2013 and may the sightings be with me again.

 

Message to take home:

I still have a lot of images from this trip to process and it is important to let them “chill” on the external hard drive before starting the post processing. Usually I do make a selection of just a few images I want to develop immediately. The problem with this approach is what I called developing the “useless emotional images”. Usually the photographer is so emotionally involved during the capturing process that he/she cannot see the distractions or negative aspects of the images.  Or he/she cannot distinguish between those and the better type of images. One effective way to overcome this is to not process images immediately, but to leave them for a few days or even a few weeks until the (emotional) memory of that moment of taking the photographs isn’t quite so fresh in your mind. That way, you will see the image with fresh eyes, as others will. Therefore, waiting for some time before processing the remaining images.

Until my next trip report – keep on shooting.

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  1. #1 by bessie on October 26, 2013 - 6:38 am

    Willem!!! Incredible interaction shots! I think they should name a hole after you? Willem se foto gat! :)

    • #2 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:11 pm

      Hi Bessie, thanks but not really in that class (LOL).

  2. #3 by puppy1952 on October 26, 2013 - 6:56 pm

    Wow, Willem – Great photographs once again. I just love the ones of the honey bager.

    • #4 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:12 pm

      Thanks Puppy – yes, it was a special moment and sighting. I did enjoy the time with him.

  3. #5 by morkelerasmus on November 1, 2013 - 6:02 am

    Lovely shots Willem! Those badger photos make me greeeeen!
    Also, we haven’t seen Pygmy falcon in a few years in KTP.

    • #6 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:13 pm

      Hi Morkel – just back from another few weeks spent in the Kgalagadi and we did see another few pygmy falcons. However, not such great sightings as the previous time. Trip report to follow.

  4. #7 by Willem Smith on November 1, 2013 - 6:07 am

    Hi Willem,
    Thank you for a very comprehensive report with exceptional images.
    We will be there from the 15 Nov for 3weeks.
    I would just like to know how did you find the Mata Mata area because last year it was dead quiet and preferred the Nossob side.

    Thanks
    Willem

    • #8 by whk139 on November 6, 2013 - 12:26 pm

      @Willem Smith – thanks for your comment. I’ll also be in the park again (11-30 Nov) – so enjoy it.

      Auob vs. Nossob River – what a question! No easy answer. I’ve visited the park 13 times in the past 3 years and still I cannot decide which is my favourite side of the park. Both sides provided me with excellent sightings and photo opportunities. Form a photography side – I think the Auob River is the better side just because it is more open. The Nossob side has that sand banks and small three torn bushes making photography a bit more challenging. One needs to work hard for your photos on the Nossob side but then there is also Cubitje Quap waterhole with its excellent opportunities.

      To summarise – I don’t really have a favourite side but I think I tend to favourite the Auob River.

      May the sightings be with us in Nov 2013!!!

    • #9 by whk139 on December 4, 2013 - 1:15 pm

      Hi Will – great to have met you in the KTP. I hope the remaining days in the Nossob River were more productive than those in the Auob River side. Would love to see some of your images. How about a blog linked to your website? Keep your eye on my blog/Facebook for some images and my trip report.

      • #10 by Willem on December 10, 2013 - 7:04 am

        Willem yes it was an absolute pleasure meeting you and your wife.

        It was a bit busier that the Mata Mata side but not great fireworks I must say. I eventually saw a cheetah kill from start to finish but to far to get great shots.

        Yes I think I should look into that, I am still busy with my main site and it takes time because I do everything myself.

        I will post some images over at the Kgalagadi photographers facebook page so you can have a look there.

        Enjoy work haha

        Willem

  5. #11 by Mike Leigh on January 2, 2014 - 4:18 am

    Hi Willem, thanks for the report and great photos, I’ll have to get up there soon ! About your cameras, I see that you use the D3s extensively and the D800, it seems, on your zoom for the closer / landscape shots. Is this correct ? I am interested in getting a D800, but would like your opinion if you don’t mind. I currently have a D7100 and need a second body. My main interests are birds and wildlife. Will the D800 be a good all rounder, or is it too finicky / fiddly as some people have said ? Keep well and keep the trip reports flowing ! All of the best for 2014.

    • #12 by whk139 on January 2, 2014 - 6:43 am

      Hi Mike – thanks for the comments. My first DSLR camera was also a D7000 with a Nikkor 70-300mm lens. After just one trip to the Kgalagadi I’ve bough the Nikkor 70-200mm just because the quality of the 70-300mm lens was not up to standard. Afterwards I bought the 600mm lens and on a few trips I’ve used the combination of my D7000 with the 600mm lens with excellent results. Yes, nowadays I do use my D3S extensively on my Nikkor 600mm lens – sometimes with a Nikon 1.4 convertor (not a 1.7 or 2.0 convertor – I am not satisfied with the quality of image using these two convertors). Just because of the full frame sensor. Then I do have a Nikkor 200-400mm lens for my D800 (not the D800E) and lastly a D700 with my Nikkor 70-200mm lens. These three combinations are lying next to me on the passenger seat of my vehicle on a piece of sponge covered by a towel. This is for my wildlife photos. If we do come across a landscape opportunity I’ll use my D800 with my Nikkor 17-35mm lens. So my main wildlife camera is my D3S and not the D800. The reason – I did find the conitnuos shooting mode (around 9 frame per second) of the D3S is quick enough to capture the action. I do not like the slow frames per second (currently 4) of the D800 – especially with fast moving animals/birds. I will use the D800 only for stationary subjects or slow moving subjects such as big raptors in flight. Yes, the D800 is a great second body especially if you are into landscape photography. However, the frames per second is even better on the D600 and it is a cheaper camera (still a full frame camera). My opinion: If money is an issue – go for the D600 and you won’t be disappointed. If money is not a issue – go for the D800 (definitely not too finicky / fiddly – I love my D800 and would not change it). What is nice is that you can crop your images and you still have lots of pixels left to work with in Photoshop (major advantage – I do use the D800 in wildlife if know I’ll need to crop the images afterwards). If money is really not an issue – get the D4 and use the D3S as second body. My wife is using the D4 and if we sat next to each other while shooting, she gets a few more images just because of the higher frames per second of the D4. Or try to get a second hand D3S as your main camera with D7100 as your second body. For a long time my D7000 was my second body with the D700 as my main body.
      I hope it helps with your decision – enjoy it!

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