Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, November 2013 (Birds edition)

It has been a while since I’ve posted a trip report on my blog. Well, now that I’ve achieved one of my goals in photography (reaching 250 acceptances each in national and international photography salons (competitions), I do have some time to continue with a trip report or two. What a better way to pick up where I left my trip reports than a trip report to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I still haven’t developed all the photos I want to but here are a few.

I stayed on both side of the park (Auob and Nossob River sides) but I am not going to write story after story. Also I am not going to give you a day to day dairy description – let the photos do the talking.

DO not be mistaken – I did not make a mistake with my camera setting. Sometimes it was necessary to increase the ISO level to 4000 to 8000 in order to the required shutter speed. Especially with an aperture of F8 & f16.

How about starting with my favourite topic – birds. I am not going to post the usual photos of birds in this trip report but I would rather try and post something different. I do hope you’ll enjoy the reading.

Snake eagle 1 1400 300k 72d sRGB W

Snake eagle 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO1250, f8, 1/40, exposure = -0.67 WB = sun, Aperture mode, 32 meters from bird)

Shooting through the window of my vehicle – handholding my D3S camera en 600mm lens just because of the angle – not too bad a result



Then we parked next to the Social Weaver nest between Leeudril and Rooiputs water holes and trying to get this nearly impossible shot. The weaver taking off towards the nest with a twig in its beak.


Sociable weaver building nest 1

Social weaver building nest

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4, ISO4000, f16, 1/3200, exposure = -0.3, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 8 meters from bird)

We sat there for about 2 hours and after about 1000 images, I had one of two images that I can use



Just passed Houmoed we came across this Red necked Falcon sitting in the middle of the road “eating” small pebbles. Interesting behaviour once again – apparently helping the birds with digestion (just like the ostriches are doing it).


Red necked falcon 1 crop 1 1400 300k 72d sRGB R W

Red necked falcon

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4, ISO6400, f8, 1/2500, exposure = -0.3, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 8 meter from the bird)

I was very lucky – the falcon allowed me to slowly drive up to it – a mere 8 meters from the bird. Once again – it is all about patience and let the bird feels comfortable with you as photographer around. Be quiet and move your vehicle very slowly



One of the reasons why I do love going to the Kgalagadi in the month of November – the breeding period for the many Bee-eaters in the park. Between Mata Mata and Sitsas waterhole I saw this Bee-eater going into its nest. So I parked my car in the middle of the road waiting for the Bee-eater to return to its nest to feed the chicks. The only problem with this approach is that one needs to move your car every time another vehicle wanted to pass.


Lunch is coming 1 1400 300k 72d sRGB W

Lunch is coming

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO8000, f13, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 8 meters from the bird)



Bee-eater with food 1400 300k 72d sRGB W

Bee eater with food

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO8000, f13, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = sunny, Aperture mode, 8 meters from the bird)


Take a bow, Nikon D3S for handling an ISO of 8000 so well. Two images above shot during the late afternoon in the last light just before the sun disappeared behind the dunes.


Back to the Nossob side of the park – a lot of vultures around Kwang and Bedinkt water holes. These Lappet-faced Vultures had a drink at Bedinkt waterhole and took off.


Lapped faced vulture take off 1 crop 2 1024 300k 72d sRGB W

Lappet-faced vulture taking off 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f8, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 50 meters from bird)



LF vulture take off 1024 300k 72d sRGB W

LF vulture taking off 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f8, 1/4000, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode, 50 meters from bird)



Cubitje Quap water hole is (“was?”) famous for its hunting Lanner Falcon but I only saw the Lanner once. However, I’ve realised that almost every day you would be able to find a Bateleur drinking water. Especially when starting your afternoon drive around 15H30.


Bateleur drinking water 1 1024 300k 72d sRGB YR W

Bateleur drinking water

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO1250, f8, 1/3200, exposure = -0.33, WB = sun, Aperture mode, 25 meters from the bird)



So these are just a few images of the birds of the Kgalagadi. The animals to follow in the next part of this trip report.


Message to take home:

I’ve mentioned the high ISO levels used for bird photography during this trip. Just one very short message today: Do not waste your time as well the bird’s time buy trying to capture sharp images of bird in flight (BIF) using shutter speed of less than 1/4000 of a second. Especially smaller birds. I’ve read so many articles telling you to use a high shutter speed when doing BIF photography. But then the authors are mentioning 1/1000 of a second. I made the same mistake in the beginning – trying to keep my shutter speed around 1/1000. It might work for larges slower birds but…. So, do not be fooled by advice like that. Rather try and keep your shutter speed above 1/4000 of a second or even close to 1/8000 of a second. You will not be disappointed with the result.


Until next time – keep the shutter VERY fast while keep on shooting

  1. #1 by michaelsingeltonhaworth on June 28, 2014 - 3:35 pm

    Willem, your Lappet-faced taking off is brilliant. Am still waiting to get a decent Black-chested Snake-Eagle. Wonderful images.

    • #2 by whk139 on June 28, 2014 - 7:38 pm

      Thanks for your comments Mike – appreciate it.

  2. #3 by Willem Smith on June 28, 2014 - 6:30 pm

    Willem its been a long time since we last had a chat. I am so glad you eventually decided to post your trip report haha.
    I must say you just seem to get the images as you know it has been a quiet trip last Nov. Magnificent images as always.
    When are you heading in that direction again?

    • #4 by whk139 on June 28, 2014 - 7:45 pm

      Hi Willem, yes – it has been a while. I was so busy with the photography salons (working towards a EPSSA as well as EFIAP) that I did not have some spare time to work on the trip report. And I do have a few to write.
      The “harvest” was not big but there were a few quality shots – used it with great success in the salons, thanks.
      We are just too busy this year with other trips – unfortunately not enough leave days left for Kgalagadi. But we’ll be back in the Kgalagadi at the end of November. Our next trip is in August to Mashatu with Albie Venter.

      Thanks for read “your” post and tomorrow I’ll post the rest (Animal version). Enjoy!!!

  3. #5 by air conditioner repair miramar on August 19, 2014 - 7:06 pm

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