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Scotch Macaskill's Wildlife Blog

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Visit to Mashatu Game Reserve
March 13, 2008
 
I recently got back from a week-long visit to Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana's Tuli Block. Our party, per kind invitation of host and organiser Paul Crookes, stayed at Rock Camp, a private camp (actually a very comfortable lodge) not far from the Limpopo River that divides South Africa and Botswana. Cable car basket at Pont Drift border post

Mashatu evidently had exceptional spring and summer rains and the Limpopo was still flowing strongly, so we had to cross in the cable car or "basket" at Pont Drift border post (right), rather than driving across as is possible when the river is low.

But the real evidence of the rains became evident as soon as we headed into the bush towards Rock Camp. There was grass everywhere, already turning russet from the summer sun, but grass nevertheless - in abundance as very seldom seen in the area. The Mashatu vegetation is diverse, ranging from riverine forests and marshland to open plains and stony outcrops, but one is usually left with an overriding impression that this is harsh, unforgiving country, characterised by large expanses of stony, bare ground where nothing appears capable of growing.

So it was with delight and surprise that we found herds of fat wildebeest and sleek impala grazing in golden grassland where normally there is only barren earth - see picture below:

Impala herd grazing in Mashatu Game Reserve
 

Today's Picture: Tawny Eagle with Prey
March 13, 2008
 
Tawny Eagle with Prey

Photo Details: Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) looks up briefly while devouring its kill, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.
Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EOS 70-300 IS Zoom; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/500; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400.
 

Today's Picture: Elephant Having a Dust Shower
March 14, 2008
 
Elephant spraying dust

Photo Details: Elephant (Loxodonta africana) using its trunk to shower itself with dust, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana. Many animals enjoy dust bathing - rolling around in loose sand and dust to get rid of irritating surface parasites. Elephants have the added advantage of a trunk, allowing them to spray their bodies with dust - so they have the luxury of choosing between a bath or shower!
Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EOS 70-300 IS Zoom; Focal Length: 105mm; Shutter speed: 1/320; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400.
 

Today's Picture: Hyena at Speed
March 18, 2008
 
Hyena running at full speed

Photo Details: Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) running at full tilt along dry riverbed after spotting a lioness further along and wisely turning tail, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.
Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EOS 70-300 IS Zoom; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/320; Aperture: f8; ISO: 400.
 

Today's Picture: Impala Running and "Stotting"
March 25, 2008
 
Impala running full speed

Photo Details: Impala (Aepyceros melampus) running across our path, some distance ahead of our game drive vehicle, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.
Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EOS 70-300 IS Zoom; Focal Length: 140mm; Shutter speed: 1/800; Aperture: f5.6; ISO: 400.

Addional Info: As we neared a large herd of impala to one side of the track, a few decided it was time to move and sprinted off, heading from our right to our left. Others then followed - singly, in pairs and small groups - almost as if they were starting a race from a staggered start and were also being judged on their acrobatic performance.

When impala and certain other antelope are excited or alarmed, they exhibit behavior called "stotting" in which they spring and bound with all four feet off the ground, interspersed with acrobatic leaps from which they land on their front legs almost in a "hand-stand" position.

As the impala came bouncing past I was able to switch my camera to a slow shutter speed (1/30) and take some panned shots which, I think, give a better impression of their speed and excitement. See below:

Impala running, panned

Impala at full stride

Impala stotting
 

Today's Picture: Secretarybird Striding Through the Bush
March 31, 2008
 
Secretarybird striding through bushveld

Photo Details: Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius) striding importantly through the bushveld, Mashatu Game Reserve, Tuli Block, Botswana.
Camera: Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi); Lens: Canon EOS 70-300 IS Zoom; Focal Length: 300mm; Shutter speed: 1/1600; Aperture: f8; ISO: 400.

Addional Info: The secretarybird, with its long legs and grey and black body, is a large bird that can be as tall as 1.5m (over 4ft). The bare facial skin is a bright orange-red, while the short, sturdy beak is a pale blue-grey color. The distinctive long black feathers on the top of the head form a crest that lies flat most of the time but can be raised, forming an impressive "crown".

Secretarybirds can usually be found in pairs, walking through grassland or bushveld. They are regarded as the world's only terrestrial or ground-living eagles because their lifestyle and breeding habits are so similar to those of the eagles. Although secretarybirds have gained a reputation as snake catchers, snakes do not form a major part of their diet and they will eat insects, small mammals, reptiles, and eggs - in other words they're not fussy eaters!
 

 
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Contact Details: Scotch Macaskill, Dirt Road Traders, Currys Post Road, Howick, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Tel: +27 (0)82 578 2329. Privacy: Your privacy is guaranteed. See our Privacy Policy for more. This site accepts advertising and other forms of compensation - see Disclosure and Advertising for details. Site updated: November 2016. Copyright © 2002 - 2016 Scotch Macaskill