Never a dull moment

30 05 2012

Wild dogs, or Cape hunting dogs have to easily be the most exciting mammals from a game drive perspective. They are constantly on the go, moving at speeds that make it quite difficult to keep up with them, even through sparse bush. A good-sized pack, lets say 9 members, will most often feed twice a day, leaving photographers with a cramped index finger!

With a great bit of luck, we managed to see a pack on an early morning safari, and even though they were resting and digesting, (they had just finished an unlucky impala), the three youngsters kicked up a bit of action for us to photograph. With wild dogs, there truly never is a dull moment!

As always, it starts with a playful nip to the tail, encouraging the nipped tail to respond with a whip to the side – game on! The owner of the nipped tail, was less keen to partake in this game, and started defending the tail, albeit in a lazy fashion. The fantastic morning light did not hurt one bit either! We got in a good position, and snapped away.

It didn’t take long for them to move off. Constantly on the go, they got up, and in their characteristic gait, trotted off, quicker than we could follow.

Fun and games

23 05 2012

There is always that one individual in a group that has the ability to rile up the others. Turns out, zebras are no different.

Out on a morning safari, a particularly frisky zebra was jabbing at the cool temperament of his herd. There was no obvious sign for his boisterous behaviour, but every member of the herd had their share of his attention.

There seemed to be no way out of his fun and games, as even the most mature of the zebras eventually succumbed to his biting and frolicking, and joined in. The mood he was in seemed contagious, as once he was done with one of the members, they in turn would start to harass a different member of the herd, and so on. This of course was great for photography, and I snapped away, spending the better part of an hour watching this chap getting on everyone’s nerves. I caught another lucky break; the overcast conditions, usually not a photog’s friend, meant that I had no limitations on the direction that I photographed. Glorious, as the zebras moved quite quickly back and forth past the vehicle. The most difficult part of the whole sighting, was trying to keep up with the action. There was so much going on; it was tricky to work out which way to point the camera!

It didn’t last forever though. The big stallion put an end to the youngster’s playtime with a swift kick to the neck. That settled everyone down instantly, and they continued with their day.

An interesting little antelope

2 05 2012

It is easy to get distracted by the glamour of the lions and leopards, and the might of the big heavies; the elephant, rhino and buffalo, but if you take your time, look far up into the rocky outcrops, there is a little antelope which is just as interesting.
The Klipspringer, (which translates directly to rock jumper) is one of the smaller antelopes found in Africa. As the name suggests, it likes to …jump, on rocks… Usually, you see them as a silhouette, right at the top of one of the outcrops they call home, but every now and again, you catch one of them crossing open ground. While they are no slouch in a foot race, the predators out-match them on flat land. When they reach the safety of the rocks however, they are almost untouchable! In fact, their biggest threat would most likely be from the air, as the bigger eagles could quite easily snatch a young one.
They almost glide over the rocks, bounding away from any danger as if impervious to the sheer cliff faces they dance across. They are so specialized, that their feet have even evolved to deal with the challenges of rock face living. The hoof has become almost rubbery, as opposed to the hardened nail type hoof of its cousins, and the shape of the foot has changed, so they are effectively standing right on the tips of their toes (imagine a ballerina with four legs and you will start to get the idea)!
The other ace of spades up their sleeves is that they never need to physically drink water! This is a rather handy trick when living in the relentless heat of Africa. They obtain all the moisture they need from the leaves they eat – now if a little puddle of deliciously fresh water pooled up in one of the rocks they live on, then they are not above putting their heads down and slacking their thirst, but it doesn’t happen often.

Photographically, these chaps do pose a number of interesting challenges. To start, they are quite difficult to find, and then once you have found them, they are right on the top of the rocks, way out of reach of the cameras lenses! Technically, because of the distances involved, it is nearly impossible to create an image that works, and when you do get close enough, they usually run away! Luckily though, I have had a few opportunities, and I made the most of them!