While I love this blog, I now pretty much only write on my other two blogs: BirdingBlogs.com and 10,000 Birds - I would love to see you there!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

It is wonderful to be back in Africa

I have now been back in South Africa for a few days. After landing in Johannesburg on Thursday, my brother and I had a quick cup of tea with our long-time friend Graham Kearney (the absolutely brilliant wildlife artist) and then headed off South for the 4hour drive down to Bloemfontein in the Free State.

The drive from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein takes one through the large open expanses of the „Highveld Grasslands“ – dry and sleeping in a state of torpor, shades of winter browns filling the landscape. Nearing Bloemfontein, the eye is drawn to the rusty Koppies littering the horizon. Koppies (literally „little heads“) are these small mountains, rising steeply from a flat plain, dominated by boulders and small cliffy sections and usually sporting a flat plateau.

The wide open plains of the Free State

It is wonderful to be back in Africa.

My 90yr old grandmother (Oma) had knitted scarfs, a jersey and house socks for me and nearly had a heart-attack with excitement when she first saw my brother and I (Barry had also just gotten back from working in China). The folks were naturally also well pleased to have both of us back in South Africa and all together again.

My first evening back, I gave a talk at BirdLife Free State and it was wonderful to meet such an enthusiastic and friendly crowd of bird and nature lovers, and it was great to see Rick Nuttall again after so many years. Rick and Birdlife Free State are really in to the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2 (SABAP2) – a grassroots bird serveying and sensusing project run throughout Southern Africa. One of the coolest things about SABAP2 is that you can see your data almost in real time as you add it. Check out the website to see the map of sightings of the Lesser Kestrel (by way of example).

I know I can do it! I will not fall. Just watch me. mmm... I wonder if I can find an even smaller branch to perch on?

Yesterday we took a drive out towards Maselspoort Dam. I naturally took my digiscoping setup with – just in case. We saw tons of Blackbellied Korhaans, some Whitefronted Bee-eaters and Spotted Dikkops, the ubiquitous flocks of little brown jobs (LBJ’s – mainly widos, bishops and redbilled queleas) and a good number of Crowned Plovers. We also came across a group of the cooperative breeding Anteating Chat, and a pair of Doublebanded Coursers.

Doublebanded Courser (Rhinoptilus africanus) - my brother's first digiscoping photo. Not bad at all - the boy has a massive creative streak and more than a small dose of brilliance.

The great surprise of the day was to find some sort of game farm along the road with lions, including my first White Lions – the famous leucocystic white lions of Timbavati. Beautiful.

A stunning male white lion


Kelly said...

Oh my goodness! I can only imagine the beauty of this place. Such wide open places and gorgeous animals and birds. Love the photo of the white lion...

Anonymous said...

That is such a beautiful description of that place and the spaces it all occupies. I really wish I could have lived and seen our Great Plains with grass so tall a horse and rider could often not be seen walking through it. It must have been magnificent to see the wind make the grass roll like waves.

It other places it was lower grasses and millions of bison spent lifetimes on it.

Your white lion is really nice to see. I just can't imagine a cat with a head that big.

Anonymous said...

Great words and photos.

Arija said...

I hope your family killed the fatted calf to have two prodigal sons returning at the same time! I love your Oma, she's my kind of woman. From your photos and description it is truly Africa the beautiful, I love the grassland and particularly the white lion!
A great post.

Chris said...

Oh woow Dale,
didn't you have any place in your luggage for me! I'm so small!
God, this is probably a nice place to be for a photographer, I hope you will come back with thousands pictures to show us. And these are already wonderful ones.

Sharon said...

How wonderful for you to be able to visit your grandmother with your brother. I know there is nothing that can makes me happier than when I am with my children (who are now grown & living in different states).
Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos with us too!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Hello Dale. I know just how you feel. It does not matter how wonderful it is being overseas, there is nothing like being back home again. I am sure your family is very happy to have you back in the fold no matter how short the time. Welcome back!! I look forward to our meeting.

Larry Jordan said...

Gee but it's great to be back home isn't it Dale? I think the older I get, the more I like to be home. What a nice surprise for you Oma!

Great post and quite a change from Tirol I imagine. Thanks for sharing your story and photos. I love the white lion too.

Neil said...

Thanks for the great story and photos.

Jochen said...




Must - Return - Southern - Africa !

Gosh, I SO miss it! Please, post as often as possible and keep those LBJs coming!
Happy birding trails and a safe journey!

Bob and Cynthia Kaufman said...

It must be wonderful to be in Africa. I'm so happy for you. Looking forward to more photos..especially of African birds.

Tranquility said...

That cute little balancing bird is adorable and gave me quite a laugh!

The lion is just incredible - such a beautiful creature and a fantastic photo!

Kyle said...

Great post, Dale -- so nice to be back with family, isn't it? And I love the first image of the kite. I had to do a double-take ... at first I thought it was just a little cotton-like puffball on top of that stick. Wow, what balance!

jeannette stgermain said...

Hello Dale,
I am trying to hunt down the person who gave me a comment on my blogpost on flowers of higher altitudes. The comment disappeared in the process of publishing it from comment moderation. I only remember that this person's name started with a "D." if it was you, please would you write the comment again? Thanks!
That little fur ball on a stick is very funny!
Wow, the white lion - what a magnificent animal.
Have a great time in S.Africa!

MaineBirder said...

Ah Africa... maybe someday I will travel there and take in the wildlife.

Excellent series!

Gaelyn said...

Wow! All amazing captures. Glad you can be reunited with family, and in such a stunning place. Now I need to add another place on my to see list when I'm in SA during March. Awesome!

Enjoy your visit and I lookforward to whatever you can post with limited internet while your there.

T and S said...

WOW, this is a dream destination for me Dale. I m sure we are going to have some stunning digiscoped images for the next couple of weeks. I just can't wait if these images are anything to go by.

Dale Forbes said...

wow, all these wonderful comments. thank you so much for them. The staff at "news cafe" are starting to look strangely at me and getting annoyed that all I want from them is Camomile Tea so I cant reply to each one individually, but I loved reading them all. Thank you!

I have just had lunch with the president of BirdLife South Africa (Rick Nuttall) - what a wonderful and interesting man!

AMIT said...

Enjoy ur days at SA.

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