It is that time of year to reflect on the past year, your goals, achievements and realign for the year ahead. One year ago I joined the expanding CNP Safaris as the proud owner of CNP Safaris Western Cape. I am not certain where this new life journey I am on will take me, but if 2014 is anything like 2013 where I spent just over 100 days in the places that are on most nature lovers and photographers bucket lists then I am willing to take on the challenges ahead. Somebody once told me that on the ocean of life you have to trim your sails to the force of the wind to ensure you stay afloat, move forward and stay the course. I guess that is what I am doing.
I would spend around 60 days on the river in 2013 and got to know the various places the animals frequent and where the birds nest. I learn’t so many new things about animal behaviour and interaction between species that I say every day is a school day. I was on the river every month from March to end October and got to experience the Chobe in flood and at its lowest levels. Every month has a different attraction and migratory visitors. As the water level drops competition for food also increases and you will see large herds of Elephants, Puku, Sable Antelope, Lechwe, Impala and even hippos feeding side by side on the exposed grass banks.
The safari year with Lou and Veronica Coetzer of CNP Safaris started in March in Kasane on the Chobe river when Lou and I arrived a few days ahead of the first 12 clients to ensure the equipment and boats were 100% ready for them. Of course once the work was done we got to do a few sessions to scout the river to assess water levels and special areas we like to frequent. This is where I was able to shoot my first proper images of African Jacanas and to crown it all, a dad with 4 chicks of a few days old. The African Jacana is sequentially polyandrous meaning that the female mates with up to 7 males who will then incubate the eggs and raise the young.
The nest is a collection of sodden foliage of aquatic plants onto which the female lays mostly 4 eggs. According to Roberts Bird guide the eggs rest 20mm above the water surface and plant material is continually added to the nest.
The incubation period is between 23 and 26 days after which the eggs hatch in the order that they were laid. The young are precocial meaning that they will start to feed themselves within 4 hours of hatching. Although we were quite close to the chicks on most days, the proved to be a challenge as we were shooting them with 600mm lenses plus a 2x or 1.7 extender just to try and fill the frame. This brought other technical consideration as you had to shoot at f/11.0 or f/13.0 as the depth of field is so shallow with these long lens combinations that the back legs would be out of focus when the chick is approaching you.
The other very special sighting I was privileged to see and photograph was the African Pygmy Goose (Nettapus auritus). This colourful and extremely fast Geese we nicknamed “turbo ducks” as they are lighting fast, skittish and a challenge to photograph in flight. As one of the clients (who shall remain nameless) said to me when we were trying to get these guys in flight “this is now a higher grade exam you have given us”. As we get to photograph these birds mostly in the early morning, the light is usually excellent and you will be shooting with a 600mm lens and Nikon D700 camera in AV on f/8.0, ISO around 800 and a shutter speed as close to 1/8000 as you can get. The setup on the boats with the swivel chairs and Wimberley supports is perfect to track and shoot these moving subjects.
These beautifully colourful Geese are small in size only about 33cm high and weigh around 260g. Their status for Botswana are listed as near-threatened resident. The male is the more colourful of the 2.
The female nest in tree hollows close to water and you could be lucky to see the male or female hanging onto a tree trunk looking like a Woodpecker inspecting possible nesting sites about 3 meters above ground.
The female will lay between 6 and 12 eggs and the incubation period is around 27 days after which the female will call to the young who will climb down from the next and follow her to water. Here we were extremely fortunate to arrive just as the female was taking her 10 chicks to the water for the first time. We could follow her at a distance as she led the way across the water channel and into the grass en reeds.
The first safari for 2013 was truly a first for me on so many levels and I look forward to seeing the new 2014 broods of Jacana chicks and Pygmy Geese again and introducing the Chobe to our new and regular clients.
As this is my last post for 2013 I want to thank each and everyone I met during this year. You have enriched my life. I trust that I was able to assist with your photography and editing skills and that you are building on this.
From the 2014 booking list I can see many familiar names again. I look forward to seeing you again and sharing the magic of Africa and CNP Safaris with you..
Please leave me your contact information below if you would like me to get back to you with more information on our various safaris and availability for 2104.