18 Mar 2008

A Day in The Dunes at Sossusvlei and no luck with the Dune Lark.

Peregrine's Bird Photographer Recommendation

Keeping to my African Theme My Reccomendation is Nigel Dennis Wildlife Photography

Monday 26th February

We had our alarm call at 5.30 and we went and had our breakfast before heading off with our guide and a South African couple the thirty kilometres to the gate into the National Park.It opens at Sunrise (6.45) and we had to stop on the way because an Oryx was just standing in the road then to another lodge to pick up ice for our cooler and then onto Sesriem to get our permit. I was getting slightly irritated as I had been told you need to go as the gate opens to get really good photos of the dunes, however we seemed to take for ever to get in the park. On a positive note once inside the park it was tarmac which made traveling easier. Our Guide Regan explained the geology and history of the park as we were going along. We saw some Jackals and some Springbok on our way before we stopped at the Sossusvlei lookout. Here we went into some small dunes and had a look at beetle, bird, snake and lizard tracks.Whereas my main object was to see the endemic Dune Lark. There were a number of other LBJs around which I was having a hard time identifying and I saw a Lark but wasn't sure whether it was the Dune Lark and was going to take a photo to find I had left my lens cap on and by the time I had it off it had flown. I was beginning to steam at this point.One of the LBJ's I later found out was a Grey Backed Sparrow Lark.

Our Guide pointed to some tracks tiny footprints that made their way across the sand. These he said belonged to the Dancing White Lady Spider that rests during the day upto a metre below the surface of the Namib Desert before coming out at night. The tracks stopped at the entrance to a tiny hole and after being dug up this was the beautiful result.

The drawbacks of travelling with other people was that they wanted to continue the 60 Kilometre journey to Sossusvlei and Deadvlei and I wanted to look for the Dune Lark unfortunately for me the majority won:-(. However as we were heading there I did spot the largest bird I have ever seen in the wild The Ostrich and it had two chicks.(Is that what you call baby Ostriches??)

We then stopped at the famous DUNE 45 which a number of tourists were climbing.

We were asked whether we wanted to or not. Not for me!!! A few kilometers further on I spotted a covey of Namaqua Sandgrouse on the roadside, which I got out to photograph as they all disappeared in seconds or rather I got out of the blindside of the car and crept round to photograph at the same time as our guide thought he would get out of the car. Seeth again.The only shot I got was this one as they were departing at high speed.

We get to Deadvlei which is famous for its sunken lake and dead trees.

We then headed towards it when the guide decided we were going to climb one of the dunes and descend down into it.
I had my backpack with my camera gear etc which must have weighed 20 kilos on me and Oh Yes at this stage it was 30C I got half way and had to descend early as I was exhausted. Walking on this sand is like walking in treacle every three steps you are actually going one and a half!! Penny on the other hand thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was worth it and I took loads of photos but wished it had been properly at sunrise to get the more intense colours and better shadow detail.

By the time we left my thermometer showed that it was now 40C bloody hot. Our guide then drove us to Sossusvlei where he laid out a white table cloth on a table and set up a picnic under a tree. It was a rather surreal picnic drinking South African sparkling wine accompanied by loads of Cape Sparrows and a Pied Crow.The Pied Crow tried to nick things of the table while we were eating.

On the way back I decided that while my wife went for a ride the following morning I would come back on my own and find the Dune Lark for myself.

We stopped in Sesriem on the way out of the park and I bought a permit for the following morning. We then went to Sesriem Canyon where there were a number of Swifts and Rock Martins and Rock Doves. Due to it being in the rainy season there was too much water to do a decent exploration.

Then it was back to our lodge. Penny proceeded to have a small breakdown re my birding and not talking to each other etc. The normal travails of a married birder I think!!!!

Things got better for me when I heard this bizarre frog like call coming from just in front of our room. I had absolutely no idea what it was.It turned out to be a pair of Ruppel's koorhans a few hundred metres from the lodge calling in duet.
Dinner again was pretty good apart from the beef which was rather well described by the South African Erwin ,who we had traveled with in the morning who came upto our table and said the only thing tougher than our walk this morning was the beef we were eating now. Infact most of mine was slipped to the friendly cat sitting right next to me.

Again the sky was totally clear and unlike anything I have ever seen before. The milky way was very bright and it felt as though you could almost reach out and touch it.

On my return to UK a friend, Julia, who had lived in Africa for half her life said "Do you know why an Ostrich is called an Ostrich" She said think about it when an Ostrich lays an egg it's Os Strich (Said with a Zimbabwean accent)


Vernon said...

I have been a guide at one of the lodges in the Sossusvlei area, and I am very impressed with your coverage of the area. Nice photos too.

cat said...

be entertained