The helicopter noise has ended…The result, unknown as yet…5 days and counting…

A red-backed shrike was sitting atop Rita’s hat while we were at Two Trees.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 12 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul, Mary, One Tusk, and more
  • 10 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck, Bad Leg, Spikey, Big Spikey, and others
  • 1 kudus – none-did we lose Bossy and family?
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 27  helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 24 mongoose
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

We are so relieved the helicopter herding of kudus and impalas has ended. Unfortunately, at this point, we have no idea how many animals were moved and culled in the process. The only place to find the stats is on various groups on Facebook. There have been many posts that both espouse the approach and criticize it.

I had posted some frustration and mistrust of the process but got such negative feedback. I removed the post. I have no interest in getting into online altercations. And yet, a day later, dozens of comments were made stating my same concerns, often vehemently expressed back and forth between Facebook users.

Two giraffes, at a distance on a hill, at the Crocodile River.

At some point soon, warthogs will be culled, perhaps while we’re in the US. We’ll keep watching the various Facebook groups for more information. However, my biggest question will remain prevalent in my mind – will Little and Tiny still be here when we return, four weeks later.

On another note, last night, there were seven of us situated on our veranda for sundowners and appetizers. What a fabulous evening we had! It started at 4:00 pm, 1600 hrs, and ended after 10:00 pm, 2200 hrs. We are so blessed to have such good friends here in Marloth Park and look forward to seeing them all again when we return at the end of July.

A turtle on the opposite side of the Crocodile River.

And now, as we plan activities in the US, we are arranging some get-togethers with some of our friends in Minnesota between family visits. On the 4th of July, my son Greg and family will meet us for dinner at Maynard’s Restaurant on Lake Minnetonka, followed by an evening of fireworks at our former next-door neighbor’s house.

Greg will bring chairs for all seven of us, sit on Nelleke and Dave’s lawn, and watch three or four sets of fireworks over Lake Minnewashta. It will be a fun experience for three of our six grandchildren and reminiscent of years past when we watched the fireworks from our dock on the lake.

A distant hippo and a few cattle egret, who often hang around with hippos, on an island in the Crocodile River.

But, we won’t be too sad. We appreciate and love this nomadic life we live. Memories bring a smile to our faces, reminding us how grateful we are for all of the experiences of our lives. Some of our friends/neighbors have moved away from the neighborhood but live nearby, and hopefully, we’ll see them as well.

Of course, we’re looking forward to seeing both sides of our families. Tom is from a huge family, and he’ll visit them on his own when I am with Greg’s family and, at other times, with me tagging along. I have always enjoyed his family and look forward to seeing them, too.

A hornbill and a red-backed shrike were wondering if we had some snacks. We did not.

With the number of cases of Covid-19 rapidly escalating in South Africa, we’re hoping there won’t be an issue when we attempt to return on the new flight we booked with United Airlines on July 24 from Las Vegas to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger, arriving on July 26th. Unfortunately, it’s a long haul both ways, consisting of over two days of travel time each way.

The hardest part of such long travel periods is the lack of sleep. We can easily handle jet lag, time differences, and waiting at various points along the way. But, the lack of sleep in two days is tough to take especially, when neither of us sleeps well sitting up.

Soon, there will be a full moon.

We’ll arrive in Minneapolis at our hotel around dinnertime on July 1st and will undoubtedly look forward to a good meal and a restful night’s sleep. The following day, the first thing we’ll do after breakfast is head to a location where we can get the J & J vaccine. It’s imperative we can get the one-dose to head to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to see Tom’s sister Betty, who is in a nursing home.

As is the case at most nursing/assisted living facilities, visitors must have had their vaccines at least two weeks before visiting friends and family. If we can’t get the J & J vaccine, we won’t see Sister Beth (a retired nun), which would be a big disappointment for her and us.

Today, we’re staying put, gearing up to start sorting and packing for the upcoming journey. We’ll be spending one night in Joburg and need to carry on overnight items accordingly, checking the remainder of our luggage. In addition, we’ll each check one suitcase with clothes and things we’ll need.

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, June 24, 2020:

This buffalo was not happy to see Tom when he went for a walk in the neighborhood in Sumbersari, Bali. He didn’t use any zoom to capture this photo when this monstrous, agitated buffalo suddenly started to approach him. Tom ran like a “bat out of hell” to get away, telling me the story while still breathless from running. For more photos, please click here.

We can hear the helicopters rounding up our animal friends…The close proximity of sightings…

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 12 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul, Mary, and more
  • 10 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck/Bad Leg, Spikey, Big Spikey, and others
  • 7 kudus – inc. Bossy, Notches, Little Daddy, and others
  • 1 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn
  • 19 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 Frank and The Misses

The sound of the helicopters overhead is making me cringe. But, with seven kudus in the garden right now along with Little, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Fred, and Ethel, and seven bushbucks, we’re hoping they’ll hang around with us today, tomorrow, and Wednesday. If they stay nearby, they may be safe, according to Louise’s input.

The male bushbuck we call Bad Leg stood close to us on the veranda.

Animals are amazing. If they stay in this general area, they are less likely to be herded to their demise. Nevertheless, it will be a tense three days on this end. Now, here comes Broken Horn, with lucerne hanging from his mouth. As he approached, he stepped on the long grass in his mouth and pulled hard to get it out.

We underestimate their intelligence. But, then again, do we? As we sit here day after day, totally enthralled, watching them and their behaviors, we’re continually in awe of their innate ability to communicate with one another, let alone with us from time to time.

For the first time, gray louries pecked at Frank’s seeds.

Yesterday, while observing dozens of birds who’ve become regulars, we commented to one another how each day is different from the next. So it’s no wonder it’s difficult for us to feel a need or desire to go away for the day. Even visiting Kruger National Park, which we’ve promised ourselves to visit more frequently when we return from the US, doesn’t consistently deliver the thrills we encounter right here in the garden.

No doubt Kruger has its array of thrills; seeing the Big Five is only a tiny part of it. The endless videos we’ve made and photos we’ve taken over the years of extreme sightings in the national park have left us reeling with wonder. We often refer back to them, astounded by what we’d seen.

The gray louries are typically shy around humans. So it was fun to see them up close.

But, the garden is another matter, requiring no hours-long rides in the car without seeing anything and often managing to maneuver for a good spot when other vehicles are crowded near a special sighting. So, for us, it’s usually about the “little things” we see along the way.

That’s not to say we are tired of game drives. Suppose we could add all of our safaris and self-drives in our visits to national parks. In that case, we could easily say we’ve had hundreds of experiences in several countries, including South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Morocco, and most recently, India.

A gray lourie landed on the table on the veranda while we were seated, a first for us.

In India alone, we visited three national parks during our private tour before the Covid-19 lockdown. We counted 24 game drives in those locations, always on a search for the majestic Bengal Tiger. Mission accomplished. The Big Five performed in many of the above-listed countries, beginning in Kenya in 2013.

That’s not to say more thrills aren’t awaiting us on more game drives. Most certainly, they are, and we look forward to those opportunities, in many ways inspired by our commitment to sharing them here with all of our worldwide readers. But, of course, doing so makes the sightings all the more exciting and rewarding.

Unusual. Three gray louries (go-away birds) descended on the grill for the first time.

Yesterday, we focused on the dozens of birds visiting the garden, drinking from the birdbath, eating seeds, and even getting up close and personal with us by landing on the veranda table while we were seated here, as we are now. Whether it is the sighting of a dung beetle rolling his ball, a bird splashing in the birdbath, or a band of mongoose munching on leftover meat and fat from a prior meal, we love it all. The proximity certainly is a factor in our degree of enthusiasm.

Yes, we love it all. And soon, in a mere eight days, we’ll be leaving all of this behind us for four weeks and heading to a world so far removed from what we’ve experienced here on a day-to-day basis. Oddly, once again, it will be a culture shock. I can only imagine the day we walk into a Costco store to buy a few of their popular five-dollar roasted chickens to eat in our hotel with a microwave and full kitchen, and our eyes will open wide in shock over all the “abundance.”

Little, on the left, and Tiny were sitting closer together than we’d seen in the past. They are our favorite pigs, and yet their personalities are so different. Little is pushy and bossy, and Tiny is gentle and accommodating.

Life in the bush is abundant in other ways.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, June 21, 2020:

The ocean is behind this old vine-covered garage in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal, in 2014. For more photos, please click here.

Culling in Marloth Park begins tomorrow…Will some of our favorite’s lives come to an end?…A birdie morning…

We had set Frank’s seeds on the table to keep the warthogs and bushbucks from coming onto the veranda to eat them. Suddenly four hornbills decided to dig in.

Who’s in the garden this morning?

  • 10 warthogs – inc. Little, Tiny, Lonely Girl, Fred, and Ethel, Peter, Paul, Mary, and more
  • 11 bushbucks – inc. Chewy, Thick Neck/Bad Leg, Spikey, Big Spikey, and others
  • 4 kudus – inc. Bossy, Notches, and others
  • 5 hornbills – currently banging on the kitchen window
  • 2 wildebeest – inc. Broken Horn, Hal
  • 25 helmeted guinea-fowl
  • 2 Frank and The Misses
  • 4 gray lourie (“go-away” bird) – currently making their unique sounds

    First, there was one, then two, and it grew from there.

On a day-to-day basis, there’s a good amount of information about what’s transpiring in Marloth Park on Facebook. We both belong to several MP groups. Yesterday, in the group entitled Marloth Park Sighting Page, the following post was listed:

Dear Property Owners, MPRA received an email from the Wildlifevets that they will be doing MASS CAPTURE of Impala and Kudu in Marloth Park from the 20th to the 25th of June (as they believe that these animals will be easiest to capture in high numbers) and that all other species can be caught in passive capture bomas after that (excluding Giraffe as they want to make a large scale reduction of Giraffe as well, but don’t have an abattoir that can handle a Giraffe carcass at this time). I phoned Cobus Raath this afternoon to make sure I read the email correctly, and he confirmed that they would be installing bomas in Marloth Park this Sunday (MPRA is not aware where these bomas will be erected in Marloth Park). They will then chase the animals into these bomas by helicopter on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The animals will then be moved from these bomas to Lionspruit and will be culled there. MPRA did send an email as to the risks of helicopter chase and capture, due to the alarming rate of development in Marloth Park, employees, tourists, and visitors and suggested that we instead use passive bomas to capture as from 1 Mayor soonest as we would have enough weeks to capture enough animals passively. Passive capture worked last year even though it was only implemented between Sept and Oct the previous year. Unfortunately, we received no feedback from the Wildlifevets or the “forum,” which includes MPPOA, HR, WILDLIFE FUND, MARLOTHI CONSERVANCY, and recently THE WILD & FREE REHABILITATION. MPRA, however, is shocked that neither the municipality nor any of the other organizations have given property owners, visitors, tourists, and employees enough warning as to the helicopter capture; and therefore IMPLORE you to warn fellow property owners, employees, rentals, tourists and your visitors on an URGENT basis, please.”
Then, there were three.
Of course, I was shocked and disappointed, but Tom was less so. He accepts the reality there are too many animals in Marloth Park at this time. The overabundance presents a feeding issue during the sparse winter months and the more lush rainy season in the spring, summer, and fall.
My logical mind understands this harsh reality. But, my heart aches at the prospect of losing some of my favorites to this upcoming cull. Plus, I can’t grasp why they must be killed. Why not gather them up and take them into Lionspruit, where nature may or may not “take its course” or send them to other less abundant conservancy areas?
I wasn’t able to adjust the camera when, if I did, they’d fly off.
The answer to these questions can easily be argued by advocates of culling. They even may make a strong case. But, the prospect of killing many of these precious animals tears at my heartstrings, leaving me sad and bereft. What if Little and Tiny are in the culled group, along with the many kudus we’ve come to know and love. They will even be culling giraffes! That makes no sense to me.
Over the next three days, we’ll be hearing the helicopters overhead, gathering them up into the bomas. This will be tough to hear, knowing the fate of so many of the precious animals.
Little was in the photo.
Of course, I can’t help but worry about my two favorites, warthogs, Little and Tiny, who just spent the entire morning here. What if suddenly they are gone, caught up in the culling effort? We can only wait and see what transpires over the next three days and who will be back in our garden on Thursday morning. Then, of course, we will report back here.
We are still working on rebooking the canceled flight from Las Vegas to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger on July 24th. We should have it resolved in the next day or so. We aren’t apprehensive about this since there appear to be several other options that will work for us.
Bushbucks in the photo.
We’ll be back tomorrow with more. Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, June 20, 2020

I found this rose in a neighbor’s garden in Campanario, Madeira, Portugal. Not wanting to disturb the neighbor’s garden, I shot this without moving the stem in front of what appears to be an almost perfect rose. For more photos, please click here.

Wildlife being darted and moved!…What’s going on?…

From a recent visit to the “hippo pool” in the Crocodile River bordering Marloth Park.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Frank and the Mrs. show up every night at dusk in this little garden area where we give them seeds. Then, they take off for the bush to make “their noise,” a loud earsplitting call that can last several minutes.

It’s Friday morning, hot, humid, and dusty. Tom’s streaming the Minnesota Vikings football game on NFL GamePass while preparing today’s post offline. 

Frank and the Mrs. are moving to get to the little garden area where we give them seeds each night. They are always together.

The Wi-Fi signal is too weak with all the tourists in the park for him to stream the game while I’m also online. No matter. I’m sitting here watching the game with him while multitasking, arranging photos, and preparing the text on Word’s offline blog posting page.

Today is a low-key day with little to do other than the matters on hand—no chopping and dicing today. Tonight we have a reservation for dinner at Jabula, which will surely be yet another enjoyable evening. 

As we mentioned in yesterday’s post found here, sometimes just watching and waiting (patience and perseverance) produces excellent results. See below the result of doing so when we spotted this giraffe sitting in the bush.

Right now and over the past weeks, the “visitors” to our garden are limited; a few bushbucks, lots of helmeted guinea fowl, with an occasional mongoose or two running through the park. We can’t wait to see kudus, zebra and warthogs, and more during the daylight hours, but that won’t be happening for a few more weeks when the school holiday is over.

We’re happy the holiday ends before our friend Lois and Tom arrive on October 9th. It would be quite a disappointment for them to come all this way to see a few wildlife in our garden during the days. The evenings are better. Last night, Wildebeest Willie, Tusker and Ms. Tusker (mating pair, it seems), Siegfried and Roy (male warthog buddies), Mom and Baby Bushbuck, Mr. Duiker and Frank, and The Misses. made lengthy appearances, thrilled with less competition for food. They all got along well.
After watching this seated giraffe for some time, a monstrous dad, mom, and baby appeared. Please look carefully to spot the baby. Could the giraffe seated be there young from last season’s birth?

The previous night Siegfried got into an altercation with Tusker resulting in such loud warthog squeals that Martha came running out from her little house, wondering if everything was OK. A short time later, they returned, none the worse for the wear after the noisy fight. 

It’s easy to see how warthogs end up with holes in their faces when they fight for dominance with such vigor, usually over food and “women.” Aren’t those the exact reasons for starting wars?

After watching further, this family of five wandered off together into the bush.

In a local news article, we read that several animals are being darted and moved into Lionspruit, a game reserve within a game reserve located right here in Marloth Park. Lionspruit is the area where we’ve participated in braais, hosted by Louise and Danie, at Frikkie’s Dam. 

It’s incredible to see how quickly the ostrich chicks are growing.

There are two lions in Lionspruit, Dezi, and Fluffy (female and male), who will be happy to see the influx of possible food for them. There are adequate food sources for them in Lionspruit, but this choice made by locals rangers and veterinarians who will oversee the operation will add to their fodder.

This option, although daunting, is better than culling when food sources in Marloth Park are dwindling over the years, with more and more natural habitats being overrun by the building of bush homes. In defiance of the municipality’s rules, many owners grow grass and plant invasive alien plants, which they ultimately enclose in fences. 

They seem to enjoy hanging out with their siblings but once grown. They’ll be off on their own to start their own families.

This severely reduces the vegetation coverage from which animals can graze.  We often wonder what the status of Marloth Park will be in 10 to 20 years. This reality is relevant all over the world when natural habitat is destroyed by human intervention. It’s a sad situation as we see more and more wildlife becoming extinct.

Ten kudus, five zebras, five wildebeest, and two giraffes will be relocated, of course keeping the dependent youngsters intact with their parents. See the information we read on Facebook concerning the move.

Mom and Dad keep a watchful eye to ensure the safety of their chicks.
“The Marloth Wildlife Fund has been in contact with Wildlife Veterinary Services, who have proposed an excellent opportunity to move some of the excess game from Marloth Park to Lionspruit as part of their veterinary training courses. Qualified vets will, for a week, commencing on Monday 1 October, be available to dart and move animals free of charge.

 As no firearms are permitted to be used in Marloth Park, this is an ideal solution to the excess wildlife population in Marloth Park, which is devastating the natural environment. The population of animals in Lionspruit is at an all-time low, and the environment can accommodate more animals. The gene pool of different species is very low in Lionspruit. If more animals are not introduced, it could result in interbreeding, and the mutations that result will cause deformities, brain damage, etc.

The Marloth Wildlife Fund is concerned about the welfare of the animals and wants to ensure that they live as natural an existence as possible, have the correct nutrition, and build up a healthy population.
This initiative has been approved by the Municipality, and we have received the full support of MPPOA, MPRA, and the Honorary Rangers.
We appeal to property owners and members of the public not to interfere with the Vets who will be undertaking this task in the coming week.”
We wonder if any of those being moved are part of the many that visit us regularly.  We’ll have no way of knowing if they’ve been moved, injured, or passed away from other causes. But, I assure you, we’ll be waiting to see Wildebeest Willie in the garden, hoping he’s not in the lot that is going to be moved.
More beautiful impalas, as mentioned in yesterday’s post here.

Many homeowners are upset by this decision, but culling is undoubtedly a less appealing option. At least those who are moved have a chance of a beautiful remaining life if they can avoid being captured by Dezi or Fluffy. 

As mentioned above, there are dwindling numbers of animals in Lionspruit. We’ll be paying close attention to the results of darting and moving the wildlife and, subsequently, the long-term residual effect.
That’s it for today, folks. Have a fantastic day!
Photo from one year ago today, September 28, 2017:
Long view of the altar at San Rafael in Atenas, Costa Rica. For more photos, please click here.