Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Day with the Birds in the Garden at River Bend Lodge

It was with great delight that, last Friday, whilst walking up from the kitchen back to reception, that I spotted a Cardinal Woodpecker, perched on a tree trunk. I froze to watch. Soon another one appeared…one flew off and the other crawled into a hole in the tree trunk. Wow, a nesting pair of these special little birds in our garden!

Cardinal Woodpecker at the nest

A plan was borne immediately.

I set up my Canon 7D with a 300mm lens with a 1.4 Extender attached, on a tripod. Using my wireless remote I could sit a discreet distance from the tree and still take photographs of the bird’s swopping nesting duties.

I thought it was going to be easy!!

The first day I sat for over 9 hours….watching a hole in the tree. The first time the Woodpeckers swopped the area was in bright sunlight with dappled shade.
 The delete button came into play.

The second time the changeover took place the late shift staff were coming on duty and one of the Chef’s, Siya, was enquiring what I was doing….well no prizes for guessing what happened!

The third time it was just way too dark.

The day was not a waste however.

Sitting and watching the activities of the birds in the garden makes for some really interesting observation…and the realization that watching the smaller creatures can teach us much.

I jotted down some notes the whole day , and here are just some!

“After two hours sitting here I have witnessed Brown Hooded Kingfishers feasting on any of the Water Crickets who dare poke their heads above ground level. We had intended poisoning these little pests who keep disfiguring our lawn. We will have to find a Plan B….we do not want to impact on any birdlife in the garden.

Brown Hooded Kingfisher

I have also witnessed two rather invasive birds making a visit to the Woodpeckers nest….quite a lot of intimidation it seems….what are they, and why?” They spent a lot of time acting like inspectors of some sort!”
(These were later identified as Black Tits)

“During the hours between 12 and about 2.30pm everything seemed to be very quiet. A pair of African Hoopoe’s are raising their young in the base of one the large Pepper Tree’s in the garden The longer I sit here the more accustomed they become to me…sometimes looking for grubs within a meter or two from my chair”.

African Hoopoe

“A pair of Cape Robin Chats have a nest within a few meters of where I am sitting as well….it is very well concealed and I don’t want to try and find it for fear of disturbing them. Getting a photograph of these beautiful little birds is difficult….they a re always on the move”.

At the end of the day I had no photograph of the Cardinal Woodpeckers…..after sitting that long.

The Glossy Starlings were constant companions

I rethought my strategy…and spent some hours every afternoon staking out the nest. Finally after a wait of around 16 hours altogether I managed to get something with which I could share….an acceptable image to show the beauty of this creature.

Cardinal Woodpecker

It was during one of these ‘stake outs’ that I also witnessed the very intimidating (for the Woodpeckers) visit of 5 Scimitar Billed Woodhoopoe’s….it must have been very unnerving for our smaller feathered friends!!

(apologies for the quality of this image)

Scimitar Billed Woodhoopoes

In the coming weeks I hope to bring you more images as we, hopefully, witness the raising of some young Cardinal Woodpeckers in our garden!

The last time I was as patient in ‘staking out’ a bird was back in March this year when I witnessed a Yellow Billed Kite sharing some of a meal from a Lion kill!! That day I sat in my car for 8 hours…and was handsomely rewarded.

Yellow Billed Kite....with a morsel from a Lion kill!!

(To view a larger version of these images just 'click' on an image. All photographs the property of River Bend Lodge)

Monday, September 8, 2014


I have spent time during the winter months developing menus that will enhance your culinary experience.
I would like to share just a few of the dishes that feature on our Lunch and Dinner Menus.
In addition to creating these new dishes we are introducing something a little bit ‘special’ to take your culinary experience to a new level……a selection of Salt and Peppers from around the world.
I have paired these with various dishes and I am pleasantly surprised at the various flavours they impart.

Dinner Starter - Game meat terrine with sauce Gribiche and pickled vegetables

 Seaweed Salt
This is a coarse unrefined dry salt which is unbleached and pure. It is hand harvested using traditional methods. The brand name is Le Paludier and the company is based in Batz sur Mer in Brittany, France. A pinch of seaweed salt will enrich all your dishes with the added benefit trace elements.

 Lunch Main - Salt and Pepper Calamari

White Pepper

This pepper which comes from Cameroon, is a perfect match for sea-food and fish dishes as well as white meat, vegetables or mushrooms.

Crepe Suzette

Lunch Starter - Caramelised Onion and Chevin Tart

Assorted Salts

Me and my team in the kitchen at River Bend Lodge look forward to welcoming you this spring and summer

Kelly Liggett - Head Chef

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

World Elephant Day 12th August 2014

Being, as we are, situated in one of the world's most successful Conservation initiatives, the world renowned Addo National Elephant Park, we thought it appropriate to share some images of these magnificent beasts.

All of the photographs that follow were taken in the Nyathi Concession of the Park, which is where River Bend Lodge is situated.

Game viewing in this area is limited to guests of River Bend Lodge and you have an opportunity of experiencing some of the closest encounters possible with Elephants in the wild and in their natural habitat that you can have anywhere on earth!

We have developed a Photographic package which you can experience during your stay at River Bend Lodge and which can be tailored to your level of proficiency.

In addition to this package we are running a Photography Workshop with renowned Photographer Mark Drysdale in September of 2014....for which we still have a few places available.

See a Blog on this Link for some of Mark's images.

Here are some more images, all converted into Black and White,  taken by our in house Photographer
Michael Price with whom you can discuss your requirements during your stay.

Today is World Elephant Day....and we would do well to remember that as many as 96 of these wonderful creatures are being killed everyday in Africa because of man's greed!!

Please click on an image to view large screen. All images the property of River Bend Lodge and may not be used without permission.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More on the Photography Workshop.....

More on the Photography Workshop....we are adding techniques with illustrations as we go along.


Elephants are ideal subjects for this technique.

Motion Blur and Panning

Motion Blur can lead to some wonderfully creative photography...even some very appealing abstract type of image. Panning and Motion Blur are not strictly the same technique...but the appeal and effect are similar in many ways.

Use of available Light

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

First of the FAQ'S......."What species populate the Reserve around River Bend Lodge?"

How many species are present River Bend Lodge….the Nyathi Concession? What can we expect to photograph?

Whilst we will be targeting mainly Elephants, any other sightings will be ‘worked’ during our Photography Workshop. In other words, should we have a sighting that will be beneficial to the improvement of your Photography, or which can be used to demonstrate the use of a particular technique we will utilize the opportunity to it’s fullest.

Some of these aforementioned techniques will be demonstrated by way of illustration with a photograph in the coming weeks.

The Nyathi Concession on which River Bend Lodge is located is a 14 000 hectare expanse of land with 5 biomes – Subtropical Thicket (Valley Bushveld), Fynbos, Grassland, Forest, and Nama-Karoo.

Included in the list of Mammals are an extensive array of species; Elephants, Buffalo, Lions, Rhino, Kudu, Eland, Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Duiker, Aardvark, Warthog,  Bat Eared Fox, Bushpig, Caracal, Black Backed Jackal, Chacma Baboon’s, Genet (Large and Small Spotted) amongst others.

The Bird List exceeds 250 species (if one includes the migratory species), and includes Jackal Buzzard, Martial Eagle, Fish Eagle (there were a family raising young at a great location in 2013), Sunbirds (Malachite, Greater Double Collared, Amethyst are plentiful), Barbet’s, Honeyguide’s, Owl’s, Cuckoo’s, Kingfisher’s, Woodpecker’s, Roller’s Hoopoe’s, Bulbul’s, Robin’s, Warbler’s and others too numerous to have an exhaustive list here.

These images are for illustrative purposes only ...we hope those attending our Photography Workshop will go home with better images than these! All of these photographs were taken on the reserve on which River Bend Lodge is located.
(Images the property of River Bend Lodge and may only be used with permission)