Tuesday, September 7, 2010

RiverBend expands its game viewing to include even larger mammals!

On Tuesday 31 August a group of guests accompanied by their Riverbend guides took the ocean off Port Elizabeth in search of the majestic whales that calve in Algoa Bay between July and October. We were in search of two species of whales that pass by the waters of Port Elizabeth whilst breeding and calving. Humpback whales (megaptera novaeangliae) pass the bay from June until August on their way to their breeding and calving grounds off East Africa and return with their calves from October until the first week in January. Southern Right whales (eubalaena australis) start arriving in the bay during July and leave by the end of October. They calve and mate within the protection of the quieter waters of the Bay.

We were able to locate a Humpback whale and its calf within 30 minutes of leaving the Port Elizabeth harbor. This was a great opportunity for the guests to get close up footage of these two whales and while they were taking photos a pod of bottlenose dolphins (tursiops trancatus) also appeared and were swimming around the whales while jumping and playing amongst themselves.

We then continued towards our destination, St Croix Island where South Africa’s largest colony of African Jackass Penguins (spheniscus demersus) can be found. Amongst these comical penguins we also found African Black Oystercatchers (haematopus moquini), Cape Cormorants (phalacrocorax capensis), White-Breasted Cormorants (phalacrocorax lucidus) as well as Subantarctic Skuas (catharacta antarctica) that were hovering above the boat.

We then headed back towards the Port Elizabeth harbor and were lucky enough to encounter a Bryde’s whale (balaenoptera eden) as well as a Humpback Dolphin (sousa plumbea). Both these species are not often seen so it was with much excitement that these two species were observed.

The experience of not only observing the land mammals of RiverBend Lodge but also those found off our coast was certainly a memorable one. This is yet another example of the kind of well-rounded safari guests can look forward to when staying at RiverBend Lodge.

African Green Pigeon (treron calvus) visits RiverBend Lodge

The African Green Pigeon, although common in the Eastern parts of South Africa, is certainly not a regular sight around these parts as its range only extends down as far South as East London according to the birding maps. In fact it does not even appear on the official Addo Elephant National Park bird list. Therefore there was much excitement around the lodge when one of these beautiful pigeons decided to spend the day in the lodge gardens.

They are usually gregarious, all in small groups, which is also makes the sighting of only a single bird rather unusual. They forage in trees, flapping to keep their balance, and often hanging upside down. As you can see in the photo their green plumage makes effective camouflage. When in flight these birds tend to fly straight and direct. These birds being fruigivores would find plenty of fruit bearing tress in the Afro-Montane forests found on the Southern facing slopes on our concession within the Addo Elephant National Park.

Bearing that in mind lets hope to see more of these eye-catching pigeons in the future!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sad Farewell

This month we had to bid sad farewell to Marius and Lorraine Malherbe.

They had an immense impact on the lodge and because of their hard work, dedication and vision; RiverBend Lodge became what it is today. The two of them have left quite a gap here.

All of us at RiverBend Lodge will be forever grateful for having had the opportunity to have worked with them. We do not have any shortage of memories; we will miss their guidance, support and encouragement. Most of all we’ll remember them for being great friends.

We wish them the best of luck with the new phase of their lives.

The RiverBend Team.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brilliant birding by far..

The last month or so has been absolutely fantastic in terms of bird sightings here at RiverBend. We have managed to sight birds of all shapes and sizes, and not just deep out into the concession, also just around the lodge itself! One of the most interesting sightings of them all was without a doubt the Cape Vulture (Gyps Coprotheres) we had circling over the lodge. We had the opportunity of watching this particular Cape Vulture move off swiftly into the distance, circling all of the valleys in search of something to pick at!

Absolutely amazing!

We have also had a Martial Eagle (Polemaetus Bellicosus) , although juvenile, hanging around the waterhole right in front of the lodge. The vervet monkeys that use the surrounding acacia trees to roost in have been in an utter state of panic because of this Martial Eagle! Any monkey remaining blissfully relaxed and unaware of a hungry Martial Eagle circling overhead is a sure target!

In the riverbed just behind the lodge, I have also been able to sit and watch a Brown Hooded Kingfisher swoop down from a perch above the water to catch insects.

Sightings of the really little Golden Breasted Bunting have also been quite popular of late. The call of the Red Necked Francolin at dusk and then finding the francolins early the next morning digging in some elephant dung for insects and worms.

Knysna Loeries (Turacos) have been gracing us with their presence in the afro montane forests.

The weavers have also started stringing reeds together in the waterholes with nesting material in order to build nests for the breeding season. The Cape Weaver and Masked Weaver in particular.

I had a fantastic opportunity to photograph a Grey Headed Bush Shrike (Malaconotus Blanchoti ) that was not in the least bit fussed by our presence!

In the evenings when returning back to the lodge from my successful safaris, I have also had the opportunity to sit with some very relaxed Spotted Eagle Owls (Bubo Africanus).

There is also a trio of African Spoonbills that often fly overhead just 5km or so east of the lodge and often settle at a very well hidden waterhole. These magnificent birds allow us to sit quietly and watch as they wade through the shallows of the waterhole in search of an early breakfast.

Seasons are soon to change again, and with the season change, so a change in bird life and activity. Keep an eye out for more on these fascinating flappers!!!!

Wesley Cragg.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fabulous bushpig shot from Jed Bird

Photographer (and ex RiverBend Reserve Manager) Jed Bird took this amazing shot of a bush pig near the lodge on his recent trip to the Eastern Cape.  See more of his photos on Facebook: Jed Bird Photography or RiverBend Lodge.

Update from Wesley Cragg

Things are starting to change here in the Addo Elephant National Park as the seasons change. Whilst the migratory birds are surely planning to head back to their foreign homes, the elephant sightings have been out of this world! The main herd consisting of 65 or so individuals have brought along with them yet another 2 new little calves and ofcourse a handful of fantastic interaction!! Our resident aardvark has also decided to reappear along with loads of porcupine with young and striped polecats in their numbers! Wez