Thursday, May 9, 2013

Night excursions continued

As promised, I'm continuing my post about our night-time excursions and sightings on the mine. On Sunday night after we'd been down in the pit, as usual we drove towards the area where we spot many nightjars. I know I've posted about these elusive and difficult-to-id-birds about a week ago, but on this particular night we had a unique experience with such a bird. We'd stopped almost alongside a night-jar sitting quietly on the gravel below the car window. Grant focused the torch on it while I quickly took a couple of photos. As I said: "Let's leave it in peace now," it shot up and towards Grant's open window. It almost entered the window when it realized its mistake, and lifted up and away from the vehicle! 
 The night-jar that almost flew into our vehicle window on Sunday night

With the adrenalin rush pumping in our heads, we drove off into the dark again. As we rounded the corner, I called to Grant to stop. There was a large python on the road in front of us. I jumped out of the vehicle to get a decent photo, with Grant coming up in the rear with the light. By now the python had almost disappeared under a thorn thicket next to the road. Grant grabbed at its tail, which sent the python into a frenzy, shook his hand off and disappeared from sight.

Unfortunately I only got a very blurry photo of the snake, but from being up close and personal with the reptile, we surmised that it was almost two meters long.

The very blurry photo I have of the python slithering across the road in front of our vehicle 
On Monday night after we left the pit we headed for the area where we'd seen the python the night before. Of course, when we rounded the corner, only the bare road greeted us. However, we drove on; Grant was busy speaking to the pit supervisor and production managers alternatively; I frequently motioned for him to stop, while I photographed night-jars, Spur-wing Lapwing and Thick-knees. 
We rounded a corner with thick bush on either side when I called to him to stop. I'd seen a dark "puddle-like" shape in the road. (another python!) With Grant shining the light, and both of us leaning over the snake now slithering ever-so-slowly into the grass, I struggled to find the correct function on my camera. I took a few photos of the snakes head and sections of its body visible between the blades of grass, when I suddenly thought: why not use AUTO? I changed to the automatic function and managed a clear photo of part of the snake! 

All three the above photos were taken on Custom 1; not very satisfactory when photographing this close

With the auto function, you're able to see the beautiful pattern on this snake and also the thickness of its body
We estimated this python to be more than two meters long!

After this exciting sighting, we drove on. About two kilometers further I saw two red eyes in the grass beside the road.

 Motionless and facing away from us was a hare

The hare or the spring hare is currently listed on the most vulnerable animal list.  They feed on plants and eat insects.
Personally I was pleased that this particular animal was  far from the large python we'd just seen! 
As if we hadn't had enough excitement for the night, as we headed home, we saw a smooth-looking animal with a sloping back move quickly off the road into the bush. It was too quick for me to get photos but we both recognized the creature. 
 Aardvark (photo: Google) 
Aardvark is a nocturnal animal found all over Africa in dry and wet climates. These animals feed on termites, thus have long sticky tongues. They have poor eyesight and large powerful clawed feet for digging. Aardvark has an almost hairless body, short neck and short legs. This was the first time Grant had ever seen an aardvark in real life. I saw one when I was about six years old and living in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
Last night after pit inspection and other line of duty had been completed Grant drove to the heavily guarded magazine store area where I've photographed the night-jars and lapwings and where we frequently see red eyes in the bush. 
This time we saw the night-jars hawking for their dinner but I thought I might be able to photograph the bats we'd seen before,  hanging from the fences. As we approaced the boundary, I saw a dark shape on the barb-wired fence. Grant stopped, focused the light and I was ready to photograph whatever was there. 
  A pearl-spotted owlet! 

 Keeping a beady eye out for dinner! 
The pearl-spotted owlet is only 18 cm high with a rounded head, lack of ear tufts and white spotting on the back and tail. When downloading my photos, I couldn't work out which way the owlet was facing in one image. Then I read that it has two black "false eyes" on the nape of its neck! 
  This owlet has two black "false eyes" on the nape of it neca feature which I caught in the above photo!
So there we have it: this is mining site with huge earth-moving activity, large vehicles rumbling around 24/7, and surrounded by many informal settlements often inhabited with many hungry humans. Yet Grant and I continuously find that we've seldom before seen so much nature in such a concentrated area.  I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it! 
Have a great week, everyone!  


  1. You've had some exciting photo sessions, Jo!! I believe that you're braver than I am, but I do love your captures!! Have a great weekend and do be careful!

  2. Lots of excitement in your night excursions. No telling what else you'll find! The python photos are amazing. The owl pics too! Well done, Jo. Hugs. xx

  3. By the way, the sightings of the hare and the aardvark are priceless. How precious is that experience and both in one night! I didn't even realize there were hares in Africa.

  4. Wow ! what an exciting photo hunting ! and such nice results ! Amazing !
    Sad that there are places where hungry humans live. Shouldn't be like that in this century !

  5. Considering these are night photos you have done well. Pythons I think are very beautiful. Take care Diane

  6. Great photos. Saw a spring hare on the farm the other day, as you say very scarce.

  7. How exciting to be out seeing the nocturnal side of life. Can't believe Grant pulled that snake's tail.


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