South Africa's Arid North Hot

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The Northern Cape province of South Africa is not often on the map of destinations for travelers or photographers and when effort is made to visit, it is either to take in the spring flowers or head into the Kalagadi Gemsbok National Park. However, the arid interior offers an incredible wealth of smaller reserves and restricted habitat types with associated endemic species.

I recently undertook a 10 day trip that circled from Cape Town through to Goegap Nature Reserve, detoured through the Koa Dunefield and Poffadder to the border with Namibia at Onseepskans. From this isolated border post, I ventured back through Augrabies National Park and Witsands Nature Reserve to overnight at Brandvlei before heading back to Cape Town. The back roads were deliberately taken  to avoid speeding traffic, road repairs and allow a slow drive to find the areas special species. The rewards were huge with several "lifers" being added to my bird list and numerous opportunities to photograph the landscapes and species. Red Lark, Sclater's Lark, Pygmy Falcon,Dassie Rat, Rosy-Cheecked Lovebird, Augrabies Flat Lizard, Karoo Tent Tortoise, Namaqua Warbler and Black-Eared Sparrow Lark are just a few of the many species encountered. A real surprise was a well out of range Ballion's Crake at Augrabies National Park. The route was originally thought up together with Martin Taylor of Birdlife South Africa, with the purpose of trying to help promote some of the lesser known birding areas and a huge thanks must go out to him for all his support with the planning of the trip. It is a route I would definitely recommend and I now have a new appreciation for an area that may initially appear barren of life, but on closer inspection is teaming with interesting species!

 dassie rat sunning by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

1. Dassie Rat sunning at the Goegap Nature Reserve

brants whistling rat burrows by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

2. Brants Whistling Rat burrows at Goegap Nature Reserve. 

Karoo Long-Billed Lark by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

3. Karoo Long-Billed Lark are common en-route to the Koa Dune Field where the endemic Red Lark is the real prize.

Namaqua Sandgrouse in Flight by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

4. Namaqua Sandgrouse are a common sight throughout the region and are often seen flying to water in the early mornings.

Pygmy Falcon by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

5. Careful searches of the Sociable Weavers nests will indicate where Pygmy Falcons are present.

Orange River Gorge by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

6. The Orange River Gorge where Perigrine Falcon, Black Stork and Verreaux's Eagle may be viewed

rock hyrax in a tree by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

7. Rock Hyrax are common at Augrabies National Park and climb into the trees to feed.

Augrabies Flat Lizard by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

8. Male Augrabies Flat Lizard sunning in the late afternoon light.

Pale-Winged Starling by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

9. Pale-Winged Starling displaying to a nearby rival at Augrabies National Park.

Namaqua Warbler by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

10. Namaqua Warbler are common in the campsite at Augrabies National PArk and are best seen early in the morning.

Ballions Crake by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

11. An out of range Ballion's Crake was seen at one of the causeways at Augrabies National Park.

Ground Squirrel by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

12. A Ground Squirrel en-route to the border post at Onseepskans

Dusky Sunbird by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

13. A male Dusky Sunbird searches for nectar amongst exotic trees at Onseepskans.

Rosy Faced Lovebird by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

14. A small colony of Rosy-Cheecked Lovebirds rosst in the palm trees near the Onseepskans Police station

Orange River White-Eye by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

15. The Orange River White-Eye may be distinguished by its peach colored belly

Kalahari Scrub Robin by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

16. A Kalahari Scrub-Robin at the Witsands Nature Reserve.

Cape Hare by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

17. A Cape Hare feeds on a small shrub at the Witsands Nature Reserve.

Witsands Nature Reserve dune field by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

18. The dune field from which the Witsands Nature Reserve gains its name

Black Chested Prinia by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

19. A Black-Chested Prinia sings from the top of a tree at sunrise in the Witsands Nature Reserve

Sociable Weaver by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

20. Sociable Weaver colonies are common throughout the region and are worth spending time at.

Leopard Tortoise by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

21. A large Leopard Tortoise at the Witsands Nature Reserve en-route to drink from a rain puddle.

Three-Banded Courser by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

22. Three-Banded Courser, although hard to spot are relatively common in the gravel plains around Brandvlei

Gravel plains near Brandvlei by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

23. The gravel plains around the town of Brandvlei

Rufous-Eared Warbler by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

24. The Rufous-Cheecked Warbler is one of the specials to view around the town of Brandvlei

Grey Backed Finch Lark by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

25. Grey-Backed Finch Larks can be found together with numerous other species drinking from farm watering points in the early morning.

European Bee-Eater in Flight by wildlife and conservation photographer peter chadwick

26. A colony of European Bee-Eaters has been breeding in a river bank on the outskirts of Brandvlei for several years. 

Images and text provided by wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Chadwick

 

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Peter Chadwick
Author: Peter ChadwickWebsite: http://www.peterchadwick.co.zaEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
About
As a dedicated conservationist, Peter Chadwick has 30 years strategic and operational conservation experience in terrestrial and marine protected area management. He has worked within all of the major biomes in southern Africa as well as having provided expert conservation advice at a global level. His conservation and wildlife photography is a natural extension to his conservation work where he has numerous opportunities to capture photographs that showcase the beauty and complexity of the outdoors. Peter’s photography is internationally recognized, with this work appearing globally in a wide range of print and electronic media.