Kalahari Blog

Adventures of a field biologist and wildlife photographer living and working in the Kalahari.


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Meerkats, Pups and a Puff Adder – a story from the Kalahari

Robin Hoskyns Nature Photography - Blog

 

Whilst sorting out my Kalahari photos (still an ongoing process!) I came across this sequence of images from one morning that I had half forgotten about. Looking back it was up there with the top wildlife experiences that year among the many that were had. I think it sums up a lot about Meerkats and would definitely have been worthy of a Meerkat Manor episode!

The morning started as every other morning had for 6 days a week for the last 10 months, i.e. waking up very early to arrive at the burrow of the group I was visiting before they got up and left for the day.

Juvenile dragging a pup from the burrow. Juvenile dragging a pup from the burrow. The first glimpse of a week old Meerkat pup in the middle of the frenzy. A week old Meerkat pup in the middle of the frenzy.

Luckily the burrow wasn’t too far from the farm house and I knew the Meerkats would be there because the dominant female had…

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Kalahari Landscape

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As it is too dry to rot dead trees stand for quite a long time.

The Kuruman River Reserve, which is the land owned by the KMP, was previously a farm and the surrounding area is all farmed. The habitat ranges from arid savannah to bushveld to overgrazed scrub.  Even though the Kalahari is generally called “The Kalahari Desert” it isn’t technically a desert as the long-term average rainfall is above 250mm per year. Although there are rippled dunes and a lot of sand there is a lot more vegetation than I was expecting.

Until a couple of weeks ago there had been almost no rain and it was looking like the rains were going to fail completely this year. The livestock on our reserve and surrounding farms was dying, there was a regular smell of decomposing animals and the place was starting to look like a boneyard. The Meerkats were also looking very skinny and very few pups from this year have survived.

Too late for the rains.

Too late for the rains.

Fortunately we had about 100mm of rain in a week and now things are starting to look greener, small plants have started to emerge and flower, the Drie Doring (small bushes that are just twigs for most of the year) have started to grow leaves and the grass has started to grow shoots. All these pictures were taken before the rains but I will get some more of everything at it’s greenest however it may not rain again and we have only had a third of the yearly rainfall. The Meerkats are looking much healthier, are putting on weight and showing more interesting behaviours although there probably won’t be any more pups until next year.

 

These bushes are all looking green now. This photo shows a rare bit of cloud.

These bushes are all looking green now. This photo shows a rare bit of cloud.

One of the benefits of having to weigh the Meerkats at dawn and dusk each day is that I get to see two “golden hours” each day however I don’t generally take out my wide angle and tripod each day so I haven’t really got too many landscape photos. The sun comes up pretty quickly here so although there is almost guaranteed to be good light for photography each morning and evening it is generally too harsh for good photos 20-30 minutes after the sun comes up. Also as clouds are a rarity the sky in landscapes can be slightly boring, however when there are clouds it is nice to get some picture with nice soft light and also clouds almost definitely result in an epic sunset.

The KMP cows in the riverbed.

The KMP cows in the riverbed.


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Horned Adder.

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By far my favorite snake I have found so far has been this Horned Adder. It is one of the 3 main venomous species that we get here and is pretty docile and the least venomous (the book describes the bite as “mild”). I also think it is the most attractive although a picture of a cape cobra with it’s hood flared would come pretty close! Although I have seen both the other venomous Continue reading


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First post!

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In just over a months time I will be heading out to the Kalahari desert for a year. I will primarily be a field assistant working for the Kalahari Meerkat Project (http://kalahari-meerkats.com/) but I will also use the time to work on my nature photography and hopefully come away with lots of great images, not just of the Meerkats I will be working with but the other wildlife I encounter and the surrounding landscape.

I will use this blog mainly to display the photos I have taken but also to communicate some of the science behind what I am doing and give an account of the daily life, joys and stresses associated with this kind of work.

I hope that this blog will be a way to communicating with friends and family and also help me to articulate my thoughts and feelings and improve my writing skills.

In the next month I will post a review of the sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS lens which I recently bought for this trip and also a post with short descriptions of the equipment I will be taking.

I will try to post regular updates but I am unsure about the reliability and speed of the internet out in the middle of the desert!