Kalahari Blog

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


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Scorpions

Scorpions

There are quite a lot of scorpions about as they are perfectly adapted for the dry (semi) desert conditions. There are two main types of scorpion out here: the thick-tailed Paraboothids and the Cape Burrowing Scorpions. The Paraboothids are the more dangerous type.

There are four main species of Paraboothids found here and two main species of burrowing scorpion. They can all deliver a painful sting however a sting from a paraboothid is much more serious and would need immediate medical attention whereas a burrowing scorpion would merely hurt for a bit. Thankfully the two types are easy to tell apart with the paraboothids having long thick tails and small thin claws and the burrowing scorpions having small tails and large powerful claws.

All scorpions will glow under UV light and it is still unknown exactly why this happens however it does make them very easy to find at night. There are far more scorpions in the summertime as they prefer the warmer weather. Most scorpions at the moment are hiding in their oval shaped burrows or under rocks but in the summer they roam about especially on windy nights and can even be found sitting on top of bushes waiting for flying insect prey.

Scorpions appear to be the Meerkat’s favourite food item and they will dig for a good ten minutes to unearth a nice juicy one. They like them so much that injecting the scorpions and feeding them to the Meerkats is being trialed as a reliable way to give them oral doses of hormones for an experiment on the effects of anxiety on social behavior and also to administer antibiotics if necessary.

The Meerkats seem to have very high resistance to toxins from scorpions and also from snakes as quite a few have large snake bite scars from bites that would have killed a human if left untreated. However Meerkats learn at quite a young age how to handle scorpions and quickly bite off the stings before eating them.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, Opistophthalmus capensis

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, Opistophthalmus capensis

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Opistophthalmus whalbergii

Opistophthalmus whalbergii

Parabuthus granulatus

Parabuthus granulatus

Parabuthus raudus

Parabuthus raudus

P. raudus threat display.

P. raudus threat display.

Uroplectes spp.

Uroplectes spp.


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Birds of the Kalahari – Part 2.

This is a follow up to my first bird post that had some of the birds that I see on a daily basis. This post has birds that are slightly rarer or a bit more seasonal.

See the first post here: Birds of the Kalahari – Part 1.

 

Swallow-Tailed Bee-Eater

There were a pair of these Bee-eaters that used to hang around the pool in the summer, picking off the dragonflies that were around. Hopefully they come back when it gets warmer.

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Pygmy Falcon

These are the smallest birds of prey in Africa, they are probably a bit smaller than a blackbird. They use unoccupied chambers in the Sociable Weavers nests to roost in so waiting by one of the weaver’s nests will give you a good chance of seeing one.

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Pearl-Spotted Owlet

Another very small bird of prey, they aren’t much bigger than the pygmy falcons. The bird books say’s that “they stare furiously at intruders” and that was definitely true of this one.

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Martial Eagle

From two of the smallest birds of prey to one of the largest, these guys are huge. Martial eagles are one of the main predators of the Meerkats but can also take much larger prey. The meerkats will run and hide in a bolt hole if one flies over or stand and bark if they see one sitting in a tree. Last week someone spotted one flying over with the dominant male of one of our groups in its talons!

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Acacia Pied Barbet

Very cool little bird, we had a pair nesting in a tree right next to the farmhouse. I sat with my camera and waited for them to return and was lucky to catch one poking it’s head out.

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Shaft-Tailed Whydah

I have only seen one of these and luckilly it was from my hide that I have set up by one of the cattle watering holes. They are a brood parasite of the Violet-Earred Waxbill (another cool bird that I haven’t managed to get a good picture of).

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Red-Headed Finch

Another bird only seen at my hide.

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Bennett’s Woodpecker

There are loads of woodpeckers around as there is a lot of dead trees. I often here them pecking however getting pictures is a little more difficult. They all look very similar but this is one of the rarer ones that happens to forage more on the ground.

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Namaqua Dove

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Game Capture

The Helicopter taking off!

The Helicopter taking off!

Back in June we had a Game capture with the aim of removing 70% of the animals on the reserve. As there was a drought this year the grass hasn’t had much time to grow so the livestock on the reserve has had to be supplemented with leucerne which is quite expensive. Capturing and selling some of the animals should bring the levels of game back to a more sustainable level.

The capture itself involves flying a helicopter around to manoeuvre the game into a large V-shaped enclosure called a boamer, with a livestock truck at one end and curtains which are pulled across to stop the game running back out of the enclosure.

All of us Meerkat volunteers got to help and it was our job to pull the curtains across. It was quite exciting staying hidden behind the curtain with a heard of Wildebeest or Gemsbok running by waiting for the siren from the helicopter to tell you to run across.

One of the guys out here with a gopro gave it to the helicopter pilot and got an awesome video which clearly shows the structure of the boamer, some of the landscape of the reserve, how the pilot herds a group of Gemsbok into the boamer with the siren and the curtains getting pulled across. You can also see that one of the Gemsbok gets separated from the group, runs back to the first set of curtains and also how close a couple of the people are to the Gemsbok. On this run I was on the last set of curtains and it was pretty hard to tell what was going on as the heard had already run past.

We got to  have a go for about 6 runs at least one of Gemsbok, a run of Red Hartebeest, one of Wildebeest, and a couple with Springbok. Most of the animals just run straight up the ramp and into the truck however the springbok try to jump the fence and get very stressed out in the truck so they have a big net which most of them get caught in and any stragglers have to be grabbed. We then had to hold them down whilst we waited for them to be injected with a sedative before carrying them into the truck. Some of the Springbok were quite lively and quite difficult to hold onto their legs whilst they were kicking!

Vanessa demonstrating the curtain mechanism.

Vanessa demonstrating the curtain mechanism.

Peering through the netting.

Peering through the netting.

Pushing the Gemsbok up the ramp into the truck.

Pushing the Gemsbok up the ramp into the truck.

Hitting the protectors onto the horns.

Hitting the protectors onto the horns.

Quite exiting being this close to stampeding Wildebeest with just a curtain as protection.

Quite exiting being this close to stampeding Wildebeest with just a curtain as protection.

Unfortunately this one broke its leg and had to be killed.

Unfortunately this one broke its leg and had to be killed.

Here come the springbok!

Here come the springbok!

Try to grab one....

Try to grab one….

Me holding down a Springbok. It looks quite calm here but they are difficult to hold when they start to struggle! Thanks to Rachael for the picture.

Me holding down a Springbok. It looks quite calm here but they are difficult to hold when they start to struggle! Thanks to Rachael for the picture.