Getting down to eye-level is what can really bring a photo to life.
With lions, leopards and other things that can bite, scratch, gore, trample, and really make that idea of getting out of the vehicle in the first place a bad one, this isn’t always the best option. Or even achievable. With wading birds at a waterhole however, it’s far safer, even though you really have to get low. Down to about 15 cm in fact.
Some of the larger waterholes on the reserve are still carrying a tiny bit of water, and the exposed mud flats and shallows have become a paradise for some of the resident waders, as well as a couple of migrants that have just arrived for the summer.
The following photos were all taken over the course of two hours at a waterhole about one kilometre from the Londolozi camps.
Oxpeckers regularly use hippos as conveniently safe islands from which to drink. While on the hippo they can also browse around for some parasites upon which to make a meal…
They have to be careful though, as their host could submerge at any moment. This hippo bull was most likely pushed out of a bigger waterhole or a pool in the river by a stronger rival.
It is fairly evident where black-winged stilts get their name. They will often rest whilst balancing on only one leg, with the other tucked up under their body. This one stayed in this position though as it had an injured leg which it couldn’t raise all the way.
Wood sandpipers are appearing in greater and greater numbers. They are migratory, and most of the ones we see in Southern Africa over the summer breed in a band stretching from Finland across to the Ural Mountains in Russia. That’s an impressive flight for such a small bird.
The long lens used on this afternoon was a little big to properly capture the scene of this lone wildebeest bull coming to drink. Ideally in a situation like this you want to capture the whole environment as well, but if you’re a golfer, you’ll understand the phrase “too much club.”
Egyptian geese are fairly prolific across Southern Africa. We have recorded clutches of 20 on Londolozi before, but they can lay anywhere between 1 and 22 eggs apparently. There is therefore no knowing whether this clutch was a successfully raised pair or all that was left of a much larger brood. With the abundance of predators here, the latter is more likely.
Three-banded plovers are ubiquitous across Londolozi’s water sources. Although wading birds are generally small, on can see there is still a significant size difference between the plover in the foreground and the stilt further back.
This Nyala bull arrived so quietly, I didn’t even notice him until he was already drinking. The shadows were already falling across half the waterhole, but luckily he was still in the golden light.
An African Jacana shows off its extraordinarily long toes, an adaptation to spread its weight and enable it to walk out on surface aquatic plants without sinking.
This bird was confusing at first, as we don’t often record them at Londolozi. A Little Stint; it can clearly be seen going after the small midges that are flying around it. It’s another migrant, but most of them will only be arriving next month. This one is a bit early.
The light eventually started to fade, prompting a move to the far side of the waterhole to try for backlighting conditions. As in the case of the wildebeest, the 600mm lens was a bit too long, and it was difficult to capture the birds’ reflections if they were too close.
The hippo bull wasn’t too happy with the intruder on the side of his waterhole, and would display every twenty minutes or so as a warning to maintain distance. Noted. The little blotch over his chin was a three-banded plover flying past at an inopportune moment.