Trip Highlights S143 & S144: Elephants, Buffalo and Martial Eagle

Down the S144 to Join the S143... Waypoints 147 to 159

S143 and S144 Tropic of Capricorn Loop Kruger Park On my previous trip along the S50 I didn't have time to complete the Tropic of Capricorn loop so I took this opportunity to go south again down the S144 to the S143 loop section. I joined the old main road from Letaba to Shingwedzi at waypoint 147 and headed in a south easterly direction. Once more I was in fairly dense low growing Mopane shrubs country. Waypoint 148 was the Dzombo West borehole (there is one on the opposite or eastern side of the old main road as well). There is an interesting meaning for Dzombo in so much that it refers to "something slow in coming" and JJ Kloppers in his "must have" book suggests that this probably refers to the water flowing in Dzombo Creek which is on a very low incline flow path from west to east on the Lebombo flats.
Blacksmith Lapwing Plover Kruger National Park As I drove alone down the sand road. I remember vividly at one stage how for quite a while a pair of  Blacksmith Lapwings (Plovers) rose from the road in front of me and flew directly ahead of me down the road giving me a wonderful glimpse of their beautifully controlled and smooth flight pattern. It was a real joy to follow the Lapwings for about 500 metres before they decided to leave the road and fly off to the left. There were lots of plovers on this drive for some unknown reason.
white seed head on flowering plant Kruger Park At waypoint 149 I reached the junction to the Tropic of Capricorn Loop. This unusual plant was seen here. The large white seed head was so very prominent. On the road there was at least 2 kms of dung both elephant and buffalo indicating that a massive herd of buffalo had probably walked down this road towards a watering point close to the junction. On both sides of the road the land opened up to be almost a grassy plain with few trees.
Large close up of African Elephant I'd just passed an Elephant that had obviously been for a bath down to the watering point (maybe just a shower). I managed a good close shot as it trundled off into the Mopane.
Zebra family in road Kruger National Park. Just after waypoint 151 where there were a lot of Zebra and smaller number of Buffalo the scenery again changed to Mopane and more Zebra were seen on the road. It was about 2 pm just as I got back to the main H1-7 and headed north. Waypoint 152 was a spot where it was possible to view the Tsendze River and a very large crocodile was basking on the bank. You could also see a superb example of communal weaver nests on a tree on the far bank. There were number of Giraffes crossing the road as I restarted including 3 babies and 8 adults. They were accompanied by a small family of Zebra with foals. The country here was perfect lion stalking country.
Silhouette Wooly Necked Stork on dead tree near Nwambu Borehole Waypoint 153 was the Nwambu (Lowveld Milkberry Tree) bore hole driven by a solar panel instead of a windmill. The name is based upon the adjacent dry creek of the same name which is a tributary of the Tsendze River (river of many curves). I had a nice view of a Woolly Necked Stork in silhouette perched on a dead tree here. Waypoint 153 was just before the left turn off to the S142 loop. This loop would have to wait for my next visit since time was running out and it was just a bit too late to risk doing the 39 kms drive if I wanted to be sure of reaching Shingwedzi Camp before they closed the gates.
Impala herd junction S142 close to main road Kruger National Park I was reminded, as I came across a small herd of Impala, how few I had actually seen over the last 4 days. In the southern regions of the park Impala are seen in their thousands alongside almost every road. Waypoint 154 is Olifantsbad water pan meaning, in Afrikaans, a bathing point for Elephants. This was short drive off the main road. The pan is a natural one (being in a depression) and is located on the high watershed that creates a collection point for rain waters flowing into both the Shingwedzi and Letaba Rivers. The broad swathe of flattened grass showed plainly the route the Elephants take to the bathing spot.
Termite mound example Kruger Park Waypoint 155 ... A nice example of a Termite mound. The Kruger is littered with termite mounds of all shapes and sizes. They play a vital role in the cycle of life in the Park and provide not only food to animals like the Aardvark but home to many different creatures as well.
Juvenile Martial Eagle Kruger National Park near Shingwedzi At waypoint 158 almost opposite the waypoint 157 that overlooked the Shingwedzi river I saw one of the highlights of this whole trip. I spotted a Juvenile Martial Eagle .  I was lucky ... I'd just passed a mound on the side of the road before I noticed that it was possible to drive up it and use it as a view point. I turned around and drove up to the top of the pound. In the distance I immediately saw a large white face that I initially thought was that of an owl. The binoculars identified it as a large eagle of some sort. The raptor stayed on the ground long enough for me to identify it, from a bird book, as probably a Juvenile Martial Eagle (big black eyes, black beak, grey mottled head, white throat, grey mottled wing coverings. It then flew off to a nearby tree so I was able to get a glance at the barbed stripes on the tail feathers as it stretched it massive wings. This later confirmed that it was a Juvenile Martial Eagle along with the other features I'd taken note of. I could not tell if it had prey on the ground but it did not fly too far away. This was my first ever sighting of a a Martial Eagle.
Viewpoint where Martial Eagle seen from I was pleased I'd bought myself a new pair of Bushnell binoculars which gave me such a detailed view to the young eagle even though it was quite a distance away and low down in the grass. How to choose the best birding binoculars You ideally need a pair more powerful yet light to hold steady than you do for game viewing ... How to choose the best game viewing binoculars  This is the mound I drove up and where I saw the Juvenile Martial Eagle sighting from. I could so easily have just driven on and missed the great sight. This is again so typical of the Kruger. You cannot afford to miss anything.
Squirrel eating spiky fruit Waypoint 159 is a Shingwedzi River lookout point and it is where I took this picture of a squirrel eating one of those spiky fruits I saw shortly after my entry to the Kruger at Punda Maria Gate some 4 days earlier. It made short work of the fruit.
prickly fruit being eaten by squirrel in Kruger National Park Here's close up of the fruit that the squirrel is eating. The spikes did not worry the small creature at all.

Tomorrow I would be driving down this road again on my way home via Phalaborwa gate and I was to get a first ever sighting of an African Python.